Hsiao Chin at 85: An Exhibition of Transcendent Art

2021.01.23 - 2021.04.18 KMFA Galleries 201~103

Hsiao Chin at 85: An Exhibition of Transcendent Art

“Transcending the superficial and reaching the essence in an endless flow without any forced contrivance.”
Twenty-four Grades of Poetry: Vigorous Style, Sikong Tu, Tang Dynasty

 Born in Shanghai in 1935, Hsiao learned the art of painting from Li Chun-shan. Deeply inspired by modern art, Hsiao went to Spain for further studying in 1956 among the first group of Chinese painters who studied abroad and really stood on the frontline of the Western art world. In December 1955, Hsiao and seven other artists who had also studied art at Li’s studio: Li Yuan-chia, Wu Hao, Hsia Yan, Chen Tao-ming, Ouyang Wen-yuan, Ho Kan, and Hsiao Ming-hsien jointly established the “Ton-Fan Art Group”. With Hsiao playing a facilitating role abroad, they had dozens of exhibitions in Europe, America, Asia, and Africa with the participation of invited avant-garde artists from other countries such as Lucio Fontana, founder of Spazialismo in Italy, attracting extensive attention from communities of painting artists both at home and abroad.
Because of his experiences of dual cultural exposure from decades of living in Europe, Hsiao came to believe that the modernization and future of Chinese art must be “global” in nature, “combining the East and the West” and superior to the “localism” of merely one single side. Such cultural pursuit of “globalism” and “combination of the East and the West” suggests a kind of evolution toward cultural pluralism. During his early days in Spain, Hsiao drew inspiration from his understanding of Eastern abstractionism and incorporated its “symbolic contents” and “emotional and meditative elements” in the early development of his artistic style based on “globalism” and “combination of the East and the West”. In addition, through his exploration of the Taoist thoughts of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, Hsiao gradually leaned toward the “spirituality of not seeking fame and fortune”. After WWII, the trend of Art Informel dominated the development of Western art. Seeing the problematic propensity of this trend to focus on the superficial aspects lacking in contents, Hsiao launched the “Punto International Art Movement” in Milan in 1961 together with Antonio Calderara, an Italian artist; and Azuma Kenjiro, a Japanese sculptor, to fight against the superficial emphasis on “venting of emotions” in Western art under the influence of the trend over the past years. During this movement, totally 13 group exhibitions were held from1962 to 1966, among which an exhibition traveled from Italy to Spain, Taiwan, and other countries, setting off a new form of artistic transnationalism across Europe.
From 1964 to 1966, Hsiao’s newly developed interest in Indian philosophy was reflected by the blazing and bright light akin to a flaming sun in his paintings to represent the spiritual energy of “Mandala” and convey the spiritual essence of “contemplation” and “meditation” inherent to ancient Eastern cultures. After he arrived at the US, Hsiao started to use asymmetrical compositionand large color blocks in his paintings. His change toward greater stylistic simplicity in his works in the following decade(1966-1974) came from his interest in Zen Buddhism and represented his “Asian essence” and “intuitive nature”. Later, he launched the “International Surya Art Movement” together with his friends from Italy, Japan, Germany, Austria, and other countries. This movement advocated the concept of the sun as the source of life and energy, accentuated human subconsciousness, and explored the symbolic prototype of common human origin.
During his more than 60 years of artistic creation, Hsiao drew inspiration from the changes in his living environments when he was staying abroad; from the international art movements he jointly launched; from the transition of his thinking as an artist; and even from the heart-breaking moments in his life to create representative work series in different periods of time, such as the Art Informel and Action Painting series when he was living in Spain; the Tao series during his stay in Milan; the Contemplation and Introspection series during the Punto Movement; the Hard Edge and Zen series during his stay in the US; the Chi and Landscape of the Universe series after he turned to Milan; the Passage through the Great Threshold series commemorating the death of his daughter; and the Brave New World, The Eternal Garden, Samadhi and The Bright Side series. Throughout all these years, Hsiao’s art has demonstrated a wide spectrum of artistic splendor; explored the truth of the universe and different topics about life; rendered visual and symbolic representation of what humanity share in common; reflected diverse thoughts across multiple cultures; and embodied a realm of art that “transcends the superficial and reaches the essence” and “breaks free from all the restrictions”. With their joint efforts, Hsiao and the other artists of his generation ushered in more open-minded and inclusive thoughts inspired by the “no East-West divide theory” during the post-war period and promoted the significant transition of Chinese modern painting toward “globalism” by putting it on the world map of art and breaking it free from the shackles of historical tradition and political reality. They paved the way for the prosperous development of Chinese modern painting and merged both “globalism” and “nationalism” to create the most brilliant chapter in Taiwan’s post-war history of “cultural reconstruction” and bring unprecedented recognition from around the world for the globalization of Chinese modern art after WWII.


Curator:Andrew Shih-Ming Pai
Co-curator:Su Yu-Wen 
Exhibition Coordinator:Tsui Tsai-Shan

Supporter:Bureau of Cultural Affairs Kaohsiung City Government
Organizers:Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Hsiao Chin Art Foundation