Tu Xi’s solo exhibition is about to open at
Triumph Art Space on Sept. 20th, featuring his new creations in
2016, which will be accounting for nearly 60% of the selection. This will also
be the first time since his 2013 Intimate
Alienation that Tu Xi’s works have been shown on such a large scale.
Compared to his earlier oeuvres, these
latest pieces manifest higher proficiency in Tu Xi’s use of the image and
heavier subjectivity in his narratives, bringing the discussion of relevant
issues further forward. Tu Xi deliberately turns away from the glut of
pictorial elements—color, composition, shadow and light, mass, stroke and
texture, and seeks more depth in the spiritual expression by reinventing
landscapes with simplified, indiscriminate yet justifiable techniques for his
Born in 1982, Tu Xi, along with Jia Aili
and Qiu Xiaofei, is one of the young contemporary artists growing up during China’s
reform and opening up and immersed in the conflict between the invading western
culture and homeland conventions in the transformation of China’ market
economy. In term of his creative language, however, he places more stress on
the message of individuality and subjective instincts, putting into sharp
relief the indelible memory of past collectivism and temporal emotions with his
irrational, blurry, void and surreal spatial scenes in an oblique manner. Thus,
the concrete reality is rendered abstract and the abstract representational
through the rearrangement of uncertainties of time, space and figures.
Tu Xi rises above the more straightforward
approach of realism by tucking away the most explicit feelings and narrating
the non-reality incidents in the braiding of the real and the fiction. The
absurd and incomprehensible images evoke vivid memories and sentiments with their
instantaneous visions. Tu Xi, powerless to prompt changes nor to prove any
claims, leave his sentiments in turmoil, which, being too strong to be calmed,
lead the way for the spectator in their review of the past.
His works may appear indifferent, but all
his subjects have their references. For instance, in Sail No.2, the invalidity of the stranded boat on ice makes a
mockery of the Utopian dream common among the generation born around the
beginning of the 80s. “The doubtful attitude towards the future among the
younger generation is an inevitable result of our confusion and lack of
happiness living in the modern times,” Tu Xi said, “so much so that even if our
vision was fulfilled, it would not be necessarily what we had expected. The
contemplation upon the meaning of life has taken on a permanent importance
despite its sentimentality, and this Don Quixote tragic is being repeated in
the form of paintings in the contemporary art world.”
Q: Your works feature a sense of isolation
and are imbued with memories of the past, from which archetypal images can be
found as references for the unreal. Are these created scenes associated with
your own memory?
A: They might be to a certain extent; and
it’s unconsciously done. Once, I discovered that similarities exist between the
photos of my childhood and the paintings I’m making in terms of their
atmosphere. So my childhood years may have integrated into my unconscious as my
experience. They have become part of who I am and can’t be escaped from.
Q: Tell us about your considerations about
the use and selection of the image and scenes.
A: The images I choose are like props in
film making. The mountain, the person and the tree are nothing more than mere
physical beings with no specific connotations, cultural orientation or temporal
mark. It is the form, color and other elements that are responsible for
conveying meanings in the painting.
Q: As a student from a painting master,
techniques must be elementary for you. How do you find the relationship between
painting techniques and the spirituality in your works? Is there any way to
find a balance?
A: I’ve been thinking about this problem as
well. Techniques are relevant, to be sure, because without them, a painting is
unattainable. But they also represent shackles to expressions. A work painted
in the right way is not necessarily a good one, because a good painting has to
have warmth and feelings and relevance. Too much emphasis on the image might
ignore the expression of feelings.
As for finding balance, what I’m trying to
do is to listen to my own heart and discover the most appropriate approach to
achieve the best combinations of connotations possible.
Q: Do you think personality and growing
experience have much to do with your painting style?
A: Yes, they do, and painting styles are
influenced by a lot other things like your knowledge. I believe it is the best
state of mind to have your aesthetic taste and personalities aligned.
Q: Has your artistic vision changed after
all these years and is there any subject that recur in your works?
A: Initially all I wanted was to express my
feelings with beautiful images that could resonate with other people. Now,
paintings have become by-products of life and reflection or translation of
Indeed, I would go back to the same subject
repeatedly, only to fail again at achieving what I want.
Q: Can you illustrate that point with an
A: I’ve always wanted to paint rows of
chairs in a vacant cinema, a mirror of collectivism and a symbol of nihilism.
But my creations are not how I want them to be. I think an ideal painting needs
the optimal union of chance, sentiment, subject and material and cannot be
reached at first attempt. More often than not, there is a compromise between
the final image and the expectation at the beginning. This is a competition
between the artist and the painting as well as one between the artist and
Q: A lot of artists are returning to
painterliness in their works. What’s your idea about this trend?
A: There is a plethora of pictures nowadays
with the advance of internet and online information, and craftsmanship is
becoming ever more precious for they are injected with the feeling of the
artist and have their own body temperature. They are different from the cold
pictures for chronicling, because they are better at getting the spiritual
message across. This might be the reason behind the trend to return to