Winner of the Klimt02 JPLUS Emerging Talent Award 2018 Shengyi Chen interviewed by Klimt02

Published: 07.12.2018
Winner of the Klimt02 JPLUS Emerging Talent Award 2018 Shengyi Chen interviewed by Klimt02.
Carolin Denter
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Shengyi Chen. Brooch: Currency Snake, 2018. Gold plated copper, silver.. 7 x 1 x 10 cm. Photo by: Shengyi Chen. Shengyi Chen
Brooch: Currency Snake, 2018
Gold plated copper, silver.
7 x 1 x 10 cm
Photo by: Shengyi Chen
© By the author. Read Copyright.

The 4th edition of the JPLUS Award by Klimt02 awarded the work of Shengyi Chen from Central Saint Martin’s College in London. The JPLUS award aims to recognize the work of graduate students by supporting their career in the professional world. Next, to the promotion of the work during the selection phase through the Klimt02 Newsletter and the Web, the awardee receives a one-year free membership of Klimt02 with all features and a solo exhibition at the Hannah Gallery in Barcelona. Shengyi Chen will have the possibility to present his work from 13 February to 8 March 2019 at Hannah Gallery, to an international audience.
How do you think this award can enrich your life as an artist?
This is absolutely a great honour and affirmation to me. As a student who just graduated from college, this award certainly gives me confidences for my further study at MA. As an artist, I feel it is like Armstrong’s first step, this award officially gives me a great opportunity to communicate with the real art circles for the very first time.

Facing your coming soon solo exhibition at Hannah Gallery, do you have any hopes and wishes?

I am very excited about the coming soon exhibition at Hannah Gallery. I wish everything will be swimmingly. I hope my work can successfully bring everyone a sense of humour, and in the meantime, draw people’s attention to some political issues around our lives.
  • The trauma was raw and irreversible. At this point, as an artist, I decided to “speak”, speak of the what we went through, and this is how everything started.

Your work has a strong political attitude. In your Statement, you describe especially the Year 2017 as traumatizing and disturbing, since it was the election year of Trump. Where did your interest in politics and social issues begin?
I am a person who loves tracing back history and also with a view to daily news. And somehow it’s unknowingly started to build up my interest in politics and social issues. But, I have to say, the real motivation for me to really look into these issues where my personal experience. Since the election of Trump, the relationship between America and China has become more and more intense, some publication of the policies were really started to affect my family. The trauma was raw and irreversible. At this point, as an artist, I decided to “speak”, speak of the what we went through, and this is how everything started.

Art and politics - there are some people that think they should never mix. What’s your view and why do you feel it’s important to pair art with activism in this way? Do you see an inherent relationship between art and political interventions?
In my opinion, the contemporary art field is a space of wild contradiction and phenomenal exploitation. Since the Second World War, art has already participated in politics and massive social issues. As a young artist, I am not satisfied with creating something to please someone’s eyes. I want to join the trend of the times, I want to speak something. I see art is a reflection of the society that we are, the kind of mirror that art holds up to help us identify the identity of the society, we can trace that back, historically. Art comes from our society, it shouldn’t beyond society. On the contrary, politics as an important part of society. I think the mix with art is no such word called “never”. As I explained before, I do see an inherent relationship between art and political interventions, in fact, I would say in a sense, art is always political.

Shengyi Chen, Brooch: Love Bomb, 2018, Gold plated copper, silver.
Photo by: Shengyi Chen


It makes no sense in many ways for us to think in national terms in art or politics or anything else anymore - our world is characterized by interdependence. Given the fevered political moment across Europe and in the States, is there more of an urgency for artists to have a position? How do you suggest that jewellers and artists cope with our current political climate?
Absolutely, I think art should be a sign of resistance to a political model that is increasingly hierarchical, diffuse, global and standardized. Nowadays, our society gives a few ways for us to respond to what we see. Most of the time, the audience is immediately prescribed by the mass media and, therefore, defused before its fellow citizens dare ‘boo’ from the stands. Democracy has become an aesthetic matter. I want to get away from unilateral, closed discourses affording no possibility for the response, participation or interaction. We artists have a political function that requires clear ethical positions. Art can change the world – or should. This is one of the artist’s most effective tools. As an artist, using our advantages to reflect political matters might help to arouse people’s concern about politics itself. But, this should also be very objective, and be very careful of how to present, avoiding politically right.
  • We artists have a political function that requires clear ethical positions.

What do you think is required to make a political statement in art and design that actually resonates with people, and makes a difference?
I would say “Popular” and “Humour” are the two most important things that can resonate with people and make a difference. Political and social issues sometimes require a higher understanding, respond to this, take the elements from what people familiar with would yield twice the result with half the effort. In our mind, politics always play a role of serious, this sense of serious can make everything depressive, then, subconsciously, people avoid to think about it. And this is when “humour” starts to shine. By giving political matters a sense of humour, policies are no longer frightening and a thousand miles away from our lives.
The jewellery you create will automatically generate questions and discussions between the wearer and the audience. Regarding this, what are you looking for or what are your visions on what impact it may have?
The function of my work is kind like a poster. I am using wearer’s body as the paper, and my jewellery started to become the illustration and messages that I want to deliver or the stand of the wearer. Unlike the traditional poster, my “poster” is able to speak. The communication around the issues that I addressed in my work is all I want. I want people to start to talk about it and make respond to it.

Shengyi Chen, Necklace: Boxing, 2018, Gold plated brass, copper, red paint.
Photo by: Shengyi Chen

There are many ways to deal with political problems and the Zeitgeist, you made the decision to reflect it in a humoristic way. Is there a piece which is more serious than the others? If yes, why?
As I described before, a sense of humour can really make everything become easier to understand. There is no a piece which is more serious than the others. I mean, I see them all serious yet humorous at the same level. Because they are all addressed with different issues. I wouldn’t say which issue is more serious, they are all matters that we need to fix immediately.
How important was the study at Central Sant Martins for you, regarding this graduation work? How did it influence you?
I must say study at Central Saint Martins was the most precious times for me. It gives me a chance to identify myself and gives me massive knowledge to express myself. The great artistic atmosphere also taught me the responsibility as a contemporary artist. Central Saint Martins not just influence me as an artist, it also made me realised I am truly a part of the society, I am just as small as a dust, yet I can be powerful as a planet.

What kind of contemporary jewellery would you like to see more often?
I am very interested in jewellery with a strong narrative. It can really arouse my sympathy. I am also very interested in a sense of history. So these kinds of contemporary jewellery I would like to see more often.

About the Interviewee

Shengyi Chen completed his training as Jewellery designer at Gemological Institute of America in 2013. In 2018 he graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery Design at Central Saints Martins College of Art and Design. After his graduation, he continued with his Master of Arts study at Royal College of Art as the subject of Jewellery and Metal.

About the author

Denter completed her training as Goldsmith at Master School for Craftsmen in Kaiserslautern in 2013. In 2015 she made an Internship at Klimt02, where she is working since 2016 as Content Manager. In 2017 she graduated with Bachelor of Fine Arts in Gemstone and Jewellery at University of Applied Science Trier, Campus Idar-Oberstein. After her graduation, she started working part-time as Marketing and Design management Assistance at Campus Idar-Oberstein in the Gemstone and Jewellery Departement.