"Paintings with a certain Touch" Explaining Qin Fengling's Works
Source:Artintern.net Author:Huang Du Date: 2010-03-19 Size:
Under these circumstances, Qin Fengling has found her own art language and fixed her position. She takes a style of individuation, an admiring personality of freedom, independence and creativity. Her attitude toward art has preserved her active, struggling, modest and optimistic spirit.


In October 2005, I curated an exhibition named Painting-Unrealism, showing the works of eight artists, in WHITE SPACE BEIJING. During the process of selecting the artists, I found several paintings which were of bright colors and uneven surfaces. I was hit that very moment and at once decided that these were the paintings that I really wanted. Thus, Qin Fengling’s paintings came into my eyes. She was the only female artist in the exhibition. Actually, the reason I chose her is not because she is female, but because her paintings have reached the real nature of painting. This contingent communication gave me the honor to be the first one to discover her and push forward her paintings.

As is known to many artists, I used to put the emphasis on curating exhibitions focusing on installations and Multi-media, yet barely on paintings. This, however, does not mean that I had no interest in painting. Actually, I always put much attention and expectation on it. Perhaps the lines I held for painting were too strict. Therefore, few painting works could be found in my exhibitions. Qin Fengling’s paintings are among the few.

In Chinese contemporary art world, Qin Fengling is a female artist barely known by others. But she started her painting already in 1985. Wang Luyan, her husband, was one of the most important participants in the contemporary art of every development stage since the Star Exhibition in 1979. During that time, there were always many excellent artists and critics gathering at her home. Yet, neither of their comments, conceptions, characteristics and works have deeply effected and influenced her. Qin Fengling was very interested in listening to their talks and showed great enthusiasm in joining their discussion. She had the opportunity to watch the working process of these artists from a close distance and always was the first viewer of their works. In being influenced by this artistic atmosphere for such a long period, she had somehaow become one of them unconsciously. She thought about what she wanted to draw. During many years, painting has become part of her living and her “diary”. For her, exhibiting her own works was just like showing her own personal life and diary to the eyes of the public. Therefore, she never had the intent to show her paintings to others. Nobody noticed she was collecting her confidence quietly. Even unimaginable to herself, she took her first appearance in an exhibition. The freedom, imagination, talents and characteristics that she expressed in her paintings struck everybody!

Seen by a lot of people, Qin Fengling’s paintings outstood the painting flood and soon captured vast attention. However, few people know that her paintings are the result of twenty long years.

Talking about Qin Fengling’s art, we should not only refer to her words but see her paintings within the context of Chinese painting as such. In reviewing the standards of Chinese contemporary painting, one can find that the system of values in the history of Chinese painting has been set by two different traditions. One may be seen as the tradition of the French School which held expressing eminence, harmoniousness and order to be the main aesthetic principles. Another important school is that of Social Realism in the tradition of the Soviet Union, which held Active Literature Reflection theory to be the main narrative principle. Subsequently, both these traditions have developed to rigid and doctrinal artistic systems and formed the main discourse that dominated and mastered China from the center, strongly influencing aesthetic direction. Facing such an artistic system, many painters tried to break these restrictions of mainstream discourse and rushed out a special way for art. Especially when entering the 21st century, during the process of transformation in China, certain cultural concepts were replaced by others. Various and complicated artistic information continued to bother and to influence the creative psychology of artists. The gradual convergence of painting concepts and forms has led to a serious lack of characteristics. Except for very few painters who were able to occupy spaces for themselves, most painters are in the position of being the “end” or “tenuity”. Definitely, painting today seems to lack a feeling of direction. Being lost in such an atmosphere, it becomes more and more difficult for us to discover Chinese contemporary paintings of creativity and independency. Just like some painters hold their own thoughts, Qin Fengling’s paintings have set an example for us in the sphere of “new paintings”. It could be said that the innovation of Qin Fengling’s painting language is based on the analysis of Chinese contemporary painting tradition and an individual expression beyond political symbols of painting and of exoticism. She came from an angle of non-painting, giving up traditional models and styles and melting the “creating” of sculpture into the “drawing”, thereby giving birth to a new style of expression. She was outstanding in this cultural atmosphere and became a famous objective.

The characteristics of Qin Fengling’s painting language lie in her familiar use of the painting material (acrylic). She squeezes the colors directly from the bottles to the canvas, skillfully forming the three-dimensional figures she wants. Then she begins to paint the details. So her “drawing” and “creating” exist both at the same time. Her painting carries an element of dualism, which neither seems to be painting or sculpture (basso-relievo).


