(Chinese, B. 1949)
oil, Chinese lacquer, linen, wooden panel
152 x 160 cm. (59 7/8 x 63 in.)
Executed in 2006
Shanghai Book Store Publishing, Su Xiaobai's Solo Exhibition, Shanghai, China, 2007 (illustrated, p. 63).
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Art Museum, Su Xiaobai's Solo Exhibition, 24 March-2 April 2007.

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Lot Essay

"Simplicity is all I pursue. There's an old saying-?the loudest sound is silence; the largest entity is the invisible.' This is like a star shedding light over my head. I always retain a tranquil and solemn atmosphere in my studio to go with the ?silence' I seek to present in the painting. I paint red tides with partly visible dots. To highlight the red tides, I let those dots go off the edges of the painting. I draw a grey ribbon, a tint of red floating on the azure background. Nothing loud, just a sense of dignity that is beyond any words and keeps people gazing for long."
-Su Xiaobai

If we conclude that abstract art is the spiritual outlet for human, then no matter in which era, or which region, people can find a various spiritual significance through this art form. This cross-era, cross-region transcendental expression is also characterized by its interactional nature. In mid-20th century, China was influenced by Western contemporary art. The simple and compelling abstract paintings from the West inspired artists through different generations, such as Lin Fengmian, Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun,
Zhao Chunxiang, Wu Guanzhong, Wang Huaiqing and so on. They revisited those qualities much emphasized in traditional Chinese paintings-simplicity, arbitrariness, sublimity. This intangible exchange of thoughts resulted in infinite possibilities for abstract art.

Su Xiaobai, a Chinese artist who migrated to Germany, was born in 1949. In 2002, he creatively used oil paint, Chinese lacquer, linen, wooden panel and other materials to replace canvas, allowing turpentine-diluted lacquer to flow freely on a wooden panel covered with linen. Natural lacquer is the sap extracted from lacquer trees, and is known to be "the three great treasures" of China, along with genuine silk and natural honey. Lacquer has been long applied to make furniture and ornaments. The delicately crafted lacquerware in Tang Dynasty and the Imperial lacquerware from Qing Dynasty are both considered characteristic artifacts in Chinese culture.

When it comes to the 21st century, Su Xiaobai revisited laquer and re-interpreted this medium from ancient China by bridging dialogues between history and the contemporary.

Movement (Lot 1176) consists of two major hues, seeking new combinations within a deliberately limited colour spectrum. The light and shadows, the colours, the form of broken edges and the uneven texture all find its rhythm in the integration of lacquer and linen. The colours of scarlet and brown move, float and crack during the state of segregation, resulting in interwoven colours on the upper and lower layers. This process creates a sense of contradiction between sensation and calmness in an almost harmonious way. The thick lacquer dragged by the brush and its force leaves traces of bright marks and sediments in the periphery of the picture and the squares within, where the careless collision brings about stunning vitality. Movement is created during the artist's early phase of lacquer production, and it is also his first lacquer painting shown in museum.

In Question to the White (Lot 1177), Su also employs a reductive use of colours but places emphasis on the texture. The shatters dispersed over the beige colour block effectively juxtapose the sleek, black lacquer surface, through contrasts of colours and textures. Through repetitively painting, collaging and layering certain area, the artist positions the painting in a constant evolving expansion-cycles from simplicity to complexity and then back to simplicity, and eventually ceases in a state of moderated balance. Beige, grey and black form a contrast between the warm and cold colour tones. The balances of yin and yang as well as that of emptiness and substantiality are both well achieved, infusing his with an essence of the Chinese cultural heritage.

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