Interview with Xuhong Shang

Xuhong Shang

7270915_origXuhong Shang was born in Shanghai, China. He received his B.A degree in Painting from Shanghai Teachers University, his M.A degree in painting from Illinois State University and his M.F.A degree in Painting from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He has exhibited his art work at such venues as the Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Connecticut; Contemporary Art Museum in Baltimore; Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, Illinois; Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan; Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai; Fine Arts Museum in Kumamoto; Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago; Sotheby’s in Tel Aviv, Vienna and Chicago; Plum Blossoms Galleries in Hong Kong, Singapore and New York City; Leda Fletcher Gallery in Geneva; Hua Gallery in London; Contrasts Gallery, Eastlink Gallery and Stir Gallery in Shanghai.

Expose: Let’s talk about the reason you decided to become an art professor.

Xuhong: To me, being an art professor is not really a decision. Rather, a life-long experience.  From the very beginning, I attended a teacher’s university in Shanghai and naturally, I became an educator.  Then, after years of teaching, I felt that teaching is quite a spiritual job, capable of passing your thinking and your ideas, onto younger artists. You pass suggestions or ideas to another person, who will eventually also pass ideas onto someone else. Which, makes (teaching) feel like a spiritual practice, that’s why I like teaching.  I like to see younger artists succeeding after my teaching and learning from my studio.  On the other hand, I feel that teaching is a rewarding job because you’re working with younger artists, I feel really influenced by their energy and new way of thinking, to push my work into a new direction.

Expose: What made you decide that you want to do art?

Xuhong: Oh, this probably started when I was very young.  In my teenage years, there was a Cultural Revolution period in China and there were not that many choices. We don’t have the opportunity to study math or sciences.  We didn’t have TV or that kind of fun thing around. However, I lived in a neighborhood with highly educated people and also, my family knew some of artists, musicians, and professors.  My parent worried about me going out on the street looking for trouble, so if I have something to study at home, they liked that. So, this is why I study the arts and, as soon as I started studying the arts and reading a lot of books, I felt that life was much more interesting and more colorful.  Involved with art practice was an amusement of my childhood and was a way to enjoy life.

Expose: So, Are there any artists who influence you?

Xuhong: There are many artists who have influenced me. For the past 20-30 years, every period of time, there have been some artists whom influences me, but generally speaking, no one has influenced me for very long, except for one great artist who really influences me.  He is a US/Chinese architect I.M. Pei.   When I look at his “international style” building, especially his glass-well buildings around Chicago, the glass-well is almost like a mirror reflecting the sky and lake Michigan, I was realized how important his Chinese tradition has greatly influenced on his thinking. He was a hero for me to follow, to create something for everyone with no language, religion and geographic limitation.  Every time I go to China, I always look for a chance to go to City of Suzhou, to visit Suzhou Museum was designed by I.M. Pei, a small museum but very significant museum based on his thinking, he has adopted postmodern language to create a contemporary museum, but with local culture imagery into his museum. The museum has become a piece of art and a culture symbol of Suzhou. This is why he is the person who has influenced on me longer then anyone.

Expose: So, can you talk about what you think the difference is between Chinese modern art and American modern art?7896808_orig

Xuhong:  American modern art has a great consistency, (it is) logical. (You) can go through all of modern art history and everything is established by logical-ness.  In China, there was a great gap between 1950 to 2000, there was no modern art for almost 50 years.  Chinese Contemporary Art came from almost nowhere.  It only came from their own/Chinese Artist personal expression.  Sometimes you see their work maybe not very logical, but, on other hand, it has a freshness, an excitement, because they don’t have that much of a background in modern art. So, all they can do is to use their emotions and to use whatever they can see to understand western art and then, use their own cultural influence to their art.  Chinese art has a long way to go, there is great energy in there.  Contemporary Art in China has history no more then 20 years, but Chinese culture has more then 3,000 years civilization. This 3,000 years civilization is a priceless culture foundation and is a baseline for a lot of Chinese artists.

Expose: Could you talk about your new video work.   I saw you were working on canvas and installation. So, why did you decided to change to different medium?

Xuhong:  When I first arrived in the United States, I noticed that my academic training was very limited in China. I was training to be a realism painter and I could draw models very well and very quickly, and has excellent draftsman skill. But the training was only based on observational skill.  I realized that I have to open my mind to new process of art.  I try not to set up boundaries for my work, I don’t know what my future art work will look like and what media I will use, I would like to keep my options open, it really depends on what material will be able to best represent my concept.  So, the content is my main goal. Then, I will decide what media/material I will be using.

Expose: So, what about your new experimental exhibition in 2013 at Three River College. Would you talk about what your new work is trying to deliver?

Xuhong: At my Three River College’s solo exhibition in 2013, I tried to test my new series “Random”.  The Random series is based on the notion of uncertainty of reality of life.  After 9/11, people seem hesitant to go to the airport and worry to travel by air.  In general, our life is uncertain, you cannot predict what is in the future.  There always may be something happening different then what is expected.

Expose: What do you think how to be a successful artist?

Xuhong: The success measurement for an artist is based on individual standards.  For me, it is not how high of a price your work is sold and how  many art works you have sold. The success is a momentary issue.  Maybe you had a big show last year; maybe you had a few years of success. A great artist is one who can lifelong continue to actively express and to actively think about art.

Expose: Do you have any wise words for younger artists, like your students?

Xuhong: I have three actions to be emphasized for younger artists: active thoughts, active expression, and active aspirations for lifelong learning.

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