TKG Foundation for Arts & Culture is delighted to present And there's nothing I can do, a solo exhibition featuring works by Chinese abstract artist Su Xiaobai (b. 1949 in China) at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, the largest art institution in West Japan. This will be the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition in Japan, running from October 12 through November 28, 2018, showcasing 25 sets of never before seen abstract paintings, nearly half of which were created recently. The exhibition will include iconic artworks made from the traditional material of ‘Chinese lacquer’, such as Diaphanous (2017), Breeze Over Water – Summer (2018), Breeze Over Water – Autumn (2018), Breeze Over Water – Winter (2018), etc., with many of those stretching as much as two meters.
Through experimenting with traditional Chinese lacquer, Su Xiaobai recreates a discourse between materiality and painting. Over an accumulation of time, the multilayered concoction of textures and pattern narrates the story of a lacquer work being conceived, “wrapped” and then “evolved”, and how this materiality is an indication of a spontaneous and free creative process.
Su Xiaobai (b. 1949) was born in Wuhan, China. He studied at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1985, where he mastered the skills of expression through rigorous training in academic realism. In 1987, Su received a scholarship from Kunststiftung NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia Art Foundation) and began his graduate studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Through the daily interactions with his peers and teachers, Su was inspired by modernism and contemporary art ideologies. Abstract language provided Su with a new multitude of possibilities, gradually shifting him away from figurative art to abstract art. “What is deliberately concealed behind the abstract paintings is exactly the content that I want to depict,” said Su.
In Su’s early works during the 90s, ‘materials’ were still used as poetic symbols to recount a state of meditation. Thereafter, the artist started to reflect and explore the infinite possibilities in materials. “For a long time, I have ceased to focus on depicting imagery that specifically represents certain content in paintings,” he once said. “If one must insist on adopting the ‘imagery’, then I have a very different understanding of it, for instance, I perceive it as colors, or the composition of the painting.” Su’s artistic career reached a turning point in 2002 when he began to closely examine lacquer arts. After having avidly studied Chinese lacquer, a 1000-year-old historic material famously originating from Fujian Province in China, Su was captivated by this ancient discipline in which the lacquerware is wrapped by linen. This special technique exposes the original colors and layers of textures in Chinese lacquer, resonating with the artist’s affinity with pursuing the imagery of an object in its essence, rather than conceptualizing materials with subjective aesthetic ideas.
And there's nothing I can do strives to present the comprehensive and wholesome process of Su Xiaobai’s artistic practice: from conceiving to making, and its final physical manifestation. For Su, art making is neither confined in the studio nor defined by the moment he wields his paintbrush; rather the process factors in one’s lingering thinking process. As a result of such accumulated time, the objects are transformed and result in an unpredictable sequence of patterns and compositions on his works. Su first binds wooden board and emulsion with multiple layers of linen to create the initial form, and then repeatedly covers it with layers of Chinese lacquer. The textures and colors of the lacquer diffuses, splits and expands, until it subsides to a harmonious state. Su admits that he cannot predict “when” his paintings will be finished as elements on the paintings are constantly shifting – as if the Chinese lacquer, oil, emulsion and linen are coming to life, echoing an endless flow and collision. “There is nothing I can do, which means I have done everything I can. In fact, at any time, at any moment. And this is the only mode that allows me to create works."
Serving as the largest art institution in Western Japan, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art is designed by world-renowned architect Tadao Ando and led by director Yutaka Mino, who is not only dedicated to lifelong research on China's Cizhou kiln, but is also highly cognizant of Chinese culture, and possesses a broad, diverse perspective on global contemporary art. In a space specially designed by Keisuke Toyoda of Noiz Architects, who once apprenticed with Tadao Ando, this exhibition comes as the third collaboration between the team and Su Xiaobai, with prior collaborations in 2014 and 2016.
Born in 1949 in Wuhan, China, Su Xiaobai currently lives and works in Shanghai and Düsseldorf. He attended Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1985 and was later awarded a German cultural and art scholarship to participate in a graduate program offered by the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1987. Su Xiaobai’s oscillation between Chinese lacquer and painting makes his work a natural representation for a cross-cultural experience. The contrast of layers and texture within his works prompt a sense of depth and texture. His work embodies the concept of existence rather than overtly depicting objects, thereby posing a philosophical discourse on our daily lives through the language of visual art.
Su Xiaobai’s works are extensively acquired by international museums and private collections and have exhibited internationally, including And there's nothing I can do – Su Xiaobai Solo Exhibition, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan (2018); Art Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf (2018); The Armory Show, Piers 92 & 94, New York (2018); Infinite Blue, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2018); The world is yours, as well as ours, White Cube Mason’s Yard, London (2016); Su Xiaobai, Tina Keng Gallery, Taipei (2016, 2014, 2012); Su Xiaobai, Almine Rech Gallery, Paris (2014); The Dynasty of Colours, Langen Foundation, Neuss (2009); Transforming Pictures: A Contemporary (Re)presenting of Traditional Thoughts, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2009); Kao Gong Ji – Arts of Xiaobai Su, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2008); Intangible Greats, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2007); and First Beijing International Art Biennale, Beijing (2003).