Emily Cheng, Stupa Axis (2016) (detail). Flashe on canvas. 84 x 78 inches. Courtesy the artist.
I feel quieted in Emily Cheng's studio — to the point where I wondered, afterwards, if I'd even posed questions. A fountain is gurgling, and she has set out beer and snacks. The paintings invite reflection more than commentary. I had visited her studio more than 10 years ago, and at the time felt that she was a painter whose work fell outside the buzz around contemporary art; looking back, I feel as if she has been gently challenging us for years.
The forms in her paintings are suggestive of the most primary elements: the landscape; the body; religious iconography. Large circular and floral forms are often positioned symmetrically on her canvases. These forms radiate outward into planetary orbs, tendrils, and vertebrae-like networks. However, many passages are stranger, more imaginary, and less regular than one might expect: dreamy, painterly occurrences that can be bodily and abstract.
The paintings have a lightness in tone and surface quality, but they are forceful in their suggestion of movement. They seem to chart energy channels, and push us into spaces that can't quite be articulated or described.