Zhong Chen

In a space where globalisation and transcultural experience amalgamate with belonging, Zhong Chen’s mesmerising work explores contemporary issues of history, culture and identity. Drawing inspiration from his upbringing in China and his global experiences later in life, Zhong’s style has developed and transformed over time to mirror the breadth of his eclectic world. While he takes pleasure in a constantly evolving style, Zhong’s trademark can be found in his formal brush strokes that pay homage to traditional Chinese painting. Now, as an internationally renowned artist, his works are widely collected across the globe.

Born and raised in Zhongshan, Zhong began his journey into the art world at the early age of 13. Drawing as entertainment while his mother worked soon became a captivation after he visited an exhibition at the Zhongshan Cultural Centre with a friend – his first taste of art.

At a time where China was beginning to open up to the West and the tight control of communism had begun to relax – after the economic reforms that occurred in the 1970s – individual pursuits such as art were no longer seen as such a threat to the state. Supported by his family, Zhong passionately pursued a career as an artist, beginning his formal education in his hometown as a teen, and later at the Hubay School of Fine Arts.

While concentrating on Chinese ink brush techniques, landscape and portraiture in his studies, Zhong experimented with non-traditional style in his downtime, and soon became enthralled by Western art. In 1988, Zhong travelled to Australia, settling in Adelaide, where he studied English and a Bachelor of Arts with Honours. Here, Zhong found a collective empathy between Chinese and Australian culture – a shared understanding of the historical significance of landscape painting. Contributing to the widely accepted genre, Zhong found confidence in exploring cultural and transcultural identity through his work as he adapted to his new environment.

Where his earlier works, including the 1996 Stupid Laughing Series, explore cultural identity, displacement, and alienation through the contrast of vast Australian landscapes and portrait, his latest series The Gong Gu (Kung Fu)and Chinaman, do so through abstract techniques using watercolour and oil. Throughout Chinaman, Zhong’s subject takes on different semblances, and once again his strong brush strokes prevail. More so, he attributes both ancient Chinese iconography and Western imagery, creating ingenious metaphors and distinctive style that pay deep respect to his roots while reflecting contemporary western society.

Throughout Zhong’s work, women play both a stylistic and culturally significant role. Of particular note, Zhong’s pixilated Asian women painted to perfection marry traditional ideals of womanhood with technological advancement, referencing computer games. The figures, floating on modern and minimal backdrops, continue to explore transcultural experience through a metaphor of space that speaks to the freedom of identity from place.

Since settling in Australia, Zhong has travelled across the world and studied a Master of Fine Art in London, continuing to draw inspiration from his experiences that transcend beautifully to his work. Most importantly, Zhong continues to do so with passion and drive, finding freedom in a style that is everchanging. In his own words: “This is the beauty of having a twenty-year career as a successful artist and not feeling the pressure to perform anymore.”

Today, Zhong Chen is one of Australia’s top 50 artists and has appeared in over 55 group and solo exhibitions. He has been a three-time finalist in the Archibald Price (2007, 2008, 2011) and the Wynn Prize (2006, 2007, 2008); twice finalist for the Sulman Prize (2007, 2013); and was presented the People’s Choice Award for the Portrait Salon des Refusés Prize (2009). In 2016, he was awarded an Art Series Hotel featured in the dynamic Whitehorse towers just outside of Melbourne CBD, in Box Hill. Named The Chen, in honour of Zhong himself, its vibrant interior pays homage to his work, featuring original paintings and digital fine-art editions. Today, Zhong’s continues to prepare a new body of work for his collectors in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Australia, whilst mentoring young artists from his Melbourne studio.

When asked for his advice for budding artists, he stated: “When I was young, I believed in what I was doing and, in the end, I was rewarded for it. Young artists just have to believe in what they are doing before someone else will believe in them.” Zhong’s response, much like his work, shines a light on his own experience – a humble reminder than passion and drive truly are the catalyst to success.

Zhong Chen CV
Born in Zhongshan, China in 1969 and arrived in Australia in 1989.
1998 Masters of Fine Arts, Chelsea School of Art
1996 Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours), University of SA
1994 Diploma of Visual Arts, North Adelaide School of Art​

COLLECTIONS
Art Gallery of South Australia
Gold Coast City Art Gallery
Western Mining, Australia
Artbank, Sydney
F.H.Faulding and Co. Adelaide
Macquarie University
BHP
SBS, Melbourne
Private Collections in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia​

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2016 REDSEA Gallery, Singapore
2016 REDSEA Gallery, Brisbane
2012 Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2011 Eva Breuer Gallery, Sydney
2010 Singapore Australian Embassy, Singapore
2009 Eva Breuer Gallery, Sydney
2007 Hill-Smith Art Gallery, Adelaide
2007 Eva Breuer Gallery, Sydney
2006 Eva Breuer Gallery, Sydney
2006 Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2005 Metro 5 Gallery, Melbourne
2005 Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2004 Art Galleries Schubert, Gold Coast
2004 Metro 5 Gallery, Sydney
2003 Eva Breuer Gallery, Sydney
2002 Metro 5 Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Eva Breuer Gallery, Sydney
2001 The Alternative Museum, New York
2001 Adelaide Central Gallery, Adelaide
2001 Studio 12, 200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne
2000 Span Galleries, Melbourne
1999 &1997 Adelaide Central Gallery, Adelaide
1995 Nexus Gallery, Adelaide

