Su Xiaobai: Painting and Being (Hong Kong)

Su Xiaobai: Painting and Being (Hong Kong)

tolerance 2 by su xiaobai

Su Xiaobai

Tolerance 2, 2013

Wednesday, May 14, 2014Monday, July 7, 2014 (Opening Reception: Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 5 p.m. (EST))

12 Pedder Street Central, 6/F, Pedder Building
Hong Kong, China

Su Xiaobai: Painting and Being

A solo show of lacquer paintings by one of China’s most celebrated contemporary artists, curated by Paul Moorhouse

Exhibition Dates
14 May 2014–15 July 2014
Monday–Saturday, 10am–7pm
Local press preview:
Monday, 12 May, 2014, 2–3pm
International press preview: Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 5–5:30pm
Opening reception: Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 5–8pm
Pearl Lam Galleries, 601–605, 6/F, Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong

HONG KONG—Su Xiaobai is a major and singular artist, part of that legendary generation who left China in the 80s. Over the last ten years or so he has developed a sensuous yet rigorous art that defies classification, as befits an artist who studied at Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the 90s, and yet whose own chosen medium, lacquer, is steeped in Chinese history. His reputation is continuously growing, and his art can be found in museum collections from China through Taiwan and Germany, while galleries from France to China vie to showcase him.

Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to present this new solo show Su Xiaobai: Painting and Being to coincide with Art Basel in Hong Kong, curated by the distinguished curator of Western abstract art Paul Moorhouse. Formerly of Tate and now at London's National Portrait Gallery, Moorhouse has curated shows with Lucien Freud and Gerhard Richter, among others.

Pearl Lam Galleries is the leading gallery voice in Asia in supporting abstract art. Su Xiaobai's exhibition follows on from the gallery’s acclaimed exhibition Chinese Contemporary Abstract: 1980s until Present: Mindmap, in which Su was a distinguished participant.

There is nothing simply traditional about Su's arresting and compelling art which both engages with the language of Western abstract art, and also with the traditions of Buddhist Sutra: 'Everything is nothing, nothing is everything'. There are connections between an artist like Malevich's use of the black square as icon and Su Xiaobai's sculptural abstracts, as well as connections between the artist's work and traditions of Chinese art (in for example the use of red and black). In an interview, Su has said that he 'has left nothing behind'—that is, he has rejected nothing he has learned—and this is very visible in his ravishing and thoughtful paintings.
The new exhibition at Pearl Lam Galleries provides the first opportunity to see the quite extraordinary work of Su Xiaobai of the last two years. These paintings attest to the artist's continuing intense vision, and yet reveal that he remains as ambitious and exploratory as ever. These new works are both hedonistic and mystical, and defiantly sculptural while exquisitely painted. In the exhibition, there is a preponderance of white works, where the tension between the refined surfaces and fractures in those surfaces produces an intense emotional experience, which is complemented by an installation overseen by the artist who lights each work so it emerges from the surrounding darkness. These paintings are extraordinary objects.

Paul Moorhouse in an essay in the catalogue accompanying the show puts the importance and singularity of Su Xiaobai's recent achievement in the necessary context:

“The imperative to create a purely abstract art—visual statements free of external references and intrusive associations—has been a surprisingly elusive quest in 20th century Western art. From Kandinsky onwards, meaning in whatever guise has proved resilient, encouraged perhaps by formal relationships and the tensions that inevitably result when the dynamics of opposition and sympathy are given a place. It may be that only by denying overt visual ‘incident’, as such, that the associative qualities of a work of art can be denied, permitting its autonomous identity to emerge unscathed. In Su’s work, this exclusive approach has been remarkably liberating, permitting the creation of paintings which as far as possible shake off the ubiquitous compulsion to interpret, encouraging instead a response to their intrinsic nature.”

About Su Xiaobai
Su was born in 1949 in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province. In 1965, he joined the School of Art and Crafts in Wuhan, and from 1985 he studied oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Throughout that time his work inclined towards social realism. After receiving an Arts and Culture scholarship in 1987, he attended the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf. First-hand experience of avant-garde Western art radically affected his outlook. While in Beijing, Su studied the techniques of traditional painting and accumulated his abilities in expressive techniques. In Germany, he strived to break away from the skills he mastered in Beijing, and developed a visual language rich in personal experience, life observation, and abstract symbols. During the 1990s his work became progressively less figurative, and following his return to China in 2003 it has increasingly focused on essential characteristics of colour, shape and surface. Su unrestrainedly experimented with oil, lacquer, linen, wood, etc, as a substitute for oil on canvas, where lacquer and linen are in a purely structural and balanced composition. These elements alone underpin the creation of paintings whose selfcontained presence is both affective and mysterious.

About Paul Moorhouse
Paul Moorhouse has been Curator of 20th Century at the National Portrait Gallery, London since 2005. He began his career as a curator at the Government Art Collection in London before joining Collections at Tate, and later Contemporary Art. He is a specialist in international 20th century art and has organised numerous exhibitions, including The Queen: Art and Image (2011–12), Gerhard Richter Portraits (2009) and Pop Art Portraits (2007–8) at the National Portrait Gallery. He has published extensively; recent publications include Anthony Caro: Presence (2010), Gerhard Richter—Painting Appearances (2009), Pop Art Portraits (2007), Interpreting Caro (2005), as well as numerous exhibition catalogues, among which recent titles include Tony Bevan Self-Portraits (2011), Bridget Riley—From Life (2010), and Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites 1952–1962 (Courtauld Institute 2009). His monograph, Cindy Sherman, will be published this year. Moorhouse is currently organising a major exhibition, Giacometti—Pure Presence, to be held at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2015.