'If our imagination can dominate our volition in a specific moment, and that we become aware of the lack of enduring significance in an event as profound as death... a fallen branch from the tree, as a result, would become a plea pregnant with meaning, waiting to be verbalised.'
Untitled (Lot 323) was shown in Chen's 2013 solo exhibition, Darker than Darkness, Death beyond Death, Fire Burning Fire, Walking Down along the Stairway. The show intensified its narrative provocation, and complemented the overall mood of the exhibition with this photograph series to highlight the unsettling beauty of heaviness and sluggishness, the instant of degradation and darkness, and the microcosmic reality. In probing Chen's visual experience of absurdity, metaphors, and private monologs, this emotional expression serves more than just an outlet for the artist's innermost universe: it also echoes Chen's intense anxiety about the outer world.
Untitled features a rare, valuable platinum print process. It was also the only photograph in the exhibition created with such method. The platinum process, developed by British inventor William Willis in 1873, involves coating a sheet of paper with iron salt solutions. The sheet is then placed in direct sunlight for exposure, and potassium oxalate solutions for development. During World War I, platinum was priced steeply due to its rarity, and gradually replaced by palladium, an alternative of tonal expressions similar to those of platinum. The platinum print is one of the predominant features in works by naturalistic photographer, Peter Henry Emerson. American photographer and modern art promoter Alfred Stieglitz also favoured the platinum print process. The practice was gradually replaced by gelatin silver in the 1920s.
The platinum prints are characterised by their rich tonal gradations, subtle silvers, vivid representations of details, and chemically stable print expressions. The practice was popular for quite a while in the history of photography. It is also popular with artists in pursuit of perfect tonal definitions and preservability. Its manual print process renders each photograph of the same edition subtly different. Untitled chronicles each daylight-like lightning flash: shadowy trees and cloud-enshrouded skies in the close-up support the photograph with gradational richness. The luxurious quality of the black, white and silver-gray is vividly executed. This almost-mythical aesthetic is preserved, treasured, and perfected by the artist's expert use of platinum print.