“I kept on refining my work, getting rid of unnecessary detail to make the picture more pure.”
Born Baoding, Hebei, 1982
Contemporary art revels in the crossing of boundaries, the erasure of borders, the mingling of elements once kept apart. Ma Jiawei not only paints things that seem far removed from the world of fine art; she physically incorporates them in her paintings. “I felt I could express myself better if I fused the abstract, symbolic qualities of art with items from the real world,” she says. So “I started trying to unite the tradition of easel painting with the use of real materials like sand, concrete, stone and wire.” Rather than ignoring the forces that are ravaging and rebuilding China’s cities, she focuses on them intently—and finds, deep within the ugly and the mundane, traces of things eternal and mysterious. The twin paintings of Glimpse: Along the Constant Horizon (2010) transform (real) sections of concrete drainage pipe into round windows that look onto a (painted) vista of blue sky and water, a solitary human, and … more drainage pipes. The circle is a resonant symbol in all cultures; in China’s yin-yang icon, it evokes ultimate reality. Ma Jiawei’s construction materials may be silent rebukes to materialism, but they are also direct pipelines to heaven.