Surya (Sun) Series

Surya (Sun) Series
signed ‘HSIAO’, signed in Chinese and dated ‘1966’ (lower middle)
acrylic on canvas
200 x 200 cm. (78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1966
Private Collection, Asia
Galerie Falazik, Hsiao Chin (exh.cat.), Bochum, Germany, 1966 (illustrated in black and white, unpaged)
Bochum, Germany, Galerie Falazik, Hsiao Chin, 11 November - 1 December 1966.

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Lot Essay

The Surya (Sun) Series originated from Hsiao Chin’s practice on mindfulness and his studies on religions such as Tantrism and Mandalas. He was inspired to create a series of works themed on the sun – the source of life to all things. Surya (Sun) Series (Lot 37) is a rare 200F painting from the series, an invaluable embodiment of the artist’s devotion.

The image of Surya (Sun) Series can be viewed as a symbol of the sun. In the center of the sun, futuristic bright orange and turquoise green construct a layered circle, dotted with semi-transparent white paint; it gives a vague impression between void and solid. The semi-transparent power core is a sharp contrast to the well-defined straight lines of solid colours that represent the sun’s radiation. The sun in Max Ernst’s Le soleil noir or Tremblement de terre was composed of dark yellow solid circular lines with a circular centre of the dark blue same as the sky background. Interestingly, both paintings use the sun as a symbol. Not only do the artists ask their viewers to reflect on the symbol’s meanings, they also question the reasons for such a symbol to be interpreted in such ways in the contemporary context. The source of power (the sphere in the center of the sun) is both void and solid, the reach of the power (the sunrays) neat and clear. Hsiao Chin’s Surya (Sun) Series stimulates his viewers to reflect on the sun’s nature. If, according to Zhunagzi, Tao, which comes from nature and is one with nature, is infinite, how should the sun be positioned? Hsiao used colours and shapes to explore the power and void-solid represented by the sun, and through the sun he examined the boundaries of the universe. How should human beings, the subject of nature, position themselves knowing the finite of their and others’ beings, while living in the infinity of the universe?

In the mid-1960s, Optical Art uses optical techniques to create strange and magnificent light effects, or even visual illusions. One of the notable figures of this art movement is British artist Bridget Riley. Her painting, Blaze, challenged the traditional definitions of light and shadow, shapes and lines of the Western art field and prompted the field to review the perception of visual experience. The rays in Surya (Sun) Series , like a turning screw, twist towards the left, each in a similar angle, to create spinning and vibrating movements in a still image, causing the viewers’ eyes to move along to an unintended rhythm. Hsiao Chin’s language of art echoes that of Optical Art, through an ever-circulating and an infinite sense of movement. A unique aesthetic experience is brought to the viewers, leading them to reflect on the in-depth meanings of Abstract Art.

The sun is not only a symbol of power, it has also been the main character in legends and religious scripts across time and cultures. For examples, Xihe, the mother of sun in Chinese legends, and Apollo, the god of sun in Greek mythologies. The layout of Surya (Sun) Series partially resembles that of the Temple of Heaven in Xi’an, China, which was constructed in accordance with principles dating back to pre-Confucian times. The Temple of Heaven was a site for worshipping heaven, a place where heaven and human beings were believed to connect. The twelve outer pillars mean the 12 two-hour periods of the day in Ancient China. Hsiao’s Surya (Sun) Series places the center of the circle in the middle and uses contrasting colours to attract viewers’ attention. The evenly distributed outreaching straight lines generate an unearthly sense of tranquillity, which further expresses a spirit that prevails symbolism. This metaphysical aura inspires viewers to think of the relationship between nature and all things – is it a relationship of mutual support? Or, is there no relationship, but seclusion? Or, is it “all is one, and one is all”? Surya (Sun) Series , in a spirit that is almost religious, deepens the meaning of the artist’s salute to the universe through the small and the micro. Hsiao Chin, indulged in the exploration of the universe’s myriad phenomena and spiritual changes, used simple and sheer geometric lines, as well as images that are beyond symbols, to express his understanding of heaven and earth. Surya (Sun) Series is a solid proof of the artist’s achievement in integrating Chinese and Western art techniques, philosophies and civilizations.

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