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Details
MAO XUHUI (B.1956)
Image of Twin Patriarchs
oil on canvas
129 x 179 cm. (50 3/4 x 70 1/2 cm.)
Painted in 1992
Provenance
Private Collection, Europe
Literature
Kunstmuseum Bonn, CHINA!, exh. cat., Bonn, Germany, 1996 (illustrated, p. 37).
Xin Dong Cheng Publishing House, Mao Xuhui , Beijing, China, 2005 (illustrated, p. 173).
Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Road: Mao Xuhui's Drawing Course, Shanghai, China, 2008 (illustrated, p. 153).
Culture and Art Publishing House, Farewell to Trend: The Art of Mao Xuhui, Beijing, China, 2010 (illustrated, p. 188).
Exhibited
Bonn, Germany, Kunstmuseum, CHINA!, 1996.
Warsaw, Poland, Zacheta Modern Art Museum, CHINA!, 1997.
Vienna, Austria, Kunstlerhaus, CHINA!, 1997.
Berlin, Germany, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, CHINA!, 1997.

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Lot Essay

Mao Xuhui, a preeminent figure in the Southwest Art Group co-founded with Zhang Xiaogang, plays an essential role in the history of Chinese contemporary art. Over the years, Mao's style remains unique among his contemporaries. The exhibition, CHINA!, in 1996 at Kunstmuseum Germany marked him as one of the first Chinese artists on the international stage.

In 1982, Mao graduated at a time when he was trapped between the appeal of formalism and a sense of tragedy one could create through realism. Hoping to break away from his creative impasse, he explored western philosophies. In the early 1980s, his works revealed heavy Expressionist essence, perplexed with extreme pessimism and lethargy of the decadence, reminded onlookers of life's frailty. After 1989, Mao no longer concentrated on personal issues, he returned to the study of pictorial and the social cognizance entrenched in Chinese culture. He began his Parents series in 1988, a sacred expedition on the relic of authority, its part in Chinese history and modern society (Fig. 1). The "parent" is not a specific person, but a unique meaning in the evolution of the nation scrutinized through the iconography of Mao's paintings, which lead to his Scissors and Daily Life Epic series in 1994.

"My idea of an artist is the creator of iconography. I believe in the power of forms; it is through forms that we appreciate the presence of the formless. A form appearing in the mind takes time to grow vivid and gain strength."- Mao Xuhui

In Image of Twin Patriarchs (Lot 31), the connotation is enriched by the symbols. Symbol comes from the Greek symballein, meaning to put together. Freud defines symbol as a comparison where the compared term disappears, evolves from the confrontation to the truth of the unconscious. The coarse diamond-shaped face has become a symbol; the form accentuates internal need of sharp shape to cut through something. The infatuated deliberation Mao bestows on his vocabulary of power is analogous to prayers upon a religious object. In Buddhism, a vajra in meditation presents to the concerted mind as two triangles back to back, which resembles the shape of the seat of power and the wisdom of emptiness, while meaning immortal Vajra body of Taoist Inner Alchemy.

Having two figures is a rare theme in his Parent series, which can derive from Mao's perception of the traditional Chinese moral philosophy. Confucianism was the conformist philosophy of China for thousands of years and one of its beliefs suggested: "For a family there is the order between father and son; for a country there is the order between emperor and courtier. These are the great ethics of men." Just as the father commands complete sovereignty in a family, the emperor claims absolute obedience from his citizens. The chair here becomes the symbol of a fundamental notion about the relationship between social classes and utmost authority. As in As in Jan Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece (Fig. 2), the throne is insignia of imperial power and monarchy cachet. It signifies the status of the person who sits on it among many of the world's monotheistic and polytheistic religions. The parent symbol represents the traditional relations between the prince and his minister; father and son; and husband and wife; the five cardinal virtues, or here, the tug war of powers.

Zhang Xiaogang and Mao's artistic practices and trajectories in life overlapped substantially in late 1970s. Like Zhang's@"Bloodlines: Big Family? series in early 1990s, Mao hires a schematic language and subdued palette. Red, evokes the fright of the era of power, it is the colour of supremacy and a haunting canonical statement, yet the red chair proclaims support for the human soul. Here, red takes the form of a frame, resembling a photograph found in any household. As well as zhuanke (seal carving) (Fig. 3) with red yinni (seal clay) that last for millenniums, originally used as signature of authority in ancient China, it is a symbol of legitimacy, indicating the omnipresent and inescapable part of power in people's lives.

This piece juxtaposes orderly rationality and turbulent sensation; reality and history; mundaneness and enigma; and modern society and the cultural symbols. Mao interrogates the idea of "parent", its significations, and aphorism that run through history.

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