Lu Chao’s Paintings Convey the Overwhelming Nature of Crowds

by Margot BuermannPosted on


People packed on train platforms and congregated in public spaces – these images that are so familiar to the city dweller are the inspiration behind Lu Chao’s surreal oil paintings. The artist references the detailed, expressive brushstrokes of classical Chinese painting, applied to a contemporary subject matter, to provide an honest reflection of his personal experiences with living in some of the world’s most populated cities.


Lu Chao was born in 1988 in Shenyang, China. He studied Oil Painting at China’s Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing and completed his Masters degree in Painting at the Royal College of Art in London. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries in Hong Kong, Beijing, London, Brussels, and Mexico City.



In an interview with Back of House, the artist discussed how one particular experience as a student in London helped to influence the subject matter of his work. “One morning in 2010, I took the tube to college and as I looked downwards toward the second floor of the station, I was shocked by all the crowds waiting to get into the platform. I had the feeling that everyone looked the same and then I was overwhelmed by the sense that what I was seeing were not real people at all. What I saw instead was only black dots squirming together. This inspired my art to this day.”


His paintings often depict people in unusual and surreal contexts – such as ant-sized figures flocking towards a giant sinkhole, or crowds stacked high and teetering on dessert towers. In other scenes, the subjects appear to be objects of curiosity for some larger than life, invisible entity that examines them in a science lab or encases them in glass for public exhibition. The artist’s work also suggests the notion of control and identity that is lost in large groups of people. In many of his works, he takes great care to give distinct hairstyles, facial expressions and clothing to each person, yet one cannot help but feel that their individuality is overpowered by the dominant force of the larger collective.



Lu Chao currently works and lives in Beijing and London.

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