Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Invited Artists: Margaret Chen

Margaret Chen – Cross Section of Curve (2016), mixed media installation

Margaret Chen’s work in the Jamaica Biennial 2017 can be seen at the National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. The exhibition continues until May 28.

Margaret Chen was born in 1951, in St Catherine, Jamaica. A sculpture and installation artist, she attended the Jamaican School of Art (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) where she obtained a Diploma in Sculpture with distinction (1976). Later, she attained a BFA with honours (1984) and an MFA (1986) at York University, Ontario, Canada. Notable exhibitions include her solo show Ovoid (2003) at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston and the About Change exhibition (2011), organized by the World Bank at the IDB Gallery, Washington DC, USA. She was artist in residence at the Bemis Centre for Contemporary Art (2000) and the Vermont Studio Centre (2002), both in the USA. In 2005, Chen was awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and Toronto, Canada.

Website: http://www.margaretchensculptor.com/

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Natural Histories: Margaret Chen, Steppe IX

Margaret Chen - Steppe IX (1982-89), mixed media on plyboard, Collection NGJ

Margaret Chen – Steppe IX (1982-89), mixed media on plyboard, Collection NGJ

Steppe IX is part of a larger series of 17 works by Margaret Chen. In her 1995 essay, Many Rivers Crossed for the catalogue New World Imagery: Contemporary Jamaican Art curator and art critic, Petrine Archer-Straw offered the following reading of the work:

Like many Chinese families in Jamaica, the Chens’ lives function around their business, that of furniture making. It was the proximity to materials and the possibility of studio facilities within their showroom-cum-factory that fostered Margaret Chen’s interest in sculpture or, more specifically, a type of relief carving of overall large surfaces. Through these works, Chen expresses her own understanding of the family’s work ethic, which is at once laborious and creative. There is something incredibly meditative and deceptively light about the quality of her carving in the Steppe Series (1981-82), which instantly draws parallels with Chinese watercolour brushwork. However, the evenness of her chipped strokes disguises the time and effort which must go into the preparation of these works. Continue reading