Often producing monochromatic works in a dark palette of mixed colors, Xie Lei can perhaps be best described as a symbolist painter. Ancient rituals, traditional Chinese imagery or Western mythology form the subjects of many paintings. They are bathed in a suggestive and sometimes mysterious atmosphere reminiscent of ancient folktale and primeval epochs.
In Xie Lei’s paintings, animals and plants are personified and seem to acquire a personality of their own, while human characters are intimately incorporated in their environment, forming one with nature. While these environments are depicted by conventional signs, Xie Lei often eschews delineating ground from sky, proximity from depth and foreground from background, thereby deliberately confusing the viewer’s sense of time and space and disseminating a sense of ethereality into paintings that look no more like windows into a new world but as symbolist talismans facing the viewer. This diaphanous ambiance is contrasted and balanced by a very painterly technique, with large patches of colors made up of visible brushstrokes producing a sense of spontaneity: they are manifestly the legacy of an individual imagination rather than objective artefacts.
Xie Lei was born in 1983 in Huainan China, and graduated from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, and received his PhD (practice-based) in visual arts in 2016 from the École normal supérieure and the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris where he still lives and works since 2006. Xie Lei's works are collected in different public and private collections, such as MAC VAL Museum of Contemporary Art and Burger Collection. He has been widely exhibited in French, Swiss and China. His latest solo exhibitions include Open Space # 13: Xie Lei: Au-Delà held at the Louis Vuitton Foundation (2023); Xie Lei: Nachleben in the Kandehoff Gallery (2023), and Xie Lei: Victim in the Lyles & King Gallery (2023) in new York; Xie Lei: Chant d'Amour in Semiose Gallery (2022) and Sleeping in Meessen de Clercq Gallery (2021). Other important group exhibitions include Yuen-Yeung in Shanghai (2023);Casa de Velá zquez in Madrid (2021); Mendes Wood DM, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2021); Meessen de Clercq, Brussels (2020); "Person Grata" organized by MAC VAL Museum of Contemporary Art (2019) and Paris Museum of Immigration History (2018); "How to look at [things that don't exist]", Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany (2018); "David H. brolly Collection in Geneva", Fene Blanca Foundation, St. Louis (2018); “Memorandum II” of White Space in Beijing (2014) and “Ligne de Chance” of ricard Foundation (2010).