The vibrance and the diversity of shapes or colors existing in nature have bestowed the elements of flora high on the list of desirable painting motifs through centuries. Whether we're talking about the Dutch flower painting, Monet's Poppy Field, Warhol’s Flowers series, David Hockney's landscapes, or Jonas Wood plants, the foliage has been a way to explore the technical possibilities of a medium, connect with the viewer through a familiar, pleasing sight, as well as document or comment on the themes of interest. And Chinese artist Xiao Wang seems to be elevating these aspects with his current show Hyperfoliage, which is currently on view at The Java Project in Brooklyn.

Curated by Alejandro Jassan for this artist-run space, Hyperfoliage comprises new series of paintings that are reimagining the tradition of Romanticism and the dynamics between landscape, power, and expression through these captivating visuals. Rendered in bright, surprising colors which are applied in thin glazes, the Brooklyn-based artist creates exciting color shifts through which the  new qualities are attributed to the familiar greenery. The lush vegetation that commonly evokes peace and balance, transforms into a somewhat touting milieu behind which a contrasting scene is taking place. Whether it's the solid cadmium red background going against the electric blue ivy leaves, or a pair of troubled eyes peeking through the purple fig tree, a seemingly harmonious image gets imbued with tension and enigma.

Wang's masterful use of extraordinary color choices and the suggestive light effects construct cinematic paintings in which he seamlessly blends the realistic narratives and naturalistic techniques with surreal elements of dream or fantasy. Even though often depicting a real-life scene in a realistic manner, with the artist's friends and loved ones as the protagonists, the overall ambiance of the images evokes the feeling of disorientation or anxiety. “I want to connect them by creating a “same-ness” in their psyche, as if they are all haunted by the same experience and the same anxieties,” the artist stated about his characters which are regularly captured somewhere between commonplace activities and whimsical poses. The interest in both technical and conceptual explorations of Romanticism, The Symbolist Movement, and Magical Realism, informed the artst's interest in such themes as the ever-present ideological uncertainty and the growing environmental crisis. In this regard, the foliage becomes the symbol of unbeatable nature which regularly presents an obstruction or interference for his subjects. “I paint vegetation with distorted forms and colors, depicting plants as uncanny, sublime, and supernatural beings. Simultaneously, I portray human figures with feelings of confusion and resignation, putting them at the mercy of the landscape,“ the artist explains in a statement accompanying this presentation. —Sasha Bogojev

In conjunction with Hyperfoliage, Wang’s work is currently on view in the group exhibition A Collective Escape at Deanna Evans Projects, Brooklyn.