Arts: Mao keeps it simple and personal

Arts: Mao keeps it simple and personal
Three-part series: Mao's current exhibition comprises 18 new works dated 2008 to 2013.

SINGAPORE - It's been 16 years since his last solo exhibition in Singapore, but Chinese avant- garde artist Mao Xuhui still remembers how at home he felt here. So he was more than happy to come back when invited again.

"When I first had a solo exhibition in Singapore, it was of the Guishan series, and that was very important to me because it was also the first solo exhibition in my life. When MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Arts) invited me this time, it just so happened that I had painted about Guishan again. It's destiny," says the 57-year-old.

His current exhibition, titled Nature.Fold.Blasphemy, is a three-part series of 18 new works dated 2008 to 2013, held at MoCA@Loewen. While at this exhibition space, the works are not for sale.

The first part of this exhibition, titled Nature: Return to Guishan, is a reinterpretation of his Guishan series exhibited here in 1997. This segment was not intentionally put in front, but Mao later realised that it was a good lead-in to his new works because it connected with the past.

Nature: Return to Guishan was influenced by the bright colours used by French artist Henri Matisse, even though Mao used to dislike Matisse's vibrant and passionate style.

His change of heart came about in the spring of 2008, following his father's death the year before - a year when he painted only in monotone colours.

Another reason he is back is that he finds Singapore a good place to reach out to Eastern and Western audiences.

He says: "Singapore has a very deep connection with Chinese culture and is very international at the same time. It's very unique."

This is why he believes his exhibition will be of interest to Singaporeans in general.

He says Asians will enjoy the landscapes and bright colours in Nature: Return to Guishan and the third segment, Blasphemy: Daily Life in Kunming.

Westerners, on the other hand, will like the strong motifs and social discussions raised by the chairs and scissors in the second segment, Fold: Power Landscape.

But if there is one thing that stays consistent in his works, it's the sincerity of everything he paints.

"My painting is an observation of everyday life. I try to be more mundane, very ordinary. I paint the village I lived in, the people I've seen before, and scissors and chairs are everyday things. And for the Kunming series, those sidewalks are where I always take a walk," he says.

"I think that's what makes me unique anyway, because it's all my personal experience and no one else has it. But at the same time it can touch others," he adds.

Nature.Fold.Blasphemy will run till Oct 20 at MoCA@Loewen, 27A Loewen Road. Opening hours are 11am to 7pm daily. Admission is free. For enquiries, call 6479-6622 or log on to for more information

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