Chang Lei 常磊

Chang Lei's paintings often depict traditional Chinese cultural figures, objects and sites, through meticulous details and sombre colours. Among the images painted by Chang are iconic landscapes, the Great Wall, ancient Chinese ceramics, Terracotta Warriors, Chinese opera figures and deities, and famous historical characters.

Through stark contrasts between sombre background tones and glowing highlights of the subjects Chang Lei's paintings delve into the history of China. The artist attempts to analyse its cultural richness from a critical perspective. Hence his paintings evoke both positive and negative sides that have marked the course of the centuries, thus aiming to achieve 'the truth'. In this sense Chang is searching for the beauty of truth and his female figures are not only charming icons of the Beijing opera but they also seem to allegorise the romantic ideal of “beauty is truth and truth is beauty”[1].

In light of this although Chang's paintings are gracefully rendered they also reveal dark sides of mankind, suggesting what is hidden behind the glorious surface of culture. And yet, these cultural creations and figures remain before our eyes. Charming and breathtaking they disclose a tainted beauty, revealing Chang's ability of accomplishing the artist's mission once appointed by Dante: to explore both hell and paradise at the same time.[2]

[1] John Keats (1795 – 1821) in Ode on a Grecian Urn, first published in 1819

[2] Cheng François, Cinq Méditations sur la Beauté, Editions Albin Michel, Paris, 2006