For his new body of work, Xiaoze Xie focuses on observations of daily life, in particular, night scenes. Fascinated by nighttime and the quiet drama of everyday life, Xie presents theatrical light, stage-like spaces, and ambiguous atmosphere and mood in a series of paintings and a new video. The subjects in Nocturnes expand on Xie’s long-standing interest in the exploration of social reality and history. Stylistically, the new works resonate with his earlier works, evoking a melancholic, poetic quality as he captures the subtle color variations found in the low light of the evening hours.
From carefully composed compositions captured with a sophisticated camera to simple snapshots taken with his iPhone, Xie’s paintings and video poetically imply some kind of social condition while documenting transition and transformation in China and other places he has traveled to. The scenes of everyday life in cities and on the edges between urban spaces and the countryside are at once familiar and strange, betraying economic and social contexts yet presenting a compassionate, sensitive perspective. The Nocturnes paintings, such as On the Sidewalk (Guangzhou) (2016) and June 4, 2000 Shantou (The Night Watch) (2008), also serve as a kind of timeline because the works are based on the accumulation of observations made during multiple visits over the course of nearly twenty years. A curious observer, Xie uses every means to constantly observe and document everyday life in still or moving images, including 35mm and medium format film cameras, Hi8 home camcorder, mini-DV digital camcorder, 5D Mark II, and, very often, an iPhone in his pocket. In his video work, the grains and varied image resolutions indicate the evolution of media and technology over the years.
The video, Night Wanderer (2017), is a dreamlike, non-narrative montage of scenes of daily life, based on footage shot from 2000 to 2017 during Xie’s travels to China, including his home province of Guangdong. Street food stands, hair salons, demolished night clubs, late night welders, amorphous, chanting crowds, and lonely wanderers are juxtaposed to create a fleeting stream of memories and consciousness.