Chambers Fine Art is pleased to the opening on April 25, 2013 of Cui Fei: Tracing the Origin, her first solo exhibition at the gallery. A graduate of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou, China, she moved to the United States in 1996 and has been resident here ever since. Although she lives and works in New York City her work is inspired by nature, her favored materials being natural materials such as vines, twigs and tendrils that she gathers herself. She is also deeply responsive to aspects of traditional Chinese culture and philosophy which permeate her work, recognizing the essential role that calligraphy played in the development of Chinese civilization and using it as a constant reference whatever form her work takes.
For more than a decade she has been working on three ongoing series, Calendar, Manuscript of Nature, and Tracing the Origin. Based on events in her personal life, Calendar is the most circumscribed in form and uses natural materials such as seeds, beans, thorns and weeds that lend themselves to orderly arrangements. Although they are closely related Manuscript of Natureand Tracing the Origin refer to the natural world in different ways, the former emphasizing the relationship between natural materials such as twigs, tendrils and thorns and calligraphy and the latter using manmade materials to reveal the way in which natural sources of inspiration are gradually transformed by human intervention.
The current exhibition offers a selection of recent works from Manuscript of Nature and Tracing the Origin, the dialog between the different approaches adopted in the fabrication of the works being an essential part of Cui Fei’s ongoing practice. In five new works from Manuscript of Nature VIII, 2013, the tendrils she uses resemble Chinese running script, a dynamic form of writing totally different in character from the regimented rows of thorns in the majestic, three-panel Manuscript of Nature VIII, 2010.
In the new works from Tracing the Origin series she adopts a diametrically opposite approach, creating abstract forms from copper wire and speaker wire that resemble natural forms. Also belonging to this series is a group of photograms executed in 2012, a technique used in some of the earliest photographic images. Placed directly on photo-sensitive paper, the natural forms she selects bear an even closer resemblance to calligraphy, disembodied versions of actual materials she uses elsewhere in the exhibition.
Although not site-specific, the current selection of recent additions to the series creates an environment which is enriched by the formal and material relationships between the individual works. Most striking is the balance she achieves between the natural materials she uses and the orderly way in which they are presented. Her patient methodical approach may be seen as a form of meditative practice that results in installations and independent works that are memorable for their quiet authority.