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Press Release

Shifting Fields: Contemporary Chinese Painting

Image credit: Damon Casarez

Shifting Fields: Contemporary Chinese Painting brings together a diverse group of works by ten accomplished and promising artists from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. 

鄭農軒 CHENG Nung-Hsuan

鄭帛囪 CHENG Po-Tsung

蔡鈺娟 CHOI Yuk-kuen Bouie

鄧大非 DENG Dafei

方梓亮 FONG Tsz-leong Argus

郝量 HAO Liang

黃海欣 HUANG Hai-Hsin

邬建安 WU Jian'an

闫珩 YAN Heng


Throughout the 20th century and until today, the primary sources of influence in Chinese art had been traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy, the tradition of realism (including Socialist Realism), and Western modernist art. Spanning multiple genres and incorporating unconventional materials, the forty-nine works on view offer but a glimpse of the concerns and talents of young artists working within and beyond both Chinese and Western painting traditions. “The artists in the exhibition are standouts whose philosophy of and approach to painting made strong impressions on me. Together they represent a younger generation who deserves to be known, seen, and discussed widely,” reflects curator Xiaoze Xie, the Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Professor of Art at Stanford University. 

Stanford Art Gallery at Stanford University

January 30 - March 15, 2024

Opening Reception: February 2, 3 - 5pm


Taipei-based painter Cheng Nung-Hsuan 鄭農軒 invents a fantastical world based on iconic compositions of Western classical paintings. His “Classical Tales” series could be seen as an allegory of painting as a medium, which since the 19th century has repeatedly been declared as “dead”. Cheng’s animated brushstrokes in bright colors become lively and playful creatures, which grow from the painting’s figurative images and then in turn cannibalize their origins. Cheng’s paintings are paradoxically classical and Pop, nostalgic and naughty at the same time. 

Taiwanese artist Cheng Po-Tsung 鄭帛囪 takes a more introspective and reductive approach in his diaristic small works on paper, with suggestions of fleeting moments, fading memories, ambiguous spaces, persisting loneliness, and lingering moods. Presented as a group, these modest paintings could be interpreted as phrases or lines from a poem, forming disjunctive montages that follow a stream of Cheng’s constantly changing psychological and mental states. Cheng’s choice of the diminutive partly arises out of his habit of drawing in cafés and other urban spaces. 

Both Fong Tsz-leong 方梓亮 and Choi Yuk-kuen 蔡鈺娟 grew up in Hong Kong, a highly developed cultural and financial hub that is built upon lush, subtropical islands. In different mediums and styles, Fong and Choi blend observation of the metroplex and nature with imaginary elements, creating melancholic and poetic paintings of ambiguous spaces. Relying on his imperfect memories of meandering walks through the city and its suburbs, Fong’s oil paintings of deserted wastelands are expressive, intense, and haunting. Turbulent linear strokes and repetition of forms lend his paintings a musical quality. Choi integrates the vocabularies of traditional Chinese painting—lines done in the meticulous painting style (gong bi) and wash using freehand brush painting (xie yi)—to create lyrical and complex, at times disorienting pictorial spaces. The format of her paintings brings to mind Song Dynasty landscapes. Instead of using paper or silk as the substrate, Choi’s paintings are made on reclaimed wood panels that have a distinctive surface texture, giving her works the grounding presence of an object. 

Deng Dafei 鄧大非 draws from the history of Chinese painting but takes a different approach. His works on paper, “Project of Ruin”, are based on the eighteen formulaic styles of linear drawing (shi ba miao) in classical Chinese painting which was summarized during the Ming Dynasty. But Deng’s processes are rooted in contemporary social practice, where he actively engages urban spaces and people in the communities. To make his works, Deng first selected demolition sites at the outskirts of big cities, such as Beijing and Wuhan, found fragments of collapsed cement or brick walls, then carved lines into the surfaces to create portraits of individuals from the physically dismantled neighborhood. From these he made rubbings on xuan paper—a time-honored technique that artists have used for millennia to make prints from stone steles. Deng’s work engages with the urbanization and social transformations of China, bringing us back in direct contact with a changing reality.

Trained in traditional Chinese painting from a young age, Hao Liang 郝量 directly uses conventional materials such as ink and color on silk as well as traditional techniques, with an unmistakably contemporary sensibility. He takes a personal approach to imagery, having developed a highly distinctive style that is surreal, psychological, and poetic. His landscapes and figurative paintings are refined compositions with vast space and sometimes microscopic details, extremely low value contrast, and nuanced colors. References to classical themes and motifs in Chinese art and literature abound in his works. Hao combines these disparate elements to construct an ambiguous, remote, quiet yet unsettling imaginary mental world. 

US-educated Taiwanese artist Huang Hai-Hsin 黃海欣 is a keen observer who portrays mundane everyday life—such as scenes of body-building training and tourism—with unique stylization through simplification and exaggeration. With a Pop or perhaps folk sensitivity and almost childlike directness, her paintings are bold, striking, and humorous, capturing the alienation, irony, and absurdity of banal contemporary life turned into artificial spectacles. 

