Wang Min-an

The paintings of Xu Xiaoguo appear to be a kind of game of forms: the game between two- dimensionality and three-dimensionality, lines and squares, space and straight lines, depth and superficiality, and even between colours. Pitting two different elements and structures against each other, he allows each to preserve their domain yet become immersed in and co-create with each other. He always makes use of one approach to prevent the domination of another. Invariably, the paintings of Xu appear to have no end and no beginning. Only a violent severing by the frame, as if the endless game between line and plane (the regular plane, along with countless other unnamed forms made up of three and four-time figures) is ended abruptly at the canvas' edge.

Xu’s painting games are also that between variation and repetition. These paintings continually repeat themselves, yet at the same time produce variations. The paintings are standalone, yet they can also be pieced together to form a bigger picture, or rather they form part of a bigger whole. They are fragments yet complete in themselves; plane yet three-dimensional; severed yet extended; basking in their own glory, yet complete as part of the glory of a greater whole. After a picture has been completed, or rather when a singular picture has come to an end, it is actually continuing to produce as part of a bigger picture; within the greater picture, and also continually producing as part of other bigger pictures. Line and picture are both progressing. More importantly, it can be inserted into various pictures, and at the same time be part of the generative effect of several other pictures at once, being a part of the whole of different pictures all at the same time. Hence, the pictorial combination of Xu's canvases are limitless, with infinite

possibilities, and infinite potential. It is rampantly expanding itself, letting go of itself at will. In this way, Xu continually lets his paintings grow and expand and various pictures emerge and expand, creating a sense of endless variety and generativity. We usually refer to time as endless, but here we see the infinite quality of space, the infinite variations of pictorial formations, as well as the infinite variations of geometric shapes. This endlessness is not a kind of random proliferation, nor is it a kind of chaos generated purely by fits of passionate and chance, but a unique and well-planned pictorial scheme that was meticulously designed, a generation of a kind order that is proper and orderly, yet elusive. Here, space creates space, it expands space and at the same time surrounds space. This is a game of space. It is a rational game, yet engulfs all rationality. Its logic defies apprehension, a kind of battle in which one logic is in opposition to another – the extreme paradox of rationality.

In this inter-mingling between space and picture, lines seem to be continuously truncated, yet also extending endlessly. Changes starts to take place in line, sudden at times and gradual at other times. Sometimes they are broken, yet sometimes they are ever meandering outwards. It is precisely because of the existence of lines that these paintings no longer become a kind of wild proliferation, but rather an orderly and systematic extension. The changes brought about in the various pictures formed by lines (purely pictorial forms, triangles, regular or non- regular four-sided or poly-sided shapes), their colours are also changing. More accurately, the differentiation between these pictorial formations were at times accomplished by colour, but can also be said to be brought about by lines. Clear and distinct separation of colour constitutes line. In other words, lines are the intersections between colours, where colour separates and line takes centrestage. It is the distinction between colours that constitute the lines.

The distinctions between colour, line and form are what brought about order as well as what led to chaos. Xu's paintings are unique in that they achieve a fine balance between order and chaos, organisation and loss. This is a kind of visual order, as well as visual chaos. We are plunged into bewilderment by these intricate and carefully arranged lines and geometric shapes. It is as if the more rational it is, the more it leads to confusion; and the more geometric it is, the more we begin to lose the sense of rationality. These paintings achieve an phenomenal balance between rationality and confusion. They are like labyrinths, and just like all labyrinths, they have been carefully designed. They are also completely rational, they are the labyrinths of painting as well as the labyrinths of rationality. Although these paintings appear to be simple, they are actually labyrinthian in nature.

Here, Xu makes full use of the function of lines. Or rather, his paintings exhibit the various functions of lines. Firstly, lines are components that can be assembled to form a cage to capture. From this perspective, these are lines of separation. They are also lines of power, they make clear the boundaries between inner and outer, open and closed, freedom and captivity, even what is legal and illegal. The meaning of a cage of synomyous with a line of bondage. Secondly, lines are generative. They will ultimately get rid of the lines of captivity to extend in all directions. They can break captivity by truncating, overlapping, and intersecting, and also by their distortions (like the formation of a zebra). Hence, every line is born to cut and break free from captivity. Thirdly, the motion of pure lines on the paintings indicate no features of captivity, closure or composition, nor do they show any breakthrough of such characteristics, to allow vision of both streamed and static lines. The lines are made to flow together as through various paths of a labyrinth. It seems that one traces various linear flows, mutually parallel, opposite, crisscrossed, roundabout or echoing. And consequently, it seems that the lines can not only staticize and stabilize the paintings, but also illuminate and quiver them. However, the dynamic lines themselves do not shiver; instead, as an artistic element of motion, they may perform a kind of continuous motion. Here, lines can be a sole performance free of captivity. In addition, the linear multiplicity lies in its features of framework, enclosure, and the performed motion that may break the two. Lastly, every single line depicts its own dot-impressed desire on the canvas. The lines also flow like brooks across the plain. Rivers may change the land’s layout while likewise the lines may also alter the layout of the canvas. It is the linear desires that alter the composition of the canvas. The canvas displays all desire for change in linear variations, to break and tear them apart. Such paintings express on one hand a painted captivity, and and on the other an anti-captivity, in which the canvas shapes and self-subverts the sense of captivity。