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ReA! Flashback Friday with Xu Yang


“...the making of my works is like walking in the forest, I’m exploring an exit but most importantly I’m discovering new things on the way and enjoying the process.”



What artistic experiences/opportunities/challenges have you encountered over the years since Rea Fair?

I am very fortunate that I am able to work in the studio full time and since participating in the Rea Fair 2020 I have been a part of several group shows; Simon Lee gallery, Guts gallery and Alma Pearl, and had a solo show at Mou Projects, Hong Kong. In 2022 I also did a residency in April at Dio Horia Gallery (Athens) and Vannucci (Città della Pieve), as a result of the Vannucci residency I had work entered the Deighton Family Collection. This year I also had the honour to collaborate with Tate Collective.

Exhibition view: Xu Yang's solo exhibition Imagine Yourself a Warrior, at Mou Projects, Hong Kong, February 11-March 11, 2023.



Would you like to tell us about an artistic experience you had during this period that you think was particularly meaningful?


To be able to collaborate with Tate Collective for this year’s LGBTQIA+ history month was an exciting project, I produced a painting specifically for it: Perhaps We are All Fictions in the Eye of the Beholder (200 x 170 cm), this painting is a tribute to Angelica Kauffman, inspired by her painting Portrait of a Lady currently on display at Tate Britain. I have used largely purple, I have used myself as the model, dressed up, seating in the space by myself. It’s a commentary on women with their own rights and being in purple, a colour which represents those who are attracted to two or more genders, it is also a mix of blue and pink from the trans flag. Purple is breaking boundaries, be yourself, you are valid.

Xu Yang, Perhaps We are All Fictions in the Eye of the Beholder, oil on linen, 200 x 170 cm, 2023.


How have you grown in your research over the years?


My works are autobiographical, but not about myself, our societies are made of small links between each individual, and our personal lives are political too. I’m exploring communities, social constructs, stereotypes through my own personal experiences, through the years working on this, I started looking at what the idea of immorality is, and how we connect to the universe.

Xu Yang, Is It All A Sin, oil on linen, 170 x 150 cm, 2022.



Was there anything (an event, an encounter, a particular fact) that was a crucial turning point in your choice to pursue an artistic career?

Since I could remember, I have always been drawing and making collages from magazine and newspaper cut-outs. My dreams were about either being an artist or a zoo keeper, but due to the fear that certain animals might chew me alive, I picked the safer option, which was being an artist. When I got into my foundation in CCW, I had the chance to try out fashion design, but then I realised that I hate being told what series to create or commissions. I cannot put a cap on creativity, so being an artist is the only way for me.


Thinking back to the beginning of your journey, what first inspired you to ‘create'?

Unicorns were the first thing I drew when I was at kindergarten. In our contemporary world, unicorns are just a horse with a horn, I loved the idea that unicorns could be real. I was amazed and astounded when exploring the natural world, it made me marvel at my own life as well. I think lives are magical, and so is creating works of art.

Exhibition view: Xu Yang's solo exhibition Imagine Yourself a Warrior, at Mou Projects, Hong Kong, February 11-March 11, 2023.



What inspires you now? What topics are you exploring?

Earlier this year I started horse riding, I like the connection with another creature. Humans have been curious about life since the earliest time we know –we made our first cow painting in a cave 25,000 years ago. By being in contact with the horse I feel pushed to think about my own life too. I’m thinking about how we are living in our society and how we connect.


Xu Yang, You've got to work with your mistakes until they look intended, oil on linen, 185 x 135 cm, 2022.



How do you think the public perceives your work? What do you think of the public's perception of your art?

I don’t really think about how my works are perceived by the public, not before the making of the works; when I am in the studio I am only making the works for myself, since I am the first audience. In sharing the work I hope that viewers can discover a new piece of themselves in my works. I hope the works provoke questions rather than answers.

Xu Yang's studio.



How do you perceive your work? Where do you see it placed concerning the contemporary art scene?

I think my works are like puzzles, I’m making them in order for me to understand myself and the world better; the making of my works is like walking in the forest, I’m exploring an exit but most importantly I’m discovering new things on the way and enjoying the process.

Xu Yang's studio.



ReA Question

What are the right ingredients for an artistic research to grow?

I think time is one of the most important ingredients. Even if you’re doing a deep dive into exploring something you’re interested in, it’s only with time that you give yourself the opportunity to open a surprise “door” which can lead to new things. Beyond time, look, read, find out all you can about the theme and subject matter you’re making work about or as a response to. And by all means, look at what other artists have done or are doing. Finally Make! It’s called an art practice for a reason! Making allows you to learn and gain new insights. All of these things will enrich your research, practice and work output.

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