Wk 11 — Artist OTW — Student Choice

Xu Lei is a Chinese contemporary artist born in 1963 in Nantong, Jiangsu. He is known for his surreal paintings. Lei explores China and ancient Chinese traditions from the Song and Ming periods with a modern twist. He uses traditional tools such as ink and rice paper which allows him to create a unique style. As he was gaining popularity in China his work started to be recognized all over the world and especially in the west.

Xu Lei has many works but his most famous is surreal depictions of horses with a blue hue, and traditional paintings of ancient Chinese chairs. Lei uses traditional ink brushes and rice paper which give his work a distinctly Chinese style with a modern twist. In his paintings, his lines are faint and faded as they get wider. but are used to make distinct features in the objects he is painting. For instance, a mountain with very minimal lines but able to create depth by fading the lines. In another painting, Augmented Dream (2015) Lei uses negatives and positives for the surroundings and background of the painting. In most of his paintings with horses, the overall feeling and brush strokes are soft and light which adds to the surrealism of the painting. As for color, his paintings sometimes have a blue hue, if not the painting will only have a few colors. In his blue hue paintings, he uses several different shades of blue that contrast one from a very light blue that is close to a dark blue for shading and shadows. For his other paintings, Lei uses pastel colors, often yellow and greens. Xu Lei’s use of traditional tools, color, lines, and shading all are equally crucial aspects that make his work unique.

Often Lei’s main focus in his painting is a horse. In Chinese culture, a horse has a high status with a significant meaning. Horses represent courage, power, diligence, and integrity. Also, in ancient China horses were crucial to the military and means of transportation. According to Xu lei from an interview with Asia Tatler, he explains ideas he explores, “jump out of confinement and see the world and the nature, exploring the division of day and night, lightness and heaviness” Lei’s work shows the important ideas of the Chinese wisdom of how to view the world. I think Lei wants his audience to see the world from a different perspective while maintaining traditional Chinese culture mixed with western influence.

Personally, my favorite artworks are from the impressionist and post-impressionist era. I am not a big fan of contemporary art. However, Xu Lei is an exception. His paintings are so beautiful that it makes feel like you in a dream-like state. As a half Chinese Asian American, I can connect with Lei’s work. I have always loved traditional Chinese ink paintings, and Lei is able to incorporate that into his work in a new and refreshing way. What makes his work unique is the way he blends modern and traditional in a seamless manner. I can resonate with his paintings because I understand the traditional Chinese ideas and are insightful for times of trouble.

Wu, Penny Zhou & Tyrone. “Interview: Xu Lei.” Tatler Hong Kong, 9 Dec. 2013, hk.asiatatler.com/life/interview-xu-lei.

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