“Few people would admit their worship of Western civilisation quite as blatantly as I do.”

Born 1966, Chongqing, Sichuan

Du Xia has been a factory worker as well as an advertising executive. One of his art teachers described him as the class “foreman, constantly painting giant hammers and revolutionary-looking workers”. And the fierce, unshaven figures in his paintings retain the air of the shop floor. Seen mostly from the neck up, emerging from manholes, standing amid scaffolding or hunched in basements under bare lightbulbs and exposed plumbing, they all look remarkably similar—unsurprisingly, it turns out, since each one has the artist’s own face. In Moustache (Stubble) 1 and 2 (2008) the subject’s head is bald, and the facial hair of the titles resembles metal spikes. Is this bug-eyed, frowning and apparently naked man a helpless victim, unable to escape from his windowless cell, or a powerhouse of pent-up rage? The ambiguity is what gives these paintings their eerie appeal.

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