Me, We, Women

Xu Xiaoqi Bio

Born in 1994 in Xinjiang, China, Xu is a designer and print artists based in Milan, Italy. She went to Rome after graduation from high school and then she graduated with a BA in animation and illustration in Istituto di Europea di Disign. She studied print design and printmaking at Accademia di belle Arti di Bologna (Studio di Morandi), especially focused on contemporary prints and abstract graphics. Being obsession with handicrafts and learning from workshops, she extended the research and application of etching on new media. Her artist practice mainly has two orientations: the first is the combination of video art and printmaking which also involves digital graphics and 3D printing, while another branch is painting featured by orchestration of light, shadow and void. Her creative motif is inspired by an inner child who is constantly growing and changing. Xu believes both orientations are just different forms of expression, the most important thing is to concern oneself as a channel from which people can receive information freely. As an emerging artist, Xu has been invited to exhibit in CRETE, PIÈCE UNIQUE, Bologna (2020); Bologna Art Festival, Artist and Brochure Design in Gallerial di Paolo Arte, Bologna (2019); Mostra con Alessandria (2018); Fuori Salone, company in-es, Milano (2017); Galleria Seno, Milano (2017) with other young artists invited to the show. As for the recent interest, Xu said: “My interest has shifted largely to multimedia art. Recently, I have also touched upon religious theme as my self-improvement during the pandemic. I’m making an art video in the form of 3D modeling, which is called Ahead To Religion When Doing Nothing. This is my own thought about religion: could it move or guide me, or if I pass between them when I walk into any form of religion aimlessly? Besides, I continue to do digital painting because I like the effect of color blending of airbrush. It also illustrates my recent feeling, facing life more softly, going outdoors and maybe draw a picture of the city of Milan.”

title: 无题untitle, ipad procreate, 2020

Curator: The subjects of your practice are always seen as an asexual child. Can you explain more your idea and initial motivation?

Xu: About 3 years ago, I participated in a workshop, and I recognized an illustration artist. It was the first time I saw a baby as the subject of painting. The baby was not a cute or beautiful one as usual, he was a character with dark side. I was inspired by the painting. That was the beginning that I realized I need an innocent and curious prototype to explore myself in a positive way. When I first drew these images with charcoal on paper, I felt some links with them. I think mankind, just like beasts, maintained innocence and curiosity before they were tamed by the society. There were no distinguished gender and belief. The children I draw are melancholy, being left in an empty environment. They have no mouth portrayals or expressions. This is precisely what can leave room for imagination. Genderlessness is one of my choices as the scrutiny of women and adults will not appear in an asexual child. This was what I wanted to exclude at the time in order to maintain my purity.

title: 瓜Melone, chalk, pastel, 50x70cm, 2020

Curator: Some of your Child have gradually apparent sexual characters, how do you view the relation between the Child and your own identity as a female?

Xu: As I keep practicing the subject, I find that these images change most in response to my mental changes. Especially in the past year or two I have begun to depict the image of a girl. Like in this painting Melone, the girl is holding a honeydew melon and looking forward the canvas to express her inner desire. Gender began to appear in the painting was because I began to affirm my female identity. For example, I recognized and appreciated the beauty of female physical characteristics. The sensitive female body shows a sense of power in both curves and fertility. I no longer think of the fragile and hysterical side of women. I started to show women’s desire as the expression of vitality and nature. My inner child has become a girl.

title: 打破这扇窗户Break The Window, 28x28cm, olio painting,2020

Curator: Do you get influence from your mother on your art practice, life, and your own identity?

Xu: I am obsessed with Alfred Adler’s psychology and the personality prototype proposed by Carl Jung. For me, painting has a strong connection with psychological rehabilitation. When I was a child, I was far away from my mother and didn’t like hugging and being intimate. There were also various problems between her mother and her. The contradiction between these mothers and daughters tends to be a continuation and may be manifested in the relationship with different symptoms. I was afraid of these gaps. When I rethink myself in the paintings, I believe that the tensions between us is not unsolvable. I have the power to heal the continuous contradiction between three generations. We often discuss the unsolvable trauma brought by original family, but I think there is eventually a way to solve it. After I grew up, I also gradually realized how my mother has faced her own family, career and ideal self after being separated from her motherhood. All the hindsight has opened up my imagination to the inner child.

title: 窗Window, pastel, 5x10cm, 2019

“The window is a motif I have used for a long time. In my second year in Italy, my color teacher who liked me very much yet one day she was very dissatisfied with my work. She said that seeing my work was like a person looking outside through a window. I do have this very feeling deeply inside. I was the only foreigner, and I had to get along with surroundings from a foreign perspective both in culture and language. Although my life abroad is very admirable with local friends and no obstacles in language actually, I still can feel a piece of cellophane that isolates me and outer world. I think this kind of separation is not only between countries, but also exists across many identities and social roles. What I want to do is to resist it, break the “window” or let people merge together.”

title: 马戏团Ciecus, oil painting, 28x28cm, 2020

Curator: You have included rich scenes, such as playground, woods, circus, etc. Could you explain more about how your inner Child interacting with outer environment?

Xu: It’s an interesting question, because I also thought about it all of a sudden and found out that many of my scenes are related to playgrounds. Don’t you think that people like to get into the crowd ​​ when they feel loneliest? They are overwhelmed by the crowd but not connecting with anyone. The playground is a lively place where children play with friends or parents. I put the Child in an empty venue or stand in the distance to watch a performance, to manifest the sense of inner isolation. On the one hand I realized that maybe I do not belong to any community, that is very lonely. On the other hand, the inner child can gallop across the world, exploring the world with curiosity, just like a beast. Inner child can name everything and interpret everything all following her willingness.

title: 午后Afternoon, ipad procreate, 2020

Curator: I find the atmosphere in your works sometimes has tension between loneliness, softness and brightness. Can this reflect your emotion and your aspiration through painting?

Xu: Painting for me is a process of getting rid of worries. Although many of the pictures seem to be sad, what remains in my heart is bright. I read a book called The Lonely City by Olivia Laing. Tall, big windows with lights on and off at the same time without recognizing each other. This is the solitude and longlines of modern people. My loneliness emerges for a while and lies on merely one moment of visual pictures, I am still hopeful most of time. I want light, soft tones, and aroma to glint in my life.

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