Cui Jie (崔洁) draws from modernist art and 20th- and 21st-century architectural tropes to create layered paintings of utopian (or dystopian) urban scenese that allude to China's recent and rapid urbanisation.
Featuring futuristic structures that appear at once real and imagined, Cui's architectural paintings often reference the effects of rapid urbanisation on the landscape. Cui's works are characterised by their layering, collage-like fragmentation, and multiple distorted viewpoints that question the figure-ground relationship. She also draws from the architectural idiosyncrasies of the Bauhaus movement, as well as the aesthetics of 20th-century Chinese propaganda and Soviet art.
Cui's characteristic toying with perspective is particularly evident in the painting Corner Building (2017), in which various buildings and a figurative sculpture seem to float in the sky. Parts of the building and sky show through the otherwise-opaque sculpture, while architectural lines are visible in the clouds, confusing the distinction between foreground and background.
Cui's works often function as comparative studies of specific cities. In the painting Shanghai Bank Tower 2 (2017), a spiralling structure merges with what appears to be the titular building. The spiral structure is reminiscent of Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International (1920)—a key work of Russian Constructivism. Indeed, Cui's aesthetic is often reminiscent of Russian Constructivism—particularly in her emphasis on geometric forms, manmade structures and the aesthetics of industry.
Cui's works frequently reference Chinese propagandist themes of shared community and destiny. The painting Ground Invading Figure #35 (2015), for example, depicts a group of soldiers surrounding a wounded man. In its huddled composition and depiction of uniformed soldiers, the painting draws heavily from the nationalist and socialist realist styles common to the Mao era; yet Cui injects her own contemporary elements such as graphic lines and nonrealistic shapes. In the artwork, are multiple intersections between each solider, not unlike the cross-sections in Cui's architectural paintings. As the figures gather around the wounded man, the individual begins to blend into the collective and the canvas becomes fragmented.
Born in 1983 in Shanghai, Cui graduated from the Department of Oil Painting at China Academy of Art in Hangzhou in 2006 and is currently based in Beijing. Her work has been exhibited at various art institutions such as MoMA PS1, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, amongst others. Cui was part of the group exhibition The Enormous Space at OCAT Shenzhen in 2018. In the same year, she participated in An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises, the inaugural edition of the FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.