LAUNCH LA is proud to present Transiency, a new solo exhibition by Xi Hou. Xi’s latest works mark a transition from personal reflections to a wider philosophical scope, accelerating a process that began with her move from China to Southern California in 2010. Drawing inspiration from classical Zen teachings, her dynamic paintings explore and expand on her personal artistic mantra: “Change alone is eternal”. In a flurry of textured lines, bright pastels and shifting shapes, these new works coax the viewer away from literal observation and deeper into a reflective reverie.
Despite Xi’s Zen influence, her works are leagues away from the traditional monochrome ink-scapes of Zen tradition, eschewing an abundance of white space for thickly populated canvases teeming with brightly colored forms and networks for raised lines. Progressing beyond Zen’s predilection for impressionism, her work embraces abstraction wholesale. Though imaginative viewers may prise together figurative forms from her arrangements, her paintings do not depend on symbolism to communicate their philosophy – featuring no lone mediating figures or hardy, weather-beaten pines clinging to impossibly sheer limestone mountains.
Yet at its heart her work espouses many of the same tenets as that of her traditionalist peers: an awareness of the ephemeral nature of existence, as well as the idea that, by observing reality and distilling it down to simpler and simpler forms one can reach beyond and touch the essence of being – the Buddha-nature of things. Following Zen’s mission to its logical conclusion, she sheds light this inner truth without slavish attention to the external appearance of her subjects. Like Zen poets and painters before her, Xi taps the natural world for inspiration; at times deriving her pallet from flowers in her garden or basing the tone of her work on some event – whether be as personal as becoming a mother or as far-reaching as the implications of the greenhouse effect.
Typical of Zen practitioners, Xi also attempts to disengage from a concept of self and open the way to pure perception and creative freedom. At times however some of her emotions carry through, imbuing works with unease, claustrophobia or, more frequently in her recent work, a sense of felicity and harmony.
Xi’s aesthetic is deceptively simplistic, dominated by colored ultra-flat shapes. A second look however brings her intricate line-work to the fore: varicoloured lines snake around and trough her work, standing some millimetres off from the canvas. Rather than the feathery calligraphy of traditional Zen painting these lines are applied via a pastry bag, drawing the eyes along their meandering progress. Their twists and turns resemble the undulation of a landscape on a contour map or the flow of rivers, instilling in her works the sensation of depth, movement and life. Most often these lines follow the contours of the shapes behind, delineating them into distinct spheres of color that fit together like rounded jigsaw pieces.
Xi tempers these hard-edge influences with her own take on Zen’s free-flowing creativity, leaving some colored spaces without distinct borders and some lines running off into other adjacent colors, enveloping them or cutting them up into smaller shapes. Her lines wilfully overlap, wind around each other and with their blues, reds, whites and lavenders imbue her works with a rich contrast that speaks in equal measures of harmony and opposition, almost becoming a sort of visual representation of ying and yang.
This sense of duality characterizes her latest paintings: it is found in the duality of the personal and a philosophical, the duality of Chinese influences and Western approaches to painting, and above all, the paradoxical notion of existence as both fleeting and eternal.
Xi Hou was born in 1982 in Nanchong City, Sichuan Province, China and got her B.A. in Etching from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, one of eight famous Art Institutes in China. Her work has since crossed multiple mediums, including painting, drawing, installation, video and sculpture. Xi Hou’s paintings form an abstract language of interwoven raised lines, forming irregular shapes and ultra-flat juxtaposed colors, by which she creates ever-changing paintings.
From 2005 to 2007, Hou was an assistant professor at Fine Arts Department at Honghe University, Yunnan, China. She was also awarded the “Chinese Art Prize” in 2008. In 2010, she moved to Los Angeles. The same year, her works were selected in “LAAA’s 2010 Open Show”, juried by Franklin Sirmans, Curator of Contemporary Art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In 2014, the article “Expressions of Energy in the Paintings of Xi Hou” was published by Meher McArthur on KCET.com as part of a series exploring the diverse range of artistic influences from Asia in the art and culture of Southern California.
Xi’s major exhibitions in US include “Landscapes of The Mind－Xi Hou” in LAAA; “Change in life” in LA ARTCORE; Three Person shows in Art Merge Lab gallery; “Mapping” in Laemmle Art House and in China include “8209” in ZhangJiang Contemporary Art Museum; “Community! Community!” in Songzhuang Art Museum; “Returning Home” in Chongqin Art Museum and “Slope “ in Blue Roof Museum.
Xi recently curated the “America-China Art Project” at LA Artcore, Los Angeles & the Blue Roof Museum in Chengdu, China, 2015-2016
Hou currently lives and works in Los Angeles.