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Artist shows garbage is not rubbish

By Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-24 07:30
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Artist Zhao Xiaoli poses beside her art work at her studio in Beijing, after she completed the reproduction of American painter Charles Courtney Curran's By the Lily Pond on an old door.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Discarded items take on a fresh life under the transformative skill of a woman who knows the value of waste, Wang Qian reports.

One man's trash is another man's treasure. This is a well-known phrase but for Zhao Xiaoli it is also a guide to her professional life. She makes art out of garbage.

A variety of recycled objects, including a wooden door, a chair with one leg missing, an old television, a discarded washboard, a broken guitar, plastic bottles and a vintage thermos flask, have provided a canvas of inspiration for Zhao.

"Art should serve the public, which needs us to think outside the box. Through the form of art, the used items can be redefined," says the 30-year-old.

Zhao's interest in rubbish is known by many people, even sanitary workers near her studio in Beijing. When anyone in her community throws furniture out, like a door or a chair, Zhao is always the first to know.

Call it trash, but for Zhao, it can be works of art and the discarded items can be transformed.

In a 30-second video posted in December on micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, she recycles a wooden door. After smoothing the surface of the door, she sweeps a brush in an apparently wild style and allows the paint to splatter on the vertical board. Later, her reproduction of American painter Charles Courtney Curran's By the Lily Pond appears on the door, as if by magic.

The clip has been viewed over 1 million times on the platform. Her account has attracted more than 524,000 followers.

Her account on the video-sharing platform Douyin has garnered nearly 8.5 million followers.

For Zhao, it seems that anything can be her canvas. Last year, a coffee store she often visited was closed and the owner gave her a broken guitar. She created an oil painting which combined works by two Dutch masters, Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and Wheat Field With Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh.

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