STEVENSON is pleased to present The Ice in Your Eyes by Cian-Yu Bai, marking the artist’s first solo exhibition in our Prinsengracht space.
In December 2022, Bai spent time travelling around the mountains, lagoons and beaches of Iceland, where she observed fire and ice as elements that co-exist within nature. This body of work, created immediately after her return, reflects her experiences of fire and ice transmuting their forms in the presence of the other. For Bai, the ways in which they leave their marks on nature’s scenery – sometimes obscure and gentle, other times explosive – reflect matter as both pensive and animated. She states:
In the Icelandic landscape, it seemed like anything liquid immediately turned into ice upon contact with the cold atmosphere. At the same time, I was standing at the foot of volcanoes. It’s an island of such large contrasts. As much as the title of this exhibition can be metaphorical, it also directly refers to how a tear can escape your eye and turn straight into ice amid the freezing temperatures. There is an isolating and solitary element in this anticipation, and in the atmosphere itself.
Bai’s intuitive use of colour now makes specific reference to the dance of light and elements of the day, from dawn to midday sun to dusk, as well as the atmospheric Nordic evenings when the focus shifts from land to sky. The plentitude of stars, together with hints of the northern lights, created a nocturnal vista that particularly inspired Bai for The Ice in Your Eyes. Her experiences in Iceland determined her cool palette – as she explains:
After I came to the Netherlands in 2012, I refrained from travelling altogether, and my paintings as a result were referring to past experiences and my Amsterdam city life. During my residency and show in Cape Town in 2022, I realised I could conceive new memories for myself, and I started adapting my palette. When I was in South Africa, the landscape was filled with sprouting flora, but in Iceland it was winter. All the purple I use came from the very cold feeling, as is the blue and the white.
The mysterious shadow figures that appear throughout Bai’s paintings are again to be seen in these new works, often deeply integrated with the landscape and sky. Her intention is ‘to make faces almost like dirty dots, like stains – like life. All these marks compose who you are. It’s a metaphor for how people leave a stain in your life, and it becomes part of you.’
The exhibition opens on Saturday 22 April, 3 to 6pm. Bai will give a talk on The Ice in Your Eyes on the day of the opening at 4pm.