Laura Chen: Circle of Life


From Words From Dad

12×10 inch
Darkroom c-type print
Time-limited edition
[Available until 1 January 2024]
Accompanied a signed certificate of authenticity from the gallery and by signed artist label.

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For Christmas deliveries order by 16 December, 2022



OD Photo Prize 2023 | Shortlisted Artists

Laura Chen [b. 1997] is a Dutch image maker and writer based in the UK. Her eclectic visual discourse is highly intuitive, experimental and playful. She often employs mixed-media elements, including text, video, sound, collage and analogue photomontage techniques. Drawn to the obscurities and idiosyncrasies of the mundane, her multidisciplinary practice is an investigation into forms of otherness. Be it objects, places or people situated on the fringes of society — her images are tranquil observations of the visible traces and rituals of daily life that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Artist Statement | “My ongoing project Words From Dad provides an experimental exploration of my Dutch-Chinese heritage as it retells the story of my grandfather whom I never knew. With the use of archival images from my personal family albums, I trace back my mixed roots through my grandfather’s life stories, as told by my dad, in his own words.

I am originally from The Netherlands. I am Dutch and a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Tek Suan Chen was born in 1910 in Wenzhou, China. He was a dignitary and the Chen family were judges and landowners there. Everything had been taken away from them, their possessions and their lives. The whole family was killed by the communists during the Mao Revolution. My grandfather was the only one who survived together with his teacher and cousin Bun Chen. He was just 23 years old when he fled, as a student, from Wenzhou to Europe, via France to Germany. Due to the political consequences of the war he eventually ended up in The Netherlands where he met my grandmother and opened the first Chinese restaurant in the city The Hague. This then became the two biggest and most important things in his life: his family and his restaurant.

Although I unfortunately never got to meet and speak with my grandfather – since he passed away before I was born – I have always had a strong interest in the stories my dad told me about him.

The manufacturing and application of analogue photomontage techniques such as collage and weaving is used metaphorically to depict the fragmentation of my family memory, as well as to portray my grandfather’s experience of having to adapt to a new (Western) culture, and the multicultural upbringing he gave my dad. Reworking the family portraits, I cut and stitch multiple images together, literally intertwining the different cultures and experiences, creating a fusion of their Chinese and Dutch identities. With each fold the images become more abstracted – like the stories that are gradually becoming further removed from the original, each time they are retold and passed on from one generation to the next.

I explore photo embroidery through the ancient Chinese belief of the invisible ‘Red String of Fate’, which encapsulates a universal story of love and destiny. I believe the story perfectly embodies and perhaps accounts for my grandparents’ relationship. It seems like fate; how they met as complete strangers, from different cultural backgrounds, and did not speak the same language, yet somehow ended up together.” — Laura Chen

IMAGE DESCRIPTION | When digging through our old family albums, I found two almost identical photographs of my dad and grandfather. The pictures reveal many similarities: they’re taken from the exact same position, display the same body language and facial expressions, and show them wearing the same long coat and slicked back hairdo, parted on the same side. I mirrored the images so their bodies are facing towards each other. The red string connects them. The characters in the middle are from a poem my grandfather wrote in a letter to my dad, which starts with him saying: “Here are some words from dad…”. The letter is marked by his signature; his name stamp in red ink.


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Additional information

Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 35 × 25 × 4 cm
Choose your print option

12×10" print, 12×10" print [FRAMED]