“People often think a Chinese painting has to look a certain way. I just want people to see my paintings as they are.”

Born 1983, Yichun, Jiangxi

As well as painting, Xiao Daniu writes poetry and reads philosophy. Both have influenced his art, which refracts reality through the visual language of dreams. “I comment on society using a made-up version of society,” he says. In Salute (2009) and Sectioned (2010), the people are lined up “like slices of bread” because “in China there are always queues.” These are psychological as well as physical, Xiao Daniu adds: “People don’t really have freedom here, everyone just follows everyone else. We all act more like robots than humans.” As for the rhinoceros and the dog, “I wanted to put an animal in the picture because animals represent our inner nature, which is nice but also dangerous.” A variety of geometric shapes “suggest artificiality and the way humans are losing contact with nature. A lot of things in the world are not logical, that is why the shapes are distorted.” But Xiao Daniu would rather not explain too much. “I find many things difficult to express. And I don’t want viewers to see just symbols. I want each work to be organic, to live on its own terms.”

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