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Drawing the line around beauty

BEAUTY is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed and never can be fathomed."

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, the famous 19th-century Russian author, outlined the enigma in this way.

Artist Xiao Huixiang has another perspective on beauty. She uses simple and clear lines rarely used by her peers. You can see the results in her "Paris Beauties" exhibition of sketches at the Liu Haisu Art Museum.

It is difficult to depict human characters depending purely on line drawing, as the artist has no other elements, such as backgrounds, hues or light and shade, to help.

Li Xianting, one of China's most famous art critics, describes Xiao's paintings as "the only line drawings in China filled with such an elegance and purity that might be paralleled with those created by Henri Matisse." Xiao actually "approaches the soul of the characters in her eyes."

Born in 1933 in Changsha, Hunan Province, Xiao graduated from Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1958. But she suffered a lot during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976) due to her "bold speech."

"I was born in an intellectual family," Xiao recalls. "Frankly speaking, I was spoiled by my parents and grandparents when I was a little girl."

But Xiao showed an unusual peacefulness and courage to later face up to the torture and unfairness in her life.

"It was beyond your imagination, young lady," she jokes. "But I survived."

In 1988, Xiao immigrated to the United States where she further pursued her art career.

For some unknown reason, Xiao never married. When asked whether she was hurt deeply by someone before, she says candidly, "I love myself the best, that's enough."

Perhaps her life has already gone beyond the ordinary love and hate between man and woman, and now retains a unique tranquility and naivete, which come through in her line drawings.

Perhaps that's why Xiao is able to outline naturally and fluently the essence of her subjects even though she uses just a simple series of one dimensional lines to achieve this.

Date: through June 19, 9am-4pm

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