The canvas surprise. There’s something more behind this artist than meets the eye. Who is she, where does she come from, what does she want to express and why?
There’s a Chinese New Wave, an exciting emerging and ever-evolving cultural divergence of young Chinese artists and creatives that have come to study, exhibit and experience the life and culture in the UK. In turn, they bring new ideas and add fresh perspectives, renewed energy and original insights that influence and inform their new environment. So it’s here, where the roads meet, at the beginning of an intriguing cultural synergy, that Xuan Zhang now finds herself.
Throughout her life, she has enjoyed the experience of living in different cities, each city bringing new challenges that have in turn inspired creativity. Her artistic journey began at the Jeon-North National University of South Korea in 2012. Here, she met Professor Kim, whose guidance was instrumental in awakening her as an artist.
“Draw more human bodies, and you have a special sensitivity to human body dynamics, which is a gift.”
She took his advice, and this later became the foundation behind both of her major exhibitions.
The Mirror, Red Book and Light. At the Himalaya Art Museum 2020
This was a statement show, as brave and impressive, as it was “light and exquisite.”
It was two years in the making, not limited to painting, but using a variety of media, to take the viewer on a journey through her spiritual world. One that was designed to reflect like a mirror, the quiet loneliness and solitude she observed around her. One shared by many others of her generation, in today’s automated society. The show’s timing couldn’t have been more prophetic, coming when it did, at the beginning of a worldwide pandemic.
Her blue paintings are reminiscent of early Picasso. In one, a woman lies naked in a sea of blue, curled up like a pod, or egg, either because of what occurred in the story previously, or waiting like a seed for rain. There’s a Yellow Angel. She inspires hope, existing to remind others perhaps, to look up and see beyond the present moment. That above, lighter and kinder forces still exist in the world too.
The Van Gogh House Exhibition Spinning Swirling 2022
Many artists like Xuan have been inspired by the artists of the past. For some Picasso, others Bacon or Freud, but for her, it was Vincent Van Gogh. It was the love of his work that inspired her, to travel to Europe and continue her art education here.
So it was poignant that her second exhibition and first in London took place in the house he once lived in.
“I chose a more abstract form while highlighting the sense of motion and a lighter sense of space. It also takes into account the readability of the picture and retains the clue of the figure between the brush strokes.”
The attraction is the physical strength a dancer requires, to be able to create beauty subtly with there’re body form and movement. Her canvas is the mirror of dance, the white ground like the stage, the expression evoked from gestural mark-making and broad strokes. Then the focus tightens. So Imagine if you will, a stage, the lights dim, an audience transfixed in the darkness, a single spotlight highlights a single dancer, a flow of movement becomes hypnotic, and the dancer becomes indivisible from the expression she creates.
It was an exhibition of extremes, and East meets West, free expression, and mark-making combined with figurative painting, to control the theatre.
It’s inside her, a pull, a power that’s hidden from view, invisible to the naked eye. It’s here, when alone in the studio, face to face with a white canvas after the muddy earth has been mined and mixed with the ephemeral flight that’s light, that you’ll find her.
Translated 翻譯 x by Mione 墨澪
Edit 編輯 by Yuwen Wang 王昱雯