Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a painter. My work explores the way individuals’ minds reshape their physical environment. Contemporary psychological theory allows that our consciousness, emotions, and subconscious can be akin to the “paint” that consistently colors our reality. My investigation incorporates a variety of individual psychological realms, depicting them in fictionalized surroundings that confuse the relationship between perception and reality. I utilize a mixture of expressionist/abstract aesthetics in a subtle, theatrical way to construct the characters’ environments, reflecting on their internal thoughts, struggles, personality, and/or problems.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I was born in Kaifeng, China and I moved to U.S.A around 2004. Both my parents are artists. Since I was 12, I have been always researching on ultimate question, such as “Is there meaning in life”, “Why do we exist”. In the past two decades, Buddhism, Existentialism, and Psychology have major impacts on my work and life.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
“Being in the studio” takes major part of my studio practice. A lot of time, I consider my time outside of my studio as my “working job”, and “being in studio” is my vacation. Working on piece of art takes me onto a journey. Quite often, I am not sure where I will be, but that is ok.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
In my current practice, I consider my painting as film making. I never thought I will act as director and actor before.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
When I am fully awake.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed quite a bit in the past five years. First of all, I finished about 6 new series. Second, in form and content, every series is absolutely different from each other. I think the only thing maintain the same is the material.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
The musician Nick Cave, the writer Shi TieSheng, and the Buddhism Master Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche had major impact on my work. Their work and research are all dealing with Ultimate questions. At the same time, they have been offering so many new perspectives to view the Truth. I have been adopting their views for many years for my own owrk. My wife Kathryn Wingard has been helping my artistic growth in the past three years. She is an artist and knows so much about Psychology.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I am really not sure what I can be if I am not an artist. I don’t really have many other interests.
Xi Zhang is a contemporary artist who lives and works in China and the United States. Zhang moved to the United States in 2004 after studying painting at the Beijing Institute of Art and Design. He then studied at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting in 2008. That same year, the Denver Post selected Zhang as the 2008 Emerging Artist of the Year for his “well developed, surprising mature vision.” In 2010 Zhang had a solo exhibition, “Shows Promise,” in the Denver International Airport (Jeppessen Terminal). In 2011, Zhang was commissioned by CNN to do a painting about post 9/11. On CNN website, Zhang’s work received more than four million hits. On October 26, 2011, Zhang was invited to give a Logan Lecture at Denver Art Museum. He earned a Masters of Fine Art in painting at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011. That same year he was voted one of the 12 Best Colorado Artists Under 35 by the Denver Post, as well as one of the seven Visual Arts Pathfinders. In 2012, Zhang has been selected to represent the United States in the Biennial of the Americas. On July 18, 2013, a short documentary of Zhang was featured on PBS and KUNC for the Art Distract Program. In 2012 Zhang received his United States citizenship as an “Artist of extraordinary ability,” paving his way forward towards a career as a China and US based artist.In 2014, Zhang was nominated for The Catherine Doctorow Contemporary painting prize.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.