BRATTLEBORO >> Cai is featured in two exhibitions during August, her 1980s portraits in Newfane's Crowell Gallery and her 1990s Edge abstracts in Brattleboro's C.X. Silver Gallery. You are cordially invited to an artist reception, Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at C.X. Silver Gallery for Selections from 'Edge.'
The "Edge" series of paintings developed over a seven-year period during the 1990s. The first year, they were oil on canvas which changed to mixed media during the second year. The archive of images of most of those works are at caixiart.com/edge.
"I returned to my gymnastics and calligraphy experiences as a child, finding myself jumping, stretching, and reaching as I painted. Chinese traditional breathing exercise (Qigong) continued to help me channel energy when I painted. Throughout the nineties, materials, surface and texture were self-renewing areas of exploration. I derived a lot of inspiration from living in New York City. On the street and subway, on the ground in the cement sidewalk, a peeling wall, everywhere I went, I kept discovering: 'Oh, look. There's a painting!' The experience of "Edge" is about stepping into and out of myself. My art-making is characterized by this existential process. For me, Art is about Paradox: appearance-disappearance, life-death, nothingness-wholeness, chaos-groundedness, emptiness-substance, movement-fixity.
Cai is part of the experimental contemporary art scene, albeit a maverick in her own right, forging new solutions with each work in process. At the same time, she has a connection to and transforms traditional classical Chinese art through calligraphy and the principles of 'brush' (using the common mop, broom, and mason's trowel), 'ink' (as oil or enamel paint), and, what has been known for centuries in China as the 'bone' of compositional structure.
Much of her connection to traditional Chinese painting is echoed in Mai-mai Sze's translation of the 17th century treatise, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. :
– "The great unifying aim has been to express Tao, the way – the basic Chinese belief in an order and harmony in nature." – (Sze, p.3). Cai relates to the Tao as a mystical groundedness.
– "The close relationship between painting and calligraphy" and "the traditional view that painting is not a professional but an extension of the art of living" (Sze, pp.5-6.). Cai both embodies a conservative worldview and an expression of that worldview that is quite radical for the present times.
A major aspect of Cai's work is the connection to the Chinese concept of inner energy, qi (pronounced "chee"). Qi is related to breath, both of humans and of the world and all things within and around the world. In Cai's painting, the qi is visible in the movement of the painting stroke within the picture plane. Cai also taps into the centuries-old concept of qi-yun, loosely translated as 'spirit-resonance' which is more than just movement but also related to the vitality of the composition, the interaction of the painting medium, the forms depicted,and the painting surface.
In her abstract works of the past decade and continuing into the most recent year, the 'Wu Ji (Infinity Within)' and 'In The Box' series, Cai continues her exploration of the relationship between qi-yun and harmony, her painting, her tai chi martial arts practice, and most recently, the Chinese meridians and China's traditional Five Elements.
Cai's 'Edge' paintings 1991-94, are on view at C.X. Silver Gallery, 814 Western Ave., Brattleboro,, through Sept. 18, open daily by appointment, closed Aug. 20 to 22 and 27 to 30. For inquiries contact Adam Silver, Operations Manager / Co-Director, at 802-257-7898.