Inspired by encounters, whether recent or from the past, Xinyi Cheng's works are mainly made from photographic portraits representing everyday situations. From her surroundings, Cheng captures a gesture, a face: a cigarette between the lips, a man bringing his mouth to a jet of water, a face in the coloured shadow of night, a young man with his head in his hands...
Born in 1989 in China and living between Shanghai and Paris, the artist tightens the frame and draws inspiration from photography to imagine small format paintings, intimate fragments. The artist represents ordinary situations, a sum of small gestures. She strives to capture halos, reflections, flames, bursts of water, as many unstable states that her painting depicts with an unsettling sensuality.
In a tight framing focused on the action, this image depicts a person extending a lighter or setting something on fire, which is hidden from us by the thumb. The chiaroscuro evokes the lesson of the Caravaggisti and the work of the French master Georges de La Tour. Xinyi Cheng seems to focus all her attention on the lighter's glow, attempting to reproduce both the effect of the halo and the physical phenomenon of the skin's transluminescence, its glow seemingly piercing the canvas to the point of becoming a beacon itself.
Is the rising flame one of a nascent idyll or of a more sacred mystery? Profane or spiritual, it seems to carry the magic of the painting and the impulse of the soul. The format of the painting creates a feeling of intimacy with the gesture, with this half visible face, lips pinkened by the flame. A subtle eroticism is at play—an encounter, seductive and secret.
This work by Xinyi Cheng is presented for the first time by the Pinault Collection in the exhibition "Ouverture" at the Bourse de Commerce in 2021.