Memorial Portraits of the Pandemic: Xiaosu Jing’s Art and Social Reflection

    In the realm of contemporary art, Xiaosu Jing’s work masterfully integrates profound reflections on social phenomena with philosophical enquiries. Xiaosu Jing boasts a rich and specialised educational background having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Digital Media from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (2008-2012) and a Bachelor’s degree in Painting from Camberwell College of Arts (2018-2023). These academic experiences have laid a solid foundation for her artistic creation and provided her with a broad perspective. Her artistic style has evolved through various stages, each showcasing her extensive understanding of art. She explains, “My inspiration primarily comes from observing life and reflecting on social phenomena. I enjoy expressing my views and thoughts about the world through art”. When discussing her creative process, Xiaosu Jing shared her most memorable piece “Cloud” (2020). This work was created in a small 7 square metre space during the pandemic lockdown in London. She collected over 6,000 promotional images released by companies before the pandemic, printed them on thermal paper and used these prints to cover the ceiling and walls. The thermal paper gradually faded over time, becoming a symbolic medium that perfectly reflected the decline of these companies during the pandemic. Each print was marked with the time of release, forming a strict timeline that enhanced the work’s historical and commemorative significance. “Cloud” is an art piece that spanned four and a half years, starting from the first lockdown in London (23rd March 2020) and continuing until October 2024. The four-year time dimension added depth to the piece. She arranged these images in the shape of clouds, further imbuing the work with dynamism and fluidity, representing the impermanence and cycles of life.

     

    The core theme of the artwork focuses on the devastating impact of the pandemic on businesses and society. Each image symbolises a business that closed due to the pandemic, serving as a “memorial portrait” of these enterprises. These “memorial portraits” not only document the demise of businesses but also symbolically represent the broader social and psychological deaths brought about by the pandemic. By shaping these images into clouds, Xiaosu Jing conveys the concept of life cycles and rebirth. She believes that businesses closed due to the pandemic will eventually reopen, just as in the cycles of life, where old business models disappear and new ones emerge.

    Xiaosu Jing’s creative backdrop is the shadow of the global pandemic, which led to countless business closures and economic downturns. Through this work, she captures the characteristics of this historical moment, showcasing the profound impact of the pandemic on daily life and economic activities. Her artwork extends beyond a personal artistic expression but also a keen response to social reality. Through these “memorial portraits”, she erects a monument to the commercial entities that vanished during the pandemic. Viewers are immersed in the space surrounded by these “memorial portraits”, experiencing a powerful visual impact and emotional resonance. Each image represents a lost business entity, prompting viewers to reflect and empathise as they observe these pictures. By depicting and outlining the images on thermal paper, viewers also feel the passage of time and the gradual fading of memories, invoking deep contemplation on the impermanence of life. Over time, the images on the thermal paper will gradually disappear, but her handwritten notes and creation dates will remain, making this process of the old and the new itself a new form of artistic expression.

    Xiaosu Jing’s artistic intent is to capture and reflect on the profound impact of the pandemic on society by documenting and showcasing these vanished businesses, while exploring the cycles of life and commerce. She hopes that viewers will not only witness the demise of businesses but also see hope and rebirth. By depicting images on thermal paper, she also explores into the relationship between memory and time, expressing nostalgia for lost things and hope for the future.

    From an aesthetic perspective, Xiaosu Jing’s work is characterised by strong visual impact and expressiveness. She chose thermal paper as a medium, utilising its fading properties to enhance the sense of time and impermanence in her work. By collaging these images into the shape of clouds, her work gains natural beauty and philosophical depth. Her distinctive style lies in her ability to convey complex and profound thoughts through simple materials and images, forming a unique artistic language. In consideration of these perspectives, Xiaosu Jing’s works does not only possess strong visual appeal but it also expresses profound thematic and content significance. Through her art, she explores the deep impact of the pandemic on society and uniquely expresses reflections on life, memory and time. This piece serves both as a commemoration of the past and a hope for the future, demonstrating the essential role of art in recording and reflecting on key historical events.

    This piece holds significant cultural and social value. It is not only a record and reflection of the economic hardships during the pandemic but also an in-depth exploration of human vulnerability and resilience in the face of disaster. Through showcasing these “memorial portraits”, Xiaosu Jing evokes a strong resonance with the immense losses brought by the pandemic, while also reminding people to cherish and reflect on the past. Her work serves as a visual archive, documenting the memories of the pandemic and carries deep social significance.

    Abbie Wilson
    Abbie Wilson
    An experienced writer, Abbie has written for several publications, including Homaphy, covering various niches, including film and television, gaming, fashion, and the arts.

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