Hsiao Chin’s La forza della meditazione sold for HK$7,560,000 at Sotheby’s Spring auctions in 2018, breaking a personal world record for the third season in a row. At the same time, Hong Kong’s Tze Shan Monastery hosted the first modern art exhibition in the Monastery’s history, featuring Hsiao Chin. Entitled “Zen. Art,” the solo exhibition brought Hsiao’s abstract artwork into conversation with the Monastery’s solemn Buddhist statues and images and won high praise from the community. Another major retrospective exhibition held in the China Art Museum in Shanghai, entitled “Hsiao Chin Coming Home,” attracted over 310,000 visitors and became the Museum’s most visited art exhibition of the year.
In March, Musée national des arts asiatiques in Paris, also known as Musée Guimet, hosted the “Les couleurs du Zen: Hommage à Hsiao Chin (The Colours of Zen: Tribute to Hsiao Chin)” exhibition, highlighting the art and philosophy of Zen as a theme. It was the first artist featured at Guimet 15 years after the “Sanyu: l'écriture du corps” exhibition was held in 2004.
Having founded the Movimento Punto in 1961, Hsiao has made remarkable contributions to abstract paintings, which have rippled across the world for almost six decades. His influence on the global art scene has cemented his solid status and impact. The work to be auctioned this evening, entitled Inner Light (Lot 1036), was created in the year 1966, which was the last year of the exhibition held in the name of the Punto Movement. In this context, this monumental work can be seen as a culmination of the artist’s Punto period, as well as the harbinger of the next phase of his career.
In 1966, Hsiao Chin was very active in the West. His “Punto 13” exhibition was held at the Galleria Fanesi, in Ancona, Italy. He then worked in London for half a year and held another exhibition at Signals Gallery. At the same time, he opened an important solo exhibition at the Galleria Il Canale in Venice, Italy. It was also the year he made preparations for his move to New York City in 1967, leaving behind Milan and Europe where he had developed his art. Inner Light was also included in the Venice exhibition, which practically served as the conclusion of a major period in the artist’s life. When compared with other works showcased in the exhibition folio, Inner Light is a true embodiment of Hsiao’s style. The bright and vivid colours demonstrate the benefits of using acrylics, a paint material that had only recently become available.
At the same time, we can see how the artist imparted the essence of Buddhism in the sleek and geometric composition of the work. The three layers of concentric circles placed in the middle, and orange rays emitting from the four corners, bring to mind the image of the Mandala in Tibetan Thangka painting. In addition, the artist did not shy away from expressing emotions in abstract forms. He enlivened the geometry by sprinkling light-coloured paint on dark-coloured segments. He highlighted fluid and random effect in the geometric lines that are associated with reason and intentionality. As such, the cosmic sensibility created by the artist is impossible to miss. When the work was painted, Hsiao Chin was living in Milan, but he remained in frequent contact with the art scene and acquaintances in Paris. François Morellet, renowned French artist, was also a member of the Punto Movement. As Hsiao Chin combined cold and warm colours in his abstract works in his expression, it can be suggested that he, too, was under considerable influence of French abstract art. Crisscrossing many languages and cultures, Francesco Saba Sardi, award-winning Italian writer, essayist, and translator, was honoured by the President of the Italian Republic in 2005. Back in 1966, the foreword for Hsiao’s Venice exhibition was written by none other than Saba Sardi himself, and was included in the exhibition folio. This excerpt of the Italian cultural heavyweight’s foreword helps us appreciate this important work by Hsiao Chin in its entirety.
“Hsiao Chin may declare that he was led to painting by his meditations on the philosophy of Lao-Tze, may very well believe that his work is a transposition in figurative terms of ecstasy and purity, of the resignation and contemplation synthesized in Tao’s thought; but what really matters is the ideational procedure that he has worked out; and it is in terms of this same pictorial procedure that his works must be interpreted. Any attempt to retrace the creative process of expression, will of course lead us to the acknowledgement of Hsiao Chin’s individual and social roots. And it may be useful to consider the influence exerted on him, in the beginning, by Chinese figurative traditions in the popular sense and, more immediately, by the noble decorative work on monuments of historical importance, such as the Junhuang cave paintings in inner Mongolia; and then by his arrival in the West, with the difficult and risky attempt (successfully brought off) to stitch together the lightness, immediacy, and cautious chromatic work of Chinese figurative history, and a few recent European achievements, to be found especially in the paintings of the last few years, based on the dialectic contrast between the unity of line and the solid compositional precision of the often symmetrical structures. Try putting Hsiao Chin’s work next to that of many others: his presence is overwhelming.”
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