What's going on around the globe We all have ways to defend ourselves. Artist Su Yu-xian is no exception, even though his method is unconventional. Bullied as a child for being small, Su found in his anatomy a weapon that would scare away even the toughest predator. Conveniently stored behind his molar was a permanent blister that he'd suck up when the occasion called for protection. The blister would inevitably pop under pressure, releasing a good amount of blood to squirt at his aggressors, much like the squid with its ink. Su laughs as he says that spitting blood and playing dead helped carry him safely through his school days. Perhaps unsurprisingly, blood has become a recurrent theme in his work. At the start of his career, Su visited hospital on a regular basis to keep his terminally ill mother company. There he saw patients suffering different diseases and, inevitably, death. 'You can see all kinds of terrible things in hospital, like people suddenly throwing up a glob of blood or something,' he says. 'It's really horrific.' Su put the nightmarish images he'd gathered on canvas in Diary (2004), a series of nine small-scale paintings, gloomily reminiscent of Edward Gorey's drawings. From a distance, many of the human subjects look as if they've been dismembered. Others appear to be individual body parts. Yet the series has an uplifting touch: Su has stitched red kite string to several, leaving the spool attached and hanging below, some dragging the weight of 15 spools, others just one. 'I used the kite string to symbolise freedom, but not complete freedom,' he says. Perhaps most autobiographical is the 2005 Spit Blood Man series (below). The six small- scale paintings appear to show amputees fleeing - although it's not clear from what. Step a little closer though and you realise that they're not amputees. Su says this was his final work involving disease and pain, so using his own blood as a medium made sense. No longer the target of bullies, he had a dentist seal the blood blister for good. 'That was a very symbolic thing for me - almost ceremonial.' His latest body of digital work focuses on androgynous porcelain figures with a burst of beautiful tree branches as heads. Su's work are on show this month at the Guandu Gallery in Taipei.