China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

“The route was lost. And no one ever found the way there again,” Tao writes.

Xu says: “I think this sym­bol­izes how we yearn for an ideal world that is, how­ever, fur­ther away from us. It seems to me that a truly ideal world only ex­ists in each per­son’s mind, or through cre­ative pro­cesses, like kids play­ing with build­ing blocks.”

Xu has pro­duced a minia­ture land­scape in which it seems peo­ple can live and play, but which, in re­al­ity, is im­pos­si­ble to en­ter.

“It’s a space in be­tween two-di­men­sional paint­ing and re­al­ity — a 2.5D ef­fect,” says Xu, who has cre­ated a dream­like am­bi­ence, with mist, cute lit­tle houses and the sounds of birds and in­sects, along with del­i­cate light ef­fects.

He col­lected nine types of stones from five spe­cial places in China to cre­ate his site-spe­cific in­stal­la­tion. The big­gest stone he used is about 1.8 me­ters high.

Xu says th­ese stones re­flect tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing styles and rep­re­sent a close con­nec­tion with na­ture.

“My ideal liv­ing space epit­o­mizes Trav­el­ing­totheWon­der­land Un­til March 2. Vic­to­ria and Al­fred Mu­seum South Kens­ing­ton, Cromwell Road, Lon­don. har­mony with na­ture, ap­pre­ci­a­tion of ev­ery­thing we’ve been given, and grat­i­tude for life and all its bless­ings. My ideal space does not de­stroy or change any­thing,” he says.

Tra­di­tional crafts and tech­niques co­ex­ist with con­tem­po­rary con­cep­tu­al­ism in this Chongqing-born and Bei­jing-raised artist’s pieces, and in this work he pays par­tic­u­lar ho­mage to an­cient Chi­nese artists.

“An­cient Chi­nese artists drew in­spi­ra­tion from per­son­ally ob­serv­ing rocks and trav­el­ing in the midst of na­ture,” Xu says.

“Put a stone on the ta­ble, and our an­ces­tor artists could have many rev­e­la­tions about beauty, rhythm and the nat­u­ral spirit from such sim­ple ob­ser­va­tions. It is not a jux­ta­po­si­tion, but a true in­ter­nal con­nec­tion be­tween Chi­nese tra­di­tional paint­ing ( shan­shui, or land­scape) and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

Xu con­sid­ers Trav­el­ing to the Won­der­land his most chal­leng­ing in­stal­la­tion, in terms of method­ol­ogy. He al­ways en­cour­ages view­ers to dis­cover ev­ery pos­si­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his art. He de­lib­er­ately pro­vokes dis­parate read­ings by play­ing on the mul­ti­plic­ity of mean­ings, like a poet. But Xu also re­sem­bles an engi­neer. His works, which com­bine pow­er­ful cul­tural icons with emo­tion­ally laden is­sues, are ma­chines for gen­er­at­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

“I think both po­ets and artists must play on the mul­ti­plic­ity of mean­ings,” he says.

“I be­lieve any good piece of art should bring peo­ple to a new place, give them a whole new ex­pe­ri­ence. And ev­ery new tech­nique used in art should bring view­ers to a new place. The ques­tions are why is it im­por­tant and how to achieve it.”

The con­cepts of trans­for­ma­tion, re­gen­er­a­tion and rep­e­ti­tion play key roles in Xu’s work. Asked why th­ese as­pects be­long so closely to his vi­sion, he poses a ques­tion: “How do artists in­spire view­ers by al­ter­ing their per­cep­tion, and by what method? I like to start from the most or­di­nary sub­ject mat­ter that peo­ple ex­pect the least from. A lit­tle change to th­ese things will trig­ger suf­fi­cient re­ac­tion and aware­ness.

“Trans­form­ing lan­guage chal­lenges the fun­da­men­tal el­e­ments of our think­ing pat­terns, the cog­ni­tive struc­tures of the mind.”

In con­junc­tion with the in­stal­la­tion, Xu is also pre­sent­ing Tao Yuan­ming’s clas­sic text through the form of his New English Cal­lig­ra­phy, “as an echo to my in­stal­la­tion work”, he says. The workon-pa­per dis­play re­lated to Peach Blos­som Spring is fea­tured in Room 44 at the V&A Mu­seum. Con­tact the writer at sun­dayed@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

Xu says his ideal liv­ing space epit­o­mizes har­mony with na­ture.

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