Artist who got mad at Madoff

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 November, 2009, 12:00am

The titles What You See Might Not Be Real and Dogs may not immediately ring a bell with Hong Kong's casual art lovers, but when you see the sculptures of Chen Wenling you will know you have seen them somewhere before.

Whether it's fraudster Bernard Madoff being attacked by a bull, or two dogs standing side by side smiling, with their arms around each other, Chen's innovative work is immediately recognisable and appreciated both on the mainland and in Hong Kong.

In the 'I Am Rich' exhibition at the Contemporary By Angela Li gallery on Hollywood Road, Central, Chen's work is showcased along with five other artists - Liao Yibai , Yang Tiejun, Zhang Qikai, Wang Xu and Xia Yu - who give their own take on the rapid economic growth of China in recent years.

The most well known work on show is Chen's Madoff-inspired sculpture. A large version of the piece, measuring 11 metres wide, was shown in Beijing a few months ago, causing a stir in international contemporary art circles.

'I was angry with Madoff's greed and lies, and how it symbolised the worst aspects of Western excess, but I chose to show it in a comic way,' Chen, 40, said.

'China has the fastest economic growth in the world, but it is in danger of creating people like Madoff, who care only about money rather then humanity and spirituality. In China, we have endured great hardships and poverty ... my biggest worry is that materialism and the accumulation of wealth takes over and we lose track of what really matters.'

Chen's other notable sculpture in the exhibition, Dogs, shows two dogs standing on their hind legs in a human-like pose. The artist, born in Fujian but now based in Beijing, said that although a person's place in society changed because of economic development, his essential character remained the same.

Capitalism alone was unlikely to match China's needs, given its long and rich culture, he said.

'It's not just problems that China faces, but the whole world. Global warming, the world recession and world poverty are problems everywhere. It's up to us to change things, through my work I'm trying to bring this more to people's attention,' Chen said.

The exhibition will continue until January 15 at the gallery, G/F, 90-92, Hollywood Road, Central.