Xuan Chenhao 宣琛昊
Artwork’s Title: Moby Dick
Materials Used: Oil on canvas
Studio Based: Shanghai, China
Can you tell us about the process of making your work? 你可以给我们讲讲创作的过程吗？
I research plants and collect relevant images as references. I also have an archive of screenshots from simulation games. Usually, I start with a watercolour drawing as a sketch, then move on to oil on canvas.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)? 你可以用几个词语来形容你的作品吗？最好用3个词语。
Hormone, mutualism, wrestle. 荷尔蒙，共生，角力。
How did you come up with this new painting idea? Is there any story behind this work? 你作品的灵感来自哪里？作品背后有什么故事吗？
The painting you selected(Moby Dick) was the first one of the series. My inspiration came from the mutual relation of the flora and fauna in tropical rainforests. The towering rhizomes of figs (ficus carica) attract insects and birds to pollinate. I attempt to convey such energies of wildlife in my paintings. When I made Moby Dick, I was passionately in love with my girlfriend at the time, and I played a real-time map mobile game accompanying her. In the game, the creation and upgrade of different roles were visualized as a process of constructing and morphing. The design of these mythical creatures was inspired by various shapes and forms of natural creatures. And in my paintings, such shapes and forms are composed effectively and grown freely. In a time when we are increasingly addicted to screens, our minds are immersed in the moist internet which is slowly replacing our physical senses. Maybe one day the virtual world will become the reality. Those desires, leagues, fierce competitions, boundaries and fortunes in internet games are what compose the real world too. For me, love never is a disposable gasoline can. In real life, I am not able to tell apart the tense bond between stubborn body and sublime virtue. So I took my shelter with art by wrestling with the canvas, thus I won a short period of peace.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning? 有没有哪些作品是你在工作室的随意的实验产品，还是在你创作的开始你总是有些特别的想法和思路？
They all came from the idea of mutualism whichdescribes the ecological interaction between two or more species where each species has a net benefit. Animals, minerals and plants from nature visited my canvas repetitively. A conch, a fern, and a lizard’s tail, all curve in the same fashion.My paintings sew up the reality together with the imagined world. They mix the real world and the dreams. I’m like a symbolic writer. This reminds me of how Robert Bresson talked about his movies. He said, a movie is a journey: the actors’ performance activated its life from the screenplay, and then the films would be cut as if they were dead, and finally its screening would symbolize its revival. Art is like the romance and the weather — it can easily go wrong, though truly fascinating.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?有没有哪个主题让你特别想要加入到你的作品中，或者说触发你围绕这个主题创作作品？
I try to merge the flora and fauna and the whole life ecology in my memory. I’m inspired by the very moment of pollination, and by its power relation between the dominator and the dominated. To propagate, some of the wildlife became wrestlers, and some others evolved to be unisexual or hermaphrodite after billions of years. I am wrestling with the existing shapes and patterns in nature. I try to break through the walls of shapes. Again and again, I create ever-growing, richly nourished and self-replicating life forms. They are complicated, ever-expanding and endless.
Large or small scale canvases dilemma; are there any kind of standards that drive you to decide which surface length is better fitted for your final painting visualisations? 大尺度或小尺度画布的两难选择；有没有什么标准驱使你决定哪种表面长度更适合你最终的绘画形象？
I prefer larger canvases with a vertical layout. The shapes interwind and expand in my paintings. I try to avoid being too decorative. My brush praises strength and energy with their pure spirit and majestic will. Usually, there are one or two figures in my paintings, confronting or standing with subtle facial expressions.
Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?你有没有这样的经历：当作品完成后，还觉得作品需要改进或者更改？
It depends. Some were done very fast, and they were perfect. Some others needed lengthy work to find their critical point, even though the canvases were already full. They cried for that mysterious only way.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work? 展示你作品的最佳方式是什么？
The ideal exhibition space should be both spacious and high enough. The installation of the paintings and the lighting should be just right. My images are not those easy-to-consume ones that please the viewers. They are painted to elongate our gazes with approaches about the fractals and the figure-ground relation.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?哪些艺术家影响或启发过你？
Paul Cézanne. 塞尚。
What does your mum think about your art? 你妈妈怎么看你的艺术？
She saw my works occasionally, and she would always look for the part which was comprehendible for her. And this part was always related to cuisine. She would recognize broccoli, pea shoots and sprouted potatoes, and got excitedly happy upon my confirmation. But in fact, they are inspired by poisonous creatures that originated from the Amazon. One time, she told me to help taking care of her domestic plants since she would be away for a while. And I only remembered this task one day before her return. I put her Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) in the bathtub. Its vine stretched up like an arm along with the dripping tap. Next to the bathtub was a package of Superman laundry detergent. So I painted Bunting Superman (2019).
Which exhibition did you visit last? 你上一次参观的展览是谁的？
I rarely visit contemporary art exhibitions. It’s not because that I fear being disturbed, but they are like gums, tasteless to chew. I visit Shanghai Museum and Shanghai Natural History Museum regularly. From there I can find the nutrition I need. As Cézanne claimed, if there is only one artist in the world, it would be me.
All images courtesy of the artist
翻译、校对：顾灵 Translated and proofread by: Gu Ling