“I am exploring truth behind the surface of things. I believe my works should not solve problems but provoke questions.”

Born 1977, Xi’an, Shaanxi

Xu Xiaoguo is fascinated by the ways in which symbolism interacts with ordinary life. He often combines everyday imagery with symbols from Chinese or Western myth and history, using “idols” and “heroes” to “dislocate the logic of symbols” and explore “the contrast between reality and fantasy”. Many of his paintings carry traces of his love of Revolutionary model operas (yangban xi), with their “exaggerated stage sets, poses and expressions”. The title of The Correct Road (2008) refers to Maoism; in the 1960s and ’70s it was frequently contrasted with the “capitalist road”. The painting presents an athlete decked to the point of absurdity in symbols of victory—a wreath, a bouquet, a sash, a tiara, and a giant gold cup. Across her face is written, in classical Chinese, “Riding a beautiful horse along the right path.”  This proverb “refers to the correct way to success”, the artist says. “People today are confused about what success really means. Maybe we should reconsider our definition of success. Being an idol or a hero is a form of success. So is being more mature.” But in today’s chaotic culture-storm, “often we don’t know what standard to follow”.

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