Artist Meng Chengxiao is a believer in the power of night. In his eyes, the moonlit hours possess a magical charm that transforms the mundane world into a land of fantasy.
That explains why night has become his dominant artistic theme.
Meng started his professional career in 2010 when he completed the series No Subject and Exit to Souls. His works were picked by Hi Arts Store, an art marketing agency. The excitement of his transformation from art student to signed professional left a deep impression.
“In the day, everything looks pale and real. Sunlight provides me nowhere to hide. But night is different. The silhouette of people and nature, combined with emotions and smells, becomes a projection of anxiety against night’s backdrop,” Meng says.
Meng graduated from Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in comprehensive material painting. Unlike traditional painting paths such as oil or murals, the major allows students to break the boundaries of material disciplines in their pursuit of creation.
Meng says his experience as a comprehensive material student made him explore the idea of mixing different materials in one work.
Unlike many artists, Meng does not pursue a specific “meanings” when he tries to paint something. He paints the fleeting beautiful scenes that flash through his mind. If an image’s meaning is pre-determined, the work is tainted with utilitarianism, he says. He encourages viewers to think for themselves.
Meng calls the main motif of his work “dreams in wasted land.” His paintings are full of uncertainty, represented by a white mist. He calls the mist a symbol of the chaos of life. Each image is a parallel of the world, reproduced an adapted from his personal experiences.
The models in his painting are mainly buildings, bridges and giant chimneys under a gray sky. Most are from the places he knew since childhood. When he found many his favorite childhood locations vanishing under the assault of urban development, he decided to preserve the buildings in his works.
“I had a sweet childhood and an adolescence with many unpleasant moments. The contrast made me see the world in a very negative way. In painting, I distill the basic structures of the real world and remake them with my paintbrush,” Meng says.
But Meng has also conveys his thoughts of the world in his works. One of his best, Beihaidian, is a four-month pondering of life.
“At some moments, we may feel we have seen everything: that we’ve found the unchanging rule that leads our life. But have we ever considered that the world we see is only based on our limited perception? Beyond that, there is a bigger world awaiting us,” Meng says.
Meng doesn’t usually reveal that interpretation of Beihaidian and prefers that his viewers discover it on their own. Meng says he hopes viewers can kick off their impulse to logically analyze a painting and focus merely on the initial emotion it conveys.
Meng says he is developing a series in his head that he hopes to complete with a mix of wooden art, music and traditional oil painting. Tackling that task might be his next plan.