“For me, the utmost important thing about painting is not the act off painting itself,
but to explore the origin of one’s life,
to record one’s feelings and experiences and
to envision one’s future through the act of art-making.”
~ Hsiao Chin, 1978
Born in 1935 in Shanghai, master artist Hsiao Chin is celebrated as ‘the pioneer of modern abstract art in Taiwan’, and is widely recognised in both Eastern and Western art scenes for his major contribution to the development of Chinese modern abstract art. His works have been exhibited and collected by worldwide important institutions as New York’s MoMA and Metropolitan Museum, National Art Museum of China, Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona, and National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.
Hsiao Chin moved to Europe in 1956, and became a pioneer of the first-wave Modern Art Movement of post-war Taiwan, continuously introducing the latest developments of Western arts to Taiwan. Hsiao Chin developed an interest in Zen and Taoism and especially the ideas of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu around the 1960’s, drawing inspiration from these eastern philosophies for his abstract painting. As he broadened his interests to other fields such as the science of the outer space, the planets and the universe, Hsiao began to try to combine his understanding of such knowledge with his studies of Tibetan Buddhism, Indian Mandala painting and thangka art in his work. Hsiao’s works from the years between 1960 and 1966 often highlight the contrast and harmonious balance between dichotomous elements, featuring the sun and other radiating objects and the rhythms of lights.
This period marked a crucial turning point in shaping the personal style and characteristics of Hsiao Chin’s painting. Figurative aesthetic objects were replaced by complete abstraction, and the works were now focused on the spirituality of art practice. During this period, Hsiao Chin made the quest for Eastern spirituality and modern artistic expression his main artistic mission, and realized these ideals through establishing a strong personal style in his abstract paintings.
Characterized by the dichotomous thinking, which can be seen manifested through the composition of the image, the symbols and symbolism as well as colors that together create a visual counterpoint that evokes dialogues, and adds to the work a subdued yet strong sense of intellectual depth. With the rational and emotional thinking both, Hsiao Chin has different emphases and practices in every period.
“Tao”, Acrylic on canvas, 69 cm x 64 cm, 1962
In this early stage, Hsiao Chin tended to resort to symbolism and topological experiments of art forms in his interpretation and representation of Oriental spirit. He was inspirited by the old saying “Tao is the origin of the life” from Taoism when creating “Dancing Light” series, one of the most important series in his career. “Tao is the origin of the life” from Tao Te Ching means all livings will return to where they came from. To return to the origin of life means being forever in Taoism. Hsiao Chin took it with Zen Buddhism and Chuang Tzu’s thought into comprehension, the impulsive intuition into introspection, the verbal language into visual language, by showing the flashes of inspiration without images, light and shapes onto the canvas in various ways. Hsiao Chin drew inspiration from the cursive scripts of Chinese calligraphy that give rise to a sense of rhythm in art composition. The artist builds a metaphysical world with straight and curved lines, squares and cycles, black and white and the shades in between as well as penetrative black-leaving.
*Origin: “Topology of Meaning of Life: Retrospect and Prospect of Hsiao Chin’s Art”, Tsai Chao-Yi