Hsiao Chin spent half his life abroad. Especial ly dur ing the years that marked the height of his creative powers, he enjoyed the acquaintance and companionship of many well-known contemporary artists, including Franz Kline, Mark Tobey, Mark Rothko, and Wi l lem de Kooning, helping him to broaden his outlook. “Although I have spent much of my life in foreign countries, I have always observed the world, and created all my art, through the lens of Chinese thought and tradition. While I employ Western styles, paints, and media, I hope that observers of my art will notice how everything is permeated with the philosophies of Taoism and Zen, and how my work is an expression of my deep love for the whole world, and in particular my attachment to China as a part of this world,” says Hsiao.
Looking back on the artist’s long career, we find that he completed his first abstract painting on paper in 1955, titled “Abstract.” Hsiao felt that his creative career truly began with that painting. Following Li Chun-shan’ s didactic approach, he discarded the idea of slavishly following any one artistic genre or school, and instead began to explore the basic elements of painting. At first glance, the influences of the European painters Miro and Klee appear to be obvious, but many critics find his style to be suffused with his own distinctive structural characteristics, in particular the black calligraphic lines reminiscent of Zhou dynasty stone inscriptions, blurry at the edges where the color is allowed to seep outwards a bit, generating all the tension and sense of movement associated with calligraphic strokes. The overall impression is that “the static state of the image, frozen in time, yet allows for unlimited expression.” This is one of the trademarks of Hsiao’s style.
From 1961 onwards, Hsiao Chin eliminated all background from his work, employing the liubai approach familiar from traditional Chinese painting. At the same time, he discontinued the use of oil paints, opting for ink and watercolors instead. It is worth not ing that hi s technique of discarding background details, and thus getting rid of perspective space, is in some ways different from the classical liubai approach, where “empty space” usually represented air, water, and other elements that serve to link up the various spatial levels of a composition. Hsiao attempts to transcend all configurative limitations and show the underlying pulsations of vital energy. Chinese calligraphy is actually the perfect medium for this purpose, coaxing three dimensional momentum out of lines on flat paper, with rapid brushstrokes forever suspended in time, the fourth dimension. It was this kind of “infinity” that Hsiao became enamored with during the 60s.