Xue Song’s works are made of collages of torn pieces of paper, some with their edges burnt, others not. In the early 1990s Xue Song’s studio burned down destroying all his works and in a cathartic process he took the ashes of his old works and used them to create new works. He has continued using burnt paper in his work ever since. Many interpretations have thereafter been linked to this burning such as a rebirth not only of Xue Song’s art but of a civilisation. Born in 1965, Xue Song would have been old enough to remember life in China well before the opening to the West. As a young adult in the 1980s he would have been aware of many Chinese artist’s desire to contribute to the regeneration of their culture. His works form a continually evolving body of observation and assessment of his country’s adjustments in the post-Mao era. Xue Song carefully chooses the material of his collages from newspapers, magazines and books. He uses both images and text, western and Chinese, selecting the fragments depending on the subject of his work. Usually a work consists of an outline of a recognisable figure from the recent past or present: a political figure, an image made famous through the press, a culturally charged icon, a commercial product etc. This figure in outline contains the collage while outside the figure is usually a collage made of fragments different from those inside. Each fragment of the collage carries in itself a message and the fact that each fragment is restricted to one image or piece of text highlights its message and concentrates the viewer’s attention. The burning of the edges of the fragments adds the aura of history as though segments of information have been found among destruction and pieced together in an attempt to recreate a reality. At the same time each fragment contributes to the interpretation of the work as a whole through its relationship to the outlined figure. The outline and the collage may be of the same subject and therefore reinforce each other such as in the work not Allowed?of 1998, or they may come from different realms and together create a new interpretation as in Xue Song’s Political Pop works such as the Coca-Cola in China’s series. These latter works in particular are characterised by their ironic approach and their capacity for biting social comment.
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