Filed under: Interview | Tags: Ellen C. Caldwell, Gallery Paule Anglim, Xiaoze Xie
Xiaoze Xie’s (NAP #44) recent show at San Francisco’s Gallery Paule Anglim featured amplified, large-scale oil paintings depicting library archives of folded newspaper spines and cover photographs. This show is all part of two larger, ongoing projects titled “Both Sides Now” and “Fragmentary Views,” which Xie began in 2001.
Xiaoze Xie | February-March 2011, D.T. (The Daily Telegraph), 2011, oil on canvas, 52” X 85.25.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
His oil paintings are still lives in that they capture commonplace, inanimate objects in great detail. But they are also so full of life and so full of traces of life that they feel like much more. Poignant images of magnified, stacked newspapers and recast front-page headline images make up much of the work in his recent show in San Francisco. Another related subject and theme of Xie’s focus is aged rare books in the archives of various libraries. These pieces work on multiple levels to both stop time and document time’s slow wear on the objects, and the objects’ subsequent slow demise. - Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Xiaoze Xie compares these books to ancient ruins, and as a viewer, you can see and feel his sentiments of veneration in his paintings. They are of the moment, though I think will stand the test of time as well. I am really drawn to the dichotomy of both the fleetingness and permanence of ephemera and media, as echoed and reinforced by our memories and the very act of remembering – and Xie’s paintings capture this complexity conceptually and aesthetically.
Xiaoze Xie | April-December 2008, G.Z.R.B. (Guangzhou Ri Bao), 2011, oil on canvas, 78” x 96.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
Ellen Caldwell: In pieces such as “April – December 2008” or “February-March 2011, D.T. (The Daily Telegraph),” did you literally stack a newspaper from each month and paint from those? And if so, is there a rhyme or reason to how you choose the covers you will use – when only the so-called “spine” will show? Or is randomness part of the plan?
Xiaoze Xie: I usually find existing stacks on the shelves of a library as arranged by librarians, take closed-up pictures of them, and paint from selected and cropped photographs. The juxtaposition of texts and images is random, or accidental since it is “found.” What we find in daily life is always more surprising than what we can imagine.
Xiaoze Xie | February 3, 2007, L.G.D.S. (No. 2) (La Gazzetta dello Sport), 2008, oil and acrylic on canvas, 80” x 60.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
EC: Related to this, with a work such as “February 3, 2007, L.G.D.S. (No. 2) (La Gazzetta dello Sport),” is there a different process to choosing the newspaper photograph or cover that you will feature so prominently?
XX: In the “Both Sides Now” series, each painting is based on a section of a found sheet of newspaper, with overlapping images and texts on both sides. When choosing a specific issue, I am often drawn to news photos that are both disturbing and beautiful, I also look for surprising, uncanny and telling combinations. It is not only the image itself but also the whole context.
EC: And do you have your own personal archive of international newspapers from which you draw?
XX: I usually just use library collections of newspapers. I also have a small archive of newspapers that I have collected randomly at home or when traveling.
Xiaoze Xie | August 8, 2006, N.Y.T., 2012, oil on canvas, 66” x 48.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
EC: I am always fascinated by newspaper covers, and how even the most devastating photos can look like classical romantic paintings like that of Jacques Louis David or Goya… This rang true for me with paintings of yours such as “August 8, 2006, NYT.” Could you discuss a bit?
XX: Well, the history of painting is part of our collective memory; at least for me, it is always at the back of my mind, consciously or unconsciously. In fact, Goya is one of my favorite artists; I particularly love his history paintings “The Disasters of War” and “The Black Paintings.” However, I don’t think of those classical compositions when choosing my images.
Xiaoze Xie | Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, #3, 2007, photogravure print, 22 1/2” x 30” fr, 14 1/2” x 21” uf. Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
EC: Works such as “Chinese Library No. 42” and “Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, #3” really capture that notion of ephemera that is at once fading and lasting. We can literally see the pages of these books disintegrating with time… Is this symbolic to you?
XX: I am indeed fascinated by the trace of time, the air of decay and also the monumentality of books – like architectural ruins. You might call it “symbolic.”
Xiaoze Xie | Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, #4, 2007, photogravure print, 22 1/2” x 30” fr, 14 1/2” x 21” uf. Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
EC: Do you consider your work political? Is there any kind of embedded commentary or narrative you intend for viewers, or that you embed for yourself?
XX: In these paintings of newspapers and books, I don’t intend to embed a clear statement or commentary. They are perhaps more historical and philosophical than political although there is always a political aspect. They are more about how we perceive the world through the media than about specific events. I have also done more confrontational works that are more overtly political.
Xiaoze Xie | Library of Congress (BNP), 2009, oil on canvas, 24” x 36.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
EC: And finally, who is an artistic influence for you?
XX: The history of painting as well as ideas in contemporary art are always important for me, it is hard to single out one artist as an influence. I’d just name a few artists: Francisco de Goya, Edouard Manet, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Wall, Vernon Fisher…
Xiaoze Xie | Chinese Library No. 42, 2009, oil on canvas, 32” x 61.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
EC: To close, I wanted to share Xie’s sentiments from a lecture given at Bucknell University in 2010, in conjunction with his touring exhibition “Xiaoze Xie: Amplified Moments (1993-2008).” It speaks powerfully to his practice, philosophy, and process. You can view the full lecture here.
“I am by no means a revolutionary: I don’t want to give up painting for installation or video; I don’t want to give up the figurative for the abstract; I don’t want to give up the political for the cultural; I don’t want to give up my Chinese-ness for the universal; I would never give up sincerity or beauty for irony. I want all of these in my work. For me, a good work of art should be able to generate complex layers of meaning.” –Xiaoze Xie
Xiaoze Xie | October 19, 2007, L.M. (Le Monde), 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60” x 72.” Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim.
Xiaoze Xie was born in China and received his Master of Fine Art degrees from the Central Academy of Arts & Design in Beijing and the University of North Texas. Xie is an artist and professor of fine art at Stanford University, with a long history of international solo exhibits. He had a recent show at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco and his next show is scheduled for September 2013 at Chambers Fine Art, Beijing. In the meantime, viewers interested in recent gallery installation shots and readers of Chinese can keep up to date with Xie on his blog.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.
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