“Entelechy” | Chenhung Chen
Written by Jennifer Susan Jones
By re-envisioning unwanted wire and cords into vigorous vertical sculptures, Chenhung Chen’s “Entelechy” works initiate a shift in how we view our technological past by illustrating the binary concept of honoring rather than ignoring outdated modes of (literal and figurative) communication. Instead of sending discarded wires, cords, and game controllers off to the landfill, or mocking their now defunct, antiquated nature, Chen has hoisted the lot aloft – in part, to show us actualized potential made visible.
Studying Chen’s Entelechy installation is an exercise in reflection – a chance to contemplate experiences and tip your hat to the past – despite the pressure to conform to contemporary practices. Although it is against human nature to embrace change, we must remember that the open minded – the individuals rich with knowledge and experience – are forever searching for improvement. And it is the open-minded that are the best equipped opportunists; the ones with the big ideas.
Via her artistic repurposing of wire and cording, Chen brings to light the backstory of our technological past, reminding us that regardless of how sophisticated we’ve become, we must never abandon our roots. Chen’s sculptures show us that we don’t abruptly leap into modernism. Rather the progression toward it necessitates bending, flexing, and twisting, as well as countless collaborative efforts among experts in diverse fields of study. In Chen’s sculptures, we can see a learning from experience which utilizes our foundational forward thinking as a platform for the next breakthrough. Here we see the intellectuality that percolates to critical mass, whereby giving birth to a cleaner, sleeker, system or product.
Personal growth and self-actualization are products of interpersonal as well as intrapersonal (inner) experience. Chen states that Socrates’s doctrine, “know thyself” is of utmost importance: “I think that statement describes the purpose of life, for everyone. Artists may be actively involved in this endeavor, but I know many others are as well. Whatever holds a mirror up to your life experience will force you to examine yourself. For me, this is fundamentally a ‘looking within’, and I have been doing this for most of my life. Somehow this has helped in my Artistic pursuit, but it’s not the path to career success, and I don’t claim it will help.”
Honoring our past efforts shows us that regardless of the monotony of any long-standing, unfulfilling career or responsibility, skill refinement is gradual and inevitable, and only apparent during periods in which a life change necessitates a transition. Over time, this life change causes an awareness of the surprising level of proficiency one was able to achieve through countless hours of performing (what may have felt like) menial tasks. Chen’s process of creating new works from cast off materials parallels this concept of rebirth and awakening via self-reflection.
Creating the new from the old is just one of the binary concepts present in Chen’s work. She states that she is obsessed with other binary concepts such as: peace and chaos; harmony and dissonance; the subtle and the powerful. These binary extremes were “coming out” of Chen in her artwork – which leads the question: which came first, the awareness or the art?
When asked about her awareness of this binary obsession, Chen stated that it began somewhere during the process of creating the entelechy work. For the viewer, the binary principles of subtlety and power, peace and chaos, are indeed quite evident in entelechy. Chen’s sculptures of suspended wire bundles and long linear masses begin as subtle wisps of “hair” at their peaks – mere suggestions of energy – before spilling into powerful, weighty piles of (sometimes) recognizable objects such as game controllers and electrical plugs across the floor. It is as if the inception of form itself is being shown to us in a three- dimensional illustration of both top-down and bottom-up sensual processing.
Another set of principles – chaos and peace- become apparent dependent upon the viewer’s distance from the artwork: a distant view may convey a chaotic mass; whereby close inspection reveals the works’ hidden delicacy – wires intricately woven together in deliberate detail, illustrating a connectedness only apparent to the careful, contemplative observer. It is as if the work – much like an individual – lays waiting for the viewer to regard it intimately, to take the time to approach and appreciate its complexity.
Chen states that binary forces are the driving energy in her life and she feels the need to express them. When asked if she is considering new ways of expressing these forces, Chen stated, “I think my work will always have those qualities because of the dichotomy of forces existing in us. I usually have a couple of different projects happening at the same time. This way allows me to work intuitively and keeps me interested. I’m still working with electrical wire and alloy wire. I continue to crochet alloy wire in order to hold the electrical wire together. It’s been a five-year moving toward six-year project. I’m not done with it yet.”
According to Chen, entelechy can mean human soul, and the meaning she is using is “the driving force for inner fulfilment.” Chen states that “there’s a meaning of actualization of some kind of potential, like human potential but you want to actualize it.”
If human potential can be likened to a bundle of energy and therefore seen as electricity, wires work ideally as a vital medium for sculptural representation. The physical mechanism of the electrical impulses of the nervous system work much like the actualization of a novel idea: vivacious energy twists and turns through the intricate wires of our efficient pathways until, respectively, a muscle moves, or a brilliant idea is born.
The Entelechy works metaphorically illustrate that the human capacity for learning and creating is virtually limitless. By honoring your roots, and engaging in self-reflection, you will awaken your driving force, and learn to marvel at the seemingly mundane. And, as Socrates posited, “Wisdom begins in wonder.”
Chenhung Chen’s solo show is on view at the Los Angeles Art Association through May 6th.
Chenhung Chen is an artist living and working in Los Angeles. Born in Beigang, Taiwan, Ms. Chen graduated from the Chinese Cultural University. She received her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City where she studied with Ursula von Rydingsvard and Jackie Winsor. She has traveled the world as a volunteer for The Prem Rawat Foundation working for global peace. Her artwork has been exhibitied across the United States and internationally. Such exhibitions include the PS1 Museum, NY, the Hwa Kang Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, the UVU Woodbury Art Museum, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Diego Art Institute, and Gallery 825 in Los Angeles. Her series Entelechy has been featured in a solo show at Gallery 825 in 2016.
Jennifer Susan Jones is a mixed media artist and online author and art writer for Shoebox PR and Beautiful Bizarre magazine. She has worked as a counselor and art therapist, and currently feels great satisfaction in visiting many galleries and artists’ studios to speak intimately with artists about their creative processes as well as what inspires their work. Her position as an art writer has provided her with a platform in which she can promote lesser-known artists while showcasing her passion for finding the words needed to capture the essence of each unique body of work.