ARTIST TAKEOVER: Liang Xiu | Three Shadows +3 Gallery | PHOTOFAIRS

ARTIST TAKEOVER: Liang Xiu | Three Shadows +3 Gallery

 "I grew up in a marginalized environment. Even though I was the sufferer, I’m the spokesman now. That pursuing light by present darkness is my hope. We enjoy happiness in life and accept the torment in life simultaneously. There always are shadows under the sun."


The provocative work of Chinese artist Liang Xiu has been linked to the work of Daido Moriyama and other members of the Provoke movement. Challenging constructs surrounding equality, sexuality and artistic identity, both past and present, Xiu’s work has had much global notice. 

In 2017 Xiu won the Three Shadows Photography Award. At just 22 years-old and having picked up a camera just one year before, she was a photographer on the radar of many leading voices in the photography industry. At 12 years-old Xiu had left school and to work in a factory. These personal events are, she explains, what drives her creativity. 

On the Three Shadows website, Liang Xiu wrote: "I grew up in a marginalized environment. Even though I was the sufferer, I’m the spokesman now. That pursuing light by present darkness is my hope. We enjoy happiness in life and accept the torment in life simultaneously. There always are shadows under the sun." For a long time, Liang Xiu relied on pain to create. Photography is her therapy. She puts the restlessness, fear, ugliness, and reality inside her head into her photographs, so people’s reactions were emotional. It is said that at the exhibition of Fringe of Society, Liang Xiu had a glimpse of a girl crying at her work.

In this Artist Takeover, we share a selection of Xiu's works from Something to Nothing, a series about struggling, poverty and being a marginalized member of the community. Read her thoughts below each image. For the full takeover with her thoughts on her images please visit our WeChat page. You can scan the QR code here

© Liang Xiu

Some people in this world are 50 years-old, some people are 18. The childhood life experienced by the 50 year-old person is the future that the 18-year-old is longing for.

People in the same era live in different times and space. Even someone at the bottom of society spies on the other time and space and tries to go there through education and hard work, they might not easily succeed. 

People often use the word poverty to define the bottom. Yes, poverty can be caused by the effects of family atmosphere, resource education, entertainment enjoyment, information asymmetry or closure, which comprehensively restrain and suppress the human spirit, thus destroy an independent spirit, a free soul, and a broad-minded possibility.

The state of life hides the context of cognition, and cognition creates the state of life to a certain extent. Even if the times are changing, mainstream consciousness is slowly penetrating backward areas. Rural and urban areas seem to be indistinguishable, but the gap below the surface is still huge.

© Liang Xiu

During the time I studied five aggregates, I often made actions while telling myself: this is sexual, this is suffering, this is thinking...Maybe, there is a broken nucleus in the human body, which affects people's perception of what is bad and what is good. Between these differences, the broken nucleus gives birth to unwillingness and jealousy.

© Liang Xiu

When I was twelve, I squatted in front of a hair salon in the county to see the walking people, and a man with blonde hair in a cowboy outfit passed by. The hairdresser around me said: ‘She is the famous lesbian in the nearby high school.’

At the age of fifteen, I was on a night shift at the factory. I went to the back room to pour cotton from the textile machine. I saw two 40-year-old aunts snuggling and sleeping. The older sisters who were close to me said: ‘They are a couple.’ At sixteen, I knew an older sister who was two years older than me. When she was an insomniac. She confessed: “I broke up with my beloved girl, but I still love her." They are just like ordinary people, treat me well. But in addition to the objects that wrap around our bodies, there is also a classification of people which will cause discussion and discrimination.

© Liang Xiu

I was walking down the street that day, and I saw him around the trash can. When I walked past him, I turned back and saw him bury his head in the bin. So I turned around and took out my phone to shoot it down.
At that time, I was in the stage of exploring the "possibility of getting out of suffering" in "Xian", and proposed that cognition has fluidity which can be used to reverse the pain. This work was originally meant to end there, but when I go home and look at the photos, I think no. Even though it is possible to get rid of suffering, it needs huge costs: economy, resources, education, vision, experience, etc. But the strong have the way, the weak have no life.

When I was living in the west of the village as a child, the wall of the yard collapsed for a while. I stood there to see the pregnant women and the other female carrying the baby running away. At that time, babies suffered, the parents suffered. However, my mother died too long to remember. In the poor generation, countless babies move from home to home. But resentment for poverty and turmoil is useless. After all, I have no power to shake in terms of the times. 

© Liang Xiu

Life is a long line, and events are the knots above. When you reach the end, you can know whether you have a bitter life or a happy life. The person who suffers more will overwhelm the fear of death, and thus think death is liberation. And those who enjoy more still have to accept death as a bitter part of life. Seeds of bitterness are planted from the moment they are born, and as they grow, the bitterness becomes endless.