/ Transmission of Eastern Culture to The West:Post-War Asian art in Europe and its trend of collection

Dr.Jérôme Neutres, Yaman Shao, Calvin Hui

About the exhibition

Yaman Shao
Director of ALIEN Art

Dr.Jérôme Neutres
Director of Strategy at the Réunion des Musées Nationaux–Grand Palais, President of the Musée du Luxembourg, France

Calvin Hui
INK NOW Founder & Chairman

This Conversation pay tribute to artist Hsiao Chin and the artist’s foundation’s support

Yaman:Since the classic period (XVII-XVIIIth centuries), Asian art has fascinated European collections, and it is interesting today to recall the main landmarks of this story, through the major initiatives of the end of XIXth century, like Emile Guimet’s travels and collections and the conception of the Guimet museum as a “window” to Asia in Europe. This history highlights particularly the growing demand of Asian contemporary and modern art today. Isn’t collecting contemporary art a European invention which today is becoming global? Hsiao Chin is a particular case in this history. This talks ambitions to raise some questions and topics about the art of collecting art in Europe and Asia, the booming of Asian modern and contemporary art through the world today, and the evolution of the reception of Hsiao Chin work both in Europe and Asia.

Jérôme:Thank you, Yaman. I am very happy to see parallel project featuring Hsiao Chin at the same time in Kaohsiung the city and in Paris. Paris is the city of art for a lot of people. Parallel project creates like a mirror between Paris and Kaohsiung, and the artists of this mirror is Hsiao Chin. And it is very important to highlight this point, because Hsiao Chin along his life as being a sort of the world symbolizing in his work defending, promoting, the exchanges between especially eastern culture and western culture. So why the color of Zen?It could look, first of all, as paradoxes. Because Zen philosophy is a concept, is a spirituality eventually something abstract that you have to feel and practice. Colors signify something that tells you painting art. An idea to combine those two terms apparently, because precisely the art of Hsiao Chin is a success, an achievement is to give hers to look at the Zen to give an image of the Zen. Remember Paul Klee? Art doesn't reproduce the visible, it makes visible, meaning the goal of art is to make visible the invisible. And all the career of Hsiao Chin full abstract art is to try to give the metallization of an image, of an idea, of a concept. I thought that the color of Zen was perfect summary of the process of Hsiao Chin as an achievement.

Yaman:Followed by the topic of make visible the invisible. We just have talked with Calvin and Calvin said that Hsiao Chin isn't paint for Zen, but is expressing from his spiritual part and which is also a part of the movement. Hsiao Chin brought to the western to establish eastern philosophy to the western abstract art view. So by this can we talk more about this movement?

Calvin:Yes, at that time back to early 1960s when Hsiao Chin settled down in Milan, and he founded and initialed an important art movement called Punto. This Punto movement actually is an expression of eastern philosophy including Zen and Taoism. That Hsiao Chin would like to address and concern at that time during the post-war period when he asks Chinese artist how he also embrace his culture root and then to present the philosophy to share this with the western world. I found the direction of Jerome actually very inspiring, because they actually base on the direction of methodology to present the Hsiao Chin’s painting even they try to build a dialogue between Hsiao Chin modern art, together with Asian civilization object collected by museum Guimet which I found really fascinating. But then the common ground is about the human civilization about human beings, no matter 5000 years ago or now we actually look up the point and see this guy, we see the universe. That is why when now we are all here together in Kaohsiung this place I found the special concept of this place is very unique, that we can capture the essence of light in this art space and also to capture the energy of the universe which Hsiao Chin’s artworks, actually also share this thought and this inspiration from what he got through the understanding of Zen philosophy.

Yaman:I think what museum Guimet represent in France, is like a window to Asia. It particularly has wonderful treasures and collections from antique Asia and Pacific Asia. To see in our deeply rooted history of Asian art, the contemporary art of Hsiao Chin is. A great artist is in fact rooted in the process of history of art. A great artist come after other artist and think of them. And one could see today in Paris our relevant and meaningful art perspective of vision, where you can see antique classic ceramics for example bronze from China, and his dance of the science the painting of Hsiao Chin represented. There is obviously in Hsiao Chin’s paintings and his painting not influenced, but the culture of calligraphy which is very important in the collection of Guimet museum. Also of course in the tradition of Asian art it is also interesting to see that at the same time there is in France. The calligraphy is like elaborated from the obligation to mean something, because calligraphy is the writing so that is to communicate something here, the contemporary painter elaborating itself from the issue of signifying some precise message of communicating something. What in this painting Hsiang Chin is communicating is the pure energy of the painter, it refers the painting only to the painting itself and to Hsiao Chin without any special communication message, the art reflects first the artist itself. Then we thought that also is a combination of visage Punto, point of course, which is like the eye of the painting and looking so mature like some traditional, also Japanese prints you know which influences so much in the 19th century.

