The Artist Who Will Not Accept Limitations

Every artist is a rebel at heart and Mr. Yi Jie is no exception. He refuses to accept the limitations of having to choose between painting or sculpture. Like a lover torn between two affairs, he has decided to keep both of his lovers – one as a wife and one as a mistress. And so he has lived for several years now, producing art forms of exquisite beauty. He walks back and forth crossing the boundaries between painting and sculpture, with one foot firmly planted on either side of the border.

From his very early days back in the remote village where he grew up in Guanxi province he developed a love affair with drawing and painting. He grew up very close to nature. In the days of his childhood, China had not yet become the giant economic machine that we know now. So it was rare for the young Yi Jie in that faraway village to see a car or a motorcycle. It was perhaps for this very reason that pretty soon he became interested in all things mechanical. He was always drawn to sketching the outlines of whatever old cars and bicycles happened to pass by along the dusty roads of Fuyide village.

As a teenager his uncle, a blacksmith, took him under his wings as an apprentice in his shop way out there in the countryside. With this uncle he learned all the insider’s tricks of how to work with metal. He fell in love with the sensuality of the iron. He grew fond of experimenting with the metal in its different textures and curves and lines. He also pondered in his heart the philosophical questions of how the warm colors of the fire burning in the furnace can produce the cool colors of raw steel. At that moment he determined in his heart to find a way to bring those two sets of colors, at opposite ends of the color wheel, back together again. He desired nothing more than to combine the coldness of steel with the warm feelings of bright oranges and explosive reds.

It was at this stage in life that he decided to go seek a future in Dafen Village, Shenzhen province. There he met a master artist who had a studio along one of the alleyways in the heart of the village. The old master recognized his talent and offered to serve as his mentor. Mr. Yi Jie worked long hours at the old master’s shop, mixing oils, washing the paintbrushes, and retouching the works that the old master produced.

Friends and neighbors advised him to go into painting, but his uncle back in Guanxi didn’t think there was any future for Yi Jien being an artist. He encouraged him to follow in his footsteps and become a full time blacksmith. For a while Mr. Yi Jie listened to his uncle and went to work as a technician in an iron production plant. He worked in that factory for nine years, learning all he could about steel making and bending and cutting. He wrestled with the infinite shapes that steel and iron could take. He also enjoyed transforming the coldness of the steel by splashing warm color all over it.

That’s how Mr. Yi Jie began his career as an artist. Now he devotes his life to producing enjoyable pieces to delight the senses and to uplift the spirits of mankind. Yi Jie is an example for all of us to remind us that we don’t need to limit ourselves to one choice. We can choose to be painters and sculptors if we dare to think outside the box.

Morning Frenzy

Morning Frenzy by Yi Jie

Morning Frenzy by Yi Jie

One of the most popular pieces at Mr. Yi Jie’s exhibits is a humble composition entitled Morning Frenzy. In this work the artist attempts to capture that most hopeful moment, which is the arrival of a new day in the farm.
It is early morning as the sun is rising through some turbulent skies. The farm’s rooster is crowing with excitement, almost breaking out into a dance as he contemplates the beauty of the sun rays. The rooster’s eyes are dilated and his feet are not even touching the ground in the frenzy of the moment. As we look at all the intensity and energy that Mr. Yi Jie has packed into this simple farm scene, we can’t help but imagine that it has been raining for several days up in the farm. We also get the feeling that this is the first time in a great while that the farm’s rooster has seen the sun.

It is a credit to Mr. Yi Jie’s talent and creativity as an artist that he has made the conscious decision to incorporate the very canvas itself into his composition.

Yes, indeed. What did the artist choose for his canvas? A rusty, cracked, and perforated piece of junk metal. Inviting this old sheet of rusty iron to be part of the scene has been a marvelous idea on the part of the artist.
The lower part of the canvas is puckered with bullet holes as a reminder of the days when the farm children used it as target practice. There is also a big tear on the upper right hand corner. The canvas is also being held together by staples in several spots. All these are truly elegant and marvelous details that add authenticity to the scene. The viewer gets the feeling that this painting has just been plucked freshly from the farm and brought directly to the art gallery.

As we contemplate the rooster’s excitement, we are thrown back to that primordial age when the world was just beginning and everything was warm colors flying in every direction, just like the rooster’s feathers.
Morning Frenzy is certainly a memorable work from this exhibit and it is the piece that all visitors wish they could take home with them.

by German Calderon