“I felt that the simpler the language, the more powerful it would be.”

Born Datong City, Shanxi, 1982

Cai Lijuan was looking for purity.  She found it in lines.  “The straight line is the most fundamental element of art,” she says.  It is also “the most abstract thing.”  She set out to explore the essence and potential of lines by playing with them in space, with nothing between the lines and her fingers.  After experimenting with elastic thread, fine wire, nails and ribbons, she decided to make her lines from thread, because it comes in many colours and can be both loose and taut.  Guided by by Wassily Kandinsky’s 1926 book Point and Line to Plane, Cai Lijuan made her bright thread-lines “a starting point to explore the most basic artistic questions”: structure, balance, conflict, tension.  Gradually, she began to understand line as “a pure form of language,” with which she could express her understanding of the world in a unique way.  It is an understanding born of the heart rather than the head: the final works “are not meant to represent anything,” she explains, though in developing them she was “thinking about light—using layers of colour and different types of colour to develop a visual effect of light.”  Light is, after all, pure energy, and it travels in straight lines.

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