Collect – Art Journal
Issue 1 | June 2017


Collect – Art Journal | June 2017

Featuring bands of dynamic straight and curved lines that suggest energy flowing rhythmically and endlessly against the bright dazzling backgrounds of the universe; circles or rectangles at the bottom to represent the spiritual and physical world, a total of 19 paintings of Hsiao Chin’s Dancing Light series completed between 1963 and 1964 not only represent the artist’s milestone, but are also the nexus of the master’s oeuvres, the key to enter his world of more than 65 years of artistic endeavors characterised by a lifelong pursuit of artistic advancement and self-reflection based on his deep comprehension of Eastern philosophy.

Hsiao Chin, Dancing Light – 8, Acrylic on canvas
(Courtesy of Hsiao Chin International Art Foundation and 3812 gallery)

Hsiao Chin, Chinese opera characters-1, Oil on canvas
(Courtesy of Hsiao Chin International Art Foundation and 3812 gallery)

Hsiao Chin, Origin of Chi – 3, Ink on canvas
(Courtesy of Hsiao Chin International Art Foundation and 3812 gallery)

Dancing Light is one of the earliest completed series of Hsiao Chin’s abstract paintings and is the emblem of his artistic practice. The works bridge the gap between Eastern and Western aesthetics and value, and most importantly, they are the key to understand the master’s individualised abstract style. At the beginning of the 1960s, Hsiao developed an interest in Taoism from which he drew inspiration and created the Tao and Chi series between 1961 and 1963. The use of calligraphic brushstrokes, blank-leaving and meditative symbols in Dancing Light are notably continuation from the prior two series, reflecting the origin of the artist’s lifelong exploration in integrating Eastern spirituality and Western abstract art. On the other hand, the variation of vibrant colours of the “light” in Dancing Light series accounts for the chromatic elements used in Beijing opera, on which the artist conducted extensive research during the 1950s and adopted in his artistic practice; at the same time, the infinite energy that the dazzling colours represent was the source of inspiration for the subsequent Solar and Landscape of the Universe series created between 1963 and 1966, which feature radiating sun emitting energy with contrasting colours. Hsiao Chin visualised the dynamics of the energy in the spiritual universe which gives rise to light and darkness in the physical world and all things in nature. Dancing Light is one important series that defines Hsiao’s lifelong study of abstraction, symbolism and philosophy, and it embodies all his connotations of Eastern spirituality and abstract elements.

As the first Chinese artist advocated in infusing Eastern connotations and spirituality in abstract art in Europe when the art world was very much led by the West, Hsiao Chin’s contribution has undoubtedly left an important mark in art history. After founding Ton Fan Group in 1957 which set forth a new wave of modern art movements in Taiwan, Hsiao founded Punto International Art Movement in Milan in 1961 which became immensely influential in Europe during the 1960s and 1970s. The movement introduced the concept of art as a means of contemplation and spiritual exploration, and it was also in this period that Hsiao developed the defining style in Dancing Light, which was exhibited many times in Punto’s exhibitions. Resonating with the ideology of Punto Movement, Dancing Light is a manifestation of his spiritual growth, a cultivated positive energy through his understanding of ancient wisdom rooted in Eastern culture. Central to his art is the notion that the duality of yin and yang energy moves infinitely and maintains the harmony of the universe that transcend time and space, this state of eternal orbit is called Tao, the beginning and destination of all things. Through the rendering of meditative symbols and brushstrokes, Hsiao Chin translates his personal experience and enlightenments with his powerful visual language.

Hsiao Chin is a Chinese abstract artist of great significance. He applies his broad cultural philosophical perspective rooted in Eastern culture on his works by combining Chinese and Western aesthetics, contributing to the development of Chinese contemporary abstract art. His works are internationally acclaimed and are collected by many influential institutions such as New York’s MoMA and Metropolitan Museum, National Art Museum of China, Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona, and National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art.

Hsiao Chin, Dancing Light – 7, Acrylic on canvas
(Courtesy of Hsiao Chin International Art Foundation and 3812 gallery)

The Sky and The Earth –
The circles and squares in Dancing Light

Taoists believe that the world began with a featureless, empty void called Tao. Tao then generated energy and split into two complementary aspects, Yin and Yang, and created the sky and the earth. Yin is an inactive energy that sank and formed the earth which was understood to be square because it is situated stably in one place; while yang energy is active to form the sky where the sun, the moon and stars move ceaselessly in circle. Hence, there is a theory of “circular sky and square earth”. The two aspects of energy harmonize to balance all things in the universe.


Dancing Light – Shedding Light on a New Market
Whether it is from the perspective of the academic circle or the art market, the study of the twentieth century Chinese artists, who connect Eastern and Western cultures in their arts, has been mostly focusing on those who resided in France. However, the recent outstanding auction result of master Hsiao Chin’s iconic work, Dancing Light – 16, has awakened the awareness of Chinese artists who underwent their artistic journeys in another part of the continent, Italy. It has also demonstrated a different kind of context on the development of Chinese and Western art with Italy as the link.

Currently, the understanding of the fusion between East and West is mostly based on the post-war period where, with the influx of Western abstract art, abstract expressionism was applied in the expression of Taoism and calligraphy. Hsiao Chin took it further by drawing his understanding in Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, cosmology as well as his personal experience and observation in the West, and manifesting his epiphanies with symbolic signs and colours through his meditative brushstrokes. Hsiao’s unique experience and style have left an important mark in art history. He developed his personal style of strong Chinese root in the culture-rich Western country Italy, the birth place of Western civilisation and the Renaissance. His approach effectively reveals the essence of Chinese culture, which in result emulates the significance of Italian culture in history. Not only has Hsiao Chin visualised Chinese culture with Western abstraction, he has enriched Chinese culture, art and philosophy by associating them with Western art and culture.

Dancing Light is invaluable not only because of its rarity (only 19 pieces) and reasons laid out in the article “Hsiao Chin’s Dancing Light – Radiating throughout 60 years” in this issue, but also because of the fact that academic value and market value always go in parallel. With the academic and historic analysis based on the aforementioned angle, Master Hsiao Chin’s importance in the art market is going to be more distinct, building a whole new context for Italian-Chinese artists (as opposed to the Parisian – Chinese artists the market has been focusing on) and spearheading a new market inspired by the spirit of Ton Fan Group and Punto Movement.