(B. 1960)
Sea of Desire No. 4
signed in Chinese (lower right); titled in Chinese; dated '1995'; signed 'Su Xinping' in Pinyin (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
97 x 131 cm. (38 1/8 x 51 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1995
Schiffer Publishing Ltd., China! New Art & Artists, Pennsylvania, USA, 2005 (illustrated, plate 239, p. 201).

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Lot Essay

Trained as a printmaker, Su Xinping's paintings show a unique, simple and unadorned style that was probably born out of his life experiences in Inner Mongolia. His works are bold and ingenuous, with a gentle and quiet energy that capture both the eyes and the imagination of the viewer. In his works, solitary, randomly supported in space, and often dramatically lit figures, are vested with cultural significance as well as psychological meaning.
In Sea of Desire No.4 (Lot 1410) (1997) and Sea of Desire No.30 (Lot 1412) (1998), an atmosphere of post-apocalyptic emptiness is created. Lit in a pale yellow and pale burgundy light that leaves ominous shadows around their heads, mid-aged male figures run along and dive across the canvas towards an unknown destination. The title of the painting stands in sharp contrast to the expressionless, almost mechanically moving men who are incapable of showing or finding what they desire. The strangeness of Su's scenes reveal little of their origin; persistently looking aside or turning their back to the viewer, the men keeping a dark secret of their intention and the reason for their hastened rush. Silently communicating in calmed desperation, the men have similar physical gesture, clothing and hairstyle that resonate with each other's image of the Chinese citizen in the post-Chinese revolution era. Elaborately drawn, Su's indiscernible brushstroke and love of precise details show every crease in the fabric of the men's clothes. The dark and pale, tone-in-tone color composition gives room to a shadow and light play and creates a dramatic expression. Motion and activity are created by the composition of diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines of the moving arms and legs, while the exaggerated, convex shape of the slightly lit ground seems to make the protagonists move even faster.
One way of looking at Su's painting is to understand the dilemma of homogeneity and the sense of loss in the Chinese communist regiment. This is the dilemma that many Chinese citizens faced after the reformation and the liberation of China - how does one liberate himself and find a sense of identity and individualism? How does one find a sense of self without being lost or seduced by the worldly desires of commodity? How does one liberate himself from the communist ideology? In the series of Sea of Desire, Su explores the spiritual and mental liberation which reflects from his own life experience. Later in the Wanderer (Lot 1411) (1999) and in the Morning II (Lot 1413) (2001), Su explores the notion of identity through the self-absorbed and mindless behavior of human subject, which forms a stark contrast to his serious pursuit of meaning in the paintings. The composition and colouration of these two paintings are reminiscent of the stage-like setting rather than the fantastic realm in the Sea of Desire series. In Morning II the nomadic human subject is unusually neat for a farmer, which is set against the flatness of the greyish blue sky and the oddly lit golden hues extended and projected from the right hand side of the canvas, as such the painting has an unusual triangular composition which further enhances the theatrical aspect of this painting. At once sanguine and pessimistic, Su's works portray the search for an unknowable and perhaps unappeasable future. His silent scenes question the reality of the present which his figures are trying to escape.

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