Solo exhibition of Hsiao Chin
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  • Solo exhibition of Hsiao Chin

Solo exhibition of Hsiao Chin

2010/10/16 ~ 2010/11/21
2010/10/16 (六) 3-5PM
  • An extract from A Traveler of the Universe------ A Journey Back to the Source of Hsiao Chin

An extract from A Traveler of the Universe------

A Journey Back to the Source of Hsiao Chin

◎Hsiao Chong-Ray, Professor in the History Department of the Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

◎Translation by Diana Yeh



Hsiao Chin, whose ancestral home is in Zhongshan county in the province of Guangdong, was born in Shanghai in 1935. In 1949 he followed his father’s sister and her husband to Taiwan, then in 1956 went to Spain as a student, afterwards traveling to Italy and New York to create and teach for the next 40-odd years. In 1996 he returned to Taiwan and was appointed a teaching position at the Tainan University of the Arts, went into retirement in 2005 and was appointed as an emeritus professor; that same year he was conferred the Knight of Italian Star of Solidarity by the president of Italy. In becoming a successful artist, Hsiao Chin, along with others, slowly began to set into motion the ‘Movement of the Modernization of Chinese Art’. By developing new methods of combining traditional Chinese and western thought and materials, he offered the perspectives and sensibilities of an Asian individual upon the international art stage. However, even more importantly, his artistic journey brought about a deep wisdom: out of his unbounded loneliness within this infinite universe, an attitude of resolution emerged, and in search of common understanding, a unique awareness that all people are worthy of being recognized and treasured.


After moving to Italy, Hsiao Chin began exploring new routes of art again. The progress of his works from approximately 1960 to 1976 can be viewed as a distinct period, even though he resided in New York from 1967 to 1972. During this time, Hsiao Chin completed his earlier efforts of searching for metaphysical meanings among abstract patterns; and began to establish a personal language from the Taoist concepts. At the same time, he was also extensively researching ideas relating to the “outer space”, “inner universe”, “lost civilization” and “alien culture” to enrich the scope and depth of his thoughts, and showed a great interest in the mystical philosophies of India and Tibet. However, his works from this period were not so much created from a direct interpretation or an understanding of the “Zen” or the “Tao” ; rather, it would be more appropriate to view his works from the wider angle of “mysticism” . To put it simply, Hsiao Chin purposely conveyed in his paintings his experiences, revelations and reflections on the mysteries of the universe, which were dominated by the concepts of “two contrasting and blending elements”: “empty” versus “full”; “flowing” versus “still” ; “drawing” versus “radiating”. These elements may have varying stresses at different times, but all can co-exist at the same time. The ideas pointed towards an ultimate goal : to understand the universe that the ego depends upon for its existence (including the empty expanse of space and infinite time) and the existence of the ego within this universe.


The artist drew upon the most fundamental vocabularies to create the space of the universe, which is both harmonious and in conflict. While the mysticism in the works declined, the significance of spiritual infinity grew. The curvilinear, on the one hand, acted as a division from the endless movement and, on the other hand, was a static boundary separating the space. The round dots, which were clearly rolling about directionless, are simultaneously a concentration of an eternal calm.


Wai-Lim Yip has used the western esthetic ideas of the “Poetics of Silence” and the Chinese Taoist ideas of “speechless personalization”, “speechless triumph ”and“ accomplishing all without saying a word” to describe the pieces of this period. He points out that regardless of whether it was China’s “speechless” or the Western “Poetics of Silence”, Hsiao Chin began to place a heavy emphasis on “silence,” “speechless,” and “emptiness” ; in other words the “negative space” was becoming a leading factor.[1]


By 1978, Hsiao Chin had become an internationally recognized artist and returned to Taiwan to participate in the “National Development Council” which was created by the KMT government to invite domestic and international public persons to attend a large-scale consultation conference. Hsiao Chin was the first artist to receive the invitation to attend. On hearing of his return to Taiwan, the mass media of Taiwan and Hong Kong quickly began collecting and requesting publication materials to publish with their news reports.[2]


