Changing colours of Chinese artist's life

Changing colours of Chinese artist's life
Chinese painter Mao Xuhui with Place To Bury. Open Scissors (2008-2010, above) and his Eucalyptus Landscape (2013) and Maitreya Temple Park (2013).

The leader of a prominent 1980s avant-garde art group in China, painter Mao Xuhui has always allowed his heart to rule his brush.

The paintings he made after China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s reverberated with anguish and adversity. His canvases were marked by tensely wrought compositions, rough-hewn strokes and livid colours.

A change of heart, and mind, in recent years, however, led the 57-year-old painter to shed the grim and bleak in his art for a sense of ease and warmth. His palette is now closer to that of nature, his compositions are more relaxed and his brushstrokes carry less restraint.

A selection of 18 such works, painted over the last six years, which highlight this pivotal moment in his practice is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Loewen Road. The paintings are not for sale.

Mao's stylistic about-turn comes after a life spent weathering China's social and economic upheavals, including the Cultural Revolution as well as the subsequent opening up and commercialisation of the country.

Born the youngest of three sons to teacher parents in Chongqing, he was among the many educated youth in urban areas who were sent to the countryside to perform manual labour and undergo ideological re-education during the Cultural Revolution.

When the revolution ended, he enrolled in the Yunnan Academy of Fine Arts to study oil painting. Today, he teaches the subject at Yunnan University.

The soft-spoken artist says in Mandarin: "When I was younger, life was difficult and I was more tense. But after having experienced so much in life, I have become more mature and mild."

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