Born in Shanghai, China, 1958
Lives and works in Sydney and Shanghai
Public Telephone 5-A, 1999
Bronze free-standing sculpture
44 x 5 x 10.5 cm
Born in 1958 at the start of the disastrous ‘Great Leap Forward’ into a family whose wealth, culture and education brought them under suspicion at different times during the revolutionary era, Chen Yanyin’s complicated family history inflects her work. In 1977 she was assigned by the state to study jade carving at the Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts, one of the few art schools in Shanghai at the time. There were 21 students in her class, including 9 women. Over the course of three years she received foundational training in art and art history, and specialist instruction in jade carving. She excelled at the school and her graduation work Apsara, a female spirit of the clouds and water inspired by mural paintings in the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang (an early sign perhaps of her interest in Buddhism), was one of two works collected by the School. Determined to continue her studies Chen Yanyin was attuned to local opportunities that would assist her gain entry to the prestigious Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou (now the China Academy of Art). After working for two years she was eligible to sit for the entrance examination.
She secured a job in her mother’s work unit, the Shanghai Mint, creating designs for presentation coins. While working at the Mint she was invited, through her teachers, to participate in the 1982 Shanghai Exhibition of Designs for Urban Sculpture. Her entry ‘Monument to China’s Martyrs’ was awarded a prize for outstanding work and admired by Zhang Chongren (1907-1998), a senior sculptor who in the early 1930s had studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels with the oil painter Alfred Bastien, and was head of studio practice at the Shanghai Oil Painting and Sculpture Institute. The following year she entered the sculpture department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, one of two female students in the intake of six. While studying at the Academy her sculpture ‘Love’ (1986) was included in the First Exhibition of Sport in Art held at the National Art Museum of China and was acquired by the National Sports Commission. Upon graduation in 1988 Chen Yanyin was employed as a full-time artist at the Shanghai Oil Painting and Sculpture Institute, established in 1965 as a dedicated practice and research organisation for artists in Shanghai. In a career that now spans close to thirty years she has produced for the Institute a long list of prize-winning exhibition works, commissions and public sculptures.
Chen has participated frequently in avant-garde and women’s art exhibitions in Shanghai and around the world and she has created many of Shanghai’s public sculptures. Her work was shown in the 2nd Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, in 1996, Kassel, Germany (1998), Vancouver (1999), Singapore (2000), and in the Third Shanghai Biennale (2000). In 2008, Chen Yanyin received the “China Sculpture Grand Prize” for her work “My Mother 1956, 1963, 1998”. Recently Chen Yanyin’s work has been shown at Myth/History in Shanghai’s YUZ Museum. (Sources: ShanghArt Gallery and Claire Roberts).