STEVENSON is pleased to present The Breath in the Mind by Cian-Yu Bai, marking the fourth iteration of our AMS series.
The works in this exhibition were created over the course of two months spent by the artist in residency in Cape Town. Though vivid colours are characteristic of Bai’s imagery, she describes the softer palette in this series as being inspired by the hues of the city’s natural and built environment.
While floral and aquatic forms referencing local oceans and mountains recur across this body of work, Bai states that her verdant language stems from a broad conceptual framework that prizes interconnectedness and coexistence. She states:
For me, what’s important to understanding my paintings is the notion of transition. Everything is in the process of transition. Things in our life could be fading away yet, at the same time, other parts are growing – whether these things are relationships or possessions. I see the whole world as a garden, with all of us – in our different cultures, families, characters - coexisting. We are all a piece of this vastness – some are flowers, some are trees, but all are together.
Her delicate, profuse mark-making accretes into paintings that hover between abstraction and figuration. Following an intuitive approach, Bai conceives of her work as a visual extension of her philosophical engagement with concepts of certainty and unknowing. She continues:
With every painting I try to create a vocabulary for a viewer to reflect or access a non-verbal feeling about life – I think all artists do this in some way or another. I try to make an image where a viewer can reflect on their own personal history or some part of their past that touched them.
In my works, the forms that appear like figures are not about the human. Instead, they are a visual presentation of mystery. Though these faces or creatures may seem like they are easy to name or recognise, they stand for those questions in each of our lives that are without answers or most hidden.
The notion of mystery is continued in Bai’s manipulation of material. She alternatingly thickens acrylic paint to produce the appearance of oils and thins it with liquid diluent to replicate the appearance of watercolour. With this she aims to bring focus to how the perception of difference can obscure a fundamental sameness, adding, 'I want to show people that sometimes what they see is not the truth'.
Cian-Yu Bai was born in 1984 in Changhua, Taiwan; she lives and works in Amsterdam.
She received an MFA from the Taipei National University of the Arts in 2012 and completed a two-year residency at De Ateliers in 2014.
Solo exhibitions have taken place at AdK Actuele Kunst, Amsterdam (2018, 2016); St. Johannes-Evangelist-Kirche, Berlin (2016) and T.N.U.A 8&1/2 Gallery, Taipei (2011). Bai has featured in group exhibitions at Stevenson, Cape Town (2021); Galerie Helder, Den Haag (2020); Royal Palace, Amsterdam (2015-19); VT Artsalon, Taipei (2010-17); Marres - Center for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht (2017); Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam (2014); Nanhai Gallery, Taipei (2010); A Gallery, Taipei (2010); Show Gallery, Kaohsiung (2009) as well as AdK Actuele Kunst, Amsterdam (2015-20).
Bai won the 2019 Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst, and 2016 Public Prize of the same award. She is the recipient of the Buning Brongers Prize (2014).
The exhibition opens on Saturday 20 August, 10am to 1pm.