The development of abstract art in Taiwan has been through two totally different generations. There is a fault between the two generations which is caused by the difference of the age and of the gender. The first wave of abstract art movement in Taiwan occurred in the end of the 1950s. Basically, it was a modern art movement that male artists were in charge of. They opposed modern to tradition, which triggered fierce polemics in 1960s. The first wave of this modern art movement ended in 1970s due to the reason that the core member went and lived abroad one after another. The second wave of abstract art movement took place in the end of the 1980s. A flock of artists who studied in Europe and America came back to Taiwan. Admit those artists, there were newly emerging young artists who devoted themselves to abstract art making and most of them were female artists which created an intriguing contrast with the generation of the first wave of the abstract art movement. The artists of the first wave of the abstract art movement were more concerned about the issue of comparison of art making and aesthetics between the East and the West and usually combined the principles of Chinese ink painting and calligraphy with Abstract Expressionism in terms of techniques. It was a transforming process of assimilating western learning into Chinese practice. The second wave of abstract art movement was driven by those artists who studied abroad and returned. They had studied and lived in the western countries. Basically, they weren’t concerned so much about the issue of comparison between the western and eastern culture and had more profound comprehension about the techniques of automatism. The issue they generally focused on was to develop individually and diversify the style of abstract art purely through the theory of abstract art.
Jenny Chen living in New York and Taipei for a long period of time is one of the member of the second wave of abstract art movement. She was born in Chungking, Szechwan, in the year of the triumph of the War of Resistance against Japan. She moved to Taiwan with her parents when she was a child and studied in the field of foreign language after she grew up. This educational background was unable to resist her comprehensive interest in the arts which had been fostered since her childhood. After she got married, she had spare time and, at the same time, was influenced by some of her close friends who were learning painting; therefore, she also started to try to learn how to paint. One couldn’t expect that she started as a dilettante but soon devoted herself to the art of painting. She not only put aside the trivial matters around her but also actively participated the activities and exhibitions in the art field. In 1985, she joined the exhibition, ”he First Joint Exhibition of the Women Artist Association of Taipei”, at the Chung-Shang Gallery in S.Y.S. Memorial Hall. In 1986, she was invited to the exhibition, ”Who’s Who in Art”, at Kaohsiung Cultural Center. In 1987, she was selected in the exhibition, ”Experimental Art Action and Space”, in Taipei Fine Arts Museum and also had a solo exhibition at Taipei American Cultural Center. After that, she went abroad to America and studied at Pratt Institute in New York and purchased a studio in Manhattan. She was preparing for transforming herself from an amateur to a professional artist. In 1990, soon after Jenny Chen got her MFA degree from Pratt Institute, she held solo exhibitions in New York and Taipei. Finally, she leaped from the field of Western literature to that of art making.
As a professional artist and also a wife of the distinguished entrepreneur, it goes without saying that she would live in a life of ease and leisure. However, she dedicated her life to art in the spirit of an ascetic. In addition to her art making which she concentrates on in her studio in New York, she, like a sponge, absorbs the nourishment from the environment surrounding her for her art making. Living in New York for almost 15 years imperceptibly makes her root in the abstract world of the New York School. Just because the maturity of the style of Jenny Chen’s abstract art and the academic training she had were in New York, her comprehension of automatism is both profound and well-experienced. Seeing lots of varieties of exhibitions in New York makes her pay more attention on the texture of the painting. Living in the most up-to-date area in New York allows her to see and experience the most splendid and exquisite new design and taste of aesthetics. Those mentioned above fulfill her painting style with the unusual sensitivity of color and highly completeness. Jenny Chen’s abstract art and visual element belonging more to the West or, rather, her New York identification differences her from the rest of the abstract painters who had the academic education in Taiwan and more or less would syncretize the impressionistic ink and brush tradition of Chinese ink painting and calligraphy in their works. Because of her background of Western literature in university and immersing in the metropolitan aura of New York over a long period of time, her abstract painting showcases a very complex logic of contrast in terms of color which presents the visual sophistication of the metropolitanism. Yet, her literariness isn’t obstructed by the materials and colors. In the subtle relationship of the interaction of color and texture, she chants the visual poetry of her inner world.
In this small retrospective, it presents a series of Jenny Chen’s works date from 1997 to 2002 including: Representation of Phenomenon, Fragment of Memory, The Art of Ecstasy, and Peace in Mind. From chronological order, one can see her works gradually develop from the flow of the luminous color in wash to the construction of thicker texture. From the point of view of the pure visual on two-dimensional painting, she builds up the cities of the mood one after another on the canvases by means of the complex construction of the color factors. From the new series of her works, one sees not only her consummate dexterity in acrylic but also, surprisingly, is stunned by the great confidence and audacity of her manipulation of color. Some fleshy colors such as pink, vermilion, carmine, orange yellow, and lemon green, under her command and arrangement, are transmuted into poetry which isn’t gaudy at all but captivating and colorful as a rainbow. She is a magician of color. Jenny Chen’s art is a creation which is free from purposeness. Such great purity in terms of visual construction conveys not just the form of abstract painting but also a kind of life mode of the world of her mind.