Shi Xinning

Artist in Residence A.I.R. - Desenzano del Garda
from 01/06/2015 to 31/08/2015


I saw your paintings and they are really interesting. I wanted to ask you: which Italian or European style influenced your painting? One could say that your painting was influenced by the second half of the 20th century, by Pop Art, magic realism, surrealism, perhaps also by metaphysics. What do you think?

Probably the Pop Art had the most influence on me. When I was in the college I already started to study the Pop Art and Gerhard Richter is probably the artist that influenced me the most, especially his interpretation of the pictures, of the photos. In his earlier days he even painted some photorealistic paintings.

True, you often use the Chinese Cultural Revolution's icons and visual themes, like the Chinese artists who were inspired by Pop Art. But you differ from Pop Art. Can you explain the reason and the significance of your inclusion of Mao Tze Tung in the painting that you create from photographs?

If you look at the works of Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns you can see that their paintings, their work is very iconic, it is graphic and iconic. When I studied the Pop Art, the Western Pop Art, and the development of the Pop Art I found an artist, an American artist named Malcolm Morley and he had a great effect on my work. His work is not just iconic, it’s like a story, like telling a story. So, that gave me a lot of inspiration for my own works. I picked up the icons from the Chinese history and I used the western way to express the story.

In many of you works you've put Mao smiling next to American actresses or famous politicians. This juxtaposition of images so far from each other cause a reaction of surprise like certain artistic works of Duchamp, and charge the composition with absurd, ironic atmosphere. In a sense we could say that you represent history in a Chinese way, creating utopian, fantastic narratives.

How would you define your painting: a photorealistic collage, a visual narrative, a painting of an invented, utopian history or a political satirical painting?

When I work on my pieces, my original intention is to create a historical moment. The historical moment seams impossible to have happened but it still makes people feel like it really did. I am trying my best to make the paintings look like a newspaper clipping. They are like newspaper photos. That’s why I put on purpose a frame on the painting so it looks like a photo from the newspapers. I want to create the history, a moment in history. When the visitors, the audiences look at the painting, it can rise their own memories, their own understanding of the history and their own imagination. That is the purpose behind my work.

How would you define your style? Fantastic pop, hyper-realistic fantastic, photographic photorealistic or how?

I’d rather categorize myself as a part of the Pop Art, I’m just one of the branches of Pop Art. My works originate from the Pop Art so I’d rather be categorized as a part of that.

You often compare your work to a film director's work. Can you explain why?

When I plan the work I make a lot of detailed preparations because I don’t want the audience to just look at this particular moment, I want them to look at this moment and think of what was going on before and what will be happening after, so it’s a sort of a story. What you see here is just a still moment in time when actually it’s a story going on. In order to create this kind of effect I take a lot of time to think about the position of the people, the light, the smiles, the expressions, the gestures, so everything is in a prefect harmony. So when people look at the painting they see a story going on and they imagine what was happening before and what’s going on here and now. I regard my job as a film director. It’s like you created a story but it’s just a fixed moment in time.