Kwai Fung Hin is delighted to present In Search of Dao – the Latest Works of Xue Song, which showcases more than 20 recent collage works from 'The Dao from Nature' series created by the Chinese Pop artist Xue Song since 2019.
Xue Song's art fuses East and West, ancient and modern, as well as fine arts and popular culture. His works are born from fire, through the destruction and regeneration of images, to form collaged compositions that represent a holistic yet diverse world. This exhibition presents the enlightenment and breakthrough of Xue Song's creative process in recent years, from narrative imagery to abstract forms of expression, and witnesses his thoughts on the laws of nature, his search for a harmonious relationship between the world and man, and his pursuit of the way of art.
Xue Song was born in Anhui, China in 1965. One of the most important artists of the Chinese 'Pop Art' movement, he grew up in an era of dramatic changes during China's reform and opening up, with rapid social modernisation, economic transformation, the rise of materialism, and a modern art movement that challenged traditional aesthetics. Living amidst the chaos of Shanghai, Xue Song shared the cultural outlook of the generation born in the 1960s: a profound, reflective approach to history combined with a strong sensitivity to contemporary changes. In exploring social facades and pursuing his unique style of art, he and his fellow artists contributed to the development of Chinese contemporary art.
'My work is born out of fire.' - Xue Song
At the end of 1990, a fire in Xue Song's studio accidentally opened a new chapter in his creative journey. He was inspired by the ashes of charred remains amidst the ruins, and developed a new creative method that mixed ashes with paint and collaged images to form a wholly new visual style. Since then, 'burning', 'collage', 'deconstruction' and 'reconstruction' have become Xue Song's unique artistic language.
Influenced by the early collage works of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), Xue Song's visual expression bears the distinctive features of Pop Art: heavy outlines and bold blocks of colour. 'Collage' became one of the techniques of Western Pop Art after World War II, which applied ready-made objects as creative materials to reflect the rise of post-war consumerism and popular culture. Xue Song has appropriated various printed materials such as images from classical works of art, historical photos, calligraphy, musical scores, commercial advertisements, and then disassembled, burned, collaged and mixed ashes to form his own world of images.
Until 2019, Xue Song's creations were divided into five themes: 'Cultural Pop', 'New Landscapes', 'Dialogue between the East and West', 'Text and Calligraphy', and the 'Metropolis' series. After deconstruction and reconstruction, various images became either mutually reinforced or endowed with new meanings through their dissonance, thereby reflecting the artist's perspectives on or metaphors relating to issues such as the East and West, historical memory and reality, traditional culture and contemporary viewpoints, as well as globalisation and individualism.
At the turn of the 21st century, Xue Song's creations returned to their abstract roots, but remained richly expressive in reasoning and emotion, philosophy and poetry, geometric and calligraphic abstraction. 'The Dao from Nature' series since 2019 has set the stage for Xue Song to return to the order of the natural world.
'From destruction to rebirth, the cycle of life is endless.' - Xue Song
The term 'The Dao from Nature' is derived from the philosophical concept that 'Dao models itself after nature' as expounded in the Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way). It means that the movement of all things in the universe follows the 'Dao', that is, the origin of the world as well as the laws of nature itself. The nature of the Dao is spontaneous, and repeats itself in endless cycles.
Born in Dangshan, Anhui Province, Xue Song spent a childhood in close proximity to nature, and was also influenced by the Daoist philosophy of Zhuangzi. Almost in his sixties, Xue Song has already lived through urban prosperity and political, economic and cultural turmoil. Now, he begins to pursue a state of purity and modesty. He has embraced simplicity by cutting out the superfluous in his works, and has gradually transformed his art from unique, sharp and niche expressions to in-depth explorations of his inner world.
Through the destruction and regeneration of images in his works, Xue Song ponders 'the laws of nature'. He discovers and extracts images from nature, and then deconstructs and reassembles them with skilful and adept collage techniques. The subject matter of his work has abandoned all identifiable cultural symbols and historical narratives, instead presenting abstract representations of nature, the four seasons, solar terms and other natural phenomena, to envision the endless cycles of life. From afar, his works reveal faint images of water, fire, leaf veins, marble and cracked ice, as well as the formal beauty of the abstract, while iconic ready-made images and textual collages emerge from a closer look at them. A paradox between the microscopic and the macroscopic, as well as tensions between form and content, constantly create dramatic fluctuations between rupture and rebirth in his paintings.
A feature of Chinese abstract painting is the ambiguity between likeness and unlikeness. Diverging from Western abstract art's use of gestural marks, Xue Song's works highlights his fascination with the abstract elements created from magnifying the details of the natural world. This approach can be traced back to his 'Text and Calligraphy' series in 2002. Xue Song used details of cursive fonts as the basis of his images, breaking the pattern of Chinese character structures and denying the meaning of the 'words'. The mutual references and transformation of abstraction and calligraphy make the image somehow recognisable, yet unrecognisable at the same time. 'The Dao from Nature' series seemingly asks people to relinquish their habitual thoughts and re-understand these images, the world, the present time, and the relationship between heaven and man in terms of contradictions, engendering new forms of inspiration.