IAPA Lecture|Miao Xiaochun:Art Creation in Digital Era

FROM: iapa.cafa.edu.cn TIME:

Professor Zhou Jirong presided over this lecture


Editor's note:

     On June 17,2021, the International Printmaking Institute of Central Academy of Fine Arts held a series of special lectures on "technology and printmaking"- Art Creation in Digital Era. This is the first lecture of this series. Professor Miao Xiaochun from the School of Design, Central Academy  of Fine Arts, is the speaker, and Professor Zhou Jirong, the first Deputy Dean of International Printmaking Institute of the Central Academy of Fine Arts is the host. The event was a complete success.

Absolute drawing-Samsara 2012
Permanent pen on linen


     In the lecture, Professor Miao Xiaochun shared his creative practice and thinking in the past 20 years. Combined with some of his creative experiences, photos and videos of his works, he described his thoughts and insights on digital art, media, high technology and computer software. The lecture was conducted online and on site. Major art academies and universities across the country participated in the activity through WeMeet conference, including: China Academy of Fine Arts, Academy of fine arts of Tsinghua University, Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts, Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Yunnan Academy of Art, Shenzhen University, Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Hunan Changsha Normal University, Jinling Art Museum, etc.
     The purpose of this lecture is to promote and discuss the creation, communication, teaching and market of digital printmaking. This will provide a convenient platform for artists in various regions to learn and exchange with each other, promote the creation and market of domestic digital prints, improve the academic community's cognition of traditional and digital prints, and jointly enhance the level and promote the influence of prints in the art world.

Fatalism  2008
Pigment Print
Dimension variable


The Last Judgment in Cyberspace-The Front View
 Pigment print
Dimension variable


The Last Judgment in Cyberspace-The Below View
 Pigment print
Dimension variable

Destruction 2008
Pigment print
Dimension variable

The lecture


Public Enemy 2014
Arcylic on linen 800x800cm


Students ask questions

Two Fists & Four Hands -- My Artistic Creation in the Digital Age

In 1997’s Kassel Documenta, as a student of Kassel Academy of Fine Arts, I was deeply moved by the two animated works of William Kentridge. The rough and vivid charcoal sketch drawn by him really shocked me. Accompanied with music of the Renaissance, I couldn’t take my eyes off the works. After the Documenta, I was pondering over the way I could create the animation with. At that time, I was still unsure which ways and means I would use, but certainly not the freehand way.



     I went back to my country in 1999 and worked as a teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Arts studio, meanwhile I began using Apple computers to work. It was then that photography was quickly transferred from film to digital era. The intervention of computers and the use of large-scale laser printing machine enabled me to make photography like murals, which obsessed me quite a long time.
In 2004, I became interested in 3D software, this was objectively attributed to the addition of “Media Arts” direction in photography major, once called "Photography and Digital Media". I was amazed at the modeling ability of the three-dimension software, for it can greatly expand my possibilities, and I might even say that fists are changed into four hands. At this time, I seriously considered the possibility to use it as artistic medium.

陀螺舞 03:42


     The first attempt was "Terror", “Jump" and other large photographs. I tried to add in objects made by 3D software such as giant bubbles, transparent leaping human body. But after several works, I stopped. Because I realized that, in a realistic environment, embedding an artificial virtual object is more or less weird, so I separated the two things completely. Photography is photography, while virtual is virtual. In that case, with the use of 3D computer software only, an artwork "The Last Judgment in Cyberspace" was created.
     In 2005, I rented an apartment of more than one hundred square meters at Wangjing New Town. At the very beginning, I just had one assistant, then two or three assistants came to work with me. We just used ordinary home computers to displace more than four hundred characters of Michelangelo’s fresco to my 3D model. According to my photos and plaster turning models. the model was finished by a young teacher teaching at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He took a long time modeling back and forth, and in the case that the 3D-models were not completely finished, I already started to use them in my work because I couldn’t wait to try as soon as new ideas came out.



     It took me a year to finish the process of 3D-modeling, long and dull but exciting. Every day we were challenging the limits of those home computers, even now, I’m surprised that we could make scenes of such a scale with those so simple 786 computers. Of course, I divided the scenes and spliced them one by one, as I did in photography. I made five images of different angles of view, plus a seven minutes animation. Dubbing was completed at the dubbing room of PLA Art Institute. Four foreign teachers and students were invited from Beijing Foreign Studies University to read questions and answers written by myself. From 7 P.M. we worked into the wee hours of the morning and accomplished the task at a stretch.
     Once it was finished, I was excited to show my work to a lot of people, because I suddenly had the feeling that I had four hands, not only with the aid of hardware and software, but also with the help of assistants’ hand. We can learn from the history of art that ancient ancestors might just stick some colors with their hands, and painted a figure or animal figures on the walls of a cave. Later the birth of each tool will bring something new to the art. Such as burnt charcoal, another example of the invention is the fine brush which makes fine characterization possible.



