The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Rapidly developing China displayed in CSUN’s ‘Tales of Our Time’

Student Danny Escalante, who is working on his masters degree in art, admires the installation currently exhibited at the CSUN Art Gallery. Simon Gambaryan / Daily Sundial

CSUN plays host to its newest exhibition, “Tales of Our Time: Two Contemporary Artists From China,” until Oct. 10, which focuses on the relationship between growing urban development in China and its effect on the traditions and people living in the changing landscape.

“The exhibition, together with related events such as the publication of an exhibition catalog and artist lectures, will provide a great opportunity for various campus communities to experience contemporary Chinese art and culture and to come to a better understanding of what is going on in this rapidly developing country,” said Meiqin Wang, CSUN art history professor and exhibit curator in an email interview. “The exhibition actually addresses the growing interest worldwide in knowing China, its people, and its culture.”

Artists Chen Quilin and Weng Fen are both featured in the exhibit, altogether contributing a total of about 40 pieces of art.

Fen was on campus Wednesday and to speak to over 100 students about his investigation into the processes and consequences of what he views as a rapidly developing China. Wang translated for Fen during his lecture.

After graduating from art school, Fen went back to his home province in Hainan and saw the beginnings of transition.

“Since 1980’s, and particularly 90’s, things were changing,” Fen said. “People always seem  busy and buildings were all rising up so I intended to use these (his photos) to observe my experience with what was going on around me, everything changing so fast.”

One of Fen’s first series of photo art began in 2001 when he started focusing on aesthetics of photography while continuing to explore his interest in urbanization. The result is “Sitting on the Wall – Haikou” collection, which highlights year-by-year the quickly growing urban development by placing a high school aged girl sitting atop a wall, staring directly into the change.

“Walls like that were everywhere in the city,” Fen said. “In Chinese culture, a wall is a symbol – largely a separator of two worlds, past and present.”

As years pass, the girl, different in each photo, looks out in the distance to an urban landscape that gradually moves closer until there is no wall, only buildings and parking lots directly in front of her.

The photos are sharp in color, looking so surreal they take on the feel of a painting, forcing viewers to pay attention to every single detail.

“I love the vivid colors, it stands out,” said Javier Gallardo, a first year CSUN student of Fen’s photos. “It’s really multicultural. I really understand what he’s thinking.”

Also on display at the exhibit is Quilin’s photos of urban decay and its affect on the humans who live among it.

In Quilin’s photos, “Solidified Scenery” and “Twilight,” a woman wearing a wedding dress and makeup smeared across her eyes looks away from decrepit, rotting structures that have become part of everyday life for so many citizens of China.

Though Fen said his intentions in taking photos of the rapid development in China was to record the speed at which it was happening, he also wanted to imply there are many problems and uncertainty facing Chinese citizens.

In Fen’s photo, “Staring at the Sea” series taken in 2006, five teenage girls stare into a serene body of water from a ledge high above, far from any kind of construction which has run rampant in the cities of China.

Fen explained his fears about what development might mean for scenes such as this.

“I took my parents, my wife, my daughter – we were all observing, appreciating this beautiful scenery and now it’s all going to be transformed,” Fen said. “The government has other plans to transform this place into an international tourist site.”

Still, the high school students Fen interacts with who eventually become the subjects of his photos give him hope regarding the future.

“They seem to point to a better future,” Fen said. “I know the future is full of excitement and uncertainty but I like to think more positively.”

Fen plans to continue with his study of the relationship between urbanization and the people who live amidst it.

“My art is my way to investigate and also make a relationship with this world,” Fen said.

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