Like Richter’s Fotobilder (Photopictures) Xie Nanxing’s works transfer to painting the characteristics of a mechanical means of reproduction, focusing on the importance of the medium at the expense of the subject, but even going beyond this by dissolving the image in the dynamics of the diverse artistic media brought into play. Both painters had the experience of making art under a socialist regime – Richter in the German Democratic Republic, Xie in the Chinese Popular Republic – which made them want to analyze critically and go beyond purely objective representation and its relative exploitation. This Chinese artist’s paintings elude a single interpretation. We can recognize clear details, such as a grassy surface or slender tree trunks in the background, however, this visual information is not sufficient to be able to recompose the images as definite spaces or as signs having a precise meaning. The unreal aspect of the presumed objectivity of the image, expressed through a process of transposition that culminates in the painting, is intended to belie the supposed claim to truth and clarity made by the technique.
Xie Nanxing untitled (no.2), 2006 Oil on canvas 220 x 385 cm Courtesy Goetz Collection
Xie Nanxing untitled (no. 1), 2006 Oil on canvas 220 x 385 cm Courtesy Sigg Collection
Xie Nanxing (China, 1970)
The three large oil paintings by the Chinese artist Xie Nanxing are images that look like the fragments of a mysterious garden shrouded in shadow and shot through with flashes of cold light; a nocturnal landscape that is reminiscent of an infrared picture; a shadowy environment with spotlights. It takes some time for the viewer’s eyes to adjust to the darkness of the images and to be able to see an increasing number of sharper details. These works are the result of a complex interaction between photography, video image and pictorial technique, whose respective modes of representation overlap and become hybridized. Xie Nanxing executes sketches in oil that are the starting point of a process that involves the use of different media. He films the sketches and transmits the images on a television screen. The monitor is then photographed thus capturing the reflections of the room and the artist himself as well as the transmitted image. The photograph is then transferred to canvas as an oil painting. Hence the final work is the result of interferences between the diverse technical media used and the influence of the actual room, combining the typical chromatism of the various forms of representation, the laws of optics and the different rules governing the composition and reception of an image.
Xie Nanxing untitled (no. 3), 2007 Oil on canvas 220 x 385 cm Courtesy Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, Switzerland