A new work from the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale has appeared on the False Creek seawall at the foot of Drake Street – a shocking bit of red against the aquamarine palette of the city.

The Proud Youth by Chinese artist Chen Wenling is named after a popular Wuxia (Martial Heroes) novel, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu 笑傲江湖) – literally to live a carefree life in a mundane world of strife.  It’s always read as a political allegory.

From a distance, it’s initially difficult to make out what’s going on.

Close up, “the red figure, naked and free, fully reveals his honesty and fearlessness. The cheeky expression and arresting pose are a celebratory call to the audiences, inviting them to embrace their inner child.”

Or, of course, to photograph it.  If not already one of the most popular Instagram locations in the city, it soon will be.




In another era (c. 1966, in front of the Vancouver Sun building*), this work would shock (naked boy, penis!).  Today, not so much.

Along with another popular piece brought to the city by the Biennale (A-maze-ing Laughter, at English Bay), there are now two contemporary works that explore the Asian body.





“The bright red colour signifies not only auspiciousness in Chinese tradition, but also a testament to the artist’s fiery attitude towards life.  Chen Wenling’s art often deals with three themes: personal experience, human desire, and community imagination.”

Chen’s bio reveals how much he’s representative of the growth and change in China itself.


*Barrie Mowatt indicated “The Family” will be reinstalled in late July in the parking lot adjacent to the Granville Island Market and Arts Club.

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