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Xue Feng: Seurat Studies: Monitors and Printers

27 November 2021 - 31 December 2021



Xue Feng’s paintings stem from Georges Seurat and the Pointillist painter’s scientific, rational attitude toward color separation. As a Post-Impressionist, Seurat expanded on the Impressionist tradition of using natural light to observe and describe nature; however, he also rebelled against industrial, mechanical, and design-oriented composition and accuracy. Classical painting gave nature an inherent vitality, and that ended with Seurat. In his work, Seurat transformed colors into the dots of pigment that make them up, embarking upon a rational, abstract, and structural pursuit. Fields of scattered dots allowed the light and shadow of time to flow through the crevices, creating endless variations. He influenced traditional painters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the 1880s, as well as the development of constructivism and cool abstraction. However, Seurat also separated the study of painting from art itself, which served as a source for the technical revolution. Color separation and shading techniques are remarkably similar to the principles of the additive color model used in television and computer screens. A similar rationale underpins inkjet printing. Seurat was the nineteenth century’s living inkjet printer.

Regardless of the subject depicted, his Seurat studies, monitors, and printers are games that dissolve subject matter into color, light, and shadow. They do not present an isolated event or individual; they are abstractions common to joy, sorrow, indifference, and passion, common values to all of humanity.

We need to see Xue Feng’s work in the context of Seurat, but a nineteenth-century painter like Seurat cannot sufficiently articulate contemporary issues. We need to employ the principles of printers and monitors, supported by the tone curves on the screen. By adjusting the numerical values for exposure, saturation, color temperature, tone, acutance, definition, image noise, and vignetting, humans and machines can create countless differences and changes to a picture. These possibilities help us to understand the differences between the 20 versions of the Welcoming Pine, the colors and fine brushstrokes in Xue’s images, as well as the principles and methods that produced them. Similarly, the techniques of cutting, layering, copying, and pasting help us to understand the layered spaces in his paintings, a gateway to infinite replication. Through sequencing, grid spacing, location, base, and background, we can understand the size and distribution of the images in Xue Feng’s works. Only when Seurat, monitors, and printers are combined as the basis for our viewing experience and way of thinking can he create new feelings and meanings in his paintings.

More or less beginning with Peter Doig, monitors, fluorescent lights, and inkjet printing effects began to enter painting, and what we could call “the era of digital painting” began. By 2008, Xue Feng had already started experimenting with color separation, screen colors, and printing techniques in his paintings in China. At that time, we were still mocking the excessive ornamentation and rationality of electronic images, the lack of good taste and human talent, and the absence of any painterly interest or larger subject. We complained that it fractured the great tradition of classical and modern painting, but the mode of painting with which we made a living still proudly existed after this major technological leap. However, this revolution was deadly; electronic images shook painting to its core more than any other crisis. More than ten years later, they have become essential to the new generation of artists born in the 1990s and 2000s. They grew up in a world of screens, electronic games, and printed designs; their reality is the digital image, and not printed matter or publications. They quickly forgot how to draw from life, and they use all of their second- hand colors to read second-hand reality. They accept and take pride in this change, rather than being anxious about it, even as they declare a new metaverse.


Xue Feng was born in 1973, Zhejiang, China and currently lives and works in Shenzhen and Hangzhou, China. He is recognized as a promising painter of the new millennium generation. Building upon the Rococo style, he employs riotous painterly brushstrokes and experiments with the construction of space on canvas. These individualistic explorations have made remarkable contribution to the field of contemporary painting in China.

Since recent years, Xue Feng has started focusing on the possibility of rendering a two dimensional space that could project a combination of the artist’s state of mind, artistic practice and the physical reality where he situates. To do so, Xue has become more ambitious with the use of abstraction - satiating canvases with gestural strokes and spots vertically or horizontally across the entire composition, and sometimes even practicing the Richter-style of rubbing and scrapping paint. Thus, these paintings have transcended the endeavor of mere realistic representation, arriving at the pursuit of balance in visuality.


27 November 2021
31 December 2021
Event Category:


Tang Contemporary Art
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