'Eve/Lilith' / Wen Chen
Soft, surreal and fantastical, Wen Chen’s portraits glow with the strange luminescence of the dream-image. In this hallucinatory space, the archetype of the femme fatale occupies a dual place of idolatry and fear- sexual fantasy and threat, dream and nightmare. She is emblematic of both the terror of beauty (the immediacy and illogicity of the act of seduction) and the beauty of terror (fear as sexual exhilaration, a subversion where awe becomes “awful”.)
“I draw my inspiration from disparate sources, ranging from popular culture and personal experience to mythology and literature. Visually, I learn from films, photography, contemporary and historical artists (particularly works by the Pre-Raphaelites) and ball-jointed dolls.
Images tend to come to me spontaneously in my dreams, when I listen to music, or when I try to reframe my personal experience metaphorically. Drawing and painting is a process of tangibly representing this mental imagery, and a way of chronicling, reflecting and transforming my experience.
Most of the paintings are from a series exploring the archetype of the femme fatale. The seated portrait with the mandala depicts Carmen, the titular character of a novella by Prosper Mérimée. The woman in ropes is based on the description of Lilith in Faust, a sexually promiscuous “demon” whose character originates from Jewish mythology. I was examining the concept of the “dangerous woman,” and how its proliferation in literature and art coincided with increasing female empowerment. The archetype is a reflection of male anxiety, reinforced by motifs such as snakes, web-like long hair and "exoticism".
Another series I did focused on ethnic identity- I painted the portrait of the Tibetan girl when I was thinking about how, in a multicultural society, representations of ethnic identity become generalised and coarse-grained, and we tend to think of people from one country as homogenous.”
Follow Wen on Instagram at @thetide002