Original Oil Painting
Chinese American Artist, Xue Jian Xin b. 1954. Immigrated to America in 1988. Received a Masters in Fine Art from Bard College in New York.
Inspired by American and French Impressionists, Xin’s work carries many echoes of 19th century paintings with a keen interest in light and shadow. His thick use of his chosen medium, oil on canvas, gives liveliness and movement to his outdoor pastoral works and landscapes. However, it is sensitive treatment of his interior scenes, such as this moody painting entitled New Hampshire that captivate the viewer and pose a psychological depth to his oeuvre.
In this enigmatic work, two plush armchairs are illuminated by the light of an open balcony with blue shutters. A maroon and mint striped rug cuts across a floor, while another, simpler chair with wooden rungs fades in the right top background. The edges of two gold vintage picture frames are seen along the far left wall.
In this sparse arrangement, Xue Jian Xin creates a high horizon perspective and a divided sense of space: the viewer perceives the room with its half finished rug and partial glimpse of the outside world through the balcony as only a glimpse of an entire room. This high perspective provides a sense of impermanence to the scene: one feels as if the artist is standing and peering in, catching a glimpse of the morning light in an unoccupied room. This scene is not an invitation to enter, but rather, a moody contemplation of a moment.
It is in this moment that the two french style chairs take on more meaning. Their plush seats and backs are illuminated by the blinding light; indeed, they are the only source of light color values in the work besides the railing and floor of the balcony and mysterious gold frames. Most of the painting is comprised of the thick surface treatment of the grey-blue floor which is reminiscent of a vast and mysterious body of water. With this high contrast juxtaposition of light and dark, the chairs’ texture and softness is achieved. The billowy folds of the seat cushions look as though they were recently vacated; the sitter’s recent absence within the frame becomes the focus and a moment of solitude is captured.
Oil on Canvas
In this quiet and enigmatic scene, one can’t help but wonder if the artist sought to convey more than just a morning moment. The two plush chairs, in their alignment and design, appear to take on a greater significance. Equally alike and joined together along the wall, their arms almost touching, this pair of chairs could signify humanity, man and woman. The balcony calls to them with light almost as another world or heaven, opening to them a path away from the inconsequential gold frames and carpet, symbols of materialism within this mortal plane.
It is in this reading that the darkened chair in the corner takes on significance too. It calls to the two chairs too, but in contrast to the balcony, has a haunting feel. This barren chair becomes almost a symbol of death, haunting the edges of the oil on canvas painting, with its eerie rungs and seat, an old pile of bones compared to the soft and supple chairs in the foreground. There is something unsettling about that chair tucked away in the shadows of the balcony shutters.
In this modern interior painting, Xue Jian Xin appears to be echoing timeless themes of vanitas: the transience of life, the futility of pleasure and materialism, and the certainty of death. The glimmer of the garden outside of the balcony window evokes the true Eden of Heaven, and provides an escape from the darkness and oppressiveness of the room, and ultimately of our material plane.