Shanghai Artists


Ba Hai ~ Rong Yan ~ Wei Ping ~ Guo Hai Ping ~ Yang Xiao Jian ~ Li Xiaoxuan ~ Adou

We have come across a number of artists in Shanghai whose work we particularly like. This is a small selection of our favourites. We do NOT in any way represent them. If you would like to get in touch with them then please contact them directly using the links in the paragraphs below.

Ba Hai

Ba Hai with Jane Fielder

Ba Hai with Jane Fielder

Yang Hui, known as Bahai, was one of the few abstract painters recognized at the beginning of the 1980s in Beijing, where he received his diploma from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and in Shanghai where he used to be an art professor at the Shanghai University of Design before going to France in the early 90s. Since 1999 he has been taking photographs in old villages of Zhejiang province where he grew up. From this period onwards, he has begun to change his pictorial style from Abstract to Figurative.

For a fantastic visual introduction to Ba Hai, see this link.

There is a significant French-speaking community in Shanghai and we met Ba Hai, who is married to a Parisian, Helene, and has spent part of his career in France, through one of Sue’s French colleagues. We are honoured to have been introduced to this very great and also effusively charming and hospitable artist, and were pleased that he and Helene were able to attend Jane Fielder’s Shanghai preview (2015) and meet her.

BaiHai 2002, huge ink on canvas (Victor Hugo's portrait), 500X800cm, Taipei

BaiHai 2002, huge ink on canvas (Victor Hugo’s portrait), 500X800cm, Taipei

Born in Shanghai (1962), Ba Hai graduated in 1985 from the National Academy of Arts & Crafts in Beijing, having majored in mural art. He has exhibited widely across continents, including solo exhibitions in Paris, Toulouse, Brest and elsewhere in France as well as in Taipei, Moscow, and Shanghai. His oeuvre has evolved through many phases and a range of media, from early performance and conceptual art to abstract woodcuts and huge-sized abstract black inks on paper, then on to photography, alongside continuing to work in other media, such as abstract oil and jute on canvas, works of abstract and non-abstract Chinese calligraphy, and figurative portraits on paper using pastel.

An exhibition in 1994 with two other photographers at Sofitel Hotel in Shanghai showed Ba Hai’s black and white portraits of Shanghai citizens. A solo photographic exhibition in Taiwan followed in 1998. Further photographic exhibitions have ensued including a solo exhibition at the Epson Center, Huai Hai Road, Shanghai. After Ba Hai’s production of a book of black and white photographic portraits taken in Zhejiang Province in 2007, Life Magazine featured an article by curator Jiang Wei about Ba Hai’s photographic work.

See Ba Hai’s website:
See also his phenomenal photographic works on Flickr here and his paintings on Flickr here.


Ba Hai 2003, pastel on paper

Ba Hai 2003, pastel on paper

Ba Hai 2001, Red ink on paper 1, 117X79cm, Taipei

Ba Hai 2001, Red ink on paper 1, 117X79cm, Taipei

Ba Hai, 1992 oil and jute on wood

Ba Hai, 1992 oil and jute on wood

Ba Hai 1994 black oil on aluminium plate

Ba Hai 1994 black oil on aluminium plate

Bahai 1985 wood engraving

Bahai 1985 wood engraving




Rong Yan

Rong Yang

Rong Yang with Jane Fielder (left) and Yi Chen (centre)

Shanghai-based artist Rong Yan had a solo exhibition at the famous art complex M50 in October 2014. His huge draughty studio has latterly, due to personal circumstances, become his home (bed in the corner, shared toilet in the corridor). When artist Jane Fielder came to paint in Shanghai she spent much time in discussion with Rong Yan at his college and in his studio, and he attended Jane’s exhibition preview.

Rong Yan 5Rong Yan is a friend of the famous politically controversial artist Ai Wei Wei who is currently under house arrest in Beijing. Rong Yan is creatively involved with a collective of radical contemporary poets who are given voice by ‘Blackwhistlepoem’ – a publishing house for poets who use ‘lyrical aesthetics deemed blasphemous by conservative politics’ and who ‘cannot be published by “lawful” publishing houses’.

Rong Yan 2Rong Yan is employed at Shanghai’s Applied Arts and Crafts University as a lecturer in print-making. He is learning German with a view to furthering his art practice in Europe. Influences include Stanley Spencer and Scottish artist Peter Doig.

Rong Yan 3     Rong Yan 1     Rong Yan 4


Wei Ping

(English name Sunny)
Slider-Water-Lily-BlueBorn in 1971, Wei Ping is a printmaker teaching in one of the Shanghai art colleges as well as having her own studio at Mo Gan Shan. Her works stem from initial photographs blown up to more than life-size. The scale of completed works can be more than 3 metres. Her subject-matter is autobiographical, personal, intimate and psychological, for example there are pictures of children, her family members, her youthful self, and some female nudes. The theme of one substantial body of work is ‘stop thinking’, repeated as though a mantra for life. This “advice” is repeated thousands of times in tiny (Western script) hand-writing which functionally adds shading and texture to the initial prints-from-photos. From a distance the hand-writing looks like cross-hatching , softening the image’s outliines until it is no longer immediately apparent that a photograph was the first stage. I met Wei Ping and bought three glossy-paper A3 copies of her prints at a total cost of £7.50 (-:

Guo Hai Ping

IMG_8964a_smArtists Guo Hai Ping (b.1962) is a forerunner in the world of art therapy in China. Mental illness in his close family and in his personal experience has been his starting point for artistic exploration and also research into connections between the artistic gift and mental health issues. His work includes installations – some of which have caused controversy with the Chinese authorities – and paintings resulting from time spent as a voluntary resident in a Chinese mental hospital.

