"My work is born in fire. Burning is the means by which I create.
I use burned pieces of paper and ashes from burning to construct my work.
From destroying to rebirth, life runs a circle.
The images in my work have also gone through a circle when they are "reborn".
They have been freed from their original meanings and given new meanings.
My work connects historical memories with realities, contemporary
culture, and modern perspectives."
In the realm of Chinese contemporary art, Xue Song's creation is obviously unique. The uniqueness is mainly represented in two aspects: first, a creation method different from the majority; and secondly, the cultural tolerance, criticism and metaphorical colour of his works.
The treatment of ready made pictorial images and text prints through selection, disintegration, burning, restructuring, collage and drawing to eventually produce the new image which meets his own requirement is both the special creation steps of Xue Song as well as the necessary process for us to read and understand his works. The production procedure which seems like pipeline to the outsiders actually includes, in each of its steps, the historical thinking and judgment of the artist on the basis of current culture and reality and, also, the sensitive grasp and clever application of the complex images which embrace all kinds of old, new, Chinese and foreign elements. It is precisely this kind of creation process, in which meanings are generated from the production method, which makes Xue Song's art an integral part of the Chinese contemporary art since the 1990s.
Xue Song's early art experiment started from the later half of the 1980s. At that time, the modern art movement of the Chinese art sector was flourishing like a strong fire. The ideas of establishing something new or different and creating new art were burning hot in many young people who were eager for art reform. Xue Song was no exception. From the prints he was able to contact at that time, which provided very limited introduction of the Western contemporary art, he searched for supplies of nutrients. He kept interactions and mutual encouragement with his close comrades in art, and he put expression methods which might be suitable for him through trials.
Since the fire in 1990, Xue Song has found his own art language and creation method from the ruins. Through the restructuring of, and the making of collage from, the residues collected from the ashes, Xue Song created the first batch of experimental works with individual color. Composed of the fragments of personal life memories, these works seemed on one hand to be a certain kind of libation and farewell of the artist for and to the past and they also foretold a new start of the artist's personal art style.
Since the mid-1990s, Xue Song's art vision has become increasingly broader. In addition to the appropriation and conversion of the typical symbols of the Cultural Revolution period, urban fashion, the symbols of Pop culture and digital technology also became the subjects of his expression. The pictures of movie stars, Coca-Cola bottles, Arabic numerals and so on were composed by him by the method of burning and collage.
Xue Song's works after 2000, Xue Song borrows many images and words full of lyrical color and warm emotion, which possess the Oriental aesthetic connotation, and with which the Chinese people are familiar. For example, the freely rolling cursive strokes, Feng Zikai's cartoons which are filled with literati sentiments
Starting from 2012, Dialogue with the Masters series demonstrates a mature stage of Xue Song's artistic development. The essence of Mark Rothko, Damien Hirst, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and other masters are wittily applied in his work. The use of ashes is even more unique. He mixed ashes with pigments to form the lines of traditional Chinese paintings which are superimposed on the classic works of masters. It reflects the artist's attempt to digest the ubiquitous Western influences through his own creativity and taste.
Xue Song disintegrates traditional culture, and uses these cultural symbols to reconstruct a new cultural meaning. He either interprets history from the viewpoint of reality or uses history as metaphors for the reality, to create another angle for audience to rethink the history and culture of contemporary society. At the same time, through this kind of comprehensive dissection and reconstruction, Xue Song explores the most fundamental genes of the Chinese culture and discovers their evolution during a period of rapid social changes.
“I want to break Chinese traditions, and surpass Western modernism. It is much easier said than done.” This is probably the best description of Xue Song’s pursuit of art, as directly expressed by the artist’s own utterance. What I want to tell everyone is that Xue Song has never given up the history of China, nor China’s culture and traditions; he has also always taken in the art language of the West with the purest of heart; he has never deliberately entertained businesses or accommodated the world of fashion; but he has created a new fashion in his own way. Xue Song has convincingly broken through Chinese traditions and successfully surpassed Western Pop art.
Gao Ling, art critic
Xue Song’s art language is structured based on the grammar of “deconstruction” and “reconstruction”. Through the basic techniques of cutting, burning, piecing together, and regrouping, he takes an enormous amount of fragments of images and texts, rearranges these fragments, and devices a brand new way of viewing and thinking. The image of each fragment exists independently in its space, but is isolated and incomplete in its information. When the parts come together to form the whole, the parts are simultaneously disrupting the whole; when information constructing the image, the information is simultaneously deconstructing the image. The paradox of the macro view and the micro view, the conflict between the form and the content, are all continuously producing a rich variety of dramatic effects. For many years, Xue Song has been paying constant attention to historical pictures, cultural classics, and trendy fashions; he uses pop art and surrealism to traverse the past and the present, and to tell the stories of space-time transformation. His creation provides a way of expression for today’s art of painting, and a valuable reference.
Li Xu, Art Critic and Curator, 2011
“In his pop art, as a Chinese artist, Xue Song’s injects Eastern images into it. Eventually, he creates a metaphoric, ironic, criticizing, suspicious, dependent, obedient, and humorous atmosphere. Concerning the contents communicated in Xue Song’s works, the blending of past and present in history and culture, and the symbolic future offers him abundant elements and new thinking to convey his multidimensional and innovative ideas. Rodin, the renowned French engraver said, “A master can see the things people have seen with his own eyes. In addition, they can discover beauty from ordinary objects people see.” Likewise, Xue Song’s work merge global trends with traditional culture, which he never forgets, to bring forth new art on the basis of modern art.”
Chang Yu-ching, Curator
Extract from Looking Back: Deconstruction Classics at Shanghai Art Museum in Shanghai, 2009