Xie Molin: Vertical Lines

2022. 09. 09-10. 29

Xie Molin’s fourth exhibition at Beijing Commune “Vertical Lines” opens on September 9th and will last until October 29th. This exhibition is presenting Xie Molin’s latest artistic exploration over the past three years. This is also an in-depth demonstration of the artist’s achievement in the field of “human-machine collaboration”, a specific trajectory of painting that he has deeply investigated for the past ten years. To entitle this exhibition “Vertical Lines” not simply highlights the basic infrastructure on which all his works base but reflects on the senses of solidity and stability shared among his paintings. Specifically speaking, this show includes a variety of approaches that the artist has taken deriving from the basic form. For the “Color Lines” series, which is comprised of single-layer color, Xie responds to long-term established forms in art history with which he shares similarities, with his focus particularly drawn on materiality. In his “Suspending Blade” series, irregularly shaped saw blades must follow a vertical movement without touching the tabletop. In this sense, variable but logical rhythms, that lead to either dense or sparse layouts spread on double or three-layered color structures are represented. 


When art is not simply about simulation, nor is it the metamorphosis of found images, for the artist, it is precisely the mechanical production, parallel to the natural means of production, that lies at the core of his methodology. Within it, forces, rules, materials, structures, variables, and artistic experiences are altogether undergoing subtle adjustment and synthesis. For Xie, his reciprocal relationship with his self-made machine forms his independent and self-sufficient path which he strives to establish and maintain. The specters are, therefore, invited to this fascinating realm to further explore exquisite variability via contemplation.  

Artist's Notes

by Xie Molin


Each type of paint is given unique materiality. Therefore, what makes my artistic trajectory fascinating is precisely the process of comparing and applying such varied materiality. Oil paints are thicker and denser than acrylics and their reflective qualities stand out among painting materials. Acrylic is soluble in water, easy to dry, and easy to clean - It was first produced as a substitute for oil painting. However, in practice, it distinctively differs from oil painting, especially when it is used with thickness. In the “Color Lines” series and “Suspending Blade · Dunhuang” series, I experimented with acrylics and oils respectively, using the same blades for the same series. I can therefore feel the difference in terms of materiality and aesthetics created by such different mediums (water-based and oil-based). The form of such colored vertical lines has been seen in American and British color-field painting and Op Art in the last century, but with thinner paints. In my “Color Lines” series, however, both the acrylic mediums and the oil paintings highlight the sense of materiality. Due to the translucent nature of the acrylic, thin areas of the paint are exposed to the canvas, forming thin white lines that serve to separate the colours and balance the rhythm. The white lines that naturally occur due to the characteristics of the material become essential to such a form, just as the intervals between notes in music.



The relationship between layers produced by the superposition of material pigments in painting is one of the core features that make the language of painting charming. This also marks the initiating point from which I started to explore further materiality. In the “Suspending Blade” series, I have modified the machine to take advantage of its precision, thus enabling the subtle manipulation of multiple layers of wet paint, allowing the interplay, fusion, and extension of paint at different depths to create a richer and more subtle texture. It is only through practical experiments that I have reached the exception beyond my expectation, and very often they are not repeatable. This also convinced me of the importance of experience and practice in my life.


3.Color and rhythm

I have always been fascinated by the lines and color palette of Dunhuang's murals. The beauty of these paintings comes from the freedom of the ancient artisans to express themselves through their profound understanding of the images, and I can also create infectious lines and structures through my “paintbrush”.Much of the color palette in the “Suspending Blade · Dunhuang” series refers to the color palette of Dunhuang murals from the Western Wei and Tang dynasties. I am keen to carry on the inspiration from Dunhuang in my own way.The blade moves in two opposite directions over multiple layers of paint, creating a dynamic interplay between the colors. The rhythm of interlacing and repetition is also inspired by the Dunhuang murals. The white color acts as an interval between other colors, thus creating a natural transition between white and other colors in material movement and a ‘free expression’ of precision and calculation. In the “Suspending Blade · Vertical Lines” series, I use gradients or palettes that have low contrast in colors.



The dimensions of my exhibited works are made with particular intentions. The relationship between the partial structures forms the overall structure. In the “Suspending Blade · Dunhuang” series, the smaller size of the painting highlights the movement and texture in the partial structure, as the color changes at the top of the painting are more significant. In the “Suspending Blade · Vertical Lines” series, the soft transitions of colors emphasize the formality of the vertical lines, so larger frames can provide a sense of solidity and stability. In a complex structure of multiple layers, a relatively uniform base color makes the color that lies at the top layer more striking and therefore highlights the sense of structure. This is a form that I have slowly developed after many adjustments. Throughout my investigation and adjustment, I have gained a more personal understanding of the ancient philosophies of the paired opposites, such as being and nothing, emptiness, and fullness, subtlety and coarseness, simplicity and complexity, simplicity, and richness. In summary, the relationship between the movement of the machine, the medium of painting, the overall structure, and the arrangement and combination of colors are intertwined and inextricably linked. If these relationships lack inherent unity and logic, the painting will be powerless.

Download PDF