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Last summer, before I left my home in Chengdu to study in London, I found some penciled lines in an old storybook of mine. Those penciled lines, zigzagging, twisting, usually taking up the entire page, are like winter’s branches obscuring the gray sky, and sometimes the pencil punctured the page. I was a baby when I drew these lines. I didn’t know how to hold a pencil properly. I probably hadn’t seen a real painting, and I didn’t even know the action I was doing was called drawing. I didn’t even know a language yet, but there I was, drawing, with the instinctive desire to express. These lines are as angry and painful as my first cry. Anger comes from not being able to choose whether I am going to be born into this world or not. Pain comes from my not even being able to choose what I am going to do in this world because there are things destined to do, because of the irresistible impulse of life.

I think back to those lines every now and then. Sometimes I look at my current paintings and I can find them in there too, like scratches all over the painting. They are the bones of my paintings.

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Chengwei Xia (she/her) is studying painting at the Slade School of Fine Art.

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xia_chengwei@outlook.com