Leaping off the wall

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-1 21:03:01


Dai Chenxi's Without Darkness or Light exemplifies her signature style of layering paint. Photo: Courtesy of Soka Art Center
Dai Chenxi's Without Darkness or Light exemplifies her signature style of layering paint. Photo: Courtesy of Soka Art Center


When walking into the Soka Art Center in the 798 Art Zone, the image of a tiger jumps out, with its mouth open, two pointy, yellow teeth showing and eyes as round as Christmas baubles.

Upon closer examination, the tiger is made up of many tiny strokes of oil paint, twirling together and piling on top of each other, making the painting leap off of the canvass.

This work, titled Rage, stands alongside 28 other oil paintings and installation pieces as part of artist Dai Chenxi's solo exhibition Beyond the Heavens, showing until April 12.

Dai, a young artist who graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 with a degree in oil painting, has had six group and two solo exhibitions since graduating. From the beginning, Dai has, though her artwork, focused on what she sees as the chaotic nature of art culture right now.

"There are so many types of cultural influences at the present," Dai said. "There's the conflict between Chinese traditional culture and contemporary art culture, Western culture versus Chinese local culture. All these artistic elements get molded together, making it chaotic."

The first few oil paintings Dai created were a reflection of her thoughts on the chaotic nature of Chinese contemporary art, Dai said. The paintings, titled Wild Pine I and Wild Pine II, are mostly black, white and yellow in color.

From afar, the image of the pines can be clearly seen, but up close, just like in Rage, the viewer can get lost in a flurry of curling, chaotic strokes that are layered onto the canvas.

Dai said she chose to paint a pine because in Chinese culture, it's both poetic and popular. The style in which she painted it represents the current cultural milieu, with the strokes and dots that make up the image simultaneously tearing it apart and separating it. She said this mirrors the different cultural elements of this age, tearing apart the integrity that is Chinese culture.

When working on a series of eight oil paintings focused on the moon, titled Embarrassed Moon, Dai said the moon captured her feelings at the time.

"After I painted the pines and the tiger, I found myself stuck. I felt embarrassed and didn't know where to go. The moon looks perfect and gentle on the outside, but it's pale and cold in actuality," she said.

Xia Kejun, the curator of the exhibit, speaks highly of Dai's style.

"Dai embarks on an artistic adventure full of fantasy: her paintings of the moon feature many swirls that entangle, grow and expand. Many small swirls come together to create a larger one: the moon. Yet, the entire image remains static," he said. "The artist's sense of form creates a subtle contrast between an inner sense of unrest and the overall tranquility."

Even though the style of her work is similar to that of neo-impressionists such as Georges Seurat, where the painters of that movement presented shapes and images with dots or patches of color rather than strokes, Dai said there's still a difference.

"Those artworks have actual shapes and the dots forming an object, but my artworks are an expression of my feelings first and foremost," she said.

Her style of art has changed and developed over the past few years. For example, at first she painted the moon with only grays and blacks, but later on she added brighter colors. All along, though, her distinct brushwork style has remained constant. 

"Dai is able to control the direction of her brush strokes well. Everything seems to be moving, even the mountain seems to be that of an active inferno similar to mythical mountains," Xia said.

When: Until April 12

Where: Soka Art Center, 798 Art Zone, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang district

Admission: Free

Contact: 5978-4808

Posted in: ARTS, Metro Beijing

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