Galleria Continua
San Gimignano
Les Moulins
Sao Paulo

Viewing Room



A Field of Synergy is where space and spirit overlap; the heart of the work is a center of light and energy as well as of matter and number. Notions such as choosing your body and being born are conjured up. Light emulates from the cocoon-like structures of the children’s hospital beds. A common visual reference in Chen Zhen’s work was that which related to medicine. The medical profession was important for him due to his family history with generations of medical background, relatives who were not only medical doctors but medical educators and researchers, figures who had to know how to combine different ways of thinking, feeling, and responding. Chen Zhen’s artistic creation was heavily influenced by this; his works capture his intense spatial sensibility and artistic imagination as well as his ability to research and understand different cultures, history, materials and traditional craftmanship. 

When encountering the spaces of Galleria Continua for the first time, Chen Zhen faced difficulties in imagining how works could fit inside “such an oddly shaped gallery.” Difficulty however usually provides more of a challenge and when Chen Zhen walked into the last space he saw, the huge theatre, a sudden unexplainable excitement overtook him. Later, going on to explain that “the greatest success of this exhibition is that all of us, the gallerists and me, totally forgot [about the fact that we were creating an exhibition inside a gallery.]"1

1 "From Energy to Synergy. A conversation between Chen Zhen and Zhu Xian". A text from “Chen Zhen Invocation of Washing Fire” 2003 Gli Ori, Prato, pp. 390-395  

Alice Fontanelli, artist liaison of Galleria Continua, talks about working with Chen Zhen. 

Field of Synergy


Metal children's beds, plastic tubes, wooden Chinese bed, light bulbs, fan, polystyrene numbered balls, fabric, Plexiglas, motion sensor

2000 x 1330 x 900 cm (approx.)

unique work

Photo by Attilio Maranzano

The diversity of the spaces in Galleria Continua inspired Chen Zhen greatly during the creation of the exhibition “Field of Synergy” and the work of the same name. He wanted every space to connect and demonstrate its own individual magic features, as if they were systemised organs of a human body in which every part is vital. Looking at this from a Chinese medicine perspective as the concept of “the organic whole”, Chen Zhen regarded the spaces as such, an organic whole with all its components mutually important. For Chen Zhen, looking at the spaces in this way was applying “synergy” to these spaces. 

'Synergy' is a medical term; it describes the synchronizing functions and the capabilities of the different organs in the human body. This can be applied to the artistic context by asking questions like; how to understand the value of different cultures, how to integrate different inter-disciplinary ways of thinking, how to collect and appreciate multi-cultural energies and capacities, how to use and connect various factors and elements within a space, and how to instate and situate works in space. 

Equally, 'Synergy' indicates a mode of thinking. Thinking of everything in a networked context. This is indicative of a larger concept that Chen Zhen applied to his life and work, 'Transexperience', meaning questioning the world, humanity and its relationship with its environment, in order to establish a transcultural discourse and mode of thought. A new language that takes into account a dimension that is simultaneously spiritual, human and technological, material and immaterial. 

Field of Synergy was first shown at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano from October 2000 to March 2001. In 2001, the work was exhibited as part of the group show “The Body of Art”, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva and Peter Greenaway in "Las pasiones" the first Biennial of Valencia.  Two years later it came to Palais de Tokyo for “Silence sonore" curated by Jérome Sans, however only the 7 suspended children’s hospital beds were on show. The exhibition, “Transexpériences”, at Galleria Continua, Beijing also hosted the work in 2005 alongside many other iconic works from the artist’s oeuvre. A year later, it went to the Shanghai Art museum for the solo show, “Chen Zhen”, and in 2011 it returned to Galleria Continua, San Gimignano for the exhibition “Chen Zhen. Les pas silencieux”, which was comprised of a large range of works completed between 1990 and 2000, celebrating Chen Zhen’s art and life.

Projet mental pour 'Field of Synergy', n. 1


India ink and photocopy on paper

70 x 100 cm

unique work

“Field of synergy, and its delicious cultural shortcircuit” by Lorenzo Fiaschi  

A text from “Chen Zhen Invocation of Washing Fire” 2003 Gli Ori, Prato, pp. 378-381 

THE DISCOVERY – I was walking through the avenues of the Arsenale at the 1999 Biennale di Venezia; I was hungry and thirsty. I was about to turn back to find a bar when I heard a strange tremor-sound, like the beginning of an earthquake… the sound became a rhythm. It was coming from a grand room, I went in and was left breathless. I saw an impressive installation, built with Oriental beds and chairs covered with taut skins, sculptures that were drums hung by ropes with wooden structures. All around were tens of men, women and children that were beating the drums with sticks, unloading their energy, creating an extraordinary common rhythm. I just stood there, I don’t know how long. It was my lucky day, I ran into Rosa, a friend, and she knew Chen Zhen and she had his phone number. 

I returned to San Gimignano and spoke with Maurizio and Mario, and then I called Chen Zhen.

It was he who answered, in an easy voice. I shared my enthusiasm with him, so emotional that I stammered some unfinished sentences, boldly ending by giving him the date for his exhibition at the Galleria Continua, the 21st October 2000. Amused, he replied that then wouldn’t be possible, but he would at least like to meet me. Seizing the moment, I invited him to Tuscany with his wife. To my great surprise and joy he accepted! Today I understand that it was his natural curiosity that pushed him to come. 

THE MEETING – At the little airport in Florence it wasn’t hard to recognize Chen Zhen and Xu Min, his wife, and they immediately saw which were the eyes awaiting them in the multitude. Two huge smiles greeted us and generous hugs dissipated any hesitance.

