The first time I was exposed to the works of Shao Xinsheng, I found my self captivated, first by his story and then by the culmination of the experiences that resulted in symphonies of color and strong sense of form that only a deeply introspective person can express.
As an artist, I respect and revere other artists who are not afraid to use brilliant colored hues to describe life. Especially for one who grew up in the late 1970’s and experienced the dark and suppressive rules of the Cultural Revolution, Shao Xinsheng’s work is like a balmy, summer day. For one who was told that art must be made for the masses and that individualism is for the labor camps, for one whose heart and soul yearns to express his humanism, it is a gift to experience this love through the eyes and hands of a dreamer.
Shao Xinsheng was born to an intellectual family who was impacted greatly by the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980’s Shao joined the Stars Group, founded by an assembly of experimental artists who challenged the stifling rules of the Chinese politics, such as Ma Desheng, Ai Wei Wei, Huang Rui, Li Shuang and Wang Keping. The artists saw themselves as points of light in an otherwise dark world, which set the preliminary stage for freedom of expression in China.
For those of us in the western world, it seems incomprehensible that one’s individuality and thoughts can be shackled by a set of rules written by a committee. The isolation, censorship and repression of the political era gave birth to a group of creative minds in a courageous attempt to establish “ziwo” – “I myself.”
Such was the experience of Impressionists Courbet, Manet and Whistler in1863 in what became known as the “Salon des Refuses” during the Paris Salon. These rejected impressionists paved the way towards the evolution of modern art in Europe. The Stars, in a sense, were the “Refusees” of the Cultural Revolution era, with the exception that they were in a more dangerous space. They were not only ridiculed for their experimental art, but were subjected to harsh political criticism, which eventually caused many of them to disband and move to other countries. But their efforts eventually led to freedom of artistic expression in China.
Shao was accepted for study at the Metropolitan University in Tokyo, which unleashed a new world and new direction in his works. Vacillating between realism, impressionism, expressionism, abstraction and the conceptual, his works demand authentic self-expression as the foundation for each of his artistic endeavors. Each painting’s freshness builds upon the last as he develops form through his courageous brush of color. In his landscapes, the language of the body is visible in the undulating lines of the mountains, trees and valleys, showing the human connection to each aspect of nature that transcends yet applauds reality.
From the East to the West, Shao’s works are an empowering convergence of beauty, form, language and sensibility, revealing his connection to the points of light he dreamed of so many decades ago.
Arica Hilton, President
Hilton | Asmus Contemporary
28 July 2015