Howard Chen

Article Bio Works
consumerism, industrialisation
Visual Arts (installation art)
Asia, Eastern
created on:
August 28, 2003
last changed on:
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Intimate Immensities

Howard Chen initially produced oil paintings but now works in installation art, using thousands of small metal components to create impressions of vast spaces within galleries.
Howard Chen’s early works were abstract oil paintings but in recent years he has become engaged in installation art. Working with large quantities of metal components, he composes pieces that create an effect of vast expanses. This practice of ‘creating something big from small individual components’ is exemplified by his works ‘Aura Beyond I and II’ (2001/2002) which have been exhibited in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and in Huashan Arts District in Taipei.

For these installations, in a painstaking process, Chen laid out on the gallery floor thousands of drawing pins, creating a visual field by delineating it through its external space. From close up, one can see that all the pins face the same direction and are arranged in hundreds of neat rows. From afar, it looks as though the external space has been made through random scatter, silver powder dusted over an immense rectangular object that has then been taken away to leave an impression of the blank gallery floor.

Chen’s works seem to balance upon contradictions. In our post-industrial age, he sows an external field from mass manufactured drawing pins, in a process that echoes the practice of planting seedlings by hand. From an artistic point of view, the process of painting by hand has become replaced with a form of mechanised labour that needs little skill and that denies irregularity and chance. The tension of oppositions is also present in effect of his works and this is described in the catalogue accompanying the show ‘Dream 02’ in which Chen participated in 2002: ‘The metal drawing pins are arranged by hand to create a surface installation and the combination of their coldness and hard edges gives a heightened sense of perspective using a warm and obscure artistic language. It creates a unique poetic atmosphere.’

Planning whole projects in advance, the execution of Chen’s installations is simply a matter of positioning materials in the right place. The difficulty lies in the conception of works and in the careful planning required to achieve the desired effect. Repetition and distance play an important part in his work, and his method and form are both informed by the space in which he works.

Source: ´Dream 02´ catalogue, Red Mansion Foundation, London, 2002


Howard Chen was born in southern Taiwan in 1971. He graduated from the National Institute of Arts in Taipei in 1996 and went on to study at Tainan National College of Arts until 1998. From 1999 to 2000 he served in the army. He has also worked at the Taipei Museum of Modern Art, but now works as a curator at the Taipei International Art Village.



Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ‘Dream 02’, The Red Mansion Foundation, and the Bargehouse, London, UK 2002 ‘Dizzy Island’, The Pier-2 Art District, Kaoshiung, Taiwan 2001 ‘Insist and Resist’, Headlands Art Center, SFO 2001 ‘28th Taipei Annual Arts Competition’, Taipei 1999 ‘26th Taipei Annual Arts Competition’, Taipei 1998 ‘Between Visions’, New Phase Arts Gallery, Tainan 1998 ‘New Sculpture Exhibition’, Chen-Kung University, Tainan 1997 ‘24th Taipei Annual Arts Competition’, Taipei 1997 ‘Hole Idea’, Fronts Art Gallery, Taipei 1997 ‘Wu-Shan-Tou’, Tainan


Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ‘Aura Beyond II’, Huashan Arts District, Taipei 2001 ‘Aura Beyond I ’, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei