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Supporting Young Talent | Zhang Xiaoli
July 14, 2020

Supporting Young Talent | Highlight and support the Hong Kong-based artists under 35 nominated by ART Power HK's Partners.

Nominated by Alisan Fine Arts

About Zhang Xiaoli (b.1989)
Zhang Xiaoli, a prominent emerging female artist working in Hong Kong and Beijing, is famous for her contemporary depictions of landscape and found objects, which create a dynamic dialogue with Chinese tradition. She received her BA with first honours in Fine Arts and Biology in 2014 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. During the graduation show, she received Y.S Hui Fine Arts Award and Wucius Wong Creative Ink Painting Award. She is now pursuing graduate study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. 

She got her inspiration from the Cabinets of Curiosities (Wunderkammer, 15-18th century), incorporates concepts related to astronomy, physics, physiology, molecular biology and even mathematics and represents wisdom, poetry and beauty. 

She had two solo exhibitions in 2019 in Taipei and in 2020 in Beijing and her work has been included in group exhibitions and international art fairs around the world.

Her recent important group exhibitions include Youth Will: Beijing Youth Art Biennale, Today Art Museum, Beijing, 2016 and Fresh Trend, Hong Kong City Hall, 2014. Her works have also been exhibited at several international art fairs including; Ink Asia 2017; Off Course Art Fair 2015, Brussels; and Fine Art Asia 2014, Hong Kong. Alisan included Zhang in the 2017 group exhibition Desiring: Post 97 Hong Kong Ink Art; the 2018 women's exhibition HOPE; and with sell-out success at Art 021 (2018,2019) and Art Basel HK (2019).

Artist Statement

“Landscape and flora of the nature are the real scene, while landscape from one’s mental status, expressed by coordination of his spirit and the hand movement is the virtual scene.” Essays in Tianyong Studio, by Fang Shishu

Traditional Chinese landscape paintings combine real scene of the nature and the virtual scene from the artist’s spirit. It is a philosophical practice to pursue the internal principle among everything – The everlasting Dao. 

At the present time, people’s visual experience relies less and less on real scenes, landscape painting becomes more a practice on expressing the virtual scene of the artist mental status. For me, this idea gives me inspiration on how to depict the “spiritual landscape” of our era.

In contrast to ancient people, nowadays we receive a great many new visual elements created by science and technology, including images generated by theoretical hypothesis, apparatus observation and data analysis. Some examples are molecular structure, Ultrasonic images, wormhole models etc. These images have been so widely spread that they have become bridges for us to approach these abstract ideas. Being referred and re-imagined, we not only rationally understand these ideas but also build emotional connections with them. Concepts behind them gradually become constituent of our perceptions towards the world. These phantom images turn into meaningful symbols, therefore becomes composition of the “spiritual landscape” of our era.

Meanwhile, because of information explosion, we experience collision among ideologies more frequently. This situation is quite similar to that of 15-18th centuries, when the Europeans started to explore the unknown part of the world through maritime navigation. Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosity, developed during that era, was used to display articles collected from different places, representing various understandings on history, geology, culture and religions. Today we also own such Wunderkammers - though not in reality. We collect virtual objects such as concepts and symbols to fill a virtual cabinet, containing, bacteria cells, waves, black holes etc. Like traditional Wunderkammer, these virtual wunderkammers reflect our attempts to explore and understand the world we are living in.

My works were mainly inspired by the above views. Starting from “landscaped in the boxes”, I try various ways to depict virtual collections in our mind. 

Boxes created an enclosed space. It also created boundaries and limits. Objects inside the boxes was isolated and carefully taken care. It was a little debris that happened to be noticed by the collectors. Like a freeze-frame, it served as an implication of the whole hidden story. The container itself also deserves careful observation, as it isolated the object inside, but also implied the connection of it to the outside. Size, texture, labels, numbers etc – All these characteristics worked as clues on how the collector interacted with the object inside.

Moreover, when several of these containers were put together, fragments started to link with each other. Loose connections were able to be made with attempts to build a perception of the whole new story. This is very interesting to me, thus becomes my impulsion of creation.

Selected Work

Way of Seeing, 2019
58 x 58cm
Chinese ink and colour on silk

The Whisper of Stones, 2019 
40 x 20 cm x 2
Chinese ink & colour on silk

The Lake, 2019 
53x53cm 
Chinese ink & colour on silk

The dimension of Space and Time, 2019
148x68cm 
Chinese ink & colour on silk


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