“My Journey,” the Helena Chen Yijin Art Exhibition hosted by COA Foundation on October 5 on the New York island that is Manhattan, tells the story of one artist’s cosmopolitan life and features a poignant collection of works transmitting themes which range from freedom and duality, Utopia and eternality, to jauntiness and youthful innocence.
The exhibition, entitled “My Journey,” featured 27 of Chen’s original works, and would not have been complete without her more personal works such as “Journey,” an oil painting of her travels in Venice, and “Hometown,” which she created using iconic landmarks from her hometown of Shanghai. #scrollup
Whereas some of Chen’s art utilizes oil paint to depict landscape representations of challenges and spontaneity, others feature modern acrylics depicting the busy, organized chaos of an urban lifestyle.
Temper’s very own Jessica Laiter took a lookie look. And had a talkie talk.
The Intercontinental Journey
Chen first began painting at the age of five. Her original exposure to painting came during a summer camp with Shanghai’s Creative Arts School, where she fell in love with the visual arts. Chen has been a global citizen since she saw the light of life — born in Singapore, spending her earliest childhood in Germany, and moving back to her father’s native Shanghai for her primary and middle school education at Shanghai International School.
Chen’s inspiration stems from her personal experiences during her own life journey. The “My Journey” Art Exhibition was her very first art exhibition, featuring a number of award-winning paintings from various art competitions in Shanghai.
The Media Of Expression
Young at heart, and on paper, she may very well be, but Chen has already developed her own distinct style and is known for her versatility in utilizing a variety of mediums to express her creativity.
Chen in 2017 participated in the M50 (M-50中外少儿艺术创意大赛) Art Competition, a youth art competition for Chinese and international students, where she won second place.
Asked about her current New York City art exhibition, Chen stated that she was “delighted to have the opportunity to show her works to others” and channel a feeling of warmth and thoughtfulness.
The Laiter Lessons
Temper Magazine’s very own Jessica Laiter (coincidentally (?) the founder of Chinese Graffiti, as well) went to visit the exhibition. Laiter took a seat. And Chen a stand. Take it away, Temper Tasties!
Laiter: Tell me a little bit about the exhibit, it’s called the Journey, where does it start and where does it end up?
Chen: I started painting at age four, in a school in Shanghai, where I live now. What was different about my teacher, was that he did not teach me any basic skills. He said that I have to have a creative mindset. He would go around, looking at everyone’s paintings, and really praise those who had creative elements rather than just really showing realistic ones. That’s what influences my paintings here. The exhibit is called “My Journey” and reflects the many countries and cultures that I have lived in. And this shows how my mindset changes as I start to develop. My earlier paintings are more lively and colorful, and my paintings now are more focused on certain things. For example, my inspiration came from all the different countries and places I traveled to and interact with each other.
Laiter: How do you think these places compare and contrast with each other? What’s your overall impression of the places you have traveled?
Chen: I think there is a difference between each of them and they each influence how I view the world.
The tower in the middle of the painting is from Shanghai and reflects my work ethic because everyone works really hard, working really early to really late, My grandparents are Shanghainese, so they had harsh conditions, my grandfather works really hard, and became a college professor.
Laiter: In the bio of the event, it says you are also on a spiritual journey. Is there something that you learned going from China to the US, that you have transformed from?
Chen: As you can see, in China, people don’t really express themselves as much, and in the US it kind of makes me what to express myself more and it motivates me to speak out, and so in Shanghai I may keep feelings to myself, the environment there does not expect you to speak out.
Laiter: Does that manifest in your paintings.
Laiter: What’s your goal as an artist?
Chen: First of all, I would want people to see how different cultures can interact with one another. Also, I was not a very outgoing person, and painting was my form of expression. So I would want people to see from the painting how I feel, and my emotions.
Laiter: What’s your medium of choice?
Chen: I use various different techniques. Nevertheless, I prefer acrylic and oil.
Laiter: What was the most memorable place you visited?
Chen: Germany. I’ve lived in Germany for two, three years — as a kid. This really influenced me to have a stand and to be independent. So when I was in a school in Germany, we had to go out into the forest and pick wild berries, even if there was a storm. In China, we wouldn’t ever go out. This basically taught us that we needed to do certain things. No matter what.
The Chen Lookbook
Travel through the works and life of Chen right here, right now:
The COA Foundation
The COA (Class Of America) Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed at building an online language-learning and cultural-exchange platform for Chinese people in the U.S. COA was founded in Philadelphia, a city famous for its historical and educational background. COA currently features a body of volunteers from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities across the East Coast.
The foundation’s core members are alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Temple University, and Drexel University. The ultimate goal of COA is to gather educators of excellence and online learning resources on the East Coast of the U.S. to provide Chinese learners of the English language in the U.S. with greater learning opportunities and access.
And to sum it all up utilizing the lighter-hearted tones of time and travel…
“Innocence tinctures all things with the brightest hues.”
WRITTEN BY JESSICA LAITER OF CHINESE GRAFFITI AND ELSBETH VAN PARIDON
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After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.
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