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Painting (MA)

Yang Xu 🦄

Yang Xu (b. 1996, Shandong, China). Graduated with 1st Class Honours in BA Painting Wimbledon College of Arts (2018), MA Painting at Royal College of Art (2018-20). 

Xu is the Vice Chairman of UK - China Photography Association. Winner of Barbican Arts Group Trust Artwork Open 2019 with following solo exhibition ‘100 Carat Diamond’ (2020). Xu has been nominated in many prizes including Contemporary Young Artist (2020), The Signature Art Prize (2019). She received the Highly Commended award at the Air Gallery Open (2019) and On the Mountain We Stay Residency (2019) supported by No Space Organisation in China. She was also shortlisted for the Clyde & Co Art Award (2018) and Whitechapel Gallery First Thursday University Competition (2017). Xu has contributed to collaborative art projects ‘Imaging Technologies’ With Painting Research team of Wimbledon College of Arts at Tate Modern (2017) and ’Here she Comes’ with Monster Chetwynd at Royal Festival Hall (2016). Her works are collected in China and Europe. View CV  

For enquiries, please contact Yang Xu directly, mail: or through form


Artist Website


Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Painting (MA)

I am exploring my personal interests, childhood fantasies, fetish and identity through painting, digital & film photography and mixed medias. I am looking into history, finding the things that are a part of our nature, like sugar - addictive but we might like to shy away from - sexuality and body.  

I consider our actions are based on the actions that we have seen, under a constructed identity we put masks on and act with free will. This performativity nature of my work allows me to use my body to bring fantasies into reality. 

Rococo was a playful and mysterious episode in the history of painting. From the french revolution onward, the period was seen as void, lavish and corrupt. With its privileging of power and gender stereotype, Rococo is buried under the weight of 20th century moral disciplines. I want to resuscitate it to speak to our contemporary moment. How we engage with celebrities or reality TVs and how we turned life into stage play through Instagram. 

I attempt to uncover Rococo’s elaborate and extravagant style in paintings through playful brushstrokes. I paint my works layer by layer with smudges and touches. All those different twists are used to feel the creaminess of the oil paint as it slides onto the textile—like applying icing on a cake, they are sickening but delicious. Rococo is such a maligned art form, but it is underpinned by idealisations, hopes and dreams we should have access to.

The emptiness in the mirror around the figure and dark background brings loneliness, tension and a sense of danger. The space is private, explores what women can do. Her face is blurred, or covered by a mask. She could be anyone, or anyone could be her. This is my alter-ego and portrays a ‘self’ as a skin for anyone to put on. 

I believe in the power of the universe and the possibilities that open up when we let our imaginations run free. I can never get lost because I always have myself, but sometimes, I want to have some fabulousness. 

Lady Pink s Living Room 27112018

Time for a Drink? 17022019 — Self-portrait in the studio.

Missing you is like Fire 10102019

Missing you is like Fire 10102019 and me

Selected oil painting on synthetic carpet, I am playing with the materiality of painting, exploring the expanded field of painting. The carpet symbolises consumerism, daily life, which is a comfort and luxurious product, by painting on it I have broken the original purpose of the product to give it a new meaning and a different value.


Oil, Synthetic Carpet


162x230 cm
contemporary artCross-disciplinaryfantasyFantasy And The SurrealMaterial NarrativesMultidisciplinaryNarration / Storytellingoil paintingpaintingperfomativepinktextiles

Snake for the Lover 25012020 — Oil on linen, 160 x 150 cm

My Shoe 20112019 — Oil on Linen, 35.5 x 28 cm

Dear 12 Dec 2019 — Oil on Linen 152 x 152 cm

Girl Reading a Book 30012020 — Oil on linen, 27.8 x 23cm

For me, painting has the power to realise fantasies from a plain canvas. I use painting to reach out to a time and space that’s far away and to bring reality to illusions. Under the influence of the Rococo movement, I portray constructed performative female identities. I look at women under the male gaze in art history, from Fragonard and Velazquez to Bosch and Sargent. I aim to empower women by painting them and only them alone so as to lend some restorative privacy.


