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Galerie Ora-Ora opens new gallery space with exhibition of works by Xiao Xu
Xiao Xu, Heaven's Greeting, 2017. Ink on paper, 40 x 60 cm.

HONG KONG.- Graduating from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute with a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Chinese Painting in 2007 and 2010, Xiao Xu has become one of the leading forces in contemporary ink in China. An artist who acknowledges his own love of the dark dreams and myths imbued in his paintings: “It might be that I see too many dark sides of the world.” Galerie Ora-Ora welcomes Xiao Xu to its first solo show in its new space on 17F of H Queen’s.

Xiao Xu’s solo show at Galerie Ora-Ora invites you to enter the gateway that leads from reality to abstraction, beginning a psychological expedition of conflictual forces, past angular icebergs and labyrinthine towers. In these artworks, the artist has broken free, and runs into wide landscapes of his own creation.

There are artists that choose not to place themselves at the fulcrum of creation, but to set off in pursuit of the traces of art history, simultaneously seeking renewal and subordinating their feelings and reason to the great tradition. In particular, Chinese painting has the kind of depth and force necessary to encourage this, and such a situation is quietly happening at the moment, as we turn to successive dynasties of the past.

This new retro movement, as I said many years ago, may be seen as a resurrection of the past. Its biggest difference to the past lies in the modernity of our current perspective, looking back from an angle of unprecedented change. Looking at Xiao Xu’s works, we view the scenery from above, and the nature of the vegetation. It is as if we have entered a distant fantasy. But if we look closer, we find this departure actually comes from a contemporary entrance, a more recent adventure like Alice in Wonderland, where we accidentally fall down a rabbit hole into a new autumnal landscape.

In Xiao Xu’s recent works, the image of Alice in Wonderland overlaps with another traditional Chinese classic, that is, the visit to Dongtian (grotto heaven) and fudi (blissful lands). Dongtian is an important concept in Taoism, which refers to the mountain resort inhabited by immortals, and Tao Yuanming’s Peach Blossom Spring also describes such a path, and in the Song Dynasty’s Zhao Boju’s Autumn Colours along Rivers and Mountains, the Ming Dynasty’s artists Liao Yi and Qiu Ying and so on, all reflect the Dongtian landscape through their unfathomable darkness, as we journey towards the illusion of infinite sky.

Similarly, starting from the cave in his work “Heavenly Sky”, Xiao Xu wanders into a selfhypnotic dreamscape. This world is uncharted, almost dispassionate, just like as described in Heaven and Earth Palace from the Song Dynasty’s Taoist classic Cloud Gupta.

Xiao Xu does not necessarily want to describe the Dongfu Heaven and Earth in the context of Taoism, but as an annotation of his works, the description seems to be appropriate. In Xiao Xu’s early works, he has presented the backdrop of a sparse forest field, clouds steaming, occasionally strange spirits, auspicious cranes and other beasts, with the metal fence as a point of division between worlds. After several struggles, Xiao Xu has finally broke through the fence and fled into the world of Dongtian. He is now free, and the depth of the perspective is also adjusted. Sometimes the landscape is far reaching, sometimes lofty, sometimes far away, and there is no certain order, perhaps because this fairyland itself is disorderly, weightless. Occasionally there are medieval castles like ice, upside down, a kind of mirage in a misplaced universe; books, like birds, flock together, their strangeness enriching the infinite distance, an expedition of psychological illusion.

This world that has been constructed in shades of grey, seemingly of ink, and yet not like ink, tainted with massive “white powder”, forming a picture of controlled planes and volumes: “Holy sap withering into dust, wood chips concealed with enigmatic incense”. These are the characteristics and breakthroughs of Xiao Xu’s works. And yet, under these cold clouds, what will people find? An escape from the real world, straying into a world of heavenly caves, yet still encountering no one, modern people’s sorrow is as that of the ancients – thousand years of solitude, perhaps never ending like the mountains and rivers themselves.

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