Chinese Pop Star Blooms as Painter

Ai Jing's works go on view at the China Art Museum in Shanghai.

Aijing, 布面油画 《Mr.R#1》 (2013)
Photograph by Zou ShengWu and courtesy of artist
Ai Jing, 装置 废弃毛线、玻璃钢、硅胶 《My Mom and My Hometown》 (2012) Photograph by Zou ShengWu and courtesy of artist

Ai Jing, My Mom and My Hometown (装置 废弃毛线、玻璃钢、硅胶) (2012)
Photograph: Zou ShengWu; Courtesy of artist

“Love Aijing,” an exhibition of artworks by the Chinese singer-turned-artist Ai Jing will go on show May 25 at the China Art Museum in Shanghai. artnet’s Jessica Zhang caught up with the artist earlier this month while she was putting final touches on her new works in her Beijing studio near the 798 Art District.

Aijing, 布面油画 《I LOVE COLOR #2》 (2013)  Photograph by Zou ShengWu and courtesy of artist

Ai Jing, I Love Color #2 (布面油画) (2013)
Photograph: Zou ShengWu; Courtesy of artist

In your eyes, what makes a truly great artwork?
I think a good painting provides rich, meaningful information and carries distinctive messages. Rothko, for example, conveys far more than the colors in front of you. In my opinion, as long as the artwork speaks to you.

You were a Chinese pop singer and wrote many renowned Chinese folk songs in the 1990s. What is the connection between your music and your art? And does music help with your artistic creations?
Most of the time, I actually don’t listen to music when I create art. I like to work in quiet environments. Our (my and everyone in my studio’s) cellphone aren’t even turned on after I’ve switched to working mode. But sometimes I do feel inspired and listen to music and dance and paint at the same time. Most of the times I listen to music that reminds me of New York, such as “New York New York” and Rob Stewart. He is my favorite.

Aijing, 艳粉街的故事 《Once Upon a Time on Yan Fen Street》 (2014) Photograph by Zou ShengWu and courtesy of artist

Ai Jing, Once Upon a Time on Yan Fen Street (艳粉街的故事) (2014)
Photograph: Zou ShengWu; Courtesy of artist

Why did you make the decision to go into the arts in the middle of your singing career? Where did the impulse come from and what was your mindset at the time?
First of all, it was very practical. My fourth album, Made in China, which was recorded in New York City, was unfortunately disapproved of by the censorship authorities in China at the time. They misunderstood me and thought I was questioning my national identity, even though I was very proud of it. Then, in 1998, I met contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang and decided to apprentice with him. Whenever life shuts a door in front of you, it will open another.

You lived and studied art in New York for several years back in 1999. Could you briefly discuss the impact of your New York experiences?
I’d say New York’s hybrid culture and the art places—auction previews, galleries, graffiti, museums, flea markets—inspired me a lot.

Aijing, 布面油画 《Mr.R#1》 (2013)  Photograph by Zou ShengWu and courtesy of artist

Ai Jing, Mr.R#1 (布面油画) (2013)
Photograph: Zou ShengWu; Courtesy of artist

For your major solo show “Love Aijing,” you will be presenting a few pieces from your previous exhibition, such as “My Mom My Hometown.” Could you briefly discuss your new series and its relationship with the previous one?
Putting together last year’s show at the National Museum of Art was an exciting challenge for me. I experimented with a wide range of media and tried a lot of new things. This year, however, I wanted to go back to a more traditional format and focus on creating paintings on canvas. For the upcoming show, I created two brand new series, “I Love Color” and “MR. R.” In the “I Love Color” series, the layers of paint let the letters “grow” from the canvas like flowers. I want to point out that I’m not a “girly” person, and this is not what I originally planned to paint. The “MR. R” series pays homage to Mark Rothko. “MR. R” was inspired by the way the color blocks in the pieces of “My Mom My Hometown” jumped at me.

Aijing, 细节部分 《Wave in White》 (2012)  Photograph by Zou ShengWu and courtesy of artist

Ai Jing, Wave in White (细节部分) (2012)
Photograph: Zou ShengWu; Courtesy of artist

“Love Aijing” is on view at the China Art Museum, Shanghai, China, from May 25 to June 29.


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