Chinese-American artist Chinyee (青意) combines basic elements of the pictorial language—space, line and colour—to create lyrical abstract oil paintings and watercolours.
Born in 1929 in Nanjing, China, Chinyee was awarded a four-year scholarship to study in the United States in 1947, where she received her BFA from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and MA from New York University. She began working in the accounting department of the United Nations in 1956 while continuing to paint, and held her first solo exhibition at the Mi-Chou Gallery in New York in 1965.
With an academic background in traditional Chinese calligraphy, figurative illustration and painting, Chinyee began experimenting with Abstract Expressionism at its peak in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. Her early abstract works reveal traces of figuration, such as Markings (1965), a watercolour painting in which the circular form on the top left evokes the moon and the purple and horizontal black forms below hint at the mountains and streams. Over time, Chinyee adopted a technique of loose and spontaneous brushwork that draws from both calligraphic traditions and methods shared by other AbEx artists such as Joan Mitchell. In her oil painting Joy (2013), broad and energetic brushstrokes cut across a pear-green ground punctuated by shocks of pink, while in the oil painting Longings (2013), thin strokes of purple and black blend into a vibrant pink background.
After more than five decades of painting, Chinyee is still a prolific artist. For Dances of the Inner Being, her 2018 solo show at Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong, she presented a body of newly created works in addition to earlier paintings. The title is derived from her vision of painting, which, in her artist's statement, she describes as 'a process of discovering, shaping and reshaping [her] inner being.' In the exhibition, the artworks on display showcased her propensity for producing lyrical harmony among chaos and invoking a diverse range of emotions. The vertical arrangement of softly painted rectangles in Untitled (2017), for example, recalls the subdued colour field paintings of Mark Rothko; Chinyee, however, inserts an element of surprise to her painting by marking its surface with a thin stroke of red. Vitality replaces calmness in June A (2018), where gestural strokes of blue and green encapsulate the heat of summer engulfed in the saturated yellow and orange background.
Chinyee's solo exhibitions include Rhythms of Creation at Alisan Fine Arts (2013), and Chinyee's 50-year Retrospective: A Lyrical Journey at Shanghai Art Museum (2007). Her artwork was included in the group exhibition Asian Tradition/Modern Expressions: Asian American Artists and Abstractions 1945–1970, which travelled through the United States, Japan and Taiwan between 1997 and 1999. In 1989, Chinyee was named the 'Artist of the Nineties' by Manhattan Arts Magazine. Her works are in the collections of UNICEF, Shanghai Art Museum and Nankai University in Tianjin.
Chinyee lives and works in New Jersey.
Raspy, trumpeted notes dip, jump and shimmy across a melodic scale, meandering spontaneously through a supporting rhythmic foundation of brassy hi-hats, double bass twangs and piano progressions. So begins Miles Davis's legendary 1959 jazz album Kind of Blue—nonagenarian painter Chinyee's one and only requisite studio soundtrack for the past...
Having been recently nominated for the Women of Hope award, Daphne King-Yao, the director of Alisan Fine Arts, is not only a gallerist but also a dedicated philanthropist in the arts and culture sector.