Artist creates bewitching virtual world

Writer: Cao Zhen  | Editor: Doria Nan  | From: Shenzhen Daily | Updated: 2019-01-25

Stunning and bewitching, sometimes alien and unsettling, artworks created by Chinese artist Miao Xiaochun are on display at the "01 Simulations" exhibition at OCT Art & Design Gallery.

The exhibition, featuring acrylic on linen paintings, sketches, 3-D printed sculptures, embroidery on silk, pigment prints and animation videos, is a review of Miao's digital art creations from 2006 to 2018. Graduating from China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1989 and the Kunsthochschule Kassel in Germany in 1999, Miao's works before 2006 were mainly paintings and photography. In 2005, he became interested in digital art since he found many possibilities for creation in this form. "The reason I choose one medium over another medium is because it fits my idea better," he said.

Photos courtesy of OCT Art & Design Gallery

All the figures in his digital art creations are identical bald and naked men whose image is derived from a 3-D model of Miao himself. "These figures are a presentation of the unanimous public and the unknown identity of the artist. It conveys the confusion of the artist towards himself, the existence of body, the presence of thoughts, the material world and the society," said Li Zhenhua, curator of the exhibition.

In his early work "The Last Judgment in Cyberspace" (2006), Miao turned Michelangelo's fresco "The Last Judgment" into a black-and-white pigment print on linen, replacing each of the 400 figures in the original fresco with the 3-D form of himself. "This work was completed entirely on the computer and almost all the figures were arranged according to Michelangelo’s original composition. Replacing my own image for all the figures in the fresco effectively erased the identities of those judging and those being judged. The differences in their status no longer exist. The person who ascends to heaven is the same who descends into hell," said Miao. And the artist explained that this work was related to current international politics, especially religious and cultural conflicts.

Miao combines famous Western classical paintings with digital art to create a futuristic vision of a world. Another iconic artwork is pigment print "Microcosm" (2008), based on Hieronymus Bosch's masterpiece "The Garden of Earthly Delights." The original triptych is comprised of scenes of Eden, mankind pursuing earthly pleasures and hell. Miao not only replaced the figures with his computer-generated images, but also turned the ancient fable into a modern fable by changing its background. The original triptych was also reworked into a giant nine-panel painting.

"I would like to use our modern language to create a new set of mysteries, to metaphorically express my views about the world, my understandings of existence and death, and this is an alternative way of digging into the roots of mysteries belonging to other times," he said.

In recent years, Miao has made several animation videos of computer-generated figures moving or dancing accompanied by Bach's or Beethoven's music. "Gyro Dance" (2017) features an agglomerate of inexplicable daily motions accelerated to a manic speed. "It seemingly implies that I stay alive because of the ceaseless movements," he said.

"In this animation, 'I' was generated through 3-D scanning and then converted into a strange digital human figure through the morphing function of the software. After overlaying the figure 'I' by the software, the motions of 'mine' look absurd, which seems that an alien is staring at the values and code of conduct of human beings," Miao explained.

The background music in "Gyro Dance" is the third movement of Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 5." "Beethoven's music written 200 years ago generates a strong sense of contemporary style and futuristic atmosphere. The rapid tempo and the energy still sound thrilling today," he said.

Miao now teaches at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Besides some black-and-white paintings and videos at the exhibition, most of his other works are in bright colors. "As I can never find the answer to the eternal question of where we come from and where are we going, I decided to get closer to and immerse myself into the vibrant and magnificent nature," said Miao.

Dates: Until April 8

Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., closed Mondays

Tickets: 8-15 yuan (free on Tuesdays)

Venue: OCT Art & Design Gallery, 9009-1 Shennan Boulevard, Nanshan District (南山区深南大道9009-1号华·美术馆)

Metro: Line 1 to Overseas Chinese Town Station (华侨城站), Exit C