Beijing-based Wu Jian’an 鄔建安 is an artist working in a variety of mediums including painting, collage, sculpture, and installation. He has long been interested in transforming elements in Chinese folk art into complex compositions that create narratives and re-interpret mythologies. His recent work combines the vocabularies of contemporary abstraction with a folk art sensibility. His paintings in the exhibition display dense collages of marks extruding vibrant energy with dynamism and speed in an ever-expanding field. In the works of both artists, painting is not just a medium. It is also the subject that has come back to life and taking center stage, as if to assert the continued vitality of painting today. 

Yan Heng 閆珩 is a mixed-media artist and virtuosic painter with rigorous training in classical oil painting. Yan combines everyday objects and materials into his paintings, and adds texts or symbols to images, creating works that are part painting, part assemblages. He draws with great ease and fluidity from iconic images in the history of art and literature, as well as images from contemporary popular culture, to create hybrid narratives. The mediated images and the quotidian use of the medium of painting and its aesthetics suggest a different time and space removed from reality, and a psychological distance. In Yan’s familiar yet estranged world, one finds some recurring themes: ever-growing consumerism, forceful instilling of knowledge, and dialogues between life and mechanical forms, between instinct and intellect, between reality and fiction. 

Based in Shanghai, Zhang Ke 張珂 achieves a distinctive pictorial language through juxtaposition and re-construction of visual elements; her paintings are situated between the figurative and the imaginary or abstract. She combines intimate observation of natural and artificial objects with decorative elements to create visual metaphors that suggest the human body and femininity, at times subtly evoking a sense of potential violence and harm. Beneath the pleasurable surface of intricate patterns with lush brushworks, textures, and colors, there are palpable psychological undercurrents of anxiety, loss, anguish, and pain.  


Xiaoze Xie received his Master of Fine Art degrees from the Central Academy of Arts & Design in Beijing and the University of North Texas. He has had solo exhibitions at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ; Knoxville Museum of Art, TN; Dallas Visual Art Center, TX; Modern Chinese Art Foundation, Gent, Belgium; Charles Cowles Gallery, New York; Chambers Fine Art, New York; Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco; Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto; China Art Archives and Warehouse, Beijing; Gaain Gallery, Seoul; among others. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art at the China Institute Gallery in New York and Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the traveling exhibition Regeneration: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the US.  Xie’s exhibitions have been reviewed in “The New York Times”, “Art in America”, "Art Asia Pacific", “Art News”, “Chicago Tribune”, “The Globe and Mail”, and “San Francisco Chronicle”. His work is in the permanent collection of such institutions as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Art, and the Oakland Museum of California. Xie received the Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2013), Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2003) and artist awards from Phoenix Art Museum (1999) and Dallas Museum of Art (1996). Xie is the Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Professor of Art at Stanford University. 


Shifting Fields: Contemporary Chinese Painting was generously sponsored by the Department of Art & Art History, Zeng Ming Family Fund for Contemporary Chinese Art at Stanford University, and S&R Star LLC. 

We are grateful for the unfailing support of Deborah Cullinan, Vice President for the Arts; Mimi Wai, Senior Director of Finance and Administration; Lisa Boissier, Director of Finance and Operations; Pavle Levi, Department Chair & Osgood Hooker Professor of Fine Arts; and Richard Vinograd, Christensen Fund Professor in Asian Art. 

We thank Gabriel Harrison, Associate Director and Curator, Galleries & Exhibitions; JiaJing Liu, Assistant Curator; Daniel Brickman, Preparator; Andrew Catanese, Preparator; Julianne Garcia, Events & Communications Manager; and the talented student staff at the Stanford Art Gallery for their dedication to realizing this exhibition.


Stanford Art Gallery 

419 Lasuen Mall

Stanford, CA 94305

T: (650) 723-3404

Monday - Friday

11:00am - 5:00pm 



Constructed in 1917 with Thomas W. Stanford’s donation of $80,000, the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery was the first building to anchor a planned library quadrangle just east of the University’s center. The Stanford Art Gallery was built to house a collection of the donor’s paintings and to create a strong cultural presence close to the main quadrangle. The Gallery distinguishes itself in style from both the Green Library and the original Richardsonian quadrangle: it is more overtly Medieval than Spanish Colonial Revival in design, and features elaborate detailing in the moldings and columns.

Now administered and curated by the Department of Art & Art History, the Gallery functions as a dynamic teaching and learning resource for faculty, students and guest artists where best practices for exhibition and curatorial development, experimentation, and innovation take place.


The Department of Art & Art History is an interdisciplinary department offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in art history, art practice, film and media studies, and documentary film. Department courses offer opportunities for students to gain enhanced understanding of the meaning and purpose of the arts, their historical development, their role in society, and their relationship to other disciplines in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, including literature, religion, music, history, anthropology, biology, and computer science. Work in the classroom, museum, and studio is intended to intensify visual perception of the formal and expressive means of art, to encourage insight into a variety of technical processes, and to deepen engagement with, as well as interpretation of, works of art, architecture, film, design, and visual culture.

Opening of new exhibitions is an integral part of the programs, research, and curricula of the Department of Art & Art History. High-quality exhibitions are presented by the department to engage the university and wider community in stimulating dialogue facilitated by historical and contemporary visual language and culture.

Stanford sits on the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Ohlone people. Consistent with our values of community and inclusion, we have a responsibility to acknowledge, honor, and make visible the University’s relationship to Native peoples.


Julianne Garcia

Events & Communications Manager

juggarci [at] (juggarci[at]stanford[dot]edu)