Xuanning Zhao


I am interested in the philosophical notions of sacrifice, suffering and death, for they contain the opposite of themselves within their realm, the transcendence. My current focus is mainly based on the philosophy of some thinkers especially Hegel, Kierkegaard, Bataille, Nietzsche and Plato.

My PhD is focusing on the suffering images in history of art, particularly in western culture. I argue that the suffering movement in images acts as a middle status between its current stage towards the stage of its transcendence, then by examining of the history of the middle status, we may observe how the confront between reason and sensation moved in different stages of the long history.

Currently, my research contains the middle status between six different periods, from the prehistoric time, the dead man with bird head in cave Lascaux, France, which is the probably the first suffering figure through the entire history; golden age of Greek art; art in Medieval Ages; the Renaissance; Russian Realism, especially the painting of Ilya Repin, Barge Haulers on the Volga; and finally in Modernism, I will focus on the art of American artist, Mark Rothko, whose works indicate the death and suffering of the artist himself.

Research interests

  • philosophical notions of sacrifice, suffering and death
  • suffering images in art history
  • theories of Hegel, Kierkegaard, Bataille, Nietzsche and Plato
  • French poem and poetry, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Rene Char
  • Russian literature, especially Dostoevsky
  • Joseph Beuys and social sculpture
  • Ilya Repin
  • art and society
  • cave art


  • MA Digital Media with Dist
  • BA Vision Communication