Guo Hai Ping has written a lot about art and spirituality (‘the soul’) and has also curated exhibitions of work by long-term residents of psychiatric institutions with whom he has worked as an art therapist. See his contentious book, co-written with psychiatrist Wang Yu, ‘Demented Art: Report on Chinese mental Patients’ Art’, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, which is critical to a certain degree of China’s system of psychiatric care. See also the catalogue of an exhibition he curated of psychiatric patients’ work, ‘Notes of Outsider Art in China’, ISBN 978-7-5671-1377-0

Yang Xiao Jian

yangxiao41F no.2, Bldg 7, 50 Mo Gan Shan Lu, Shanghai 200060,
Yang Xiao Jian (b. 1960 in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province) had a classical training in Chinese calligraphy before transforming into a fine artist who uses ink and whose works, on massive canvases, are shaped by his calligraphic mark-making along with reflecting his love of abstract expressionists such as Franz Kline, Soulages, Robert Motherwell.

We walked into the gallery where his ‘Black Sight’ exhibition was hung and were completely bowled over. I am personally a bit prejudiced against ink, because I associate it with water and translucence and therefore half-expect insipidness. But Yang Xiao Jian’s works, predominantly thought not solely using black ink, are massive, bold, power-fuelled, ambitious, dramatic blocks – many on canvases of a size which would not fit into your apartment. Fantastic. I bought the postcards. He sells internationally with mega price tags but there were some original unique prints in a little pile that you could sift through, starting at £300. He describes himself as ‘The Ink Beast’. Check out his website.

Tel 86-21 6298 8843
Mobile 137 6456 9555

Li Xiaoxuan

NOT a Shanghai artist – but someone whose newly-published (2014) bilingual catalogue I discovered while browsing the best art bookshop in the world on Shanghai’s Fuzhou Road. I was first attracted to it by Li Xiaoxuan’s nude figure-drawings, because I have so far failed to find evidence of any kind of life-drawing scene comparable to the very popular scene in the UK. Hence it is interesting to read in his biographical notes that he is ‘the director of a free-hand figure-painting studio’.

I can’t find any reference to Li Xiaoxuan ever having got out of China, but I have gained the impression that it’s not uncommon for Chinese artists to have pored over books of European artworks, making them surprisingly familiar with historical movements in Western art.

Li Xiaoxuan (b. 1959) lives and works as an artist in his birthplace of Tianjin where he graduated from the Department of Traditional Chinese Painting at the most prestigious art school in northern China: Tianjin Academy of Fine Art. He went on to teach at that college and is there to this day. Here are some further intriguing biographical notes:

‘Li Xiaoxuan is one of the most prominent of the wave of innovators producing what’s called the New Literati Painting (xin wenrenhua) in contemporary China…
‘Because of the nude figures in his graduation piece, as a form of punishment, he was assigned to work in a local library. In the same year, his mother passed away. These early disappointments psychologically changed Li’s perception of the world, and he became increasingly interested in the pessimistic works of the Northern European painters Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918) and Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)…
‘Deeply influenced by German Expressionism, Li is interested in probing people’s psychological state…’
(Read in full here)

On China’s officially sanctioned ‘Baidu’ search engine, the main work by Li Xiaoxuan I can find is so-called ‘traditional Chinese painting’ which is what Li teaches at Tianjin University, i.e. the natural world – willow trees, bamboo, peonies, stylized landscapes with clouds (as here) etc – plus traditional figures from mythology. A few of Li’s works – both traditional and contemporary – are viewable at ArtLinkArt here, and one tantalising contemporary painting of his may be viewed on the Michael Goedhuis Online Gallery here.

Below is a selection of his drawings from life taken from the aforementioned catalogue: ‘Li Xiaoxuan’s Sketches’, Guanxi Fine Arts Publishing House, 2014 (ISBN 978-7-5494-0514-5

Li Xiaoxuan drawing   Li Xiaoxuan drawing   Li Xiaoxuan drawing

Li Xiaoxuan drawing   Li Xiaoxuan drawing   Li Xiaoxuan drawing

Adou 阿斗

Adou - Leaves of GrassWe discovered Adou after having been invited to an opening of his exhibition at M97 Gallery on Moganshan Lu. We wrote about the exhibition here.

Adou was born in Sichuan Province in 1973 and graduated from Sichuan Aba Normal College Fine Arts Department in 1995. Although he exhibits regularly at M97 in Shanghai he currently lives and works in Chengdu. He has exhibited widely in Europe and the US as well as in China. His previous main photographic exhibitions were Salamanda and Adou. You can see an ebook of Adou here.

His Leaves of Grass exhibition uses photography as the medium but is abstract fine art. The photographs are of large abstract part painting, part collage designs. They are very striking.

As the gallery writes..

In this new body of works, Adou invites the viewer to look at the unimpressive natural world just below our feet. Titled after the famous poetry collection by Walt Whitman, Adou’s “Leaves of Grass” is a lyrical exaltation and reordering of the natural world from discarded scraps and chaos. Part painting and part collage, the natural elements are carefully composed by the artist with allusions to Chinese traditional ink painting and calligraphy.

Do watch this fascinating interview with him about his latest work.
Watch the video