I became acquainted with the works by Hsiao Mei in her solo exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 2009. Large blocks of brilliant colors conceal the details of fine objects. The animals in the canvas are particularly free and wild, and coexist with humans in the natural ecology. The scenes are very realistic, yet her handiwork is very magical. They instantly reminded me of the magical realism of Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez, a writer representative of Latin America. Although recording the story of the Buendia family in South America, his narrative is filled with myths and absurdities. Likewise, the magnificence and boisterousness of Hsiao Mei's paintings make her an extraordinary magical realism artist in Taiwan. Born in Chiayi, she began living in Brazil, then Switzerland, Spain and France for almost a total of 10 years since 1987. She regards travel as a creative nutrient, and her works bear strong local customs and myths. In the unique colors of her paintings are temples, mythical beasts and magnified tiny plants. Having lived in the mountains for a long time, the richness of the natural environment is the nutrients with which Hsiao Mei uses to create a variety of objects and happenings in her magical gardens. It was only when I visited her home in Puli that I realized why the animals in Hsiao Mei's paintings are scattered in every corner. In her courtyard enclosed by plants were all kinds of adopted stray cats, and in a small side yard next to her studio were three native Taiwanese dogs. Halfway through our conversation, another cat came sauntering down from upstairs, and I lost track of the number of animals.
The characteristic of her works is the composition with a bird's-eye view of the world. Each piece of work seems to indicate an event happening. With unconstrained layouts and intense colors, the painting nevertheless appear harmonious. In a large number of Hsiao Mei's works, the co-existence of people and creatures in nature made me think of the recent forest fires in California and Australia. Human's excessive exploitation of natural ecology has not only threatened co-existence in the natural world, but has also resulted in the near extinction of many animals.
The coexistence of humans and animals is an issue for reflection. Her works are full of emphasis on the primitive, with humans riding on animals or walking around unclothed, or animals and humans celebrating together. Sometimes I see her paintings as an adventure story, but also a tale of fantasy.
The mysterious ambience in her works is richly entwined with folk customs and styles. This time, the new portraits by Hsiao Mei are even more sublimated to a realm where humans, animals and nature are integrated. Like a ghost, her works are hauntingly appealing.