According to a medieval legend, the Roman sage Virgil invented a mechanical lion able to detect the lies of those brave enough to place their hands in its mouth - especially adulterous women - whose fingers it would cut off should they be lying. The legend of the Bocca della Verità was retold by Cranach the Elder to illustrate the vicious game of love.
A woman accused of infidelity by her jealous husband is brought before the lion, portraying the Mouth of Truth, to be questioned with witnesses present. Having disguised her lover as a madman and allowing him to touch her in front of the entire assembly, she swears without lying that no one, except her husband and this madman, has ever touched her. She is thus able to pull her hand out from the mouth of the lion safe and sound.
What Shuo Hao offers us with "Love Me Tender" is a more ambiguous and complex version of the Mouth of Truth. Instead of a Western dualism, which creates opposition and hierarchy, she prefers to think that there are two complementary parts of a whole, a yin and yang of the animal and the human. We no longer seek to know who is lying or who to punish, but we speak from the wound and explore the ambiguities inherent in this love story. Shuo Hao leads us into a passionate embrace where we no longer perceive the bodies, but only the forces of the relationship, giving the title exhibition a certain irony.
Where is the crossroad of violence and caring? For Shuo Hao, violence and tenderness are two sides of the same coin. The strokes of red in her paintings point to the constant threat of suffering in these loving relationships. The open mouths surrounded by red encircle faces that seem to cuddle up next to them, the band of blood fading away with a warm breath. Amongst those red lacerations, a scarlet hand emerges and becomes a haunting presence. The guilty hand put into the lion's mouth gives way to the painter’s assertive and focused hand. Shuo Hao's touch is also more visible and instinctive in this series, wanting to paint like a lion devouring its prey. While the bodies on display here seem disturbed or even disappear, it’s for us to be in the direct presence of the embodied gesture as "the painter brings to it their own body". (Paul Valery)