Sculpturing a Running of the Bulls

His previous work has explored a narrative based on the phenomenon of an individual’s loss and anger in modern society. A ruminating melancholy centered around the absurdities of self-existence  such as his solo exhibition in 2006 featuring the series ”Blissful Life’‘, a satirical regard directed towards the ideology of consumer socialism and its materialistic consequences; painless optimism within a joyous state unbound by past or future considerations. Chen Wenling (1969- )

Emergency Escape, Chen Wenling

Emergency Escape, Chen Wenling



In recent years, contemporary Chinese art has emerged from a domestic avant-garde movement into one of the fastest growing and most dynamic components of the international art scene. Representative of the current stage of contemporary Chinese art, Chen Wenling’s sculpture “Valiant Struggle,”  is a critique of an increasingly capitalistic and consumerist Chinese society, but he tempers the charged aesthetic, with a dose of irony and humour, which augments the accessibility of his work in general.

God of Materialism, Chen Wenling

God of Materialism, Chen Wenling

”We are a society bound to its trinkets, and we judge each other by what we cannot afford; it’s a system of classification that’s fueled the banks for decades—a blood thirst that’s justified illegal wars abroad and catalyzed the dismantling of our social structure here at home. Simply put, if you don’t have matter, you don’t matter.” ( Christopher de la Torre )

Wenling’s work often shows the relationship between human and animal and their conjunction which manifests itself as the fetish of human desire. Which in turn, poses the question, what is desire and how did it arise?

For Wenling, his language of sculpture poetically expresses the view that human desire is no more than hedonistic benefit gained in possessing and exchanging.

”He conveyed the scorn and the criticism to irrational desire, peacockery, power and violence with cynical and black humor attitudes. Chen Wenling not only took realism to the sole created method, but mixed folk images, popular images and historical images at the base of realism, employing the fantastic, ironic and humorous black comedy in the manners of conciseness, rusticity, naivety and overstatement.”

In his latest work, Wenling portrays Madoff as Satan, horned and scaley; Madoff is in turn impaled and mortally gouged  by the horns of a Wall Street Bull. This tango of convenience was bound to stop before the music finished, yet, Madoff was  probably more defeated by the Bear; and subsequently devoured in a style and manner similar to that found in the outer reaches of the Grimm’s fairy tale canon. For investors in want of their lucre, the cheque indeed was in the male." alt="wenling5" width="1" height="1" />wenling6

The symbolism of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona,Spain, is also an appropriate metaphor. the activity, amid drunken revelry, saw Madoff and his clients as casualties, even fatalities in their inability to run the gauntlet over 800 meters. Animal rights activists should abstain since Madoff was full of bull. the bull is also an allegory for the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai ( Exodus, 32 ) , based on idolatry of god Isis and the cult of Osiris, mythologically associated with death and resurrection.

In A.C Grayling’slatest book, ” Liberty in the Age of Terror”, he states ”In general, it can be said that the fewer identities people acknowledge themselves as having, the less free they are”. In this perspective, Madoff had a paucity of identities and they all coalesced around money and its accumulation. He lost his freedom and was mentally imprisoned from before a bygone era.  the link between singular identity and violent acts is relevent to Madoff’s bilking and swindling all emanating from his unique identity as money manager of the affluent.

Chen Wenling, Hugo Tillman photograph

Chen Wenling, Hugo Tillman photograph



“A monk or a nun, a woman in a burqa, a priest with a large crucifix on his chest present an overriding singular identity to the world, demanding thereby to be treated by others chiefly if not exclusively in terms of it. … Such people are thereby trying to dictate to others how those others should treat them,” ( Graling, Liberty in the Age of Terror ) Madoff created his identity based on based on an archetype, a myth centered around abundance. The sophistication of his presentation overwhelmed the  attendant primitive style and brazen vulgarity of his actions.

Wenling’s Madoff metaphor, ”What You See Might Not Be Real” captures the illusion of well being and forces the viewer to engage in a profound reflection on the complex yet fundamental relationship between individuals and their money and how material belongings create their own myths with respect to the human psyche and its subconscious component of fantasy, dreams and memory.

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