Guan Xiao is a Chinese sculptor, installation artist, and video artist who mixes traditional Chinese ceramics and Chinese sculpted tree roots to make futuristic, anthropomorphic sculptures, based on clean industrial design. She rethinks the value of old traditional ceramics and tree roots from which wooden sculptures were made long ago. She examines cultural and generational shifts among Chinese artists and identifies the opportunity for breaking expectations that have bound her and her peers to traditional art. She juxtaposes discordant images, cultural artifacts, industrial objects, and 3D fabrications to create works that are humorous reflections on contemporary life.
Guan received her B.A. at the Communication University of China in 2006. Guan challenges expectations for social and political art. She does not feel the need to make overt political works or art that deals with social issues. For her, this kind of art is just one form of work, and – along with other artists born in the 1980s – she feels that artists need to be free from the constrictions of the past. “Everything an artist does is to express their sense of freedom.
Guan likes to sculpt with a kind of putty that is normally used for fixing cars. It is rougher than acrylic and gives texture to her sculptures, which contain elements of ready-made industrial materials, such as automobile parts. She will take a shiny, silvery handle from a motorbike and add a variation of Chinese ceramics to it. She creates conflict in her work by having a small discordant part, which doesn’t quite fit the entire piece. She wants her creations to look as if they belong to a difference civilization or as if inspired by a fairy tale world.
For her three-channel video art, she combines found footage from the Internet in a series of tableaux with several being shown at the same time. For Guan, this “fragmented reality is closer to how we actually experience life.” She uses varied materials from youtube footage and collects images on her computer. Pinterest helps her to find “happy accidents,” and she wants her viewer to focus on more than one thing and be able to take in all fragments and sink into an abstract world experience.
For her installations, she puts together a number of sets that combine audio sound and backdrops with props that often print out text messages. For these backdrops she likes to use colorful and complex patterns to make them as important as the objects in front. She finds titles that articulate her intentions in a straightforward way. Yet – like her video art – her installations are different components that do not seem to focus on any single subject. Guan tries to describe a context rather than provide a subject. For her installation “Flattened Metal” she used a video triptych to work with the narrative she composed.
Her work has been shown in varied Biennials internationally and in museums in Europe and the United States. She has had solo exhibitions in Bonn and Berlin, Germany; Beijing and Shanghai, China; FIAC, Paris, France; St. Louis, Missouri’s Contemporary Art Museum; ICA London, England; and K11 Art, among others.
Her work is in the permanent collections of Museum Ludwig in Cologne; M+ Collection in Hong Kong, Rubell Family Collection in Miami, New Century Art Foundation in Beijing, China, among others.