Mai Cheng has secured her place. She mixes elements from different cultures to convey a universal message. Born in China, she was educated in China, Norway, and France in art disciplines and her unique individual style sheds light on some corners of art never touched before by other artists.
Her project started with the discovery of certain similarities between Nordic rock carvings and the calligraphy from her native China. Later, she began to include other ancient, visual languages, such as hieroglyphs, mayaglyphs and cuneiform characters in her art. In some cases, she even used modern signs and symbols – for instance the hieroglyphic writing that surrounds us in the street, at a train station or the airport, on our washing machine or computer. “My aim is to enable different signs from different cultures to communicate in a way that emphasizes their common source,” she says. 1 of 3
“When I am successful, I feel that I have discovered archetypes and new connections between cultures that normally are separated both historically and geographically.”
This is because the impressions and perceptions that arise out of art are almost universal. In the group of universal painters, meaning the ones who use universal symbols in each individual work, In 1977, Mai Cheng belonged to the first set of students admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Beijing, when this institution was reopened after the Cultural Revolution. In 1981, she saw an exhibition of the works of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch in the Chinese National Gallery in Beijing (NAMOC), and she decided to go to his homeland for further study. She applied - and was admitted to - the State Academy of Arts in Oslo, Norway, where she studied until 1987. Then she received a postgraduate scholarship at the Art Academy in Bergen, and after that another scholarship to Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France. 2 of 3
This dual education, from academies in China and Europe, may explain how Western technique and Eastern thinking seem to meet and blend in her art.
Above all, however, it is Norway and France that have adopted her as an artist. She has had most of her exhibitions and sold most of her paintings in these countries. Therefore, it is not surprising that, when evaluating the proposals to the Norwegian pavilion at WORLD EXPO 2010, the government asked for her advice. Five different projects participated in the competition, and the one that Mai Cheng recommended, was the one that was built in Shanghai. If there are global artists, Mai Cheng must be one of them. Her work is a synthesis between East and West, between new and old, and not least between characters and pictures. Using pictograms, symbols and archetypes from around the world and throughout our history, she produces art that is both timeless and international. 3 of 3