Pink Unicorn Parallels to Stubbs, 2020

Oil on linen, 185 cm x 135 cm

Dear..., 2019

Oil on linen, 152 cm x 152 cm

Mirror Mirror, 2019

Oil on linen, 170 cm x 160 cm

Who is the Fairest of Them All, 2019

Oil on linen, 160 cm x 170 cm

Yang Xu

Yang Xu (b. 1996, Shandong, China) lives and works in the U.K. She holds a First Class Honours BA in Painting from Wimbledon College of Arts and is currently attending an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art. Winner of the ArtWork Open (2019), she has also been Highly Commended in the Air Gallery Open (2019), shortlisted for the Clyde & Co Art Award (2018), and nominated for such prizes as Contemporary Young Artist (2020) and The Signature Art Prize (2019). Xu has contributed to the collaborative art projects Imaging Technologies with Painting Research of Wimbledon College of Arts (exhibited at the Tate Modern in 2017) and Here she Comes with Monster Chetwynd (exhibited at the Royal Festival Hall in 2016).

“When I went to Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, the deep sky with thousands of stars, the unknown, made me feel like dust. I started questioning the power of the universe. What is the possible, and what is the impossible? Do we have an alternate life in a parallel universe? Pink Unicorn Parallels to Stubbs imagines that, in a parallel 1762, a lady commissioned a painting of her unicorn, who happened to pose the same as the horse in George Stubbs’s Whistlejacket (1762).”

“Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (c. 1567 – 1569), the isolated, long-haired character in Dear… also resembles Rapunzel. The painting on her wall is borrowed from Thomas Cole’s A Pic-Nic Party (1846), a landscape about everyday life whose openness suggests a freedom this character may or may not have. The similar view and lighting outside of her window suggest surrealism. The question remains whether it’s a sunset or sunrise, whether the letter brings good news or bad news.”

​”Inspired by Berthe Morisot’s Before the Mirror (1890), Mirror Mirror plays with ideas of ego, identity, and the female gaze, asking who she’s posing for and what she plans to do. The reflected portrait on the left shows the ‘ideal self’ presented to others; the woman’s reflection shows her ‘true self.’ A blue, dreamy background and a super clear mirror confuse reality and fiction, the real and the seen.”

“Replacing the angel from Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus (1647-51) with the black cat from Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) adds a bit of playfulness and mystery to Who’s the Fairest of Them All, while the mirror’s emptiness and darkness suggests loneliness, tension, and a sense of danger. The space is private but inviting, and the woman’s face is blurred, inviting viewers to project themselves onto her. The painting is also a portrait of my fantasy self. The Baroque is a much maligned style, but it’s underpinned by idealization, hope, and dream.”