After shifting from music to visual art more than a decade ago, Ai Jing achieves both recognition and satisfaction on two sides of the globe, reports.
Visual art has become Chinese singer-songwriter Ai Jing’s passion over the past decade. In November, she will stage her solo exhibition, Ai Jing Back to New York, at theMarlborough Gallery in New York City, with nearly 30 artworks created over the past decade, including sculptures, oil paintings and installations.
The works on display include My MomandMyHometown, a tapestry of wool patches knitted by Ai’s mother and bedecked with the English word “Love”; The Tree of Life, an installation work showing a lonely raven perched on a leafless oak tree made of tens of thousands of disposable chopsticks; and oil paintings under the group name I Love Color.
“NewYork is an important city for my transition from a musician to an artist. I always want to revisit the origin of my passion for visual art with my own works,” says the 46-year-old artist, who announced the exhibition at theNationalMuseum of China in Beijing on Tuesday.
In 1999, she started learning painting with renowned Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang. Years later, Ai had reached a level high enough to hold a solo exhibition, I Love Ai Jing, at the National Museum of China in Beijing in 2012 and again at the China ArtMuseum of Shanghai in 2014.
A native of Shenyang, Liaoning province, Ai learned music with her father, who plays the erhu (a twostringed bowed instrument).
Her debut album, My 1997, sold more than 200,000 copies within one month of its release in 1993. Her second album, Once Upon a Time on Yanfen Street, was another success, which brought her recognition outside the Chinese mainland, including in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan — a rarity for mainland singers then.
She first went toNewYork in 1997 to seek inspiration for the album, Made in China, and she wrote most of the songs for the album while living there.
Her apartment was near Central Park, where the tall buildings and graffiti gave her imagery of a vibrant and experimental art scene. She lived in the Lower East Side from 2002 to 2008. She had her studio and honed her skills as an artist there.
“I often went tomuseumsand galleries in New York. The city was like a kaleidoscope to me. It was not just visual enjoyment, but also awakened my desire to use visual art as a new expression, which music could not deliver anymore,” she says.
In the summer of 2009, Ai was commissioned to do a work for a group exhibition, The Drop-Urban Art Infill, inNewYork. Shepresented recorded sounds with pictures of 10 different places in New York, including the noise of a construction site, and a peaceful afternoon in Harlem — the northern section of New York City, where people walked in the sun and the music of BobMarley played. Thesameyear, she held her solo exhibition, AiWant to Love, inNewYork.
In 2008, Ai left New York and established a studio in Beijing, devoting herself to working as a professional artist.
Marcia Levine, special projects director of Marlborough Gallery, first met Ai inNewYork in 2015. She flew to Italy to see Ai’s exhibition, Dialogues, at the Ambrosian Art Gallery of the Veneranda Biblioteca AmbrosianaMuseum inMilan.
With the themes of industry, nature and technology, Ai created a “dialogue” through her works with selected masterpieces at the museum, which is known for its collection of 12 manuscripts by Leonardo da Vinci.
“I was amazed by the beauty and strength of her works. She showed us that art could connect East and West in a cultural way and we want to present her works to the people in the US,” says Levine, who is in Beijing this week with Ai.
She also says that the gallery, which was founded in 1946 with two spaces in New York as well as locations, such as London, Madrid and Monaco, has been working closely with Chinese artists since the 1990s, including the late Chinese-French artist, ZaoWou-ki.
“Ai is very special as a contemporary Chinese artist because her works show a mixture of Eastern and Western influences,” says Chen Lyusheng, deputy director of the National Museum of China, who curated Ai’s exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai andMilan.
Looking back on her journey as an artist, Ai says that she often asks herself two questions: What is art? Why I ammaking art?
“My art-making is about repeated experimentation and failure. Usually, I go through starvation, sleepless nights and anxiety to finish one piece. But I enjoy the process of making the imagined real with my hands,” she says.
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My art-making is about repeated experimentation and failure ... I enjoy the
process of making the imagined real with my hands.”
Ai Jing will hold a solo show in November in New York City, where she had lived for years and started her pursuit of visual art. Works on display will include the installations TheTreeofLife (left) and Wave.