Briefly describe the work you do.
My practice focuses on realism painting. By taking advantage of oil paint’s great capability of rendering alternative realities, I use mellow colors and thin glaze to create realistic figure, object and space that evoke a sense of sinister. While I am interested in creating cinematic drama and tension, I want the imageries to stay incomprehensible.
The uncanny plays a significant part in my practice. In my paintings, the uncanny-ness is usually presented as an in between: the frozen moment in between one second and the next, the locations between the known and the unknown, the objects that are lifeless yet seem human, the fetishized interiors that are realistic yet feel alien. The in between turns familiarity into something that is unsettling and unfamiliar.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I was born and raised in Beijing, China. Through out my early art study I received traditional academic education, from which I developed an interest in realism work, the trainings has also provided me the technical foundation for my later work. In 2009 I moved to Glasgow, Scotland to pursue a BFA degree in painting, the experience in UK opened my eyes to the larger contemporary art world. I started thinking critically towards my previous practice of figurative painting, I learnt to take a more contemporary approach to my subject while embrace the technique that I had built up. My practice of painting continued after I move to San Francisco, CA in 2012 to study for a MFA degree, where my vision of painting as well as technique was refined.
The life as a traveler and learner has complicated my view on identity. I see me self as a cultural outsider, and I cannot define my own identity simply with my ethnic and nationality backgrounds. As a result, my work has become more about creating a quality and vision instead of sending messages and making statements.
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.”
I use my studio both as a working space and a thinking space. While I do spend long hours in studio making work, I also spend almost equal amount of time sitting, looking and thinking. I like having all my work around me so I can read them and see how they have been developed.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Teaching. I didn’t consider becoming a teacher until 2 years ago when I started working as a teaching assistant.
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?
I consider my studio as a second home, so I try to be there as much as possible. On a working day I usually come in at noon and work till evening, sometimes late at night. Although I find the best time for me to work is morning.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed radically in the past 5 years, in fact if you look at my portfolio back in 2010 you would not believe it is done by the same person, this is mainly due to the fact that I was still a student. But overall I have been shifting my attention from “how to paint” to “what to paint”, over the years my technique has actually become more “conservative”.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
An artist’s work changes when him/herself changes, therefore everyone who has been part of my life has had their impact on my work.
Besides that, Gerhard Richter has been one of my biggest influence within the past 4 years, so has Freud and Bacon(but I’m more interested in listening to Bacon talk about painting). One of the quotes by Freud has been on my studio wall for two and half years, and I still read it when I’m stuck.
Recently I’ve been going back to the old masters such as Vermeer, Caravaggio and Goya, at the same time I’m taking influence from cinema, especially David Lynch’s films
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have always enjoyed cooking, if I can’t paint anymore maybe I’ll open a restaurant. It’s interesting how much cooking and painting share in common.
Xiao Wang is a Chinese painter who lives and works in the US. He studied at Glasgow School of Art in Scotland where he received the BFA degree, he continued his study at San Francisco Art Institute and earned his MFA degree in painting. Wang currently lives and works in San Francisco, CA.
Wang’s work has been exhibited in Glasgow, London and California at spaces such as Candid Art Trust, Studio 41, Fort Mason Center, Diego Rivera Gallery, Arc Gallery, Chico Art Center and SOMArts Cultural Center. In 2014 He received Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award from San Francisco Foundation. Recently he was awarded with 1st place for Anne Bremer Memorial Prize, 1st place for “Mind, Spirit & Emotion II” at Art-Competition, and silver award for Art Forward Contests.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.