Arts + Culture » Visual Art

New Art 2017: Steven Zuo goes into the abstract

Painter Steven Zuo breaks down his work.



Surfaces and Subtleties
Vicky Gallagher, Shelby Johnson and Steven Zuo
Opening February 27 at 5:30pm
To March 4
Anna Leonowens Gallery

Tiandongding Zuo (you can call him Steven) doesn’t always know what art should be, but he knows what it isn’t. It’s not the rigourous, literal recreation of things—like painting bowls of fruit or posing models—that he did in his years of studying art in his home country of China. “The camera set artists free. Art is abstract,” he explains, standing his oil painting, “Discarded Blanket and Stones,” on an easel.

Now at NSCAD, Zuo specializes in non-literal, emotional versions of everyday scenes, using photos he takes while wandering as a jumping-off point for his works. “I like things grounded in reality,” he says. His process? Stripping away non-essential elements from the snaps, only painting the parts with the most meaning: “It’s more about what is true about the image.”


1 Zuo was inspired by a large rock with a blanket on top he found on his travels. These reddish-brown tones represent the rock’s grainy surface.

2 Softer colours and lines represent the blanket’s texture and provides necessary contrast from the rock.

3 “The painting needs room to breathe. Too much on a canvas can suffocate it,” Zuo says of this white space. It counters the nearby heavy navy and teal, which represent shadows.

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