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Xuanbo Cao


1. Your postgraduate degree in illustration from Kingston University has been a significant part of your artistic journey. How has this academic background shaped your approach to painting and expressing hidden emotions through your art?

A: During my studies, my logical thinking became more rigorous. I questioned every detail, understanding the "why" behind each decision. I believe this forms the essential foundation for any project or painting. However, painting is often a spontaneous act, so while creating, I let go of certain fixed logical patterns, striving to achieve a balanced relationship between rationality and emotion.

2. The inspiration for your work comes from plants, life, and personal emotions. Could you delve into how these elements converge in your artistic process to create pieces that resonate with viewers?

A: Life and emotions are frequently discussed topics. I enjoy extracting the most special, minute details from ordinary things and emotions, magnifying them. Observing marine life in an aquarium is a common daily activity where people admire creatures unseen on land, gaining knowledge about the ocean. Some may feel these beings are imprisoned. While observing, I contemplate the fact that once we leave Earth, we face life-threatening situations. Oxygen, sunlight, rainwater, the food chain – Earth resembles a vast ecological bottle. We watch captive creatures; who beyond our universe watches us? Or perhaps no one does, and we're merely imagining it.

3. "Gentle Prison" is a thought-provoking series that reflects on the concept of cages in various contexts. Could you share the symbolic significance behind these cages and how they relate to the emotions and experiences you aim to convey?

A: This cage represents Earth, where gravity confines us. We lose access to oxygen and the ability to breathe beyond this boundary, risking our lives if we venture outside. While Earth offers mountains, rivers, land, plants, animals, and human consciousness, we are equally subject to natural disasters. Ecology achieves balance, and within this Earthly enclosure, we find self-sustenance and entertainment, propagating our species.

4. Your description of the ocean as an irregularly shaped enclosure and the Earth as a combination of multiple enclosures is intriguing. How do these perceptions influence your portrayal of nature and the universe in your art?

A: Because Earth's organisms, including humans, are minuscule, we can only move freely within a limited range. Even if we create spacecraft, we must carry pre-prepared oxygen and fuel, emphasising our Earthly captivity.

5. The concept of sounds being confined within the "cage" of Earth, while the universe remains silent, is evocative. How do you explore this dichotomy between internal and external experiences through your artistic representation?

A: I believe that expressing sound relies on the environment. During exhibitions, when viewers approach the artwork, sounds like the rustling of clothing, footsteps, breathing, the placement of glasses, and widened eyes can be heard beyond the glass of the painting. However, passersby outside remain unaware and indifferent, much like the universe's attitude toward Earth.

6. Could you provide insight into your artistic process? How do you translate complex concepts like cages and confinement into visual imagery that resonates with your audience?

A: I prepare the necessary pigments on a separate piece of paper. I lightly apply a small amount of pigment with my fingertip to the painting surface, establishing the overall colour scheme. Then, I deepen the colours, leaving blank spaces for detailing. Coloured pencils are used for fine-tuning. I perceive the paper as a confined space, and I draw a frame within, further restricting the imprisoned creatures. Beautiful landscapes are encapsulated and framed within a small canvas, as if preserving cherished memories.

7. "Gentle Prison" offers a unique perspective on our relationship with the environment and the cosmos. What impact do you hope your art will have on viewers' perceptions of the world around them and their place within it?

A: I hope my work evokes a sense of serenity. I also wish that viewers won't feel compelled to interpret my artwork solely based on my descriptions. Simultaneously, I hope viewers can provide me with diverse feedback, as everyone's visual experience yields unique stories and perspectives. Different ages and professions have provided me with distinct viewpoints during exhibitions.

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