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The most interesting painters today are those who remain com pelled to advance the medium’s potential through experimentation and innova tion. In this regard\, Xie Nanxing(*1970\, Chon gqing\, China\; lives and works in Beijing and Chengdu\, China) is a maveri ck. “THE SECOND WHIP WITH A BRUSH”\, his solo exhibition at the Lucerne bra nch of Galerie Urs Meile presents a selection of oil paintings from three o f the artist’s recent series. Works from Xie Nanxing’s informally titled Ca nvas Print series are characterized by their stippled surfaces. Seen over t ime\, their whorls and dots of pigment give way to vivid scenes that are mu tually constructed by the artist and the viewer. Paintings from a second se ries are loosely based on illustrations found in an interior design catalog ue\, which Xie Nanxing transforms into spaces redolent with references both personal and art historical. The exhibition also features two recent “port raits\,” part of an ongoing body of work that pushes a typically convention al genre toward surprising new possibilities. Thematically\, “THE SECOND WH IP WITH A BRUSH” toggles between near-abstraction and a string of opaque\, psychologically charged narratives\, cohering around what the artist calls the “ashes” or “dust” found in every representation.

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In the many of the works on view in “THE SECOND WHIP WITH A BRUSH”\, the re are no clear references to a familiar story. Instead\, we are given clue s and forced to look hard at what unfolds before us. To generate the explod ed pointillism of the Canvas Prints\, Xie Nanxing places a panel of rough\, woven canvas between his brush and the painting\; the daubs of color that comprise the nebulous figures in the finished work are the result of paint passing through the cloth and onto the work’s surface. When the Canvas Prin ts are viewed with care\, forms begin to emerge from the ashes: the figure of the milkmaid can be made out\, and Disney’s seven dwarves appear to crea te some mischief. As in his previous work\, the scenarios are freighted wit h allusions to desire and violence\, though in their reduced state they can not spell out their conditions. Like finely drawn maps of territories long ago renamed\, they point to an elsewhere we can only imagine\, but can also be admired for their own aesthetic qualities.

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As the German cultural critic and architect Siegfried Kracauer (1889–1966) obs erved\, “Spatial images are the dreams of society. Wherever the hieroglyphi cs of these images are deciphered\, one finds the basis of social reality.” [1] For Xie Nanxing\, these hieroglyphs are etched in the fashionable room s appearing in the pages of Dazzling Colorful Home Furnishings\, a l ook book for would-be interior decorators whose images the artist has appro priated and customized for some of the paintings exhibited here. These work s are not “about” the tastes of China’s nouveau riche. Instead\, Xie Nanxin g investigates how even the most innocuous pictures are crawling with symbo ls and associations\, including the cherished fantasies of the artistic ava nt-garde of the early 20th century. Hence the irony implicit in the title < i>Improvisation 500 (Oblivion) (2011\, oil on canvas\, 190 x 290 cm) th e title of which alludes to the Russian artistic pioneer Wassily Kandinsky’ s Improvisations—a large\, numbered series created marked by a spontaneity meant to counter the materialism of everyday commodity culture.

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Xie Nanxing’s portraits reveal new possibilities for one of p ainting’s most traditional forms. Rather than creating a carefully rendered likeness of his chosen subjects—a technical exercise Xie Nanxing could per form with ease—the artist offers up something far more interesting: for eac h work\, a particular person is distilled and transfigured into his or her essence. In several earlier paintings\, for example\, individuals are depic ted as Venn-like diagrams\, their qualities or thoughts translated into clu sters of interlocking circles. In his latest instalment of this evolving se ries\, Xie Nanxing uses the dramatic graphic language of film posters to ev oke his subjects. In Portrait No. 2 (2012\, oil on canvas\, 160 x 12 0 cm)\, the text overlaid onto an eerie\, forlorn office cubicle can be tra nslated to read “The Young Lady Vanishes\,” a knowing reference to the Chin ese title of Hitchcock’s 1938 classic thriller The Lady Vanishes.

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Those who have seen Xie Nanxing’s earlier works\, whether i n reproduction or in major international exhibitions such as the 48th Venic e Biennale (1999) and Documenta 12 (2007)\, can easily recall the strange b eauty of his exactingly executed canvases\, which seldom tell us anything d irectly but leave us with a great deal to consider. If his recent paintings don’t look like the previous ones\, this is because Xie Nanxing refuses to lapse into a signature style. With the new paintings on view in “THE SECON D WHIP WITH A BRUSH” Xie Nanxing not only stirs the ashes of visual culture \, but also invites us to stare directly into the flames.

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Text: David Spalding

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DTEND:20130706 DTSTAMP:20140712T142205 DTSTART:20130412 GEO:47.0625196;8.3080015 LOCATION:GALERIE URS MEILE Lucerne\,Rosenberghöhe 4 \nLucerne\, 6004 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY: THE SECOND WHIP WITH A BRUSH\, Xie Nanxing UID:268683 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20130412T200000 DTSTAMP:20140712T142205 DTSTART:20130412T180000 GEO:47.0625196;8.3080015 LOCATION:GALERIE URS MEILE Lucerne\,Rosenberghöhe 4 \nLucerne\, 6004 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY: THE SECOND WHIP WITH A BRUSH\, Xie Nanxing UID:268684 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR