“I want to do away with the customary interpretation of events as being important or unimportant.”

Born 1974, Shihezi, Xinjiang. Lives and works in Beijing

Every few days for the past nine years, Xia Xing has chosen a picture from the Beijing News (Xin Jingbao) and reproduced it in oil paint, applying monochrome layers of red, yellow, blue and other colours in an approximation of the CMYK printing process. Each year’s “diary” constitutes a single work, named for the year; the 60 or so paintings are identified only by the date on which the image appeared. Normally, newspaper pictures are explained by the story they illustrate. Xia Xing’s paintings are the story. With headlines, text and captions literally cut away, the only clue to their meaning is the viewer’s memory or imagination. At the time, the events depicted were—like most events that make the news—dramatic, scandalous, horrific or sad. Now, viewing the rows of untitled scenes, all cropped to uniform size and shape, even Chinese citizens have trouble remembering what they show or why they were so important. This forgetfulness underlines the ephemerality of the human drama; the artist’s careful conversion of newsprint to objet d’art rebels against it. Xia Xing’s usual reaction to the news is a combination of powerlessness and rage, he says. His working method both re-creates this conflict and resolves it: he never knows what images the news will bring, but he also has total control over which images he will preserve. Individually they may represent comedy or tragedy, crime or heroism, triumph or disaster. Viewed together, each year’s crop of paintings resembles both a colourful collective and an ordered chaos—in a word, China.


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