Like many of his contemporaries, Xu Haidong’s work for his exhibition ‘Muted’ presents us with the social realities of China. His multiple dogs are painted in thick impasto, in subdued, ‘muted’ colours on large -scale canvases, representing the many miners in China who have died in accidents over the years and have gone unnoticed and unremarked. They are treated as nothing more than disposable labourers, hardworking ‘dogs’ who can be replaced by the multitude of other hungry able bodied men waiting for work. These workers have no voice, no names, perhaps only a picture for identity purposes. This is reflected by the format of the paintings, squares of photo-portrait-like painted dogs, calling to mind photo-ID cards.
His open mouthed babies, chubby and fleshy with their impasto applied paint signal a new China. A China belonging to the post 70s and post 80s babies- lackadaisical and taking for granted the social and political conditions that brought about the change allowing for their open-mouthed consumerist gluttony.
Xu Haidong’s exhibition is a sum of his passions and his concerns and through the curation of his apposite painted images the viewer not only engages with some challenging issues but also gets a glimpse of the artist himself.