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Tommy Xie




Xie Xin’s (b.1998, Chaozhou, China) work revolves around Chinese queer sentiments expressed within the post-modern political and cultural climate. His paintings explore queer desires held within queer individuals in a familial context.


Q: Congratulations on your show that just opened at Ginny on Frederick, could you tell us more about how long you have been working towards the show? 


To be honest, it didn’t take me that long to put the show together. My practice has always been exploring the relationship between my queerness and my family, especially my mother, as she’s been one of the most supportive and understanding figures in my life. Therefore, some of the paintings are pre-existing, so it didn’t take me a long time


Q: What does your painting process look like? How do you work ?


My paintings are quite eventful. I feel each painting is a fictional presentation based on the emotional reality I am experiencing. The scenes form in my head first and I realise it through painting. My painting process takes quite a long time as I normally don’t have any reference pictures. However, due to this, it somehow allows me to translate my feelings more directly and delicately. 


Q: The figures in your work play out queer narratives through intimacy, desire and sometimes sorrow. How do you view the queer kinships between the figures in the work take place?


This is actually quite interesting. Only recently I realised most, if not all, of my works contained more than just one figure. I think growing up thinking I am the only queer in my hometown; the conversations I had with myself about my queerness, the dichotomy of me and my queerness and the sorrow of being disconnected, resulted in the multi-figures. The queer kinships are maybe not only between the figures but rather each figure is the embodiment of this. 


Q: Your press release feels like it's being read by you, a deeply personal body of text that references your chineses heritage, shrines, oceans and your mother. In what ways is the work personal for you and how does writing help you execute that process?


This is a difficult question. Sam Moore who wrote this text for the show completely understood my work. When they came and visited my studio, we reached a common ground that the text should not just be an academic text about painting, an educational text about the religious aspect of my work or a background check on my personal history. They beautifully weaved all of the elements in the works into a three section poem, which reveals enough and leaves enough too. 


Q: The work is filled with darker hues and greys, Could you talk more about the environment and colour choice in the paintings?


I sometimes look at Luis Fratino, Hugh Steers and XinYi Cheng for inspiration. The way vulnerability, longing and desire are portrayed in their work are incredibly poetic. These three elements are especially prominent in these paintings. Moreover, often these intense emotions come to me at night time, when I'm indoors and everything starts to sink. Hence the mostly indoor environment and darker tones in my works. 


Q: What’s the biggest difference for you between being a practising queer artist in China vs the UK? Has coming to the UK helped your work develop?


I think the biggest difference would be censorship, because the freedom to create works would be the same but to share it and form connections with viewers would be difficult. Coming to the UK has helped, definitely. All the love and support I get from people who I have met here makes me less insecure about creating works that I believe in. 


Q: What was your entry point into painting, when did you start?


I started painting 3 or 4 years ago. I was experimenting with different mediums like performance and moving images, but I couldn’t connect to them at all until I started painting. 


Q: Lastly, could you tell us about what you are working on next? 


I am transitioning at the moment, I think, in terms of style, colour and research. My relationship with my family and friends are at a different stage now which makes me more secured, loved and supported. I am excited for the journey ahead and let’s see where it takes me :)


Edited by Pascale de Graaf

Published by Queerdirect

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