Mao Xuhui's artistic evolvement over the past two decades shows a dramatic shift in style, subject matter, composition and color application. His early works such as Private Space - Zantedeschia Aetiopica (1987) (Lot 357), The Grace of Red Earth, Summer (1986) (Lot 356) and Untitled (1985) (Lot 358) are inspired by elements of Western art movements, yet reflect personal life experiences and a deep emotional attachment to his cultural origins and heritage. A New Imagist artist during the 1980's, Mao's style at the time reflects the hybridization of bare honesty and directness of representation, fantasy, exaggeration as well as the willingness to experiment with non-traditional forms, perspectives and colors. While his expressive works use animated and colorful backgrounds, he attempts to isolate a single image, such as the women in Private Space - Zantedeschia Aetiopica and The Grace of Red Earth, Summer, to reveal its true essence. At the same time, he creates abstraction through juxtaposing concrete images and synthesizing multiple perspectives into a single scene, such as in Untitled. He often uses non-representational colors and forms and proportions to reveal his personal sensations and emotions of the world.
Mao's scissors series that followed his creations of the 1980s shows a significant transformation, which, in the fist instance, is a transformation of the inner self. Over time, Mao gradually gives up the emotional engagement in his work and eliminates his previous habits of expression using heavy colors and dense textures. His current use of softer, subtler colors and finer techniques creates a sense of calmed detachment, while giving his recurring subject matter a strong presence.
Mao utilizes his scissors in a variety of ways, ranging from a meticulous study of symmetry, shape and color, like in Yellow Chinese Scissors in Cross Shape (Lot 360), to highly metaphorical imagery, like in Rain Season, Scissors (Lot 359). Mao puts his scissors into a new and different context, liberating them from their traditional purpose and allowing them to become a symbol within the realm of the painting. Being an unexpected object in a dramatic landscape, makes the scissors interchangeable: they could be any other object, animal or human being. It does not matter, because the literal significance of the object is purposefully eliminated in favor of the overall feeling that the artist seeks to convey. By choosing an object that has a clearly defined image and universal validity, complex ideas and ambiguous feelings can be generated when this object is placed in an unusual context; and thus meaningless scissors can become meaningful - even to a level of religious significance: Just as religious icons attain potency from our concentration on their forms, but are worshipped beyond their material functions, the ordinary household scissors become, in the art of Mao, a symbol of iconic transcendence that goes far beyond their habitual function.
The roots of the scissors' spiritual significance can perhaps be traced back to the time that Mao has spent with the Yi, an ethic minority of Yunnan Province. Their animist belief that souls inhabit all objects as well as their worship of nature and the significance of magic in daily life, have left a deep impression on Mao. Thus his recent scissors series refers to the belief in Yunnan that scissors can word off evil spirits. An important aspect of Mao's work is finding the balance between turbulent emotion, evoked by a thunderstorm, elemental nature, loneliness, superstition and religion - and orderly rationality, resembled by an ordinary object like a pair of scissors. And this search for balance can be found in Scissors series.