2020|Land of Ambition: Ronghui Chen Solo Exhibition

Sep 26, 2020 - Nov 8, 2020|Land of Ambition: Ronghui Chen Solo Exhibition

Land of Ambition: Ronghui Chen Solo Exhibition

Three shadows +3 gallery
Artist: Ronghui Chen
Curator: Hanlu Zhang
Duration: 26th Sep - 8th Nov, 2020
Opening: 26th Sep, 2020 15:00
Location: Gallery II, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre
155A Caochangdi, Chaoyang District, Beijing


Ronghui Chen was born in Lishui, Zhejiang Province. His photographic vision has followed his footsteps from counties to cities, lingering in metropolises, and reaching decaying regions, and that completes a full circle about certain ambition. This ambition at stake, silent but immense, perhaps relevant to “development”, casts a broad shadow on the land that is called China. Etymologically, photography is the writing with light, and in this shadowy obscurity, Ronghui Chen's lens turns to subtle and neglected symptoms of ambition: polluted rivers, abandoned hometowns, one amusement park after another, grandiose shanzhai architectures, shrinking cities, melting ice, wildfire, weary youngsters...

The solo exhibition "Land of Ambition" mainly presents three series of works by Ronghui Chen. Petrochemical China captures rural landscapes in Jiangsu and Zhejiang invaded by industrial ruins and urbanization. For most city dwellers, those places are just scenery passing in a flash on high-speed trains. Ambition is accelerating. In the project Modern Shanghai & Runaway World, the artist juxtaposes flamboyant amusement facilities and man-made spectacles with indoor portraits of urban youths. Various visual and conceptual perspectives, exteriority and interiority still and moving, social and human, intercontextualize within the frames.

Freezing land is by far the artist’s most devoted project. For four consecutive winters, Chen visited the frozen Northeast to document the old industrial cities where the economy and population are decreasing and the people still living there. The artist is not drawn to spectacle-remaking or aesthetics of ruins, approaches commonly found in works with similar subject matter. Instead, he contacts local youngsters through Kwai, a live streaming platform popular in the region, and invites them to take large-format portraits. Through portraiture-making, the artist attempts to take a glimpse of what future might look like in a region where too many glories and trauma are hastily packed in the past.

Ronghui Chen was a journalist by training. He embarked on a creative journey since the award-winning photojournalist series Christmas Factory, moving from documentary photography to autonomous artistic expression by digging deep into ontological aspects of the photographic medium. This exhibition manifests this exploratory process and is a short term retrospective of the artist's practice before he went pursue further studies in the US in 2019. In today's hyper-mediated world, how photography can remain sensitive to a reality characterized by information overload and visual saturation, while also being able to address the specificities and complexities of real-life encounters with people and events, Ronghui Chen's thinking process and creative trajectory have provided a unique and insightful approach.

                                                                                                                                                           Text by Hanlu Zhang

About artist

Ronghui Chen

Yale MFA Photography 2021

Ronghui Chen is a Chinese photographer and storyteller based in Shanghai/ New haven, whose work focuses on China’s urbanization. Known for his interest in the issues arising from the position of the individual within the urbanization and industrialization of China, Chen published his first collection of photographs named Chen Ronghui, now part of China’s Contemporary Photography Catalog. He was won a number of awards including World Press Photo; BarTur Photo Award; 2018 Three Shadows Photography Award & AlPA special prize and Hou Dengke Documentary Photography Award.

For more information please click the artsit page.

About curator

Hanlu Zhang

Hanlu Zhang is a writer, curator, and editor. She received her MA in Art History, Theory and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has curated or co-curated “Through the Parlour” at No Longer Empty (New York), “Nightmare of Exhibitions II: Two-way Theater” at Power Station of Art (Shanghai), “Rebel Cities” at Yang Art Museum (Beijing), “Bicycle Thieves” at Para Site (Hong Kong), “Those who see and know all, are all and can be all.” at Gallery Weekend Beijing, "Cosmopolis #1.5: Enlarged Intelligence” and “Cosmopolis #2: rethinking the human” with Centre Pompidou (Chengdu & Paris). She writes for ARTFORUM, LEAP, Flash Art, and art-agenda. Hanlu is a member of Theater 44.

Selected artworks

From Petrochemical China series

From Petrochemical China series

From Runaway World series

From Freezing Land series

From Christmas Factory series

From Runaway World series

From Freezing Land series

From Freezing Land series