This show wasn’t exactly appealing to me as I can’t stand the volcanically spicy Sichuan dish it’s named after, but Xie Nanxing soon put my prejudices (and stomach) to rest. The reason for the name is the bright colours of kung pao chicken, and accordingly the walls of Thomas Dane are painted in greens and pinks.
The similarities to the chicken dish end there. Xie’s painting technique is known as ‘canvas print’. It involves putting a wash of colour on a canvas, put another canvas on top, and then paint figuratively, pressing hard, so that the human figures are transposed to the lower canvas in little stipples, and as ghostly outlines.
The figurative work is deliberately derivative: the inspiration in the pink work above is Richter’s nude on a staircase, as well as Burne-Jones’ spiral staircase (on display at the Tate Britain retrospective I wrote about earlier this year ).
This series as a whole is called Spices, though the colours and textures seemed more like ice cream: sweet, mild and addictive. Xie lives and works in his native China, and will hopefully get a bigger show in this country soon.
Xie Nanxing: A Gift Like Kung Pao Chicken is at Thomas Dane Gallery (London). June 06 - July 27 2009