TAN­GI­BLE EX­PRES­SION

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.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

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.

Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

My art-mak­ing is about re­peated ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and fail­ure ... I en­joy the

process of mak­ing the imag­ined real with my hands.”

JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY

Ai Jing,

mu­si­cian-turned artist

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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.

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