Installation View of Whimsical Maze, © The FQM
Whimsical Maze 清妙奇踪, the inaugural North American solo exhibition of contemporary female artist Zhang Xiaoli, traces the poetic experiments of Eastern aesthetics intertwined with scientific concepts. Using the gentle and delicate technique of fine brushwork on silk and paper, Zhang Xiaoli constructs ethereal and wondrous parallel worlds, narrating realms of free interest amidst distortions and imagination. The exhibition is currently on view at Fu Qiumeng Fine Art at 65 East 80th Street, New York.
View of the Opening for Whimsical Maze, © The FQM
Zhang Xiaoli seeks to transcend the inherent forms of traditional Chinese painting within the contemporary art scene. She integrates concepts such as LEGO components, puzzle games, box and containers, scientific themes, and mysticism, building a multi-dimensional spiritual landscape and a space of interweaving, overlapping, and looping that crosses the boundaries of East and West. Viewing her works is like stepping into a fantasy world, where different elements are intertwined and combined, building a parallel universe that transcends time and space through multiple planes. The traditional Gongbi technique, elegant gardens, and the symbolic components from traditional paintings are juxtaposed with Western scientific experiments and philosophy, exploring the spatiality and relationships between objects. The two-dimensional surfaces present multi-dimensional depth, thereby breaking traditional notions of flatness.
Installation View of Whimsical Maze, © The FQM
Xiaoli’s works display diversity, openness, and introspection. They trace back to the common origins within the frameworks of historical and cultural knowledge and artistic systems, deconstructing and reshaping a unique visual language exclusive to her. Through the meticulous layering and repeated shading, Xiaoli presents a new form of environment that is light, serene, simple yet profound. She examines scientific theories and their specific imagery—such as topology and quantum mechanics, among others—and how they change the way people imagine the world, then looks back at cultural classics to inspire new creations. The tight logic of science and the emotional innovation of art overlap and intertwine, constructing a scenery with a unique sentiment, narrating the modern innovation and poetic beauty rooted in Chinese tradition amidst fleeting glimpses.
Scholar's Rock, 80x40cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2016
The Dawn, 32x85cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2022
Infinite Loop, 90x160cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2023
Mountain Villa of Embracing Beauty, 200x120cmChinese ink and colour on paper, 2022-2023
On view through February 3rd, Whimsical Maze is an odyssey through Zhang Xiaoli’s artistic journey in three phases: the ‘LEGO Landscape’ series from 2014 reflects her explorations during her student days, extracting the symbolic aspect of traditional Chinese paintings from the Qing Dynasty’s ‘The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting’. By replacing traditional landscape components with LEGO pieces, she constructs a light-hearted, playful, and ancient-styled unique landscape, engaging in a contemporary Western Pop dialogue with tradition, proposing new concepts and understandings of classical Eastern landscapes.
Landscape, 56x45cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2023
Box Unlimited, 39x39cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2023
The ‘Boxed Landscape’ series, starting in 2015, incorporates her experiences living in Hong Kong, depicting and capturing abstract things collected by consciousness, ranging from fragments of memory and experience, conceptual landscapes, to concepts related to alchemy, molecular biology, and geometry. Seemingly unrelated fragments form distant yet tight connections, moving between boundaries and infinity, creating ambiguous links and self-contained situations. The ‘Mysticism’ series, starting in 2019 after she moved to Beijing, represents her creative explorations. In the immersion of landscape traditions, she began to contemplate the universal laws beyond the concrete, exploring the gathering and separation, transformation, and generation of objects, merging natural elements such as water, fire, wood, and stone, and using the Möbius strip to symbolize their infinity, continuity, and complexity, constructing a world of unconventional experiments. These works are not only a testament to her personal growth and exploration but also symbolize the juxtaposition of reality and ideals, and the mazes and portals across multiple dimensions of time and space, leading viewers into one mysterious and profound fantasy realm after another.
The Enigma of Time, 150x65cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2022
The Energy Ladder, 213x120cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2023
II Mobiüs II, 70x40cmChinese ink and silver on silk, 2023
The Blue Rock, 52x58cmChinese ink and colour on silk, 2023
About the Artist
Zhang Xiaoli (b.1989, Guizhou) is a multidisciplinary artist blending traditional Chinese ink painting techniques with playful and contemplative elements. Her work, including paintings, drawings, and prints, uniquely merges classic landscapes and ancient games with modern science and its mystical counterparts. Her eclectic choice of subject matter partly stems from her unique experience at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she majored in both Fine Arts and Biology. She also received an MFA degree from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China in 2021. Zhang Xiaoli’s works are exhibited around the world. Important exhibitions include “Zhang Xiaoli: Spectacular at the Tannhauser Gate” at Zhejiang Art Museum in 2023, the 13th National Art Exhibition in 2019, the “Beijing Youth Art Biennale’’ held at the Today Art Museum in 2016, the “Senses” exhibition at the University Museum of Hong Kong in 2015, and the “Fresh Trend” exhibition at the Hong Kong City Hall in 2014. In recent years, Zhang Xiaoli has held solo exhibitions in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Taiwan, and launched her inaugural North American solo exhibition at Fu Qiumeng Fine Art in New York. In 2023, FQM presented her latest work “Water” at the 2023 United Nations Chinese Language Day Exhibition “The Highest Virtue Resembles Water (上善若水).” The same year, she was honored with the “Liu Kuo-Sung Ink Art Award” and became the first female award recipient.
About the Exhibition
Zhang Xiaoli: Whimsical Maze
Dates: January 4th – February 3rd, 2024
Venue: Fu Qiumeng Fine Art
Address: 65 East 80th Street, Ground Floor, New York, NY 10075
Courtesy of the Artist and Fu Qiumeng Fine Art.