Pandora’s Candy Box
Full of tempting surprise and good wishes, yet veiled with warnings of over- indulgence ‘Pandora’s Candy Box’ is an exhibition of honeyed oil paintings by artist Xu Yang. Xu paints and performs dream-like fantasies into existence. The artist constructs an identity that allows her to act with free will, entirely unrestrained and instinctively responsive to things that bring her pleasure. She uses her body to convert illusions into reality: art into life. Xu is motivated by the thought of her audience projecting themselves onto the canvas, and situating their lives into her alternate realm. This reality is sickly-sweet, lavish and time defiant: the artist’s paintings speak blatantly to the Rococo, yet are very comfortable within the context of now, in this new digital age. Xu Yang’s dynamic subversion of the classics captures shifts in history.
Xu makes parallels with the frivolous nature of the 18th Century Rococo style, and the millennial/ Gen Z tendency to turn “life into stage play” via public platforms such as Instagram. Xu’s screen-sized paintings of 6x6cm make direct reference to its digital format. The resultant artworks are challenging yet playful, and a hypnotic treat for the eyes and mind. By taking the stage: literally and metaphorically, and depicting women from a female perspective, Xu overthrows the male gaze and reclaims complete autonomy.
The exuberant use of sensual and curving forms, and inclusion of natural motifs makes apparent Xu’s Rococo influence. Clear is the impassioned relationship between the artist and the paint; Xu’s brushstrokes are tender yet emanate confidence and intention. She also facilitates with care, the relationship between the paint and the fabric onto which it is laid. Xu revels in the spreading of the buttery oil paint onto the linen, which she compares to “applying icing onto a cake – sickening but delicious.” The artist releases the discipline and restraint that buried the once unruly Rococo. Arguably such restraints are still imposed today against things that are considered to be outside of the social norm. Xu’s paintings are overtly romantic, celebratory and transgress with fluidity, yet do not ignore these underlying tensions.