If you did one sketch every day, what would you draw today?
The first time I saw the work of Du Juan, who draws under the pseudonym Xiao Duzi, I couldn’t find a title or an explanation, just a short date—a day, a month, a year—and this diary-like approach is what piqued my curiosity.
Look closely at the giant man with a house for a head and a black cloud hanging over his shoulders, and you’ll see that most of the space is left to the observer, left to the imagination.
For now these drawings are largely a daily record of experience. In 2016, when Du Juan returned from England, where she’d studied, she took a job teaching. “Art is art, teaching is teaching,” she says, explaining that she prefers to keep the two separate. “The only thing linking them is that, when I teach, I can pass on some fundamental skills and my understanding of art. But art requires independent thought,” she says.
As for her influences and inspiration, Du says that recently she gets a large part of her inspiration from poetry, and reads everything from Oscar Wilde to classical Chinese verse. “In general I like two types: poetry that offers a glimpse of life, and poetry that expresses an emotional state,” she says. “Particularly once you’ve acquired a little life experience, you can sort of understand the deeper meaning of classical poetry.”
The characters in Du’s drawings are just outlines and suggestions, but the details are unique. She thinks this may be because she likes to take slow, solitary walks, where she sometimes happens across intriguing sights that she incorporates into her art. “No matter what I draw, or what materials I use, or what style I’m trying out,” she says, “I always hope the drawing will contain something that’s quiet and not obvious but can nevertheless be understood.”