Vivid Foliage Suspends Xiao Wang’s Portraits in Uncanny Tension

A woman peers through violet tinged gingko leaves

“Portrait, October” (2022), oil on canvas, 41 x 54 inches. All images © Xiao Wang, shared with permission

Gingko leaves laced with violet, eucalyptus sprigs in blue, and ferns glowing with bright orange veil Xiao Wang’s portraits with a sense of subtle unreality. As if illuminated by fluorescent light, the oil paintings depict quiet, introspective, and intimate moments between the artist and subjects, who rest among lush plant life.

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In a note to Colossal, Wang shares that he continually strives for both contrast and balance. He has relationships with each person he paints, whether it be friends, his partner, or himself, and their real-life bonds emerge through the unearthly palettes. “I want to create an uncanny feeling through distorting natural colors and creating sharp contrast,” he shares. “That’s why there are so many dark tones against light tones, violet and red against green and blue.”

The use of vivid color also energizes the works and adds to the underlying unease and anxiety of the otherwise languid subjects, who appear suspended in daydreams and transitory states. “I think I’m trying to walk between realism and expressionism, meaning that my work is deeply based on naturalistic observations and oftentimes maximalist technique, but also heightened by expressive colors and surreal settings,” he says.

Wang, who was born in China and is currently based in New York, has a solo show slated for July at PM/AM in London, and you can find more of his work and glimpses into his studio on Instagram.


One person rests on a table while another peers into a mug against a backdrop of cacti

“Hangover” (2021), oil on canvas, 44 x 40 inches

A woman rests her head on her arms on a table with a plum tree above

“Spaced in, Space out #2” (2023), oil on canvas, 40 x 32 inches

A cat walks atop a table with a lush bouquet, a man sitting at the right edge

“Monkey Mind” (2022), oil on canvas, 58 x 44 inches

two people rest their heads on a tabletop with a taper candle burning at the center

“Passing Hours” (2022), oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Two people embrace in front a tree covered with violet tinged ivy

“Sound of Cicadas” (2022), oil on canvas, 60 x 80 inches

A man sleeps on a tabletop with orange foliage in the backdrop

“Slumber-Dusk” (2020), oil on canvas, 44 x 58 inches

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. The article Vivid Foliage Suspends Xiao Wang’s Portraits in Uncanny Tension appeared first on Colossal.


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