Cui Jie

Surreal compositions document ever-evolving cityscapes and the histories they contain.

Cui Jie sat on a stairway in a studio
white sculpture in foreground with woman staring at painting in background
woman looking at architectural painting in a gallery
3 images

Cui Jie was born in 1983 in Shanghai, China, and now lives and works in Beijing.

Practice

The artist's work draws on specific architectural elements from the cities she has called home, most prominently Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing. Surfaces are often examined and documented under sunlight to elicit the reflections explored in her paintings.

Did you know?

In addition to group and solo shows around the world, Cui has been featured in eminent art world publications Frieze and LEAP.

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Practice overview

Cui reflects on rapid economic growth via architectural painting, drawing and 3D sculpture. Wielding spray paint, coloured pencil and torn sheets of draft paper, her surreal compositions reveal an epic world-vision where Russian Constructivism meets vast expanses of Colour Field Abstraction. Having lived in Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou, Cui paints from observation. However, rather than being an exact representation of her surroundings, her paintings deconstruct the components of a cityscape into an architectural time capsule: part-sculpture, part-building and part-fantasy.

In Cornel Building (2017), figurative sculptures in a quintessential Socialist Realist style are rendered the same size as modernist multi-story buildings. While their scale is incongruous, they are both suspended in a dusty sky, along with a mysterious twisting path leading to the horizon. Layering drawing, painting and collage, the work alludes to the warped and twisted narratives on which history is based. Through these amalgamations of 20th and 21st-century architectural tropes - from across Bauhaus, Japanese Metabolism and Soviet aesthetics - Cui creates a comprehensive yet uncanny reflection of change where the cityscapes of China transform into powerful beings of their own.

"A city is a living ecosystem, and things are all interwoven with one another in their own ways."Cui Jie