Deng Xinli and Xie Yi | Re-imaging cultural memory

Opening event Thursday May 3, from 5pm

Orexart, Auckland

Introducing the work of Deng Xinli and Xie Yi, two artists whose work navigates the shifting current of Chinese society, politics, and economy, while maintaining a connection to the country’s deep cultural roots.

Part of a new generation of Chinese artists deeply affected and influenced by the country’s recent and ancient history, Beijing-based Deng Xinli and Xie Yi’s powerful figurative paintings engage highly traditional methods to communicate thoroughly contemporary ideas about art and culture in China today.

Deng Xinli and Xie Yi met as classmates at the renowned Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and, frustrated by the constraints of the institute’s focus on technique, they travelled together to Auckland to expand their horizons and further their study, each completing a Fine Arts Degree at Whitecliffe College of Art and forming strong bonds with Auckland’s art community.

Over the past 10 years, both artists have shown extensively in China, taking part in solo and curated exhibitions at galleries and fairs in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai and Taipei. This occasion marks the first exhibition of their work together in New Zealand.

The work of both Deng Xinli and Xie Yi is deeply rooted in tradition and rich in cultural signifiers. Figures drawn from ancient myths, or conjured from legends, form the strongly symbolic heart of much of the subject matter, but manifest themselves in their paintings in different ways.

The exploration of complex ideas from multiple cultural perspectives has long played a prominent role in Deng Xinli’s life; his father is the adopted son of Rewi Alley, the famous Canterbury-born revolutionary political activist, teacher, poet and member of the Communist Party of China.

Deng Xinli’s work might be described as a critical fantasy. His complex and surreal compositions combine his academy-honed, technical skills with wry observations of post-socialist contemporary culture in China. The large painting ‘The Lady of the Moon’ offers a good example, conflating the ancient legend of Chang’e, the Goddess of the Moon, with the Apollo moon-landing. In it, a Tang-dynasty jade tower coexists in time and space with a rippling American flag – suggesting a double colonisation of the night sky.

The work of Xie Yi entwines history and myth in paintings of landscapes that strongly reference traditional ink-wash paintings – familiar to the Western eye in scrolls.  Hers is an ancient meditative world, uninhabited by humans, but filled with reiki – or spirits – which are represented by the horse, a symbol associated with nobility and purity. The horses, which hover above or beyond the landscapes, are highly stylized and drawn with a naivety that emphasises their other-worldliness.

Deng Xinli and Xie Yi will be in Auckland to attend the opening of their exhibition at Orexart, 15 Putiki Street, in Arch Hill on Thursday May 3. They will also conduct an open discussion about their work and the ideas behind it, at the gallery on Saturday May 5 at 1:00pm. All welcome.


Date(s) - 03/05/2018 - 28/05/2018
12:00 am