The slippery, ambiguous nature of memory imbues the work of Ruofan Chen, whose elusive drawings are about to go on display in the main gallery at PAPER in Manchester marking the London/New York based artist’s first solo exhibition. The blurred quality and small-scale dimensions of each piece demand close up viewing, resisting straightforward interpretation in the way that our recollections of fleeting, transitory or painful moments often do. In the making of these works, Chen often draws upon her own emotional experiences, especially her feelings of alienation and longing for her family in China, and her sense of being an outsider within British society. Continuing the theme of ambiguity however, she also explores the looming restrictions imposed by the traditional Chinese family, often through the visual motif of barriers or other forms of obscuration.
Playing upon this precipice between two states, the exhibition’s title relates to the Chinese theory of combining ‘cold and hot’ within the properties of herbs. For Chen, the desire is always to remain neutral, whilst also emphasising the importance of human emotions against the context of a rapidly developing and orderly society. This curious show should offer a compact yet expansive meditation on the complexity of internal experience.