Pilar Corrias is pleased to present ‘In Focus: Cui Jie’, an online exhibition comprising five paintings presented at this year’s Taipei Biennial, as well as a selection of works on paper and sculpture.
Cui Jie (b. 1983 Shanghai, China) applies various layers of images – some realistic, some imaginary – on her canvases, exploring multiple perspectives of various locations simultaneously. Each layer is meticulously executed to represent the transformation of China’s urbanscape. Painted with calculated and deadpan brushwork combined with a warm and affective palette, Cui’s landscapes and interiors make comparative studies of cities as distinctive models or laboratories of China’s open-and-reform policies. This is depicted as a personal history informed by the aesthetic madness in one time and place, ranging from the architectural confusion of Bauhaus, to Chinese propaganda, and to Soviet communist aesthetics. In essence, Cui Jie’s painting is a time capsule that re-imagines the past and the present.
Taipei Biennial 2020
Cui Jie is fascinated by the aesthetics of modernist and postmodernist buildings. With their gigantic size, their concrete facades, they reflect a fascination for the aesthetics of ‘global’ architectures. The artist’s inspiration is drawn from buildings in Yaunde, Doha, Belgrade, and New Taipei City. The buildings are not portrayed as static but are imagined as a ‘flux’, crossed by roads, connected in a whirlwind of constructions and infrastructure.
As the artist says, “I have never been to the aforementioned cities, but the buildings all seem familiar to me, as if I had seen them in Beijing or Shanghai before they were torn down. In the last four decades, in the rapid urbanisation movement […], remembering the past becomes an act that could only be supported by the imagination.”
Here the work plunges us into the symbolic dimension of post-modern mythology and thus invites us to start sorting out the architectural heritage of global architecture.
– Martin Guinard
The Rowell Court is a group of buildings in the Central Area of Singapore, built in 1984. In 1960s, after the establishment of the bureaucratic and legal institutions necessary for the urban reform, the Central Area that has a history of 150 years was transformed drastically. The Singapore government and the press described the Area as “populated with ghettos, and required urgent work to keep the residents from suffering.” Some press even went as far as claiming that “Singapore was the first city totally free from ghettos and urban regeneration problems in Asia, now that the skyscrapers marched into the heart of the old town, replacing the tiny, shaky, nightmarish buildings.” As a result of the reform, some thousand residents moved into the newly built Rowell Court, but most moved out of the Central Area.
In Salam Tower, Cui depicts the building located by the seashore in Doha; a building that seems familiar to the artist, despite never having seen it in person. She states: “I might have seen it in Beijing or Shanghai, although those architectures that resembled it are gone now. High urban development speed results in short lives for buildings.
Completed in 2003, New Taipei City Hall explores the formal qualities the building shares with other government buildings in East Asia.
Bank of Central African States can be found in Yaude, the capital of Cameroon. Almost every Western African or Central African capital city skyline is dominated by a skyscraper like this. Organisations and buildings of this nature were established and built in the first wave of decolonisation from 1960s to 1970s, and have since been where the powerful economic and financial figures from the region reside.
Western City Gate belongs to the skyline of Belgrade, Serbia. It was built in the 1970s in the Brutalist style. Facing westward, it greets whoever comes from the airport into the city.
Works on Paper
Cui’s meticulously executed images of modernist architectural structures are intended to reflect the rapid transformation of China’s cityscapes in the two decades since the beginning of its accelerated economic liberalisation in the late 1990s. As the Hong Kong based architect Ying Zhou writes: “The cities of the once self-isolated and ascetic communist nation have, by wiping out large swaths of existing urban fabric, become bastions of gleaming towers and lustrous malls: spatial manifestations of new capitalism.”