© Courtesy of Xuteng Chén and cadet capela
© Credits photo: Thomas Marroni

Xuteng Chén

January 27 — February 24, 2024

54 rue Chapon, 75003 Paris

cadet capela is pleased to present Kewpie, the first solo exhibition of Chinese artist Xuteng Chén, from January 27 to February 24, 2024, at 54 rue Chapon, 75003 Paris - FR.

Inspired by classical Greek and Roman art, Kewpies are small cherubs that emerged in the United States in the early 20th century in women’s magazines of the time. These smiling and mischievous little angels have captured the collective imagination of Americans and now lend their name to the most famous Japanese mayonnaise brand. This is what the artist seeks: universal subjects that tap into the memories and culture of their viewers.

Chén suddenly immerses us in details of images, drawn from social networks or his own archives. Each of his works then weaves a story, unique and carefully crafted through precise photographic framing and a subtly saturated painterly touch. An evocative power, both precious and mysterious, emanates from subjects devoid of any context or reference. Portraits, still lifes, moments of life or fiction form an openly personal collection that testifies to both the artist’s daily life and the society in which we live. “I hope that viewers can resonate with the work as they contemplate it,” emphasizes the artist.

With relevance and gentleness, these autonomous narratives harmonize to transcend individual boundaries of the intimate. Chén aspires to evoke the notion of collective memory; a memory composed of daily images, shared significant moments, and traditions inherited from the past:

Pray represents a sculpture of an angel, and Kewpie is a unique interpretation of the imagery of these cherubs. The angelic figure has reappeared regularly in my journey over the past two years. Angels are often depicted as beautiful and benevolent beings.

In the works Jerry’s bed, Sardine Can, Beer Cap, seemingly ordinary still lifes convey a whimsical imagination with a dual function. The comic book creator, from which the paintings draw inspiration, illustrates Jerry’s interaction with the objects around him, revealing their impact on his living environment.

The painting Pomme depicts a discarded apple core on the pavement, deviating from the conventional shape of an apple. What captivates me is its resemblance to the gesture of the middle finger of the right hand, as if the apple is signaling that it has not been treated correctly.

Fascinated by the painting of the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans representing a young boy but titled The Valley, I sought its origin. The image of Muktinath, the boy, appeared to me; Mutkinath being the name of a Nepalese valley.

World Trade Center features a painting created from a screenshot of a video, displaying color bands due to the aging of the image. The repeated images on television on September 11, 2001, when I was only 7, marked my first understanding of the concept of disaster. However, with the proliferation of images, people have become increasingly numb to the disasters depicted in visuals.

 Xuteng Chén was born in 1994 in Swatow, China. In 2022, he graduated with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, and in 2023, his work was part of the exhibition “Immortelle” at MO.CO, “an ambitious panorama of young French figurative painting.” After his presentation at the Asia NOW fair in 2023, at the Monnaie de Paris, cadet capela hosts his first solo exhibition.