maggie menghan chen, «unearthed»


fragments I, 2022
wood pla, steel, osb, straw
1+1 ap

fragments I, 2022 (details)

fragments I, 2022 (details)

new relic iii, 2022
wood pla, petrified wood, straw

portrait study of tiger, 2022 & portrait study of leopard, 2022
cyanotype on rice paper, hand scroll
45x140cm & 45x140cm

portrait study of leopard, 2022 (detail)

apparition i, 2022
wood pla, cyanotype on paper

apparition ii, 2022
wood pla, cyanotype on paper

Unearthed, Beijing-born artist Maggie Menghan Chen’s first solo exhibition in the UK, restores an array of discovered relics and explores how historical narratives are made from sparse evidence with her new sculpture and print works.

Chen works in a quasi-archeological approach. Her work serves as evidence, leaving clues for a lost or speculative history, which hovers between facts, historical narratives and fantasy fictions. Her practice reflects upon the social construct of memory and its boundaries between reality and stimulation in the digital age.

There is no written records to prove that this big cat worshipping tribe had existed. They settled near a tiger-shaped mountain and maniacally and reverently produced sculptures and drawings of their icon. Chen’s clue for its existence scattered like puzzles. The discontinuity lies not just in the link between each pieces but in themselves. The shattered and eroded sculpture of a beast is presented in fragments, in which its original solemness is twisted and dethroned and the marks left by accidents and old age treasured and celebrated. The gaps left between each debris are inviting the audience to fill in.

Most of Chen’s works first exist digitally. The sculptures were 3D modeled and printed, and the cyanotype prints were made from images through machine learning then printed on films. Her material and process highlights the absurd accessibility in the making compared to artisans from the past. Her digitally “unearthed” fantasy reproductions reflect on how technology exhausts culture, and while facsimiles are consuming the authentic, are they capable of transcending it.

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