The Proud Youth

Chen Wenling (China)


Title: The Proud Youth
Artist: Chen Wenling (b. 1969, China)
Medium: Painted bronze, stainless steel
Dimensions (H x W x D): 5.5 x 3.3 x 2.6 metres (18 feet x 11 feet x 8 feet 6 inches)
Weight: 3,000 kg (3 tons)
Location: South end of Drake Street along the Yaletown Seawall in Vancouver
Exhibition Dates: March 8, 2021 to May 3, 2023

Chen Wenling’s art often deals with three themes: personal experience, human desire, and community imagination. His vocabulary usually includes exaggerated forms, bright colours, and whimsical and metaphorical tones. Frequently using industrial materials, his works are modest and earthy, and always have a timeless quality. Following his ambitious solo exhibition in Beijing Mingsheng Art Museum, Duration of Allegories, Chen Wenling has brought his Allegories to Vancouver with two monumental sculptures featured in the Vancouver Biennale‘s Open Air Museum, The Proud Youth and Boy Holding a Shark, and an indoor exhibition at Sunzen Art Gallery, all curated by Michael Suh.

The Proud Youth is a representative artwork in Chen Wenling’s Red Memories series. It is named after a popular Wuxia (Martial Heroes) novel called The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu 笑傲江湖), which in Chinese literally means “to live a carefree life in a mundane world of strife.” The novel is frequently read as a political allegory.

Not only does the bright red colour signify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition, but this colour is also a testament to the artist’s fiery attitude toward life. The red figure, naked and free, fully reveals his honesty and fearlessness. Simple and truthful, this work creates a direct communication between man and nature, and initiates a sincere conversation between people and society. The cheeky expression and arresting pose are a celebratory call to audiences, inviting them to embrace their inner child.

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