Jérôme:So many painters from Europe come back to that point. But there is something very contemporary in the abstract in the way of communicating to painting itself and to this purity because the main color is the white color of the canvas itself. So it is very meaningful art, very meaningful painting and in the 60s this is the most radical movement in painting.

Calvin:When you mentioned about this piece, the Illuminated Heart-2 of the Guimet exhibition. You mentioned about minimalism, about the calligraphy brush strokes. So to my understanding, it is more like a Western concept of how the western audience sees the concept of Zen. To the artists or to the Eastern culture it's more about the experience, the understanding of the concept then it will be transformed into an experience, that is something I would call it like, internal or inner mindfulness, this mindfulness will also transcend the spirit to an added layer of experience. This is really like the concept of Chinese ink. And so when we talk about Chinese ink drawing, we had like a blank-leaving concept to create the space of imagination. And in Chinese, we call it 寫意, and how the author, the artists or the audience interpreted through their experience. Hsiao Chin, during that time, when Guimet selected this piece I found fascinated, because that is the two, three years 1961 to 1963, when Hsiao Chin was so brave, to make a bold statement or bold manifesto. So this is a very Eastern concept. PUNTO, Circle of Life, the movement, the body movement of the calligraphy, actually, is something relating to the mind, and how the writer or the artists connect to the universe is, is very, is the type of like intuition. But that may be from the western as it is about composition and also artificial energy. So why I want to point this out, because at that time, Hsiao Chin didn't forget where he’s from, he is a Chinese. So, he was in Europe, he wanted to make a bold statement, and I found this is very important, because he is the man, he is the bridging point between Eastern and Western art. For example, like these, these two pieces, very simple only one circle is about the beginning of the PUNTO movement. And PUNTO, you chose this one, the beginning of Tao, is also about Tao and Chi, the Taoism also about the flow of energy. And then from 1964 to 1966 you’ll see this, this is another expansion of force. So at that time, if I interpret that was the beginning of how Hsiao Chin fully adopt the western abstract into the Eastern philosophical thinking in terms of the use of vibrant colors of the compositions, and influenced by art or other art movement that I'm sure you will introduced to us. And don't forget, this is also the iconic symbol of PUNTO. And this PUNTO is very different from the one that we just saw, just one dot, this is like layers of circles, that was actually the influence of the Hinduist Buddhism. So to me, I found that 1961 through 1966 that was the most important period for Hsiao Chin’s career development, which also defined what we have seen in this whole exhibition.

Yaman:During the 1960s, when Hsiao Chin initiates the PUNTO movement in Europe, how Western experts interprets or comprehends this movement?

Jérôme:I think that the PUNTO international movement is, by definition, international, as it says, and more than only the initiation of a new movement by a Chinese artist in Milan, in the early 1960s, we have to remember that it is an international conversation, a Chinese painter, Hsiao Chin, an Italian painter, Calderara, the Japanese artist Azuma and other citizens of the world in Milan, which was one of the world capital of the art at that time, and still today in a way, but less, sadly. You have this conversation, and this conversation, you can find it summarized in this painting, I totally agree with you because of course, you have the point, PUNTO, which was for full artists, and it was a very Estern way of thinking but very easily understandable by other foreigners, the point is the smallest common factor of every painting, you know, it is the beginning and the end, it is that philosophy, it is also the beginning and the end of every canvas and every painting. But in this painting, I totally agree which is exactly for me the image of this international conversation, because you have this point, which is also circles, the Buddhist’s wheels and the Buddhist’s circles and we will come back to this loop, you have the geometric Tantra, cosmogony signs, like this, you will find that also in the painting of another famous painter of this era also, S.-H. Raza, in India. And at the same time, the way it is expressed on the canvas by the vibrant colors, brush strokes very geometry, the use of the geometry of the radical, even turn into pop colors geometry, like you say in particular, but I would say more in all a certain abstract out of the early 1960s of that time, think of Frank Stella use of the geometry. And so you have exactly the picture of a world, once upon the time in the early 60s, where there was an international conversation between artists and maybe one of the first period where the global art was invented. And it's why I always say that Hsiao Chin is a pioneer, a visionary artist among others, who, in fact, integrated in his painting this international conversation.

