|Shi Zhiying in her studio, December 2013, photograph Luise Guest|
We spoke on a day that could rightly be described as 'Airpocalyptic' in Shanghai - the air pollution index had climbed beyond 500 by mid-morning and was listed on every website as 'extremely hazardous'. Flights were cancelled, factories and some schools were closed. Most people in the street were wearing masks, except beggars with babies on their backs at the traffic lights on major intersections. The air smelt like burning metal. From my taxi on the hour-long drive to her studio I could see only the very nearest buildings - the rest of the city was shrouded in grey fog. Inside Zhiying's studio the smell of oil paint and turps would normally be a little overpowering but it was a welcome relief. On the return journey in the late afternoon, the sun appeared as a bright orange disc in a wall of grey. It looked like the end of the world.
Our conversation ranged across her new paintings, her experiences of the New York art scene when she travelled there for her exhibition this year at James Cohan, the differences between the art scene in Shanghai and Beijing, the differences between Chinese and Western audiences, between Buddhism and Christianity, and the movies of Yasujiro Ozu. Her favourite movie is Ozu's 1953 masterpiece, 'Tokyo Story'. She also loves 'The Matrix'! One thing you won't read elsewhere is that in her day job as an artist for the Shanghai government she has been painting enormous mural-sized panels based on old photographs of the city. We spoke a little ruefully about the necessity for so many artists to have a 'day job', whether that be teaching at a school or university, or working as a designer as many Chinese artists seem to do. I asked her if she had a really important mentor, teacher or influence and without hesitation she identified Yan Pei Ming, the Chinese painter born in Shanghai in 1960 who has lived in France since the 1980s.
Here is my brief account of our most recent conversation from www.theculturetrip.com - with a few extra pictures:
The Paintings of Shi Zhiying: Searching for the Sublime
Born in Shanghai in 1979, Shi Zhiying is an internationally acclaimed artist best known for her oil paintings, which entice and mesmerise the viewer with their monochrome detail. Chinese tradition and contemporary metaphor coalesce on the vast expanses of her canvases. Luise Guest talks to Shi about the impact of Buddhism, the ocean and infinity on her work.
|The Relics, installation view of solo exhibition at James Cohan Gallery New York, image courtesy the artist|