Bridging cultures with art

Updated: 2013-10-24 13:23

By Bi Nan (

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Bridging cultures with art

The artist Xu Jianguo (3rd R), Gary Locke (M), US ambassador to China, and other guests pose at the opening ceremony of the exhibition. [Photo provided to]

Xu Jianguo's art pursuit

Xu Jianguo, born in 1951 in Shanghai, began his study of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy as a young child from art master Ye Zhihao. The old style of learning by using a private tutor at home laid the solid foundation for Xu's later artistic pursuits.

He then went to study at the Shanghai Theater Academy and graduated in 1976. After working as a scene designer at the Shanghai Opera House for eight years, in 1984, he was offered a chance to study at Bard College in the US, where he earned Master of Fine Arts in 1987. At that time, he was the first Chinese person to achieve such a degree at the college.

"When I first ate a hamburger in the US, I thought about Chinese food all of a sudden," said Xu while recalling his memories from when he was first exposed to western culture, and it was then that he knew his homeland China much better.

In the beginning, life in the US was not easy. He once had to earn money by drawing pictures for people on the street, and was bullied by other Chinese artists who thought he was stealing their business. Living in poverty, he tried to stay away from his compatriots, and concentrate on how to improve and develop his own art style.

Through his trans-cultural experiences in the US and China, Xu eventually developed his voice. He started painting his urban landscape pieces using both western and Chinese drawing materials and instruments, and found success.

The highs and lows throughout his life enriched Xu's heart and his work. Now, through his art, he has become a communicator between the East and West.

"Culture grows through communication. People should communicate more to minimize the cultural conflicts between different cultures," Xu told China Daily, "Art has no boundaries, and everyone enjoys beautiful art."