Date of Award

Spring 6-4-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Jackie Gendel

Second Advisor

Roger White

Third Advisor

Angela Dufresne


“It seems an unaccountable pleasure which the spectators of a well-written tragedy receive from sorrow, terror, anxiety and other passions, that are in themselves disagreeable and uneasy” (Hume, 1757).

Horror, said Adorno in another context, was beyond the scope of psychology. Horror tries to frighten, shock, horrify, and disgust using a variety of visual and auditory leitmotifs and devices, including reference to the supernatural, the abnormal, mutilation, blood, gore, the infliction of pain, death, deformity, putrefaction, darkness, invasion, mutation, extreme instability, and the unknown. Supernatural or uncanny narratives can shape, distort, or reflect the storyline in literary works, but also leads to trick on canvas. For my paintings, these narratives are negative space, distorted or segmented perspectives, optical or even a fish eye lens, Dutch angle, and ambiguous or zoomorphic shapes and forms.

Moreover, the fear evoked by horror is related to culture’s cognitive map and social values. It varies from region to region, and sometimes this variation can exist in one culture. Yet there are still some universal characteristics of horror. And some of them have a much longer history than we imagined. As Lovecraft famously wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

I am intrigued by how fear relates to universal anthropological conceptions or beliefs in monsters, witchcraft, ghosts, magic, necromancy, and how the uncanny and bizarre reflect the contemporary superstitious milieu. Thus my work is dedicated to examine some of the oldest paradigms of horror, in order to draw attention to the cultural and historical significance of these forms, shapes, spaces, motifs or narratives related to the primeval impulse of the human.


View exhibition online: Xingge Zhang, Paradigms of Horror

Included in

Painting Commons



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