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Interview Mr. Xinning Shi 石心宁

We had such a great honor to interview Mr. Shi, a world-renowned artist specialized in figurative paintings. Mr. Shi grew up in China, and currently lives in Southern California. His artwork were shown in many exhibitions both inside and outside of China. Influenced by painting styles of social realism and European, among others, Mr. Shi focused on painting iconic political or social moments with a twist by including subjects of Chinese Cultural Revolution, especially Mao Zedong, that were never actually in these historical moments.

In October, we asked Mr Shi a list of questions concerning his work, his thought process in artistic creation, and his advice to young aspiring artists. Mr. Shi patiently provided detailed responses and authorized us to show two of his art pieces on our website.

We are now gladly sharing with you the interview and his hand-picked paintings. Please enjoy!

Interview Part I

Painting: Performance

Interview Part II

Painting: Expectation

Interview Part III

Part I

Question: From your perspective, what influence does art have on society and culture? 



Answer: Art is a physical representation of human thought, and it has a certain characteristics of forward-looking in the social development process. From my perspective, the impact of art on society is mainly reflected at the spiritual level, real but hardly expressible, and mostly indirect, rather than direct.

Question: To what extent has your life and work been impacted by your sociopolitical environment? 



Answer: The particular sociopolitical environment I live in has a great influence on my work, it might have even shaped my artistic creation inadvertently. This influence oftentimes evolves into one’s own idea and is then cast into the art and work, which is most likely unwitting at first and subsequently becomes quite evident. Because of that, this kind of influence is often only acknowledged and realized when taking a serious look at the past.

Question: How has your work been influenced by the different perspectives and cultures you’ve encountered? 



Answer: Logically speaking, the various cultural cognitions and artistic opinions provide me with alternative perspectives to exam and evaluate artistic work. However, when working, I prefer an unadulterated mindset, as overly multifarious thinking tends to become a distraction that should be eliminated.

Question: Why art? What do you like the most about it, or what made you pursue it? What is something you dislike about it? 




Answer: I chose painting as my passion because of the confidence I have in my ability to comprehend this art form. I used to focus on artistic expression, for the concept and story it delivers, and now I am more interested in artistic language, for the means it offers.

If there has to be some aspects of the current art society that I don’t particularly like, it would be the direction of art development guided by the "Theory of Art Evolution". I believe that the development of art, just like the evolution of life, has its own laws and paces, and to pursue change and innovation without respecting these laws and paces is rather concerning.



2010, 251 x 193 cm, Oil on Canvas


Part II

Question: Has there been a seminal experience in your life that inspires your art?



Answer: This is not a matter of a simple scenario or one or two events that dramatically affected my artistic creation. What has influenced my path in pursuing art and my style of creativity is a collection of many events and personal experiences over a long period of time.

Question: What first gave you the idea to paint Mao in impossible scenarios? 



Answer: In 2000, I planned to create some works by leveraging pictorial images of certain historical moments. When I was studying a picture with Mao Zedong in it, I got side tracked all a sudden, and imagined him in a scene where he could not have being present, which I call it as virtual situation or situational displacement. I thought this would be a fun idea, so I started to paint metamorphosed scenes.

Question: Where do you currently draw inspiration from? 



Answer: Now my creative inspiration comes more from my fascination with artistic language

Question: What memorable responses have you had to your work? 



Answer: The imageries of virtual scenes profoundly reveal something absurd or near-truth. These fabricated images are interpreted quite differently in the minds of the individual viewers, and the extent of these differences in understanding my work are most memorable to me.

Question: What is your favorite art work of your own, and of another artist? 

问: 您最喜爱的自己的作品和其他艺术家的作品是什么?



Answer: I like the series of works I created in the early 2000 the most, because they were created without any undue influences.

There are too many works by my favorite artists to name any.



2002-2003, 130 x 300cm, Oil on Canvas
Published on Washington Post in 2008


Part III

Question: How has your practice changed over time? 



Answer: It is the theme and method of my works that evolve over time, while the unique personality of my creation, however, is rather constant.

Question: How do you work (like what working patterns i.e. bursts of inspiration, working consistently stably and planned out, working nonstop until completion, etc)? 



Answer: My creation does not depend on bursts of inspiration, rather, it is quite well planned out.

Question: How do you balance art with your personal life? What has been your biggest challenge so far? 



Answer: My order of priorities is: being alive, living the life, and make arts, which are then consolidated in this order.

Question: What advice can you give to hopeful young artists starting out?



1. 善于运用逆向思维

2. 在对外探求知识和未知事物的同时,学会对内了解自己

3. 和有才华的人交流和工作

4. 选择自己喜欢的方向,用自己擅长的方式进行创作

Answer: It's hard to give advices, however, here are several areas that have benefited me based my own past experience:

1. Become good at Reverse Thinking

2. While outwardly exploring knowledge and unknown things, learn to inwardly understand yourself

3. Associate yourself with talented people

4. Choose the direction you like and create with the method you are skilled in