Hope Springs Eternal
Bai Jingsheng Solo Show
Location:Caochangdi No.327,EGG Gallery,Beijing
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, 1732
Even though the whole world is still suffering under the yoke of the pandemic, yet people everywhere still preserve a feeling of hope – however faint, however small — to re-unite with friends and family once again, and to travel and explore the natural beauties and cultural richness of our planet. Despite everything that is going on in the world, hope quietly whispers in our ears, ‘I am still here’. Hope is a quality of the soul. It springs up even in the most unlikely circumstances. Spring is the season associated with hope. No other season has as much claim to hope as does springtime. And by using the term ‘springs’ in the above poem, we cannot but see it as a word play on the season of spring.
In this spring season, Bai Jingsheng’s abstract compositions welcome us and delight our eyes with their rich and well-balanced colors, conjuring up feelings of hope and joy. In her larger works titled abstract composition (all 2021), simple geometric forms and primary colors dominate. But pinks and creamy peaches can also be found amongst them, softening the overall composition. With their emphasis on squares and angular lines, these paintings are reminiscent of cities and urban settings—perhaps cities waking up to the sights and sounds of spring. Bright and warm tones herald and give hope of warmer days to come.
Rusty oranges and browns, wonderfully punctuated by bright greens and blues, greet the audience in abstract no. 1 and the two works titled scenery (all 2021). It is as if Bai has captured all at once the smell of the fertile earth, the crystal quality of limpid streams of water and the green lushness of nature’s vegetation. Spring is a season for new beginnings, for planting seeds in rich soil and for hope in an abundant harvest to be reaped in the summer and fall.
Spring is also the season when nature awakens and blossoms bloom. In springtime nature starts once again a cycle of growth and development. Compositions big blue and The rainy season(all 2021), remind us of germinating seeds or living organisms. Again, it is indicative of a new live sprouting and growing as spring approaches. In fact, the latter was inspired after the artist had finished eating some soybeans. Bai’s inspiration can at times come from the most mundane everyday objects or from intellectual pursuits such as reading books or from studying works of art.
Hope is associated with light and heat, and this is perhaps where the term ‘spring fever’ comes from. The days get longer, and the daylight hours start to increase after the spring equinox, which leads to greater joy and exuberance, as well as a mental and spiritual awakening. As the rays of the sun reach us from up close, we feel its warmth on our skin, that is what The flamenco series (all 2021) is reminiscent of. When Bai painted this series, she imagined bright dancing colors and hence titled them ‘flamenco’ after the Spanish folk dance with its energetic rhythm and the lively colors of the dancer’s costume. In one of them, blues and greens burst and splatter thinly across the canvas. An area of bright red and a patch of yellow paint are applied more densely, which creates balance and anchors the work.
For Bai painting still holds many possibilities. Discoveries are made every day, and she has not fallen into a rut but continues to experiment. She is excited to paint every day in her studio in the outskirts of Beijing. One of the new concepts she has been incorporating into her paintings, are grids such as seen in abstract (2021), which is dominated by pinks, and oranges, while still allowing the surface of the canvas to come through. The two works titled erotic dance (both 2022) also share some of the same formal properties but are livelier with the incorporation of more colors such as brilliant blues.
For over a decade, Bai has confidently embraced abstraction as her language of choice to express her feelings and the images that appear to her in her mind. Bai is an active member of the ‘Beijing Abstract’ group who have been collaborating and exhibiting regularly together since 2018. This artist group includes such noted collaborators as Tang Ping, Mao Lizi, Lin Jing, Liu Gang and Ma Kelu.
Although Bai’s work is very much her own yet sometimes when looking at her paintings, we see traces of the work of other abstract artists, even if quite dissimilar in technique and inspiration. For example, the colouration in Autumn Light (2021) is reminiscent of avant-garde abstractionist Vassily Kandinsky. Or the artist’s colour field abstractions remind us of the flat, geometric shapes executed in intense colours, found in the works of poet and artist Etel Adnan.
Her works can best be expressed as being lyrical in character. For example, a wonderful small work from when she still painted in oils, before she had to abandon it due to an allergic reaction, is The scenery of the heart from 2011. While expressing the artist’s innermost feelings, it is also reminiscent of traditional Chinese shanshui works. The nuanced coloration is quite magical, creating a dreamlike space.
Bai Jingsheng is a studio practitioner who labours daily and diligently on her paintings. She places her canvases on the ground and often likes to work in multiple layers. She lives a quiet life, away from most disturbances that might obstruct her imagination. She has decided to live without the distractions a mobile phone brings with it. Her ideas are not inundated with the images and slogans that pummel most of our minds through the medium of the internet. Hers is a live that is characterized by a calm and continuous flow of ideas, mainly shaped by her own thoughts and her art books. Discussions and critique sessions with her husband and fellow artist Ma Kelu, make up perhaps the only constant source of outside influence. She is receptive to the vivid images she sees in her mind and her deep intuition and great sense of colour, allow her to transform her canvases into dreamscapes of heart and mind. It is said that hope is seen as a needed medicine for healing or a required attitude for improving ourselves. Bai’s thoughtful abstract compositions and great sense of coloration, certainly bring us hope.
Art writer & critic
Beijing, March 2022
Bai jingsheng《Abstract No. 1》 150x150cm Acrylic on canvas 2021
Bai jingsheng《Autumn Light》 100x100cm Acrylic on canvas 2020
Bai jingsheng《The flamingo series》 120x120cm Acrylic on canvas 2021
Bai jingsheng《The flamingo series》 120x120cm Acrylic on canvas 2021
She was born in the 1950s and began to learn painting from Zhu Jinshi and Ma Kelu in 1970s.Bai went to America in 1990 and created a lot of landscape and still-life paintings during that period and she came back to China in 2006. Now living in Beijing and became a freelance artist.
2018 “Dispel and Resetting” - Bai Jingsheng Solo Exhibition, EGG Gallery, Beijing
2016 “Spring Garden Diary”- Bai Jingsheng Recent Paintings 2014-15, PERMANENCE Gallery, Beijing
2014 “Rainbow”- One Moon Art, Beijing
2011 German Technology Group Art Exhibition, Germany