We talked of everything, of the harmony of the landscape in these places shaped by man, of the Wall of China, we compared prosciutto with tofu, tea with wine. 

Chen Zhen asked us lots of unexpected questions about our local culture, about the artisans, the agriculture; with each reply he compared them to the ways he has found in other cultures he has visited: Salvador, Kwangju, Marrakech, Helsinki, Tel Aviv, creating within us much curiosity and attention and tying them to other delicacies. These cultural differences between peoples were to be considered as important deposits for a reciprocal enrichment. I wasn’t certain of the exhibition, not that day, nor the following day, but that encounter meant much more for me. They invited me to visit them in Paris and our first meeting was so refreshing and so regenerating that I soon found myself speaking with Chen Zhen and Xu Min at their home. It was no longer about the exhibit, it was about living their energy, so different and new for me. 

When I got home a letter was awaiting me. My heart leapt, it was from Chen Zhen: “…I did a drawing for you from memory, of a plan of the gallery. I will create new works that I have sketched here and placed in the various rooms thinking of the energies in the space, in order to have an organic whole, as if one proceeds in a mysterious journey within the human body. The title of the show will be “Field of Synergy”… they are difficult works to create… they are dreams.” 

We opened the show on 21 October 2000, and all of the dreams came true. 

THE CHANGE – A discovery, a meeting, does not always bring about change, and when this does happen it is not always healthy for us. The condition, the field of synergy, that constructive change can create for our sensitivity is a rare event, it depends upon many factors: partly on who we are – and even knowing oneself is an infinite project – and partly on how we approach others. If one is too realistic and sees the world passively one can become a prisoner and alien to change, but by living actively, accompanied by desire and imagination, one can manage to enrich those who meet us. It is exciting to discover that the important experiences must leave more questions than answers; seeking answers is a strong stimulus for our curiosity and refreshes our intelligence. And how exciting it is to discover at a certain point that our concept of beauty and ugliness, of right or wrong, was not guided by a personal sensitivity, but by a habit dictated by external things.

The encounter and the discovery of Chen Zhen and his work, walking through the field of synergy, gave me, and others a different freedom, brought me questions and changes. These are rare encounters. His works, with a universal language, speak, whispering to those who know how to listen, and screaming at those who don’t want to hear.  

Etude des énergies dans l'espace


India ink on paper

100 x 70 cm

unique work

Un Village sans frontières


Child's chair and colored candles

107 x 41 x 41 cm

unique work

Photo by Attilio Maranzano



Beds, metal, wood, water, hydraulic system, objets

700 x 2000 x 1800 cm (approx.)

unique work

Courtesy Cimaise et Portique Centre Départemental D'Art Contemporain, Albi, France

Photo by Marc Boyer

Installation view Galleria Continua, Habana

Photo by Nestor Kim

Perseverance of Regeneration


Crashed car, toy cars, silicon, paint

150 x 210 x 470 cm

unique work

Photo by Ela Bialkowska

Instrument musical


Wood, Chinese chamber pots, metal, sound system

68 x 121 x 45 cm

unique work

Photo by Rémi Lavalle

Les Textes de la lumière / La Lumière des textes


Metal, glass, neon, red pigment powder, earth, objects, red adhesive letters

190 x 140 x 31 cm

unique work

Photo by Ela Bialkowska

Courtesy ADAC-Association des Amis de Chen Zhen

Photos by Claire Dorn



Metal, glass, bauxite, aluminium, photograph, red acrylic paint

30 x 30 x 30 cm - shelf 20 x 30 x 40 cm

unique work

Photo by Rémi Lavalle

CHEN ZHEN. CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ. VOLUME I (1977 - 1996) AND VOLUME II (1997 - 2000) published by Skira and edited by ADAC – Association des Amis de Chen Zhen in collaboration with Galleria Continua

In presenting the collection of the artist’s works from 1977, the Catalogue Raisonné will offer readers an opportunity to understand their genesis and also to perceive them in relation to overall thought, thus comprehending how the artist was involved within the art of his time and also with


The work of the artist is presented in chronological order, in two volumes with a slipcase. They will be proposed in two versions, one in French and the other in English.

The first volume is dedicated to the years between 1977 and 1996. It comprises the early years of his activity as a painter in China, specifically 1986, the year in which Chen Zhen left the Orient to come to live and work in France, at the same time as he decided to concentrate on his artistic work

and devote his efforts to installations. The second volume presents the artist’s activity from 1997 until his death on the 13th of December 2000 and also comprises a section on his posthumous works, created using his designs.

Each volume is divided into five main parts. Each one of them has an introduction written by Isabelle Renard and Xu Min, a sort of reader’s guide which places the artist’s work in its historical context and highlights certain key periods of his creative journey. The different parts also include

texts, interviews and essays.

Each work presented will be documented with its title, date, material, dimensions, current collection and the complete biography of exhibitions and publications.

We invite you to subscribe and order the Catalogue Raisonné of Chen Zhen (Volumes I - II) today, at the special price of €190 (including transport) instead of €230 (the final price in bookstores).

To receive the Catalogue Raisonné, all you have to do is fill in the subscription form and return it by email (contact@chenzhen.org) to the association, making out your bank transfer to ADAC.

ADAC will send you the Catalogue Raisonné following receipt of payment.



curated by Vicente Todolí

Pirelli HangarBicocca

Opening Wednesday 14 October 2020, from 5 pm 

Free admission upon reservation.

The exhibition opening will follow social distancing guidelines with a capacity restriction and pre-registered time slots for each visitor, allowing you to enjoy the show in the safest possible way. 

Book your slot HERE.