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2017 Asia Contemporary Art Show Conrad Hotel Hong Kong
2017 Singapore Contemporary, Singapore
2016 Asia Contemporary Art Show Conrad Hotel Hong Kong
2016 An Art Exhibition to celebrate the Anniversary of the Tasmania-Fujian Sister State Relationship, Fujian Museum, Fujian, China
2016 Lunar New Year Exhibition, 204 Art Space, Melbourne
2013 The Sulman Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2012 Greenhill Galleries 40th Birthday Exhibition
2012 Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne
2011 The Archibald Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2011 Australian-Chinese Contemporary No.1, Comings and Goings: Lai-Lai Wang-Wang, China Link Gallery
2011 Kings School Art Prize – Finalist
2010 SQUARED, Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2010 Art Melbourne, Melbourne
2009 Home Coming Exhibition, Linda Gallery, Beijing
2009 Figurative Show, Hill Smith Gallery, Adelaide
2009 The Doug Moran Portrait Prize, Sydney
2009 The Salon Des Refusés, Sydney
2008 The Archibald Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2008 The Wynne Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2008 Doug Moran Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2007 The Archibald Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2007 The Sulman Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2007 The Wynne Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2006 SQUARED, Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2006 The Wynne Prize, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2005 The Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo, Victoria
2005 SQUARED, Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2004 Contemporary Australian Chinese Art, The Response Gallery, Federation Square
2004 SBS Art Award, Manningham Gallery, Melbourne
2004 Cromwells Art Prize, Cromwells Auction House
2003 Redlands Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery
2003 Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman Art Gallery
2003 Salon des Refuses, Sydney
2002 SBS Federation Art Award, Federation Square
2001 Salon des Refuses, Sydney
2001 ‘Mediated Portraits’, Mass Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Alice Art Prize, Alice Springs
2001 Studio Members Exhibition, 200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne
2000 Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne
2000 Chemistry : South Australian Art
2000 Art Gallery of South Australia
2000 Redlands Westpac Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney
1998 ‘MA onA4’ The Pump House Gallery, London
1998 Masters Exhibition, Chelsea School of Art, London
1997 Visy Board Art Prize, Barossa Valley, South Australia
1995 Helpmann Academy Exhibition, Adelaide and Indonesia
1990 The Faulding Exhibition

MAJOR AWARDS
2013 Sulman Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2011 The Archibald Prize, finalist, The Art Gallery of New South Wales
2011 Kings School Art Prize – Finalist
2009 Doug Moran Portrait Prize finalist
2009 Salon des Refusés, Peoples Choice Award
2008 Doug Moran Portrait Prize finalist
2008 Wynne Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2008 Archibald Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2007 Wynne Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2007 Sulman Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2007 Archibald Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2006 Wynne Prize, finalist, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2005 Australia Council Grant to attend a three month residency at The International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York
2002 SBS Federation Art Award, Federation Square, Melbourne
2001 Australia Council Greene Street, New York Studio Residency
2000 The Ian Potter Cultural Trust Grant
2000 Conrad Jupiters 2000 Art Prize – Acquisition – Gold Coast City

Art Gallery
2000 Gertrude Street Residency
1999 Premier’s Award – Emerging Artist of the Year – ARTSA
1997 Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship
1996 Major Prize Winner – Emerging Artist award – Adelaide – Tour to Paris

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
2005 ‘Paintings by Zhong Chen’, Greenhill Galleries, Review by Judith McGrath
2005 Makin, Jeff, ‘Squaring up old Shanghai’, The Herald Sun, Melbourne
2005 ‘Marriage of old and new experiences’, The Whitehorse Leader, Melbourne
2005 Smith, Nyanda, ‘Zhong Chen’ Greenhill Galleries, Perth
2004 ‘Shanghai Summer’ Exhibition Catalogue, Schubert Contemporary, Gold Coast
2004 Maier, Heidi, ‘Homeland Inspiration’, The Courier Mail, Queensland
2004 ‘Not all as it seems’, The Gold Coast Weekender, Queensland
2004 Xin Nian Contemporary Chinese Australian Art Catalogue and CD
2003 ‘The Pixel Paintings’ Eva Breuer Gallery Catalogue
2003 The top 50 collectable artists, The Art Collector Magazine
2003 ‘In the Frame’ The Sun Herald, Sydney
2003 Li Zhi, ‘The Pixel Myth’, The Australian Art Review Magazine, November – February 2003
2002 SBS art award catalogue
2001 200 Gertrude Street Catalogue
2000 Nelson, Robert, ‘Fairs and Prizes enhance art’s allure, The Age, October
2000 ‘The Right Chemistry’, The Adelaide Review, September
2000 ‘Chemistry’, South Australian Art
1990 The Faulding Exhibition Catalogue
2000 Cultural Identity at heart of SA Award Winner’s Paintings, State of the Arts Magazine
1999 ‘The Samstag Accelerator Effect’, Artlink Magazine of Contemporary Arts Vol 18 # 4
1999 Lloyd, Tim, ‘A man of talent finds his art and a home in his past’, The Advertiser – Adelaide
1999 Radok, Stephanie, ‘My hyphenated identity’, The Adelaide Review, Adelaide