Born in 1961 in Jiangsu province, China, Cao Xiaodong lives and works in Beijing. He graduated from Industry Design College at Jiangnan University in 1982. In 1991, he launched the "Art Currents" magazine and published a series of books in the "Culture and Art Forum". Spanning from abstract to his latest figurative works of digital maneuvering and extensive manual pursuit, Cao Xiao Dong combines, seemingly without effort, the most modern method of image creation and the most traditional. His painted pictures resemble old news photos, but like China’s ancient philosopher-artists, he controls his brushstrokes with care, shuns dramatic colors and contrasts, and deletes all traces of self.Read more
Cao Xiao Dong's abstract works - made of tiny brushpoints - began to take shape early in 1994, where he imitated the painting style of Chinese wash painting by using traces left by burning densely concentrated points. He did away with the thickness of oil painting and recreated the spirit of ancient Chinese landscape paintings. Showing restraint, he sought the balance of temperament and taste, with a traditional scholar's sentiments and modern logic.
Since late 2006, the brushpoints in Cao Xiao Dong's work began to change from an abstract language into something more figurative - by imitating old pictures from different periods in the last hundred years of Chinese history. Such a change comes from his knowledge of Chinese culture, from reasoning to emotional reminiscence, from the indulgence of dreams to the intervention of reality found in modern Chinese culture. Cao Xiaodong combines, seemingly without effort, the most modern method of image creation and the most traditional. His painted pictures resemble old news photos, but like China’s ancient philosopher-artists, he controls his brushstrokes with care, shuns dramatic colours and contrasts, and deletes all traces of ego. After scanning an old snapshot into his computer, Cao Xiao Dong uses Photoshop to convert it into an array of dots like those once used to print newspaper photos. Then, one dot at a time, he copies the image in oils (in more recent works, he prints a “ghost” version of the photo onto the canvas and paints over each dot). In traditional style, he lays his canvases flat and holds his brush vertically. Old-time painters used mists to create a mysterious haze; in Cao Xiao Dong’s works, the blank spaces between the dots make the images dissolve if the viewer comes too close. His sole embellishments are computer commands. In the Proof of Youth series (2009), terms like Save As, Exit and Ctrl-V—“words” in the universal language of the keyboard—adorn paired snapshots of Chinese people and Westerners of the same age and sex. What did a Playboy Bunny and a Chinese Communist cadre have in common? Are we all really the same under the skin?
Thus, by way of electronic process and heavy, complicated manual work, the original, vague images reappear on the canvas. However, apart from the process, the hand of Cao Xiao Dong himself can hardly be seen. His paintings seems to be a perfect representation of Walter Benjamin opinion's on Proust's writing: "It's just presentation, not reflection." After the electronic process, the size of brushpoints becomes exactly defined, reducing the sense of painting to its lowest limit and removing "every bit of subjectivity and spiritual residue". Such a neutral, anonymous state is Cao Xiao Dong's attitude towards the knowledge of art history, painting skills and Chinese modern history.
Art Stage Singapore, SingaporeEagle and Chicks, Shi Yi Hotel, Beijing, China
History and Future, Soemo Fine Arts, Beijing, ChinaCao Xiaodong, Xie Hongjun Paintings Exhibition,EGG Gallery, Beijing, ChinaVisible Soul – The Fouth Chinese Abstract Art Exhibition, PIFO New Art Studios, Beijing, China
Quotations from 7 Xi, LDX Art Center, Beijing, ChinaTrace, Time Museum, Beijing, ChinaLink, Mingyuan Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaThe 25th Asia International Art Exhibition, Ulaanbaatar, MongoliaHeteromery 39° - Contemporary Art Exhbition, Song Zhuang Art Center, Beijing, ChinaThe Big Bang, White Rabbit Gallery, AustraliaSojouring in Songzhuang – A Contemporary Artist Group Exhibition, Art Gallery, Beijing, ChinaNature? Contemporary Art Exhibition, LDXContemporary Art Center, Beijing, ChinaEGG Gallery Oil Painting Exhibition, EGG Gallery, Beijing, ChinaThe Marks – Contemporary Artists Group Exhibitions, Times Arts Museum, Beijing, China
Stars of China - Past and Present, Museum Jan van der Togt, Rotterdam, The NetherlandsChinese Scene, Chongqing Station, Chongqing, ChinaCaoxiaodong abstract, Egg Gallery, Beijing, China (solo)Beijing 798 Biennale, Beijing, ChinaAttitude, LDX Art Center, Beijing, ChinaContemporary Art Center, Beijing, ChinaCao Xiaodong Solo Exhibition, EGG Gallery, Beijing, ChinaNothing, Genssun Gallery, Beijing, China
Ode Gallery, Singapore, China (solo)Wellington Gallery, Hongkong, China (solo)Abstract, Beijing, ChinaSave As: Contemporary Chinese Art Born of Ancient Traditions, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), Florida
It's Mean, Beijing, ChinaPredicament, Shanghai, ChinaSunshine, Beijing, ChinaRotation, Qinghe Museum, Nanjing, China
Abstract 798, Beijing, ChinaArt No Boundary，Beijing, ChinaDocumental Exhibition of China Mordern Art, The China Millennium Monument, Beijing, China
Jianghu Art, Beijing, China