HSIAO CHIN (XIAO QIN) | La forza della meditazione
- Hsiao Chin (Xiao Qin)
- La forza della meditazione
- signed in Pinyin and Chinese, dated 64; titled in Chinese and Italian on the reverse
- acrylic on canvas
- 160 by 130 cm; 63 by 51 ⅛ in.
Milan, Galleria Dell' Ariete, 1964
Milan, Galleria Santandrea, 1970
Moderna, Galleria d’ Arte Moderna, 1971
Milan, Galleria Schubert, 1973
Contemplation and Wisdom
In March 2018, the China Art Museum in Shanghai organised the large-scale exhibition Coming Home: Hsiao Chin's Retrospective Exhibition and announced the establishment of Hsiao Chin Art Research Centre. Born in Shanghai, the 83-year-old artist has lived and worked in Taiwan, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, and United States. After a lifetime of perseverance in art, he was welcomed back to his hometown with the highest honours. The Chinese title of the exhibition, Datong, or "great unity", aptly describes Hsaio's art and life. Already in his early career, he took it upon himself to invigorate Chinese art as a whole. Whether in Taiwan or the West, he always dedicated himself to promoting likeminded artists and not only himself. This led to the founding of the Ton Fon Group in Taiwan in the 1950's and the influential Movimento Punto in Europe in the 1960's. As both social activist and artist, and in his family background, biography, and artistic career, Hsiao Chin was intimately connected to global modern and contemporary art after the war. To understand Hsiao Chin is to understand the trajectory of post-war Eastern and Western contemporary art. Hsiao Chin's father, Hsiao Yiu-mei, is known as the father of modern Chinese music and founded the National Music Academy of Shanghai. His uncle Wang Shi-jie was the first principal of Wuhan University and the head of the Chinese delegation to the 1946 Paris Peace Conference. In the 1950's, Hsiao Chin studied under Li Chung-Sheng, who had been a professor at the National School of Art. Hsiao Chin personally embodied and continued the lineage of Chinese modernism, and with like-minded artists and intellectuals established the Ton Fon Group, the first post-war Chinese art group. In 1956, Hsiao received a full scholarship from the Spanish government to study at an art academy in Spain, but he quit the academy because of its conservatism, and resolved to establish himself in Europe independently. Having settled in Milan in 1959, he launched the Movimento Punto alongside likeminded artists like Li Yuan-Chia, Kenjiro Azuma, Antonio Calderara, and Lucio Fontana, with whom he shared a deep profound despite their age difference. Hsiao thus was instrumental in starting the most important and comprehensive post-war attempt at reconciling Eastern and Western art history. Afterwards, he continued to expand his social circle, making the acquaintance of such luminaries as Piero Manzoni, Dadamaino, and Sam Francis. La forza della meditazione (Lot 1027) is a representative work from the period of Movimento Punto. It not only embodies the Asian spirit of "silent contemplation," but also incorporates the formal language and media of post-war avant-garde art, at once reinventing and reinvigorating Eastern tradition for a new era.
The Movimento Punto took silent contemplation as its guiding principle. This theme was retreated in many masterpieces of traditional Chinese art, including in particular the highly mythologising "transformation tableaux" of the Buddhist cave shrines of Dunhuang and Yulin. These cave murals served to spread Buddhist teachings. In the 20th century, an age of scientific thought, it became customary to convey Western philosophy in a more purely intellectual manner. Asian philosophy needed this intellectualised expression as well, and Movimento Punto provided one solution with its highly symbolic abstract painting, which attempted to convey Asian philosophical ideas in their essential forms, without mythology or narrative. Representative of Hsiao Chin's Movimento Punto period, La forza della meditazione symbolises a primordial state of being with the minimalist geometric form of concentric circles, which are common also in Movimento Punto works more generally. From the top, purple and green arrows enter the red center of the concentric circles. The message of the composition is clear: through silent contemplation and meditation, the individual can access the infinite wisdom and energy of the universe. The individual self can become one with the universal self, and an individual life can draw from the boundless energy of universal life and thus become closer to perfection. The concentric circles are suspended in a beautiful purple space, which represents the infinite universe. The subtle passages of colour in the background suggest the countless other individual beings elsewhere in the universe and fully express Hsiao Chin's spiritual vision.
Buddhism emphasises the "union of wisdom and sympathy," and Confucianism the "unity of Heaven and Humanity." In La Forza della meditazione, Hsiao Chin reinterprets these philosophical ideals in the modernist pictorial language of abstraction. In evolving and refining his artistic language, he responded to his times sensitively, adopting the post-war invention of acrylic pigments. More intense and luminescent than traditional oil pigments, acrylic helps to express the spiritual energy of the universe. The minimalist but powerful composition responds to the post-war currents of Geometrical Abstraction and Op Art. The dotted colours take inspiration from French Expressionism and American Abstract Expressionism. Hsiao Chin, with an utmost clarity of vision, is able to adopt the features of various artistic currents for his own expressive ends and assimilate them into an individualistic language. Asian artists participating in Western abstraction tend to begin with calligraphic lines and focus on literati poetics and use of negative space. By contrast, Hsiao began with the premise of adopting abstract painting into Asian philosophy, and from this premise founded an international avant-garde movement that is equal in influence and brilliance as the contemporary French Lyrical Abstraction, Zero Art Group of Italy, and Gutai Group of Japan. Influencing and competing with each other in a productive manenr, these movements together forged the golden age of post-war contemporary art.
