by  on Apr 01, 2013

Xiaowei Chen manipulates minute ink lines into vast expanses and surreal scenery. Chen’s solo exhibition, “Above and Beyond the Clouds,” curated by Jiankun Xie at the Research House for Asian Art in Bridgeport, Chicago, literally revolves around her vast and exquisite drawing, Detached Clouds (1.2m. x 32 m.), which spreads almost the entire length of the gallery. The drawing serves as the focal point of the exhibition with her smaller artworks around the periphery of the space.

Xiaowei Chen, Thinking Balance, ink on paper, 15″ x 15″, 2008 (Image courtesy of Jiancun Xie)

In Detached Clouds, Chen used layers of super-fine ink lines and colored pencil on white fabric to detail the space before, between, and amongst the clouds. Beginning with an immense cascade of ice, the work melds into the sea, an expanse of mountains, and a landfill, and then eventually becomes the abyss of space that exists beyond the earth’s surface. This space is at least one-third of the drawing, a striking expanse of textures and patterns one encounters when she takes flight. As the eye moves up the fabric, the artwork gracefully extends from the floor toward the ceiling. As the abyss preceding the sky lightens, delicate bright sky-blue lines work into the fabric, eventually becoming a saturated layering of the color. This work is grand both from afar and up-close, guiding the viewer to the sky.

The distinct mark making in Detached Clouds also composes Chen’s nine-panel work, Comet in the Night  (12 in. x 12 in. each), and her large-scale works Halo I, Halo II and Halo III. Though precision remains key, Chen’s line drawings such as Anatomy of a Cloud9 Months and 10 Days, and Viewing maintain intricate use of line. Instead of creating depth with texture, Chen draws fantastic dream-like imagery and gnarly organic shapes twisting into each other that, because of the acute detail, provide an optical puzzle for both the mind and eye.

“Above and Beyond the Clouds” closes April 5, 2013.