At the National Development Council meeting, Hsiao Chin raised three important issues: “the need for the modernization of art”; “the establishment of international conferences and exhibitions”; and “the march towards the international art world”. He thus proposed the establishment of a “Cultural Department”, a “Council for National Arts Development” and a Taipei City Modern Art Museum.[3] These proposals and suggestions were taken very seriously by the authorities and later came to fruition.[4]


Hsiao Chin once signed up to participate in a screening test for astronauts; however the sponsor decided the spaceship did not require an artist to be on the board and politely rejected his application.[5] Hsiao Chin, and many others who collect his works, hope to express their understanding of the universe to scientists: that the universe is magnificent and that one can only sing its praises; it is a force that cannot be conquered by humans.


In fact, early on, from the end of 1977 to about the middle of 1987, Hsiao Chin and a group of artist friends founded an international movement called “SURYA”. “SURYA” is the Sanskrit word meaning the sun. The sun is the source of life and energy, and for Hsiao Chin this “Sun” extended beyond “Punto”.


The Milky Way series was created late in the 1980s when Hsiao Chin’s thoughts were already on “SURYA”. The concepts of「Detached and Beyond」and「Mind Traveling in Taixu」contained in traditional Chinese philosophy cannot be completely understood by the purely rational academic discussions of the West.


He (Hsiao Chin) said:


For me when it comes to painting, the most important part is not the ‘painting’ but rather the events in life that lead to self- exploration. Life is to create memories and be affected as well as bringing about hopes and wishes of life.[6]


The word ‘creation’ is not that important to me, as what I create is not my ‘personal’ creation, but the works created by the universal life- force through my hands. I am not a ‘creator’ but am only a ‘communicator’.[7]


The way he describes is like the slow but powerful moves of Chinese Tai- chi, which creates a profound and beautiful rhythm as well as form and idea and a synchronization with the universe. Art for Hsiao Chin is a medium through which he is able to rediscover the meaning of life, self- understanding and transcendence.


For Hsiao Chin the characteristics that embody the universe cannot be reduced to a mere law of nature, they also have a deep philosophical and mystical significance. All things on earth find their place in this world due to an understanding of natural laws and thus can achieve stability: the spirit is also able to attain transcendence through this kind of comprehension.


In 2005, Hsiao Chin retired from the Tainan University of the Arts as an emeritus professor and that same year he was conferred the Knight of Italian Star of Solidarity by the president of Italy. Also during this time Hsiao Chin’s art had also begun to draw the attention and acceptance of mainland China.



[1] Abovementioned Wai-Lim Yip〈One of Dialogues with Contemporary Artists : I don’t have a word to say — Hsiao Chin’s Thoughts on Negative Space〉, p.111.

[2] Refer to the previous He Zheng-guang 〈An interview with Hsiao Chin〉; and Hsiao Chin〈Contemporary and Traditional Chinese Painting〉, 1978.3.30《China Times》12th Edition; Fang Dan〈A Discussion on Modern Art with Hsiao Chin〉,《Ming News》monthly issue 156, p. 28-35, 1978.12, Hong Kong.

[3] Refer to Hsiao Chin〈Proposal to Our Modern Art’s Development and to Sino-Western Modern Art’s Interchange〉, original 1978.9 《Modern Home》; collected into the abovementioned Hsiao Chin《Traveler’s Digest》, p. 167-171; and Chen Xiao-Lin’s 〈Hsiao Chin’s Proposal of Establishing the Special Administrative Governance Organization to Promote Sino-Western Modern Art’s Interchange〉, 1978.8.12《Ming Sheng Daily News》

[4] Council for Cultural Affairs, Executive Yuan is established in 1981, the Taipei Fine Arts Modern Art Museum opened at the end of 1983.

[5] Hsiao Chin‘s Narration.

[6] Abovementioned Ho Cheng-guan〈An interview with Hsiao Chin〉, p.222.

[7] Ibid, p.227.

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