Water lies at the heart of Xu’s artistic technique and vision in his latest series. Ephemeral in nature, it is continually evolving with the changing seasons. Like the temperamental seas with its undulating waves, water is in constant motion. Precisely because of its mercurial temper, it becomes elusive and ungraspable. To be able to control and manipulate it the way that Xu does transcends beyond simply an exercise in patience but rather, it becomes a solipsistic and soul-searching examination of the Self.
The endless cycle of wetting and drying of the Xuan paper over a prolonged period to create the soft translucency to his landscapes becomes an analogy for the workings of time. This repeated layering of diluted ink creates a “sheen of antiquity” which describes a polishness that can only be achieved as the Xuan paper bears the noble mark of time and history. As the polished glow recedes into the inky darkness, it conjures an inexpressible aura of depth and mystery.
In addition, there is a delicate balance to maintain when it comes to manipulating water as one perpetually vacillates between the role of master and servant. The beauty of Chinese ink landscape teeters precariously between control and non-control. In the same way, Chinese ink paintings tread the careful boundary between figurative and abstract. It does not seek to represent reality but to capture its timeless essence and the spirituality that accompanies it.
As one stands in front of a Xu Hua Xin painting, it is a work to be meditated upon instead of just being looked at. As the artist himself has noted, “My paintings are not attractive at a glance. It is an acquired taste, one that requires you to gaze upon and reflect for a long time.” Indeed, in its cloudy translucence, the profundity of its ethereality and the dreamlike glow that suffuses it is beyond compare.
Xu’s works are far from simple and bereft of embellishments. In fact, it is inconceivably elaborate and complex. Impeccable patience and careful precision go into the creation of each and every piece of art. It represents not only countless layers of water wash but also the essence of two millennia of Chinese ink philosophy condensed into a single frame. And this is why when you look at Xu Hua Xin’s paintings, you are looking at Time.
If Time is what you seek, please click here.
Published on 4 Jan, 2019
by White Space Art Asia