Yaman:I also saw a French influence here. So, that type of like compositions is like hard edge. I remember Hsiao Chin’s first exhibition in Paris was in 1964. And also during early 1960s, the French lyrical abstract expressionism was also quite strong. The way Hsiao Chin using the splashing color pigment or the dripping color to express the expansion of the universe universal energy, you will see a lot of this type little color, this is the way that he tried to express the movement of Chi and energy and this I will say… actually, I read some art critics from 1960s, they also briefly mentioned about perhaps Hsiao Chin was influenced by the French lyrical abstract expressionism to add on this personal emotion into the very cold abstract. So, when he purely just, if he just copies the hard edge or you mentioned by the art, it was very rational, very straightforward, but this one I would say you will have that type of like artist’s emotions inside.

Jérôme:I totally agree. When I said that it symbolized this international conversation, we can develop that, at the same time. There is poet, very famous in France, Edouard Glissant, was also philosopher who used to say cultures change through exchanges, and exchange through changes. And I think that Hsiao Chin’s whole career embodies and illustrates this fabulous and very poetic sentence. Just think that he was in 1956 in Spain, where he had a dialogue with Antoni Tàpies. Tàpies, I had a great chance to know and to learn from when I was living in Spain, and I know from him, how important was the Asia traditional painting and the dialogue with Asian Artist with Tàpies. And vice versa, Hsiao Chin probably also learn from this dialogue with Tàpies. Then after he moved to Italy, where he met such a genius, as the Argentinian artist, Lucio Fontana, also great inventor, and you can see between their two works, even if they are very personal, very individual, very characteristic of themselves, each of them, but a certain dialogue, then he had necessarily also dialogue with Castellani, and other leading figures that we know he was friend with, and not friend only to share a drink, but friends to share conversation about art. And what I think very interesting it coming back to the PUNTO movement for me now, but it's very personal. The more I think of that, the more I think of the Buddhist wheel, and the circle of life, because it's a loop. When the international conversation and all the art process and gesture is a circle. When you think that Hsiao Chin coming back to his early period. He was painting, thinking of Cézanne, then after he will bring it to the Western culture says Cézanne is the leading figure, a new way of painting. So it's a loop. And today you know that I work with another Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, that I created one of his last show in the Archeological Museum of Naples in Italy. And Cai Guo-Qiang, when you see his early years, he was also painting after Cézanne, the The Mont Sainte-Victoire and all that. And it is a journey through the discovery of the other, the story of that. And again, Hsiao Chin, born in 1935, was a pioneer in that he was the first, for this generation he was he was a pioneer. In a way for me, it's very important to know that Hsiao Chin is feature in the Musée guimet. Because Musée guimet, the name of the family name is the name of Émile Guimet. Émile Guimet was a young industrialist in the 19th century, mid-19th century, was also a pioneer, he was among the very first, before any universal exchange will exist, to travel around the world, and especially to Asia, and to travel the year 1876, 1877 in India, in China, in Japan, and purchasing and bringing back a lot of artworks with the ID immediately to build, found the museum, which could be a window to this new world. The Western world didn't know the east, because he had the vision that the dialogue between cultures would form a new world, a new possibility for the artists. And all along the 20th century, since the end of the 19th century, the Musee Guimet in Paris was found in 1888. Since that time, the Asia culture and the conversation being possible between Western artist and Asian art produced the best of the Western art in 20th century just realized that there wouldn't have been Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin without would their discovery of Asian art and precisely of Japan art, very popular in that time under the name of Japanism in France. In 1904, when Brâncuşi, the biggest sculptor of the 20th century, the inventor of the modern sculpture comes to Paris from Romania. He goes to Guimet, and he has a shock, the big shock of his life maybe. And when you see his sculptures before the discovery of the Musee Guimet, and after, it's a radical change, it turned into abstract culture, a search of purity of the essence of the things, he will say, I don't want to represent a fish, but the essence of the fish. You will discover the gilded effect the goldish patina, that you will translate first with gold leaf, then with his polished bronze, and that comes from all the Buddha and the Hindu Buddha, he saw in the Guimet for the first time at that time. It was of course, in the early 20th century, there was no communication between continents like today. I can call to you within early 13 hours from my place to your place, all along the way, you know, every day between the Western world and the eastern world. But at that time, we talk about pioneers, so for me to have Hsiao Chin celebrated Guimet was also the vertical encounter of two pioneers.

Calvin:And also, when we mentioned about like 1950s and 1960s, it is the very period, because it's after the WWII, that's the post war period.

Jérôme:Absolutely. At that time Hsiao Chin (19:00) and his folks is like when they are in the 20s or 30s, young people, they have the responsibility, they have the mission to recreate or to build the new order, to build the new world from the scratch, because it’s after the war. So during that time, artists, culturalist, they actually had shared that, that the common spirit, or the universal value of civilization. So they want to work together to build this new world.

