After a soul-searching sympathetic study, I began to look at her from a “me” perspective. Eventually I focused on the words “dream” and “dew” of Marilyn Monroe in Chinese translation. “Dream” refers to Marilyn’s dreams, also the American Dream, the Hollywood Dream. At times we do need dreams to support ourselves to keep going. In this exhibition, the large paintings represent dreams of Marilyn’s childhood, youth, adulthood and an imaginary old age. Marilyn, too, has different dreams at different stages of life. In her dream world, real-life scenery is transformed to resemble an inner landscape.
Dew is the real, as opposed to dreams. Life as we know it can hardly get over the frailty of our bodies and limited strength, nor the time-space constraints imposed on us. In Marilyn’s case, the success of dream pursuit and its attendant life force in the end, are no match for the dark influences planted deep in her unfortunate childhood, making her sad ending a kind of fatalism. In watching her strivings all along, we as knowing viewers can’t help feeling tragic for her, just as we would for Sisyphus who endlessly pushes the rock to the mountain top. The small portraits in the exhibition, representing “dew”, are like fragmented pieces reflecting the changes in her appearance and mind, as well as the chilling reality.
With the script fixed, I have decided to make my “film” in the everyday style. As regards the vocabulary of painting, I have used only the basic materials – canvas and paints – so as to reduce the signature effects of my work. While this has minimized, on the one hand, unnecessary interference, thus inline with the documentary-like theme, it also agrees with my persistent interest in exploring the possibilities of painting itself. Today when paintings are increasingly overwhelmed with “supporting materials”, I am urged to look for the basic and simple things instead.
Painting this subject was at once joy and pain. I was both director and actor, Marilyn and myself, in Beijing, Los Angeles and in New York, living in the present and also in the past. Life inevitably ends in nothingness and all our pursuits are no more than a dream. It appears that we, in the time-space coordinates, cannot seem to find a better way out than putting out there an earnest effort every one of our days. Beauty always pairs with loss, and men are loved precisely for their imperfections. Dream and dew resemble the two sides of life, so precious because it is so brief. — Chen Ke, Beijing, April 2016.
CHEN KE “DREAM ・ DEW”
Exhibition Dates: May 11 – June 25, 2016
Opening: Wednesday, May 11, 6 – 8pm
50 Connaught Road Central, 17th Floor