Brush Strokes: Xiaoze Xie

“History only records a few people’s grand deeds; the voices of others merge into silence.”
-Xi Chuan

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but they don’t mention that apparently they’re also worth a thousand paintings. Well, maybe not literally a thousand, but you get the idea.

I recently visited an exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon campus of an incredible contemporary artist. His name is Xiaoze Xie.

Xiaoze is a Chinese-American artist born in Guandong, China in 1966. I’m not a big fan of giving people’s “credentials” before introducing their art. I’m one of those purists who believe one’s art should speak for itself and apart from the artist. No introductions or explanations needed.

However, I do find it interesting that Xiaoze’s first area of study at Tsinghua University in China was architecture.

Ok, so back to his actual art…

It’s amazing. There’s not much I can really say to do it the justice it deserves. Here’s a few pictures just to give you an idea:
*Note: You can pause the slideshow to allow more viewing time for each picture.

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I know what you may be thinking: “Anybody can take some pictures and call it art.” While I won’t disagree with that, if you were to see these in real person, you’d be amazed yourself. I’d attribute that mostly to the fact that these aren’t photographs at all. Each and every one is a painting.

And it takes getting about a foot or so away from one of these paintings (that measures roughly four or five feet wide by about three feet tall) to see the actual brush strokes. At any distance further than that, you feel as though you’re looking at just another collection of photographs.

He captures the detail in clarity and upon close examination, the detail is actually fuzzier than it looks.

As a writer, I appreciate all forms of art. True art. Not the self-import, pretentious crap that floods the media today. Not the vague abstractness of splotches of paint called “Light Breaking Across Darkness” that could really be construed as a three  year-old’s work. Real, true art.

And I appreciate even more (again, as a writer) the subject of these particular paintings. There’s so much power in books and the written (and printed word). And though one single painting couldn’t possibly capture all that power, much like one single literary work can’t, it is a powerful body of work nonetheless. Xiaoze Xie’s art is something akin to a Melville masterpiece or a Hemingway classic.

I’m no painter, nor do I pretend to know much at all about the subject but it doesn’t take an expert in art to know that this is about as good as it gets.

I suggest that if you ever get the chance to see an exhibit of Xiaoze Xie’s, that you take full advantage of that opportunity. It brings a whole new meaning to the art that even the most amateur among us can appreciate.


Xiaoze Xie is currently a professor at Stanford University.

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