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Jun Chen’s latest exhibition captures Brisbane in full bloom

Culture

Nine-time Archibald Prize finalist Jun Chen is known for his delicate style of impasto painting, scraping into focus rich landscapes and revealing portraits with colour and vibrance. His latest exhibition at Philip Bacon Galleries focuses the palette knife on Brisbane’s natural landscapes.

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His latest exhibition, now open, is a collection of blooms he had come upon driving or walking around Brisbane’s outer suburbs.

“The main subject of this show is spring time bush settings and blossoms in the trees. I used the settings of places where I live and the many natural parks that surround it. I look out on drives and walks around the parks,” Chen told InQueensland.

“When I’m driving around the natural landscapes, especially the bush and the flowers with their contrasts of colours, are very interesting to me.”

Chen said that rich colours and the way they interact draw his eye to potential subjects for his landscapes.

“I like strong colours, I like rich colours and when you go to my shows they are displayed all together which gives people beautiful feelings,” he said.

Chen emigrated to Australia thirty years ago from Guangzhou, China where he initially trained at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in Chinese ink painting, which Chen says gave him a base to work with for his oil painting.

Brisbane River 2021 (left) and Bush 2 2021 (right)

“For the ink paintings I had to use a brush, but now for my oil painting I use a bigger brush and palette knife – they use bigger marks which make me more free. They give me more freedom to paint,” said Chen.

“I’m very lucky to be learning many different things from two cultures which I can then apply in my art.”

Chen has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize competition nine times, painting figures iconic to Brisbane’s history such as art dealer Philip Bacon, ballet dancer Li Cunxin, Brisbane’s only female Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson, and most recently artist Joe Furlonger.

“To paint a good portrait you have to catch the special qualities in people. I paint many portraits, most of people I’ve known for a long time which means I know and understand them and I can choose to represent their best qualities,” he said.

“It is important that the artist carries the real person. Not only having it look alike but to catch these unique qualities which can be captured in the background, in the colours, even in their dress.”

Jun Chen’s Archibald Prize finalist piece, a portrait of artist Joe Furlonger (Image: Art Gallery NSW)

Chen said that he now prefers to create rich landscapes and mostly paints portraits for entrance in the Archibald Prize.

“From doing figurative works like portraits and nudes, I find that landscapes are more interesting to me now. Portraits and landscapes are different in many ways but for the use of colour and feelings there is not much difference,” he said.

“To paint a natural landscape is just as hard as a portrait. You need to be able to catch the natural elements and the colours, which are very different. I think sometimes it is a similar process, for example, when you’re painting the trees they are alive. There is no death.

“With the landscape, like with portraits, it is alive. You can find that the day is very fresh or changeable, just like a human.

“I just do what I want. I don’t mind whether people like it or not, I just do what I want. I think that beautiful art is very important and I don’t do it to please other people.”

Jun Chen’s exhibition is now open at Philip Bacon Galleries and runs until 31 July, for more information visit Philip Bacon Galleries’ website. 

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