Shanghai Dreams (Coming soon)

Solo Exhibition of Zhai Xuanhong
Curator: Selena Yang
Opening: 20 Jan 2024, 16:00-20:00
Exhibition Period: 20 Jan 2024 – 15 Mar 2024

The “Shanghai Dreams” exhibition will showcase the recent works of Chinese artist Zhai Xuanhong, primarily featuring his latest oil paintings on lightbox and few oil paintings on canvas. The layering of oil paint colors, a meticulous and intricate creative technique, has been a consistent hallmark of the artist’s work. On the one hand, it enhances the depth and three-dimensionality of the artwork, while on the other hand, the continuous repetition and layering create transient moments of blurriness. This deliberate technique serves as a method for the artist to capture the essence of urban life and dreams. Sigmund Freud, in his classic work “The Interpretation of Dreams,” mentioned that “Our dreams are the most profound and universal form of wish-fulfillment; they are nothing other than a particular form of thinking, made up of memories of waking life and of the new material of wish-fulfillment arising from the repressed unconscious.” Through the dreamlike scenarios created by layering pigments, the artist conveys desires for both material and emotional fulfillment. Elements in the paintings appear in two contrasting styles: vivid, sharp, and captivating colors, or soft, subtle shades of black, white, and grey. These elements allow us to experience the complexity of industrial urban life. The artist’s works serve as a profound metaphor for industrial society and modern cities, where wealth and innovation come hand in hand with the endless expansion of human desires.

The creation on illuminated lightboxes represents a self-reinvention of the artist’s previous canvas works and serves as a continuation of the narrative between day and night. The city he resides in, Shanghai, also known as the “City That Never Sleeps,” seems to be adorned by neon lightboxes during the city’s nights and dreams. Hence, the artist decided to experiment with this innovative mixed media. This approach combines traditional oil painting media with the contemporary industrial-age backlight medium of lightboxes. Lightboxes provide a backlit effect, rendering the canvas semi-translucent, enabling the artist to explore new methods of color control and create various lighting and shadow effects. Technically, this approach contrasts with canvas painting: the thicker the layers of paint, the more prominent the daytime effect, while it might disappear in the nighttime backdrop of light. Moreover, the adjustable lighting variations allow the artist to introduce colors and textures at multiple levels, resulting in a dynamic depth within the artwork. At times, subtle, unnoticeable strokes in the daytime painting may transform into shooting stars in the nighttime illuminated context. This mirrors the dreams and realities of the modern metropolis, where some nights intoxicate and bewilder, only to disappear upon waking. Let his works take us into this dreamscape, deeply experiencing our emotional fluctuations in the colors and textures of oil paintings.

Zhai was born in Changde, Hunan Province in China in 1987, and is currently working and living in Shanghai, China. He graduated from Sichuan Fine Art Academy Oil Painting department in 2012. He has won the scholarship of the excellent graduate in Sichuan Fine Art Academy and the 4th ‘New Star’ Arts Award. In 2016 he was selected to the Oooit Art (in collaboration with Municipality Amstelveen and Museum JAN) international residency project in the Netherlands. His artworks are widely collected by art organizations such as: Chongqing Museum (CN), MOCA Star (CN), Baolong Art Center (CN), Copelouzos Art Museum (Greece) etc; and companies such as Lenovo (CN), Deji Plaza (CN), Zhongjun Group (CN), City Hall Amstelveen (NL), Metro (US) etc.