Shanghai Dreams

Solo Exhibition of Zhai Xuanhong
Curator: Selena Yang
Opening: 20 Jan 2024, 16:00-20:00
Exhibition Period: 20 Jan 2024 – 15 Mar 2024
(Prolonged to 12 Apr 2024)
Works are available on our Artsy site

“Shanghai Dreams” exhibition showcases the artist Zhai Xuanhong’s innovative oil paintings on dimmable illuminated polycarbonate panel. The accumulation of layers of oil paint materials is a technique the artist has consistently employed in his creative process. This intricate method, while shaping the depth and three-dimensionality of the artwork, simultaneously introduces a brief sense of defocus through continuous repetition and accumulation. This serves as the artist’s method of documenting urban life and dreams. Drawing inspiration from Freud’s classic work “The Interpretation of Dreams,” where desire is recognized as a profound driving force in the human psyche, the artist depicts dreamlike scenarios through layers of pigments. Concrete forms of life and tension are portrayed and, at the same time, abstracted by the rich and substantial composition. The artwork expresses human desires for both material and emotion, alternating between vivid, dazzling beauty and soft, subtle, and profound black-and-white grayscale tones, all of which make us feel the complexity of industrialized urban life. His works also serve as profound metaphors for industrial society and modern cities, where industrial civilization brings wealth and innovation but also accompanies the endless expansion of human desires.

The use of illuminated panel media is an innovative practice for the artist, departing from traditional canvas surfaces, and it serves as a continuation of the narrative between day and night. Shanghai, the city where he resides, is known as the “City That Never Sleeps,” its nights and dreams seemingly embellished by lights. Through years of creative experimentation, the artist has successfully combined traditional oil painting media with the luminescent media of the post-industrial era. The illuminated panel provides a backlight effect, rendering the canvas semi-transparent and granting the artist new methods of color control and the creation of diverse light and shadow changes. Technically, this method is a reverse form compared to canvas surface creation. Thicker compositions stand out more prominently in natural daylight but may disappear into the night when illuminated by background lights. The adjustable lighting changes allow the artist to add colors and textures on multiple levels, enriching the depth and variation of the artwork. Sometimes, a seemingly inconspicuous and slender scratch in the daytime scene is easily overlooked but becomes as prominent as a shooting star tearing through the night sky in the luminescent setting of the night. This reflects the dream and reality of the modern metropolis – scenarios that are intoxicating and bewildering at night, perhaps disappearing upon waking. His works immerse us in this urban dream, allowing us to deeply feel our emotional fluctuations amid the color textures of oil paintings and the radiance of light.

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.