Stanley Chen: Magical Girls
“In Rainbow series, I paint animation-like characters to portray the confusion, the depression, and the anger my personal identity feels when it confronts a bigger surrounding. I sometimes feel that the battle between me and my identity is young-aged and been entertained, like the magical girls in the animations. Magical girls are usually cute. Their combat suits are spectacular; their transformations are gorgeous. However, could I really be in their positions and understand what they are fighting for?”
Artist Stanley Chen
Stanley Chen composed bright and colorful images of magical girls with clean and illustrative lines in his 2022 new works. The characters are naïve, yet the ambiguous transparency somehow creates an intimacy. Unlike typical and straightforward self-portraits, these paintings can be seen as a representation of the artist, a way that Stanley started the conversation between him, the magical girls on the canvas, and his inner parts.
“I sometimes feel that the battle between me and my identity is young-aged and been entertained, like the magical girls in the animations.”
Since his childhood, Stanley has enjoyed comic books and animation. From his new paintings, we can have a glance at his childhood and his personal life experiences. Moreover, we are able to connect some elements in the paintings to classic creations – the star-shaped wand of Power of the Stars (2022) is from Cardcaptor Sakura (1996 – 2000, CLAMP), and the guardian egg in Incubator (2022) is from Shugo Chara! (2006 –, PEACH-PIT). In Shugo Chara!, people lay eggs of dreams because of their strong desires for perusing their identities. It resonates with how Stanley sees himself as the magical girls. He overthrew the stereotype of magical girls and projected a recognizing and positive mental space beyond the images.
Based on pop culture, Stanley appropriated the elements within to symbolize his own philosophy. Identity is no longer a simple concern in childhood but a bigger issue for a whole life. Stanley’s Rainbow series gathers and mixes common public notions and personal experience.
“Magical girls are usually cute. Their combat suits are spectacular; their transformations are gorgeous. However, could I really be in their positions and understand what they are fighting for?”
In comic books and animations, the bodies and the appearances of magic girls are usually attractive and their outfits are charming. Sometimes, the combat suits are full of fantasy as well. Inevitably, these are possibly from men’s perspective on how they expect a female character should be. Nevertheless, the magic girls on Stanley’s canvas are more unpolished and possess children-like bodies, rejecting to follow the ideal images of the public.
The gestures of ribbing off the clothes and covering the bodies also hint at self-recognition of the body. On one hand, it states the desire for self-liberation; on the other hand, it reveals the complex emotions toward self. Lingering in the imaginary “cosplay,” Stanley continuingly to seek for his identity.
Stanley Chen (b. 1997 in Sydney, Australia) moved to Foshan, Guangdong with his family as a kid. In 2020, he graduated from School of Visual Arts, New York. Moving between cities internationally, Chen’s experience triggers his concentration on the fluidity in identities. His body of work uses paintings and drawings to detach from the present, allowing the examination of himself and his surroundings with a stranger-like perspective. Chen’s recent shows include online show “Jingart Platform Online” at Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2022); group show “Either is Good – Overseas Chinese and Taiwanese Artists” at Each Modern, Taipei (2022); group show “Conceive” at Latitude Gallery, New York (2022); and group show “A Couple Of” at Hive Art Center, Beijing (2021).