Where Carnal Needs Meet Unearthly Setting

Xingzi Gu Pure Heart Hall Lubov 17 Orange Bedroom 1

Xingzi Gu’s paintings do not consider earthly gravity, nor do they depict scenes that have ever existed on this planet. All eight compositions in Pure Heart Hall broadcast memory-mined configurations of lovers and strangers, as well as people forgotten, faintly remembered, or entirely re-imagined. 

Combining online imagery and film stills, Gu layers, airbrushes, and stains acrylic and oil paint into vaporous scenes containing characters both boundless and bonded, undulating in and out of each other. Couples, cuddling ducks, and scattered butterflies occupy steamy, mystical realms that seem to dissolve into the canvas. In “Orange Bedroom” (2023–24), two shoulder-to-shoulder figures inhale cigarettes in victorious unison. Crimsoned from the waist down, with exposed chests, the characters are distant, paused in thought. Yet Gu imbues the scene with intimacy by depicting their shared comfort in the nude against the fiery red backdrop. Wispy shades of gray outline a veranda and a small fern in the foreground, with what looks like a tall bookshelf positioned behind, combining both interior and exterior features in the painting’s “behind-closed-doors” settings. A faded, dingy chandelier emits a moody hue in blotches of lighter yellows and reds, while a particularly shady section eliminates the figures’ flaws like the dim lighting of a bar. 

In “Untitled (Cherry Coke or Ocean Flame)” (2024), we are voyeurs to a tender moment between two androgynous figures who drape over each other, head to stomach, locked in a seductive gaze. Faintly dappled blue bubbles blow across their lounging embrace — from which I would never want to unravel — suggesting pheromone-infused goosebumps of ecstasy. It is said that those who emit a light blue aura are associated with qualities such as serenity, sincerity, and clear communication, framing Gu’s compassionate characters in relaxed yet engaging dialogue. Bubbly orb shapes continue in more fractal formations in “Landline” (2023–24), the exhibition’s most psychedelic work. Two figures, reminiscent of ballerinas with subtle traces of tutus, lie supine with splayed breasts. Muddy blues and vibrant aubergine shades halo their heads, referencing their “crown chakra,” which relates to connection, dreams, and higher consciousness

By replacing conventional identities with ethereal depictions of energies, moods, and emotions, Gu dismantles preconceived notions of their figures’ relationship to each other. In Pure Heart Hall, Gu breathes life into the corporeal essence of their characters.

Xingzi Gu: Pure Heart Hall continues at Lubov gallery (5 East Broadway #402, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through June 22. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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