Oil on linen

Pink Diamond 30012020 — Oil on Linen, 27.8 x 23 cm

Who is the Fairest of Them All 02052019 — Oil on linen, 160 x 170 cm

Who Is That Girl 21022020 — Glass paint on silver coated plate, 27 x 14.2 cm

Mirror Mirror Answer Me 13022020 23x23cm — Glass paint on silver coated plate, 23 x 23 cm

Flowers and the skull 17112019 — Oil on linen, 26.8 x 36.8 cm

I Always Believed Unicorns are Real 14102019 — Photographic print on synthetic fabric mounted on board with textile embellishments,

If you can choose only one thing 10072019 — Photographic print on synthetic fabric mounted on board with textile embellishments, 64 x 43cm

If You Can Choose Only One Thing 22072019 — Photographic print on synthetic fabric mounted on board with textile embellishments, 52x63cm

Installation shot — Installation shot at my solo exhibition '100 Carat Diamond', supported by Barbican Artist Group Trust.

I love crushed velvet. I love the texture, the thickness of the fabric and how it shimmers. When images printed are on velvet, the image soaks into the fabric, the reflective part of the fabric increases the contrast of certain areas of the image, when you look closely (at the actual work of course, not your screen!) the image is lost in the pile of the fabric, it is abstracted, blurred and disappears. Velvet is a mask, it makes my photographs more fabulous and illusional.


Mix Media photographic works

Rapunzel Tail 25042020 — Oil on linen, 95 x 80 cm

Walk with 'Rapunzel Tail 25042020' — Photographed by Victoria Cantons

Walk with 'Rapunzel Tail 25042020' — Photographed by Victoria Cantons

Walk with 'Rapunzel Tail 25042020' — Filmed by Victoria Cantons

Girl in the Mirror 15012020 — Oil on linen, 95 x 80 cm

Walk with 'Girl in the Mirror 15012020', Film still, no. 1 — Film still from Will Hazell

Walk with 'Girl in the Mirror 15012020', Film still, no. 2 — Film still from Will Hazell

Walk with 'Girl in the Mirror 15012020', Film still, no. 3 — Film still from Will Hazell

Walk with 'Girl in the Mirror 15012020' — Filmed by Victoria Cantons.
During the pandemic, I started taking my paintings to the parks. I am missing being able to interact with people in real life, and I am missing having a ‘stage’ for my works, be it studios, galleries or anywhere they can be seen by the public. My paintings have been craving for some attention, so I took them outside to get some fresh air and fresh people.


Oil on Linen


95 x 80 cm

In Collaboration with:

Film maker, Photographer
Film maker

Pearl hair band 15052020, 02 — 10.2 x 8.8 cm

Pearl hair band 15052020, 01 — 10.2 x 8.8 cm

Fan 20052020 — 10.2 x 8.8 cm

Looking for a Unicorn 14102019, 01 — 10.2 x 10.1 cm

I found a Unicorn 14102019, 02 — 10.2 x 10.1 cm

I found a Unicorn 14102019, 01 — 10.2 x 10.1 cm

Pink Spring flowers of 2020 14062020, 01 — 10.2 x 8.8 cm

Pink Spring flowers of 2020 14062020, 02 — 10.2 x 8.8 cm

Polaroid photographs taken by artist Victoria Cantons during my performances.

In Collaboration with:


Turn your back on me 01022020 — 16 x 11 cm

Flower by Heart 02072020 — 16 x 11 cm

Touch the Beauty 02072020 — 16 x 11 cm

Peacock and Light 03072020 — 16 x 11.5 cm

Unicorn 03072020 — 16 x 11.5 cm

Mirror Mirror 04072020 — 16 x 11.5 cm

Selected monochrome drawings on handmade paper with charcoal made during the lockdown. I have been making sketches with pencil or charcoal–mainly still life or portraiture–since I could remember. I stopped focusing on pencil or charcoal drawings when I started playing with colour. Now I picked it back up during the lockdown. I did these sketches as meditations to ease my anxiety. They are self-reflective and a way for me to communicate with my inner-self. the black and white would calmed me down by erasing all the distractions. I can easily focus on the lines and shapes, let my skills and muscle memory takes the lead without exciting my nerves.


Charcoal on handmade cotton paper

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