Flares were used for signaling when ships faced emergency while sailing.
Wooden boats, drifting in the sea, in the night. The sailors hold the flares and ignite them. At the moment when they throw them out, brilliant lights shine through the dark night like sharp knives, and then explode. First we see the short and shinny light, then we hear the vague bombing sound with echoes. Later, the lights drop slowly into the sea, with the shaking, sinking boats, swallowed by the dark ocean, and disappear. There’s no feedback to the signal, no one sees that, the sounds of tide get stronger and stronger, and cover the bombing noises, also cover the slight sounds made of tide when it hits the boats. I think, you can’t even distinguish flares from fireworks, do you?
Flare is the only way to communicate, everyone tries so hard to present themselves. When the flare shines through the dark, can their messages be received? Or the other side would read it as a firework for certain celebration and ignore that? This is an endless question to think for an island called Taiwan, and people who live on it.
The title of the exhibition (flare-s) is synonymous to the titles of the oil paintings series as well as the animation. Flare, as a verb, is to shine and to burn quickly, or even to become excited suddenly. In the noun form, flare is a light that shines brightly and briefly, or a light signal that attracts attention for help. Chen purposely chose this English term for its versatile yet meaningful implications that resonate with his new works.
Intimate in its setting, this exhibition is a departure from Chen’s 2011 exhibition, Staggering Matter, which showcased an impressive multimedia presentation. This time, Chen visualizes his thoughts on national politics and internal reflection of self within the realms of self-identity and bodily imagination. In the animation, figures can be seen standing on little boats, afloat the sea in the dark night. Flashes and flickers of light are sent off to call for help. In contrast to the ambiguity in paintings, the animation suggests a more telling interpretation of the centralizing concept, that this may be a celebration as well as a rescue call for help.
35 x 27 cm | 2013 | oil on canvas