by Brian Peterson
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Only two months remain to see thriving Chinese artist Lui Xiaodong’s show “Hometown Boy” at the Seattle Asian Art Museum – an exhibition that captures Xiaodong’s artistic journey of turning back time to his hometown before he left to study art and became an International Contemporary Artist.
Today Xiaodong is a tenured professor in the painting department at Central Academy of Fine Arts. It’s the same place where, after turning 17, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in oil painting before continuing studies overseas at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1998 at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain.
“Hometown Boy” marks this artist’s first extended trip back to his roots.
Going home, returning to one’s origins, and re-experiencing the endless interactions with those people, that place and that time offers some solace and respite from the loneliness of the world. By “returning home” Xiodong confronts his history, pain, nostalgia, familial memory, and complex emotions from a sensitive time in his life.
“Every Chinese New Year for the last 30 years, I’ve gone back to Jincheng for the holiday. I usually meet up with a few childhood friends and we drink, eat and have fun together. All of them still live there. Some are factory workers, while others have been laid off.” Xiodong recounted.
For anyone who grew up wanting to break away and see the world, Xiodong felt exactly that; he escaped to capture the world around him through his drawings.
“Hometown Boy” is the collection and documentary of how Xiaodong’s small Chinese hometown forced him out into Beijing and the rest of the world as a renowned contemporary artist.
“Painted Words” by Tom Wolfe is the first book that Xiodong read before going to CAFA, which influenced him greatly as an artist. This book gave him insight to how artists dressed and behaved in public and in private, the different types of American artists and so on.
His work was commissioned by many museums, but the journey that Xiodong embarked on is the basis of what is on display right now at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
“Once upon a time we were hired farmhands, poor peasants, rich peasants and landlords. We were the proletariat, the working class, an army of workers and peasants. Now, we are making great strides, moving single-mindedly toward the future, becoming the propertied class, and we’ve got the bricks and cement to prove it.” Xiodong said about revisiting his hometown.
Since 2000, Xiaodong held several public exhibitions of his works. His first public exhibit was in 2000 with “Photography as Fine Art” at the Galerie Skala in Cologne, and “Portraits, Figures, Couples and Groups” at BizArt in Shangai.
Other notable public exhibits include his paintings of Yan’ Guan at Art Basel Miami in Miami, Florida (a preview of these paintings were published in Harper’s Magazine in 2011). In 2006, he exhibited “The Three Gorges Project” at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and was a part of the “Biennale of Sydney” in 2006. Other of Xiaodong’s exhibits have reached various museums across the world including Paris, the United States, and China.
“Hometown Boy” features drawings, journal entries and a documentary by Hou Hsiao-Hsien about his hometown that plays in the lobby. After traveling to exotic destinations he returns home to his roots.
“Time is the greatest art of all,” said Lui Xiodong about “Hometown Boy.”
The drawings and timeline of his journal are nostalgic not just for the artist but the viewer, giving you a blank canvas to examine your own journey down memory lane.
“Hometown Boy” shows at the Seattle Asian Art Museum (1400 East Prospect Street) now through June 29. For information about admissions, call 206-654-3100.