XU LEI (B. 1963)
XU LEI (B. 1963)

Departing Horse

XU LEI (B. 1963)
Departing Horse
Scroll, mounted and framed
Ink and colour on paper
78 x 56 cm. (30 5/8 x 22 in.)
Executed in 1997
Browse & Darby, London
Private collection, Europe
Yu Hui & Xu Lei: New Work, Browse & Darby Gallery, London, 1997, pl. 21
Xu Lei, Hebei Education Publishing House, Hebei, 2003, p. 25
Xu Lei, Culture and Art Publishing House, Beijing, 2013, p. 127
London, Browse & Darby Gallery, Yu Hui & Xu Lei: New Work, 8-24 October 1997

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Lot Essay

"As the flowers tremble, their cold fragrance flies upon my verse."
- To the Tune of Memories of a Graceful Servant, Jiang Kui (1154-1221)

"All that passes is like the river, flowing constantly, day and night."
- The Analects of Confucius

A dreamlike vision awash with iridescent hues of blue, Departing Horse witnesses the height of Xu Lei’s prowess in conjuring up the many spectres of China’s artistic, literary and cultural past. Executed in 1997, it belongs to his landmark paintings of horses immersed in water: a docile white steed stands still, its rump tattooed with blue floral motifs often found on Ming and Qing porcelain, which, as if leaping out of the horse’s body, scatter across the composition and descend from the sky. The imagery of inanimate creatures in Xu’s oeuvre originates in a fortuitous childhood memory of seeing the taxidermied animals at his school - deer, goat, peacock, even a leopard - taken out of their display cases. Stripped of its energy and vitality, the horse is transformed into an aesthetic object. With deft brushwork and a cinematic painterly effect, Xu Lei captures the uncanny materiality of the lifeless animal as the running water signifies the passing of time - the blue flowers acting as vessels of memory, of both time past and time present. The strange relationship between the pictorial elements endow the painting with mystery that lies beyond this beautiful facade.

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