Blink Of An Eye
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine|August 2020
Visual artist Chen Man’s personal aesthetic is one steeped in traditional Chinese culture, yet thoroughly modern in execution.
Lynette Kee

Every time you blink, there’s no one thing that remains the same. Or so suggests Chen Man, whose hyper-realistic, time-revealing photographs capture the passing chapters of her subjects’ life stories. Chen’s childhood was one peppered with fleeting yet culturally important moments. She was born in the midst of China’s Cultural Revolution. At 2 years old, while most would struggle to wrap their fingers around a pencil, Chen was helping her father paint advertisement posters.

If Chen’s artistic inclination first drew her to pick up a paintbrush, she later substituted that with a camera. She also explored graphic design at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, which she used to combine with her photographic works. That was when multimedia art was in its infancy. To Chen, it wasn’t a matter of foresight or talent; she was simply reacting to time. “With the technology and software now appearing, everything that has happened is inevitable,” she says, drawing the interconnectedness of the world as a giant web. As a young Chinese woman from the large capital of Beijing, Chen has her sights set on places far beyond — a spirit that is emboldened by Piaget, who has named her one of its “Extraordinary Women” to lead its latest campaign spotlighting new editions of the Piaget Limelight Gala collection.

Chen’s photographic terrain now largely spans the fashion scene. She has worked with countless industry luminaries, like Fan Bingbing and Rihanna. Her signature digital treatment now plays a more subtle role in her commercial works. “I believe details create the big picture,” she says. That said, her artistic direction is still heavily defined by duality — the coexistence of toughness and softness, traditional culture with modern mediums. In the same vein, Piaget Limelight Gala watches have perpetuated its spirit of strength and femininity since the 1970s, when famous names like Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Salvador Dali formed the Piaget society. Today, the brand unites a new generation of powerful industry names to reinvigorate the collection of jewellery watches. As part of Piaget’s Extraordinary Women campaign, Chen lends her eye to illustrate the journey of nine other extraordinary women. In an interview with T Singapore, Chen talks about the creative landscape, her personal philosophies and what success means to her.

LYNETTE KEE: What is one of your earliest memories of a photograph? What did it represent?

CHEN MAN: The first photo in my memory is one of those old photos shot with a film camera back in the day. I had written an article on one such photo that featured one of my uncles. At that time, it was considered portrait photography. For me, the life at that time was quite simple, but full of spirit.

LK: What was your background like growing up? Have you always been exposed to art?

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM T SINGAPORE: THE NEW YORK TIMES STYLE MAGAZINEView All

The Sacrifice

In ‘cancelling’ cultural figures whose actions we’ve deemed irredeemable, are we exacting citizen justice — or just doing the dirty work for the institutions and overlords who actually run the show?

10+ mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

GLASS HOUSES

In a six-story building in the centre of Munich, Michael and Petra Mayer run — and reside in — one of the world’s oldest and most celebrated architectural glass and mosaic ateliers.

6 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

Eating Culture

This Singaporean photographer is reimagining local cuisine, one dish at a time.

4 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

Notes On The Culture

Supermama's interpretation of Singapore Porcelain

9 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

The Custom Of The Country

On 1,200 acres in Chianti, Italy, a 15thcentury monastery is now home to the Venetian shoe designer René Caovilla and his family, who have made the history and traditions of an ancient region their own.

5 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

Working Girl

Throughout our country’s history, there’s never been an artist who has captured America’s particular mythology — its dreams, its disappointments, its diversity of experiences — as completely as Dolly Parton. Now, more than 50 years into her legendary career, she’s proving there’s still something left to learn about her — and about ourselves.

10+ mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

Always In Control

Since her breakout in the 1960s as a girl from Brooklyn, Barbra Streisand has remained singularly influential not by chasing trends but by knowing from the beginning that the only way to change the world around her was by convincing people to listen.

10+ mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

State Of Grace

For the Chinese actress Liu Shishi, acting is a career that requires a lot of discipline, even though she makes it look easy.

5 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

The Perfect Fit

How the actress Vanessa Paradis experienced the couture process with Chanel for her jury appearance at the Deauville American Film Festival.

5 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021

Songs In The Keys Of Life

The French-Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili is a larger-than-life figure brimming with talent, ideas and a sense of urgency to introduce the next generation to classical music today.

8 mins read
T Singapore: The New York Times Style Magazine
January 2021