London-based Chinese artist, Xu Yang, presents her first solo exhibition ‘Therefore I Am’ in Athens.

Dio Horia Gallery is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of London-based Chinese artist Xu Yang, entitled ‘Therefore I Am’. Xu’s first solo exhibition in Greece, till June 3, 2022, is showcasing the never-ending journey of identity, passion and power.

The exhibition will be the result of the artist’s residency at Dio Horia (April 2022) and will be opening on May 4th, in the presence of the artist. Xu is planning to deliver a location-based performance during the opening of the show, sharing her extravagant, luxuriously fine aura with the audience.

With a solid background in classical composition and landscape techniques, the artist’s meticulously layered canvas is filled with luscious, thick brushstrokes, offering an end result resembling a decadent cake, directly influenced by Rococo’s elaborate ornamentation, curved lines, and a pastel colour palette that helps illustrate actions and bring fantasies to life.

Xu explores the construction of identity, from an expansive performative standpoint, relinquishing the vulnerability of a receptive feminine position and embracing empowerment. Drawing mainly from a movement traditionally dominated by women’s tastes, as well as the teachings of eminent female artists — from Elisabeth Le Brun and Anna Costa to Claude Cahun and Cindy Sherman — and drag performance, she steps away from her earlier series of faceless portraits and turns to an intimate self-portraiture that corresponds to certain archetypes anyone shall feel free to project on, thus shaping collective patterns, questioning what is real, what is fake, and what is a woman.

Sharing the same name as one of the Qianlong Emperor’s leading artists, who was recruited as a court painter in 1751, Xu Yang chooses to join in the entourage of emblematic female figures of the 18th century, such as Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour, and communicate the social & gender hierarchies shift that their power and influence represented.

While the performative post-structural aspect is found to be temporal, our core is timeless and universal, and as the artist regards her constructed identity and performance as an artwork, she makes use of manual photoshopping, in a postmodernist pastiche that brings together Instagram pop culture and stereotypes of female beauty, silicone boobs, lush dresses, hip-pads, fetish petticoats and classical sculpted busts. All-in-all, the artist’s oil paintings incorporate diverse elements to which separate groups may relate — connecting to the drag element, the queer identity, surgery & body modification, makeup, fashion or female narratives, respectively — upscaling her symbolism to universal-level status.

Starting from a place where the sex/gender distinction is collapsing, there is no “natural body” pre-existing in its cultural inscription. For, as per J. Butler, bodies are gendered from the beginning of their social existence, there is no existence that is not social, and there is no sex that is not always already gender. In this way, the artist offers an active perspective that is ultimately political, pushing boundaries, challenging & delicately directing the way the viewer experiences and interprets the phenomena that they observe.

Quoting the artist, “This show, it is my presence; behind thinking, there is a conscious construction.” Or, in other words, Creo, Ergo Sum [I create, therefore I am].

Xu Yang (b. 1996, China) lives and works in London, U.K. She received an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art (2018-2020) and a First-Class Honours BA in Painting from Wimbledon College of Arts. Xu has been the recipient of several awards; in 2019, Xu received the Highly Commended award at the Air Gallery Open and she was the winner of Barbican Arts Group Trust Artwork Open 2019. Xu’s work explores childhood fantasies, fetishes and identity, through painting, photography, and mixed media, taking history and mysticism as a starting point. Her practice is driven by a desire to ‘resuscitate’ Rococo styles and sensibilities, painting unapologetic female figures in a lavish, extravagant style. Her works have been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world and presented in various international art publications like Vogue Singapore, Elephant Magazine, Fad Magazine, and The Sunday Times Culture, among others.

Exhibition info

Xu Yang: Therefore I Am

Residency Show | Solo show

Dio Horia Athens

May 4 – June 3, 2022

Dio Horia Project Space Athens 

Mantzouraki 16, 11524,

Nea Filothei, Athens

Tel: +30 2106714827