In 1986, Shi Hui was one of the first five artists to work with Bulgarian fiber artist Marin Varbanov (1932–1989) at his new Institute of Art Tapestry at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now the China Academy of Art) in Hangzhou. Influenced by his expansive approach to fiber art, Shi has developed a rich body of work over three decades that incorporates materials ranging from cotton, hemp, and silk to wire mesh and paper pulp. Together, Shi, Marin, and others from the Institute catalyzed the rebirth of fiber art in China as an experimental sculptural medium.
For the work Float, included in this exhibition, the artist created the horizontal sections suspended in this installation by wrapping and molding sheets of wire mesh, then coating them with the pulp of xuan paper. Used for centuries in ink painting and calligraphy, xuan paper is, for Shi, a material at once imbued with Chinese tradition and completely different from the materials historically used by her European counterparts. However, instead of painting or writing calligraphy on the fine rice paper, she employs the paper as a fibrous material for weaving and sculpting. Float marks a turning point in Shi’s practice, at which she replaced rigid wooden frames with wire mesh to produce more organic forms. Here, Shi explored the possibilities for molding her materials, using lighting from within to accentuate the work’s textured surface.
“I first began to think about the materials of my practice because these materials had already been used widely by European artists. . . . Then, I considered whether I could significantly alter my use of materials, and so I turned to xuan paper.”—Shi Hui 1
Shi Hui, “Interview with Shi Hui,” Asia Art Archive, November 27, 2008, translated by Simone Levine.
Wire mesh and xuan paper pulp
Collection of the artist, Hangzhou