     Using 3D software, I can create a world not too big but rich enough. In this world, I feel both the great of creation and the tiny of human capacity. Compared with all things in the universe, an artificial world, especially a virtual world is really too trivial. Even so, I feel excited and happy about this microcosm I created. By copying the same 3D model, I can get hundreds of virtual characters. Under different lighting and environment, they appear to have each a different look and expression. In the backdrop of music, they even have some emotions. They can accept instruction, available on demand, listen to disposal, don’t need to worry about their paycheck and basic necessities, news gossip. They are always there. The scene has been built, and always exists virtually, no need to be removed. Lights can be added or removed, the lens can be freely slided and rotated, they can dive and don’t need any rocker and rails. They are virtual cameras and video cameras. Lens focal length can be freely switched from ultra-wide angle to super-telephoto, regardless of the cost of equipment. Fineness of the video can also be rendered according to the need.
     The exhibition "The Last Judgment in Cyberspace" also brought unexpected success, which made it possible for me to purchase better hardware and have better assistants to help me. At that time, the studio moved to Guofeng Beijing, in a duplex filled with computers up and down, then I started the creation of "H2O" and "Microcosm" series. Since then my work has been inseparable from computers and assistants, it’s been more than ten years. The use of computer makes me both excited and breathless. Hardware and softwares are constantly updated, digital files keep piling up, I don’t know whether I drive the computer, or the computer drives me. I worked as if I whirled round and round -- spinning like a top. Unless the studio stopped because of an overload trip, or I stopped because I got sick, I seemed to become very capable and very imaginative, like taking illegal drugs which made me have extraordinary play, and computer and software are my stimulants. It seems that they should never appear in the artistic creation which had been always dominated by handmade, but I thought, from then on, their use would be increasingly presented as a normality.

Triumph of Death 2015
Acrylic on linen 400x400cm

     From 2007, I had a strong interest in potential effect of software on painting. I first simulated a variety of painting effects in the computer, such as the digital oil paintings "The New School of Athens", "Parnassus" and so on. Digital ink painting series: "Beijing Handscroll" and "Microcosm" have the effect of simulated ink. The work appears to be hand-painted, but it was made entirely in the computer and no ingredient was added by hand to the final printout works.
     Cutting plotter was introduced from 2010. It carves the vector files on lettering paper which is stuck to the canvas, as an auxiliary way. In this way, you can put the modeling task in the early stage 3D modeling, and with the help of lettering paper you can hand-draw on the canvas. Modeling task has been greatly simplified, then, painting has an unique sense of order, with relaxed brushwork, clear and sharp edge of images.
     When using computer and software, I have a feeling that I’m cooperating with another mind and two other hands. I’m understanding its arithmetic logic, and it is catering to my imagination. It can complete the work that my hands cannot, at the same time my hands’ flexibility is what it cannot match. When these four hands are combined with each other, a new style is created. It fascinates me, and I deeply believe in its unique power. I will to spend all my time and make all my effort to have this new style and power gradually revealed.

Blind 2014
Pigment Print 100x100cm


Guest of the lecture

     Miao Xiaochun (b.1964) graduated from Nanjing University, China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and the Kunsthochschule Kassel, Germany. Professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, he lives and works in Beijing. He started in 90s his creative explorations on the interface between the real and the virtual. His extensive body of work includes photography, painting and 3D computer animation based on softwares. His work has been worldwide exhibited, including the 55th Venice Biennale(Chinese Pavilion, Venice, 2013), the 7th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art(Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2012), the 1st Kiev International Biennial of Contemporary Art(Kiev, 2012), the 4th Guangzhou Triennial(Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, 2012), Busan Biennale(Busan MoMA, 2008), the Seoul Media Art Biennale(Seoul, 2006), Shanghai Biennale(Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, 2002) and Between Past and Future ( ICP and Asia Society, NY; Smart Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; V & A, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2004-2006).
     His work is in the collections of among others The MoMA New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; Fondation Nationale d’Art Contemporain (FNAC), Paris; Singapore Art Museum; Shanghai Art Museum; M+ Museum HK, Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul; Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI.; Sigg Collection, Lucerne; Goetz Collection, Munich; Zabludowicz Collection, London; DSL Collection, Paris.

Editior/Li Xiaowei
Verifier/Sun Yanan & Mi Jie