The World of Luan Xiaojie

2011-07-09 10:30 - 2011-08-31 14:30

The World of Luan Xiaojie

When: July 9th to August 31st 2011
Where: Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art I
Opening: July 9th 2011 San 15:00

The World of Luan Xiaojie


Article / Edward Lucie-Smith
Luan Xiaojie has long been known as one of China’s most gifted contemporary artists. This has been at least partly due to the fact that, very early in his career, he established what is known as a ‘signature style’- a very personal and instantly recognizable way of portraying the human figure. Where the celebrated Colombian painter Fernando Botero consistently shows figures as very fat, Luan Xiaojie, like the sculptor Giacometti, shows them as very thin.

Giacometti elongated his figures as a way of emphasizing his feeling of remoteness from them. His sculptures, and the related paintings that he also made, are statements about the elusiveness of human personality. This does not seem to be Luan Xiaojie’s purpose. His ‘Big Boy’ paintings feature a single iconic personage - a very tall, very thin adolescent, wearing cut off white jeans and a cap. The settings and situations in which this figure is placed are not realistic. The boy appears, for example, as an over-scale giant, floating among clouds or over mountains, in images that seem to reflect the feeling of omnipotence that very young people sometimes have - the sense that the world they are about to enter as adults is theirs to command.

In another painting, which seems to speak about adolescent sexuality, the figure kneels beside a diminutive chair. Perched on the top rail of the chair is a bird holding a thread in its beak. The thread leads to the fly on the young man’s jeans. The painting - for me at least - portrays a moment of communication. Very delicately, the bird seems to be telling the young man about his sexual life, which is now just beginning.

In another, rather similar painting, the boy, now ambling along, has a thread tied to his toe that leads to the far horizon. In yet another composition, the same figure is standing at the very tip of a diving board, about to plunge into the void. And in yet another, he leans against a spindly tree, and looks up at a single blossom, dangling above his head. All of these are images of promise, and also of longing - longing for the future, combined with a certain fear of what it may bring - the diving-board painting is eloquent about this.

The history of painting, both eastern and western, demonstrates that it is comparatively easy for painters to create allegories - that is to say images where what is seen is also a symbol for something else, some abstract quality or idea, or even for a specific range of feeling. Traditional Chinese ink-and-brush painters have tended to focus more on feelings - emotional states - rather than on ideas. In the greatest paintings of this type, the feeling is the idea. In general, it seems to have been easier for painters to achieve this through images of landscape, where the human figure, if present, plays only a subsidiary part.

What Luan Xiaojie has done is to find a way of transferring this approach into a format that is rooted in Western rather than Eastern ways of picture-making. The world of paint-on-canvas, whose history is largely Western, he speaks with a very specifically Chinese voice.


Participating Artist: Luan Xiaojie


Tel: 010-59789303
Add: The Old Factory 798Art District, Dashanzi, Jiu Xian Qiao Lu No.4 Chaoyang District, Beijing


*Information provided by Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art.


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