Chinese painter Xia Xiaowan travels to the third dimension – Schoeni video interview

In celebration of its twentieth anniversary, Hong Kong’s Schoeni gallery produced a series of short films showcasing art from ground-breaking contemporary artists from China and Hong Kong.

In a nine-minute-long interview, Chinese artist Xia Xiaowan traces his journey from painting on canvas to experimenting with “glass painting” to his return to oils. Xia is presented as an painter who continues to challenge the conventions of the medium.

A new perspective

The interview begins with Xia Xiaowan‘s recollections of his 1998 exhibition “Looking Up”, a show in which viewers faced scenes painted from an unexpected perspective: his canvases depict people viewed from below. The artist explains the thought behind his method,

If we do not use the usual way of viewing but methodically develop a way of viewing, how would then the world appear to us?

Art Radar has covered other videos in this Schoeni Art Gallery interview series. Click here to view them all.

From canvas to glass

A turning point came in the 2000s, when, in the face of new mediums like “installation, three-dimensional, performance art”, Xia “felt that the room of expression for painting suddenly became limited”.

Xia Xiaowan in conversation in Schoeni Art Gallery video interview, October 2012. In background: 'Two People in the Water' (front view), 2012, glass pencil on glass panels. Screen capture by Art Radar.

Xia Xiaowan in conversation in his studio, Schoeni Art Gallery video interview, October 2012. In background: ‘Two People in the Water’ (front view), 2012, glass pencil on glass panels. Screen capture by Art Radar.

Arrangements for an upcoming exhibition drove his experimentation and he began to divide his paintings into separate spaces and layers. The painter recalls the factors that influenced his thought and creative process as the date for the show drew nearer,

The exhibition space was so huge and my works were all flat. My answer to this question was that painting should not only be limited to two-dimensions. It should not be applied using a horizontal method, but three dimensions.

Inspired by CAT (Computer Axial Tomography) scans, he transformed two-dimensional art into a three-dimensional form by painting on layers of glass which he placed together to create large “glass paintings”, which had a physical depth. For the next decade, he experimented with and refined the process.

Art Radar has covered other videos in this Schoeni Art Gallery interview series. Click here to view them all.

Back to canvas

In late 2012, Xia returned to painting on canvas with a large oil painting titled The Couple in the Butterfly Dream, which, the artist states, “expresses the main theme of love” and is “related to dreams”. In the video interview, he explains that this is the first in a planned series of paintings about dreams. “It just so happens that the first painting is about dreams and love (5m:21s),” he says, but other paintings may couple dreaming with other themes.

Xia Xiaowan on art in China and Hong Kong

Divided into two parts, the video’s second segment covers Xia Xiaowan’s view on the differences between the art markets in Hong Kong and China. He discusses the relationship between artists and the galleries that represent them and how the style of collecting in China and Hong Kong differs.

Xia Xiaowan in conversation in Schoeni Art Gallery video interview, October 2012. Screen capture by Art Radar.

Xia Xiaowan in conversation in his studio, Schoeni Art Gallery video interview, October 2012. Screen capture by Art Radar.

The interview closes with a written quote from Xia, who comments on his 1998 solo exhibition “Looking Up”, part of which reads,

The facing of certain taboos has pushed me to look at human beings from a new perspective. … It seems there is a channel linking reality and dream….

Art Radar has covered other videos in this Schoeni Art Gallery interview series. Click here to view them all.

More on Xia Xiaowan

Born in 1959 and a 1982 graduate of the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xia currently works and lives in his native Beijing. He works as a professor in the Stagecraft Department of the Central Academy of Drama.

Xia Xiaowan has held exhibitions in major cities across the world including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Gwangju, New York City, Brussels, Paris, Berne, Hamburg, Madrid and Sydney. His artworks can be found in leading museums and private collections including the Porsche Art Foundation and Sigg Collection in Switzerland, and the White Rabbit Collection in Australia.

This article was written by a participant in our art writing diploma programme. Do you want to write for Art Radar, too? Click here to find out more about our Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.

Laetitia Wilcox

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Related Topics: Chinese artists, painting, video interviews with artists, trends – painting lives on

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