Su Xiaobai’s simplicity graces Art Basel Hong Kong 2014

By his own admission, German-trained, Shanghai-based Chinese contemporary artist Su Xiaobai prefers simplicity.  Whether it is a preference for standard business hours over nocturnal habits, or pureness over complication, Su transfers this drama-free lifestyle into his actual work, which was on display at several venues during Art Basel Hong Kong 2014.

“I’m not like some artists who either work very, very early or work into the middle of the night,” Su explained at a press preview held at the Pearl Lam Galleries on May 12.  “I work from 9 to 5, 9 to 6.”

At first glance, Su’s signature lacquer, oil, linen and wood tiles are deceptively similar.  However, the more they linger within sight of the human eye, the more they soothe in their subtle imperfections, with cracks, lines and contrasting colors peeking ever so slightly from beneath a dominant sheen.

Su’s exhibit at the Pearl Lam Galleries, “Painting and Being,” is a perfect example of this.  On display until July 15, the exhibit – curated by Paul Moorhouse and including some of the artist’s works from the last two years – features a series of large square tiles in various colors mounted throughout on the gallery walls.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What do these works mean?’,” Su said of the exhibit.  “But even I don’t know.  I am often asking myself, ‘What do I want to express?’  What I really want to express is a kind of a state – the state of my life when I am painting them.”


At the Art Basel Hong Kong main event, half of Su’s works “Fragment 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16” sold by the second public day.  Similar in style to his exhibit at Pearl Lam Galleries, materials used in this series include clay, paint, lacquer, linen and mixed media.


In one of his strongest pieces, Su transcends his signature style to a suspended elegance in his “Three Hundred Leafs” installation at The Peninsula Hong Kong.  The work actually comprises three sections, with two sets of tiles slanting away from the ceiling of the hotel’s majestic lobby and flanking a centerpiece of more tiles dangling from wires of various lengths perpendicular to the floor – simulating falling leaves.  History plays a role in this work, as Su’s finishing touches were actually applied to clay roof tiles gathered from Qing Dynasty homes abandoned in China’s Fujian province.



Su Xiaobai: Painting and Being is on display at the Pearl Lam Galleries in the Pedder Building until July 15.  The artist’s “Three Hundred Leafs” installation at The Peninsula Hong Kong is open to the public until May 27.