Every painter has his or her preferred dimensions, dimensions that best suit his or her expressive and creative purposes. In the 1960's, Hsiao Chin appears to have favoured 100F canvases (160 x 130 cm) and produced his classical works at this scale. La forza della meditazione is identical in size to Dancing Light 17, which sold for the record price of HKD 5.98 million at the autumn 2017 auctions of Sotheby's Hong Kong. Both are representative works of the highest quality from Hsiao's Movimento Punto period. As his achievements of the 1960's and the importance of the Movimento Punto become more widely recognised, his works have increased in value. But there remains a gulf between the valuation of his works and his pivotal status in modern and post-war art history. A brilliant summation of the first height of Hsiao Chin's career, La forza della meditazione presents a rare opportunity for collectors.
A Bridge between the East and the West
The Post-WWII era marked a phase of intense artistic experimentation characterized by a desire for reconstruction and rebirth. In this context, the Punto group not only embodied the most introspective and idealistic aspect of such research, but also the most inclusive one. Founded in Milan on 21 August 1961 by Hsiao Chin (China), Antonio Calderara (Italy), Li Yuen-Chia (China), Kengiro Azuma (Japan) and Dadamaino (Italy), Punto was the first international movement to bring together Eastern and Westerners in the common purpose to transcend earthly life in favor of spiritual life and thus overcome the materialist approach of Informal Art. Lucio Fontana, the great master of Spatialism, wrote a thought that will become the basis of their poetics: “to understand the condition of the finite in the infinite is to perceive the true essence of being in the reality of thought; in the purity of idea the impulse to operate.” Inspired by this maxim, the artists of Punto elaborated a sort of program organized in four points: "1 - Overcome the memory to entrust the idea of our anxiety to express ourselves; 2 - To affirm a space that is spiritual dimension to define the measure of our necessity; 3 - To realize order, harmony, balance, purity: the essential; 4 - Given the finite condition in the infinite, in the reality of the spirit to find the truth of being ".
In essence, the manifesto declared the refusal to operate with finite means, like painting, and the desire to continue the search for the essential value of art through new means. The "punto (point)", an elementary unit of visual language, became the symbol in which both western and eastern artists can be recognized. Although only six signatories of the manifesto (the five most quoted Nanda Vigo who did not take part in the group's exhibitions), Punto was never a closed and elitist movement. Between 1962 and 1965, through thirteen exhibitions scattered throughout Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan, the fame of Punto expanded internationally. In addition to Lucio Fontana, these open and inclusive exhibitions, according to the spirit of the group, engaged the representatives of Spatialism, the Azimuth group, the nuclear movement and Op Art artists of various nations, such as the Argetino Julio Le Parc, the French François Morellet, the Venezuelan Jesus Rafael Soto and the Croatian Ivan Picelj. The Punto 2 exhibition, which was held in the Palacio de la Virreina in Barcelona between 11 and 25 August 1962, had included twenty-six artists from three continents and eleven nations. The art movement, born in Milan just a year before, thanks to the many exhibitions which continued until the summer of 1965, have brought the group's ideas to cities like Taipei, Venice, Rome, Florence and Zurich, became one of the biggest and international post-World War II.
Antonio Calderara, Luce-Spazio, 1963
Antonio Calderara (1903 - 1978), one of the founders of Punto, is one of the most important Italian painters of the twentieth century. Considered an abstract artist, it was, however, formed through what the art critic Gillo Dorfles calls "a long figural training". The artist, in fact, comes to abstraction in the early sixties thanks to a meticulous synthesis of his figurative motifs. Despite the continuous comparison with the work of Mondrian and Albers, the artist remains faithful to a fundamentally lyrical and existential vision of painting. The 1963 Luce-Spazio （Lot 717 of Modern Asian Art Day Sale）painting, belonging to his first abstract production, shows how the neoplastic-albersian lesson is tempered by sensitivity, almost metaphysical, towards the gradations of luminous density. The work, dedicated to art critic Elda Fezzi, twice winner of the Critics Prize of the Venice Biennale (1958 and 1960) and author of numerous essays on Renoir, Gauguin and Giacometti, is also a fundamental document on cultural life Italian of the time
Azuma Kengiro, MU - 786, 1978
Signer of the Punto poster in 1961, the Japanese artist Azuma Kenjiro, after attending the Tokyo University of Arts, continued his studies at the Brera Academy in Milan. In Italy he became assistant to the sculptor Marino Marini, who encouraged him to find his own originality, referring to the traditions of his country. Thanks to the advice of the great Italian sculptor, Azuma develops the works of the MU series, a term that in Chinese and in the kanji characters, which are the basis of Japanese writing, means "nothing", "empty". This philosophical concept, dear to Zen Buddhism, is found in all of Azuma 's works and is also present in MU - 786（Lot 718 of Modern Asian Art Day Sale）, a bronze fusion, the second of a three-edition, in which the typical linear and circular incisions appear with the which the Japanese master interrupted the formal completeness of his sculptures.
(Ivan Quaroni, Italian journalist, art critic, curator and expert of Movimento Punto. Ivan published several academic works, and wrote critics for important Western contemporary artists such as Allen Jones and Victor Vasarley; he was the curator of Biennale Italia - Cina in 2012 and is currently lecturing at the European Institute of Design. Sotheby’s would like to express our gratitude here to Mr. Quaroni for his proactive assistance for this Spring Sale by writing the above essays.)