10th - 13th Oct 2024Saatchi Gallery, London

Tranquility in Loneliness

Chen Ching-Jung, Après le tremblement de terre, 2015, Oil on canvas, 97✕130cm

Many artists attempt to communicate a feeling of isolation and loneliness through their paintings, it can be achieved using color and composition. Often the subjects are alone on the canvas or if others are also present, their eyes do not meet. The figures sometimes appear small in vast spaces, the scene seems to swallow them.

Chen Ching-Jung, Conversation dans le jardin, 2016, Oil on canvas, 162✕130cm

Chen Ching-Jung is a Taiwanese artist who seeks to make this feeling of isolation tangible in his paintings. He does still-life paintings where the objects depicted seem to have been dropped where they are. In the paintings featuring people, they are often alone or apart from others, conveying particular suffering. To express the element of loneliness, Chen plays on the arrangement of the elements of his paintings: often the frame is very vast, and the place where the character is seems immense yet empty. Time is frozen.

His style is often defined as 'refined' and 'classical' and great importance is given to symbolism. His work goes beyond realism and surrealism, and this quality can be considered the specificity of his paintings. He was also inspired by Picasso's blue period, and the bluish tones contribute to the impression of melancholy and loneliness that emanates from his works.

Chen Ching-Jung, Violoniste au lac Ri yuè, 2018, Oil on canvas, 55✕46cm

However, despite this theme of loneliness, a sense of tranquility emerges from Chen's paintings. It is possible to find peace in isolation, one can refocus on oneself to find inner serenity. We need solitude to process and unravel issues, by removing ourselves from the constraints, distractions, and influences imposed on us by others, solitude frees us and allows us to assimilate ideas and develop an identity and meaning in our lives. This is why Chen's paintings have a bittersweet quality.

Chen Ching-Jung, Côte mélancolique, 2003, Oil on canvas, 195✕130cm

Finally, the artist combines his art with his own experiences and allows the audience to better understand the sufferings that exist in life and in society, thus offering people a chance to better understand others. At a time when human contact finds insurmountable barriers, as recently with the health crisis and lockdowns, this type of art becomes a mirror in which we can all catch a glimpse of our reflection. With his paintings, Chen communicates with each person and shows that he understands them.

Written by Lilas Boulérot-Guillard