Chinese digital artist and photographerMiao Xiaochun held his first solo-show at the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz, Germany from 15 August to 3 October this year. The show was entitled “Macromania” and showcased a selection of his work from the past ten years.Art Radarhad a chance to catch up with him in his studio in Beijing to discuss his latest works, his artistic process and his views on the art market.

Click here to view Miao Xiaochun’s biography and here to read about “Macromania” at the Ludwig Museum.

Miao Xiaochun has a special relationship with Germany. Not only did he receive part of his art education at the Kunsthochschule in Kassel, he has also exhibited his work in the country on numerous occasions over the past twenty years.

Miao Xiaochun, 'Beijing Index B-15', 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun, 'Beijing Index B-15', 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun depicts own version of paradise

Another of the works that was part of the recent exhibition at the Ludwig was Microcosm (2008) which uses digital media to create alternate visions. It is based on the 15th century altarpiece by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch entitled The Garden of Earthly Delights (Prado Museum, Madrid). The triptych is comprised of scenes of paradise, mankind pursuing earthly pleasures and hell.

Microcosm comprises nine wings of computer-generated images and a video. Xiaochun has taken Bosch’s images and given them a new spin both visually and metaphorically. He replaced all figures with a computer-generated abstracted nude figure of himself and replaced objects with ones the viewer would recognise from daily life.

Miao Xiaochun, 'Microcosm, Independent Motives-Save', 2008, C-print. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun, 'Microcosm, Independent Motives-Save', 2008, C-print. Image courtesy of the artist.

The video that accompanies this work, like his previous two, The Last Judgment in Cyperspace and H2O, uses the latest technology and computer animation programs available. We asked some questions about the Microcosm video.

The figures often seem to work in groups and live and die together. What are you trying to signify?

“We all live in the same world. We cannot say, ‘I have nothing to do with such a thing.’ If we have a war, if an atomic bomb is used, nobody will be safe, nobody can escape it.”

The viewer has the feeling that the video is being created as they are watching it. Continuous clicks from a mouse or sounds from a keyboard accompany the video and heighten the sense of anticipation. What was your thinking behind including these sounds?

“This sound is very important for me. Why? We work every day with computers. We created this [digital] world with a computer. We begin our work daily with this computer so I use the keyboard sound from beginning to end. It shows that it is being created by a computer.”

Miao Xiaochun has kindly provided us with a small section of video from Microcosm. Watch it below or on our new Art Radar YouTube channel:

Miao Xiaochun on photography vs. digital art

Your early work was solely focused on photography. What inspired you to add computer-generated design and animation to your work? How has this changed the creative process?

“Actually, [during] university I studied German literature and for post-graduate studies I studied art history and after that I painted for ten years. It was in Germany that I moved to photography. I was working at that time on a project called A visitor from the past. I thought the best medium for that project would be photography. And in 2005 I moved to computer… to digital art, because at that time I found many possibilities in this medium. I think the reason I choose one medium over another medium is because it fits my idea better.”

Miao Xiaochun, 'Beijing Hand Scroll', 2009, digital ink painting. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun, 'Beijing Hand Scroll', 2009, digital ink painting. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun on his working process

Miao Xiaochun is comfortable working in a variety of media ranging from photography to digital art including 3D animation and painting. Art Radar asked him a few questions about his working process.

How long does it usually take from the initial conception of an idea to its final execution?

“For every project I approximately need between one and one-and-a-half years. I have an idea, I think about it for a while and I know that I want to somehow use it in my art. I prepare to work on a project for some time and then I start work with a team of assistants. We work on it on a daily basis in a computer lab until it is finished.”

How many assistants do you have at any given time?

“At first I had one, then five, then seven, then ten, then fifteen. Now I have ten. That is enough for the projects that I am working on at the moment.”

How many projects do you work on concurrently?

“I always work on different projects concurrently, sometimes two or sometimes even three. … It takes time to realise projects. I come up with the ideas much more quickly than I have time to realise them. Perhaps sometimes I am not so patient, I want to do it quickly. But in reality you cannot realise a project so fast, so I start working on another project at the same time.”

Miao Xiaochun, 'Microcosm', wing 8. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun, 'Microcosm', wing 8, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

Miao Xiaochun on the art market

“I think what is interesting is that twenty years ago there was no art market in China but we still made art. Several years ago the art market came to China…. I think we should not always think about the art market. If you always think about the art market you won’t do any art. So for me, if the market is good that is fine and if the market is not good then it is not. For me this is not so important. If everything goes well you can have more money for new projects. I think that is good. Otherwise I have to do everything by myself, without help from assistants.”

When we asked Miao Xiaochun to comment on the future of media arts and to tell us about any new trends that he saw emerging, this is what he had to say:

“I think we can find many possibilities through the media arts. You see, I found the possibility to make sculpture, I found the possibility to do painting, to do etching. I think this is a totally new age. We should find every possibility that this new medium can offer. … What we can do is quickly adopt new technologies.”

More on Miao Xiaochun

When not working on his photography or digital art projects, Miao Xiaochun teaches at the well-known Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, where he has been since 2000. Miao was born in 1964 in Wuxi in the south eastern province of Jiangsu. He studied first at Nanjing University, later at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and finally at the Kunsthochschule in Kassel, Germany.

His works can be found in numerous public and private collections such as The Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the SIGG Collection (Switzerland).


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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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