Helen Xu is an artist/illustrator operating out of Jinan, China. Much of her work is characterized by a love of animals. Pigs, birds, rabbits, insects, no member of the animal kingdom is off limits for this artist who uses wildlife to illustrate a greater sense of her prevailing mood/intent in her pieces. What a boon it was then when in 2018 Xu finally got herself a cat. Overwhelmed with the joy of having her new feline friend, Xu went on a run of illustrations incorporating the newest love in her life.
Like many of her past series, ‘Beauty & Cat’ centers around a recurring female figure, a fair skinned brunette who, in this series, finds herself surrounding by kitties who pop up in the most unexpected places. And that’s what I find most interesting about this particular collection, the varied manner in which Xu incorporates cats into her pieces. In some cases, the inclusion is very straightforward, her female character simply being surrounded by white cats as in the first piece or the second where the fur of a black cat sits in front of the woman, spreading her shadow like color around her new human. In others though, like the third and fourth pieces in her collection, the cat inclusion is more cleverly hidden.
In the third one for instance, our female hero is influenced by her love of cats, golden whiskers and ears hovering around her face while she sits in fine rouge cloth. The cloth is adorned with lovely flowers and among the flowers, if you take a moment to spot it, is a beautiful white cat, tail curled as it watches a ball of yarn, perhaps preparing to pounce. In the next piece our woman has shed her ears and whiskers, turning back to the viewer coyly in her sleeveless white shirt. All around her are vining plants with their shimmering leaves twisting and raising. Amidst the vines, behind the figure’s point of view, are a series of cat eyes, sinister, peering out, possibly threatening our woman. It’s an effect that in a quick scroll you might miss. That’s why it’s important to take a moment to really appreciate the artwork posted out there on the web, you might miss something otherwise. And in the case of Helen Xu, that something is clever and cute and not to be looked over.