Feng-shui with a hybrid character
The art critic from Dagbladet wrote that Mai Cheng Zheng´s "long journeys into remote cultural sources have given her paintings a hybrid character." Here the magic masks of pre-Colombian Maya-culture are neighbors of Chinese calligraphy, and Egyptian hieroglyphs are joined by the classical stamps of old Chinese art.
Mai Cheng Zheng not only masters the art of calligraphy, but she understands the picture behind the writing. And therefore, when we see the visually recognizable bowman from the Zen-philosophy being transformed into a sign that symbolize the same idea, it is bound to fascinate the trained eye of a Westerner. The same can be said about the picture in which an imperial equipage through dynamic calligraphy is being transformed into the sign meaning a carriage - the flight over the canvas arousing associations of sculptural masterpieces like the flying bronze horses of China´s past," writes Harald Flor in Dagbladet for October 11, 2001.
In New York a year earlier, another art critic, Byron Coleman, wrote: "In her most recent exhibition at Noho Gallery, in Soho, the first thing that strikes one about Mai Cheng Zheng´s work is the balance that she achieves between contemporary immediacy and timeless beauty. In paintings at once funky and elegant, her use of fragmentary figurative imagery and graffiti-like scrawls and signs within largely abstract color areas can recall no less an enfant terrible of the untrammeled gesture than the late Jean Michel Basquiat."
The reviewer from Gallery & Studio found "an impulse toward the sumptuous and the exquisite that moors Mai Cheng Zheng´s work not in the monochromatic Literati tradition, from whose gestural vivacity certain Abstract Expressionists drew inspiration, but in much earlier 8th century Chinese tomb paintings, with their combination of delicate linearity, earthy mineral colors, and tactile fresco surfaces. Her use of vibrant reds, gold hues, and glistening blacks, in combination with more subdued colors, harks back, too, to the lacquered opulence of the Tang dynasty. "
The harmony in Mai Cheng Zheng´s newest paintings are built on the same principles, and again we may talk about an art having hybrid characters. For only when opposite forces are acting together, do we get energy. Electricity, for instance, but also art. The Chinese are known to emphasize that yin and yang - the positive and the negative - always must be in balance. And even though Mai Cheng Zheng draws inspiration from many different cultures, all of her paintings are composed in accordance with these ancient theories from China - theories about contrasts and harmony, about placement and depth, about composition and mixture of colors. A warm color has to balance a cold one, something heavy must be accompanied by something light, something hard must be neutralized by something soft.
This is why feng-shui in art is just as important as feng-shui in architecture and furnishing: The colors of a painting will influence the light frequency that is reflected in a room, and the light frequency may in turn influence the qi, which determines how we feel. When our surroundings are in harmony, maybe we are too?
Through a combination of words, caligraphy and images, Mai Cheng bases her art on ancient signs and philosophies.
Mai Cheng (formerly using the name Mai Zheng Cheng) was born 1955 and educated in Bejing. She moved to Norway in the mid 80s and became a Norwegian citizen. She currently works out of France. Her recent solo exhibitions spans New York (Noho Gallery), Iceland (Galleri MIR), Belgium (EFTA Building), France (Centre Pompidou) and Norway. She is currently prerparing solo shows in Lyon and Paris. She has done a number of decoration comissions, including a recent work for the Biblioteka Alexandrina and has been purchased by a number of Norwegian institutions.