oil on canvas
280 x 220 cm
At first the object in this painting appears to take the form of an ancient Chinese ‘ding’ a ritual bronze vessel with three or four legs, filled with treasure and symbolising wealth and power. On closer inspection we see that it is, rather, an obese fleshy creature with fat legs and tiny, pudgy hands holding open its belly to reveal mounds of glistening jewels and cosmetics. It has no head, no brain, it is merely a receptacle for the objects of insatiable consumer desire. Chen Fei is a moralist, and his works, like seventeenth century ‘Vanitas’ paintings, illustrate the perils of being seduced by the shiny baubles offered by a culture of over-consumption. With the inclusion of lipsticks and jewels rather than, say, cars or other trappings of wealth, he seems to apply his wrath to women, who are accused of vanity as well as greed. Chen, who has spoken of his inability to come to terms with the vast and increasing inequities of wealth in today’s China, suggests that the new affluence of his country is a Faustian bargain.