Articles and Features

Neo-Surrealist Artists Pushing the Limits of Imagination

Neo-surrealist artwork by Jee Young Lee titled Meditation
Jee Young Lee, Meditation, 2016

By Adam Hencz

A new generation of surrealist artists has emerged, also known as neo-surrealists, painting dreams, and sculpting fantasies with a fresh perspective that bridges the conscious and the unconscious. This article delves deep into the works of prominent neo-surrealist artists who are carving out spaces of wonder, mystery, and deep reflection in the art world.

From the surreal yet traditionally beautiful aesthetic of Yuanyu Xiong to the dream-infused environments crafted by Michael Vincent Manalo, we invite you to explore the rich neo-surrealist landscape through the work of these remarkable artists. Join us as we unravel the stories behind the canvases, installations, and digital realms where the neo-surrealist movement finds its heartbeat, offering viewers a gateway to the unexplored territories of the human psyche.

Ming Ying: Painting Desires with Bold Strokes

Ming Ying, currently based in London, paints scenes of desire that are both romantic and psychedelic, using heavy impasto oil paint. Her canvases, often limited to a few vibrant colors, depict small groups or solitary figures in moments of intimacy and tranquility. Through thick brushstrokes, Ying explores the silent dialogues of desire, capturing the stillness that speaks volumes.

Yuanyu Xiong: Surrealism through Traditional Mediums

Yuanyu Xiong crafts surreal art pieces using traditional materials like clay, wood, paper, and oil paint. Drawing from Dutch painting traditions and Constructivism, she achieves a harmonious balance and proportion in her works. Xiong’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in her installations, drawings, and sculptures, presenting a surreal yet traditionally beautiful aesthetic.

Neo-surrealist painting by Yuanyu Xiong titled Spiritual Animals
Yuanyu Xiong, Spiritual Animals

Julie Curtiss: Reworking Gender Narratives through Surrealism

Brooklyn-based French artist Julie Curtiss creates figurative paintings, sculptures, and gouache on paper works, to explore the interplay between nature and culture. Her works, rich with surrealist elements, challenge and re-envision traditional gender roles, offering a fresh perspective on femininity.

Jia Aili: Bridging Traditions with Contemporary Narratives

Jia Aili, a Chinese artist born in 1979, stands at the forefront of a new wave of Chinese artists blending classical Eastern art forms with modern narratives. His paintings, often seen as epic and dystopian, portray surreal landscapes and architectural forms. Aili’s work is a journey through art history, constantly forging new paths in contemporary thematic exploration.

Installation view of Jia Aili's exhibition titled Combustion at Gagosian
Installation view of Jia Aili’s exhibition titled Combustion at Gagosian on 522 West 21st Street.

Jee Young Lee: Visual Diaries of Inner Conflicts

South Korean artist Jee Young Lee creates transient installations, photographing them before their deliberate deconstruction. This process, a therapeutic escape from societal pressures, allows her to externalize inner conflicts. Lee’s artistry lies in her ability to build, capture, and then dismantle, using photography to record her reality.

Nam Das: Storytelling through Colors and Myths

Nam Das, a Filipino artist, crafts visual narratives that echo the deep-seated Jungian archetypes and mythologies. Using a restrained palette in his oil paintings, he orchestrates figurative elements into a cohesive assemblage and centralizes them around a core concept. Das delves into the open-ended realms of the human psyche, offering a canvas where imagination meets mythology, a true embodiment of the neo-surrealist movement.

Old Adage, painting by neo-surrealist artist Nam Das
Nam Das, Old Adage (2019) Lazaro Collection

Mary Reid Kelley: A Poetic Exploration of Identity

Contemporary artist Mary Reid Kelley creates narrative videos, paintings, performances, and poetry, often working alongside her partner Patrick Kelley. Her distinctive style, marked by a black-and-white palette and poetry rich in wordplay, delves into the complex narratives of gender, sexuality, and identity, offering a critical examination of traditional gender norms through a surreal and poetic lens.

Installation view of Mary Reid Kelley's exhibition titled Rand/Goop at Studio Voltaire.
Installation view of Mary Reid Kelley’s exhibition titled Rand/Goop at Studio Voltaire

Michael Vincent Manalo: Crafting Dreamscapes

Born in Manila in 1986, Michael Vincent Manalo is a master of acrylic paintings, photo manipulation, and installations. He transports viewers to nostalgic and dream-infused environments conjured by his imagination. Manalo’s creations are a gateway to surreal and eerie worlds, where figures wander in landscapes that blur the lines between dreams and reality, a vivid representation of a neo-surrealist artist at work.

Neo-surrealist painting by Michael Vincent Manalo titled We Could Die Chasing this Feeling
Michael Vincent Manalo, We Could Die Chasing this Feeling