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" At this time, the space or place to go "on the road" is not so important, because the ultimate destination of samadhi is meditation."

Xiaoyao Yao

On My Way (07-18)

Keyi Zhang: Does the project "On My Way" represent a transition process between two states? Is recording an "in progress/changing" state common to all your productions?


Xiaoyao Yao: "On my way" is the only initial shortcut input for all iPhones. As long as you type "OMW", this phrase will be automatically generated. Often it is used to indicate that a person or object is walking from one place to another, or is undergoing some transformation.

Half a year after the epidemic at home in the American village, I realized that the process on the road has already been talked about by us, like breathing. We all have such a lag for "on the road" and breathing, and we hold our breath for a while before realizing its existence. That's when I realized that being on the road doesn't need to be a state or a change of place, it's the same as breathing. Such pure concentration is like the samadhi in Zen Buddhism. The peace and clarity brought by the concentration itself allow us to let go of all distracting thoughts. At this time, the space or place to go "on the road" is not so important, because the ultimate destination of samadhi is meditation.

When work and life narrow in one bedroom, we will deepen our desire for movement. It is human nature to be connected to the physical space established by society, to be relied upon as a social animal, even if it is as seemingly purposeless as the process of "on the road" itself. I hope my "On the Road" series can be like an oasis in the desert, even if it has no name and no purpose. But the moment you find it, there are possibilities.

On My Way (19-20)

Keyi Zhang: Your works have explored many different media. May I ask how you consider the media you choose for your works?


Xiaoyao Yao: The conversion between painting and printmaking is like the translation between languages. For example, direct translation between image media is not feasible, like language translation will be limited because of language logic and differences in grammatical concepts. This also gave me the opportunity to be a beginner, and to learn the concepts and emotions of different dimensions brought by the expression methods and techniques of copper engraving. Because of the interpenetration of different media and the newborn mentality, I have the confidence and openness to try new things. For example, adding characters and second-person narration methods to copper engravings.

The second-person narration attempt fixes the distance between the viewer and the characters on the screen, bringing a calm and condensed state. In this way, the observation angle of partially abstract narrative emotion and atmosphere can better combine your perspective with the reader's perspective, and invite the audience to linger in the picture space.

I have to admit that there was a gap at first from the collision of the oil paint with the black and white flying dust etching. But working in a simple and orderly studio, I studied the changes produced by nitric acid on the copper plate. It was not until I tamed the uncontrollable nitric acid that I realized the fun of color. The black and white in the flying dust etching are no longer two-dimensional color blocks; its richness and moistness in layers remind me of the moistness of Chinese landscape paintings and the time and fineness that can only be captured by hand-rolled film.

Ambient Sound (Installation View)

Keyi Zhang: Please talk about why refrigerators are the subject of recent works.

Xiaoyao Yao: Everything with a door is very attractive to me, such as cars, houses, and yards. During the pandemic, the door that was opened the most was the door of the refrigerator. The most interesting and different thing about the refrigerator door is that almost every time you open it, it will change according to what you see and think while the content of information comes and goes freely. Although the purpose of the refrigerator is to make time stand still, it is the space that changes most frequently. It is also because of the existence of users that time becomes faster. If you don’t look at it or use it, the change of its space will be very slow. Perhaps such a condensed state, unobstructed introspection, and "calmness" are what I pursue in my works.

Before-After the Swim

Keyi Zhang: From the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to Cornell University, will you feel a big difference in the environment?


Xiaoyao Yao: Yes, I often joke with my friends that art colleges are for cultivating artists, and universities are for cultivating art teachers. Joking aside, I was lucky to have contamination on both sides. Art colleges focus more on creation, community, and communication, while universities focus more on academics, critical thinking, and expansion. SAIC is in Chicago, where art is very pure, and Cornell will expose you to many possibilities beyond art.






My work involves painting and printmaking, pursuing an approach to storytelling based on my personal experience. They are images of intimate spaces: a dim corner of the bathroom, a passage in the desert, or a scale in the men's room. These tend to be fleeting moments with places of passage and places of maintenance rather than destinations. Oil painting is an extension of the world of etching. They are explorations of formal and informal aspects of images such as perspective, reflection, drama, and more. While the process of making an etching is my meditation for embracing everyday scenes, it is inevitable when the desire to reach a destination starts to creep in. As such, the paintings transcend the ambiguity, emptiness, and symbolism of images to become fleeting moments of contentment.

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