Yaman:So that's why when Jerome mention about this change, so when Eastern philosophical thinking went to Europe, is like a remedy to the Western world at that time, because we're talking about the self-contemplation, we’re talking about the meaning of life. So a very philosophical way, which may also be a solution to the Western world, how to reconsider the movement of Western art. So that's why I would say, Hsiao Chin is really a pioneer, you mentioned about Tàpies, so I believe, Tàpies’ first Chinese interview should be by Hsiao Chin. And we cannot deny to see the influence of Zen in Tàpies’ work, especially in the 1960s. So this type of culture exchange, we saw the significance of Hsiao Chin in this postwar abstract art movement, I believe through the curatorial direction that Guimet provided, and then we adapt and to develop here in ALIEN Art Centre, we can really showcase a full picture of how Hsiao Chin started his journey during the post war period in Europe, and all the way through and nowadays. So bringing back to the conversation to the place we're in and the time we’re at, we look at the long art history and when Hsiao Chin established this kind of influential movement from 1960s and to the 1970s, 1980s, can we say that now the world is merging into one? Is it possible to say who influence who, when the cultural parts we say, because still which we travel to different countries? And we feel that there is a similarity between Eastern and Western scene, how should we interpret that influence as “culture”?

Jérôme:I think art is a mirror of the world. We cannot separate art from the rest of the world for the context, artist are also human beings living in a certain history, a certain context today. As a matter of fact, we can think it's too much, we can think it's fantastic, I think it's great, we are in a global world, look how we are dressed, there’s influence of Asian art but also have a shirt which is typical of what we call the a shirt coming from the Western world reinterpreted with, by a certain influence of Japanese designer and to their in the way you want to dress the same for me, and when you think that the blue, indigo we are all blue, and the idea of giving, putting color for the cotton was invented in Ahmedabad in the in the antique era in India, and it was the Indigo in Gujarat, the culture of the cotton, and the idea of making fabric with cotton was invented thousands and thousands years ago, in the valley of the Hindus in Asia, and during the Roman Empire, they will import massively cotton and fabric from India at that time, we have text today where some people, Roman intellectuals think that Indian cotton that will invade the world. It is because we are all dress with that and isn't it fantastic? Because after that a lot of designers had the chance to transform and our clothes have nothing to see with the India traditional clothes, you know? So I think it's again, a loop, what I see today in the contemporary world, our world, it is like an acceleration of this conversation. Hsiao Chin, in a couple of years, born and grow in China, move to Taipei, went to Spain, went to Milan, went to Paris, went to the USA, you know, back to Shanghai, he was a pioneer of this nomadic artist, every artist successful is today. When you think that there is more that “Biennial” of art, more that “art fair” of art in the world, artists are circulating and traveling around the globe. And so of course, they will, I hope for them, they will integrate and defend by what they see. And I had the chance, living myself, born in France, raised in France, but I lived in Spain. Like Hsiao Chin, I lived also in Italy, but I lived in India, I lived in the US and all that enlightened me a lot. And taught me so much. And I think I had the chance each time to, for the last 25 years, to work with so many young artists that contemporary artists, and I always pushed them to go to in residences abroad, to meet the artist, to meet other art techniques, to learn other philosophies. An artist I worked a lot with, the most famous visual artist, Bill Viola, his life changed during an artist in residence program in 1980, in Japan, he spent one year, he learned Zen philosophy and his life and his art changed. And then you can now today understand Bill Viola’s works, artworks without this knowledge. And that's why it’s. So in Asia, I had chance to organize a show in Korea, which is very renowned, therefore for that. So today, we have this acceleration and the contemporary artists, they have the chance to ever ability to catch up. But the question is, what would they do with that? They are like spoiled children because the world is theirs already, while Hsiao Chin to add really the thought to make an effort in a strong commitment to that. So I don't know, we'll see. Today I see a lot of cross-cultural exchanges. And out of that, some artists appear with very strong, very original, very powerful proposition in art, coming back to Cai Guo-Qiang, his influences are coming from Europe, history of painting, but also the and in creation the use of fire in the painting, is also something very important in certain Western culture. And even, thanks to all his trip, he discovered the use of gunpowder for paintings in Japan. While he was born in China, he discovered so many things in Europe, and then in New York. So I think that today, and tomorrow, we will have maybe the chance to add new proposals to art, new shapes, new forms of art, thanks to those future mixes of encounters. Isn’t art is the permanent search for new form, new images, new colours?

Jerome Neutres in Conversation ©ALIEN Art

Les couleurs du Ch’an.Hommage à Hsiao Chin © ALIEN Art Centre