In viewing them from a long distance, Qin Fengling’s works seem to rather belong to the sphere of painting, for they appear to be rather “plain”; but when one looks at them from a short distance, they rather seem to belong to the sphere of sculptures, for they show “light and shade” effects just like sculptures (basso-relievo). In front of her paintings, the observer almost feels the need to touch the works with their hands. Once, a viewer even licked her picture with his tongue, taking her paintings for colorful cream cake. People are always curious of her paintings. One important reason for this is that she established a certain blur among the artistic practice. When viewers use their eyes to perceive her paintings, it makes them want to touch the basso-relievo. Yet, when viewers directly “touch” her paintings, she can always take them back to “watch” and to look at them. Although showing this dualism of “plainness” and “sculpture” in her painting, yet the visual sphere of plain drawing seems to have control over the haptical qualities. This seems to suggest that Qin Fenglings paintings rather belong to the sphere of painting than to the sphere of sculpture, although a sculptural quality shows in her creative handling of painting technique. (This is my suggestion, yet I’m not sure what was really meant by this paragraph: When there is dualism of “plainness” and “sculpture” among her painting, the visional meaning of plain drawing has always been controlled upon the touching meaning of “sculpture”. It means Qin Fengling’s paintings belong to drawings not to sculpture. Since that, some kind of “touching vision” has consists of her “creativity” with the meaning of painting. )

Qin Fengling’s paintings have both kept the plainness of drawing and the third dimension of sculpture at the same time. While many painters have to deal with the paintings lack of characteristics under the restrictions of traditions, which have already disappeared from her paintings, she has created an original painting language instead. She successfully gets through the limits of traditional painting, and makes her dream, “I want to draw what I want”, come true.

Speaking from the angle of painting, the content is definitely important but of course the language of painting carries more complex meanings. Looking at contemporary fine art history of the east and west, it is of course obvious that besides the mere content of the works, an even more important element lies in the methods with which they express this content. In contemporary painting, to some extent, form seems even more important than content. Presuming that every artist has something to say, the way he says it becomes an essential reason for his being. The reason why Qin Fenglings paintings absorb my attention is because her painting language has something new in its methodology that has never been there before. However, any good kind of art carries something new and contains thoughts that establish a difference and diversity in breaking down the traditions. Therefore the value of Qin Fenglings paintings lies in presenting new angles and methods of “watching” and “understanding” things. She gives us the opportunity to feel and review things we are accustomed to in a new way, turning a blind eye to see, and feel.

Although Qin Fengling has put much attention on painting language, this doesn’t mean that she denies the content of painting, which in her paintings shows a living style of her own as well as a special feeling and understanding towards reality, life and history. She never crabs at the objective of paintings. Social matters, city life, people, animals and natural scenes are all subjects for her paintings. Once these subjects come into her paintings, they immediately turn to be easy, vivid, live and humorous images. Sometimes she understands daily life and social matters as patterns, explaining macro social images and concrete life within micro elements, thereby turning them to icons and patterns. Viewed by the artist, micro social elements seem to have self-copying, self-ordering and self-restructuring functions. The process of her painting is her own subjective deducting process of self-copying, re-ordering and restructuring. This element of her paintings turns to colorful patterns with structural symmetry (squarely consecutive) at a long distance. But if we look at the paintings closely, we see that all these beautiful patterns are made up of numerous contents of real life, of people and animals, and other social matters. Obviously, numerous people have experienced Pioneer Team and group activities, and the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution are all part of collective Chinese experience. Even until today, there is this reality of a certain “Collective Unconsciousness”. For example, the “Economized & Suitable House”, is definitely subject to the context of housing reform in Beijing and the relationship between local policy and individual space. This piece of work tightly relates to the characteristics of the large Chinese population. Being viewed from far, it seems to be a group of “squarely consecutive” patterns on colorful canvas. In viewing it closely, however, one recognizes numerous people crowding around buildings. It has been pointed out by Hannah Arendt in Public Area and Personal Space that ” the unfortunate truth of effectiveness of behaviorism and its rules is that the larger the population is, the more they will obey to rules and are barely tolerant to anything other than behavior. Viewing from statistics, this is turned out to be eliminating any fluctuant factors and forming up an order structure.” Therefore, statistics, to some extent, express the political ideal ideal that there is no secret in society. For this reason artists seem to import statistical methods into artistic conceptions without consciousness, seemingly showing that any action of people in a public area depends on the rules of social institutions and economic systems. She always views people in the city as the subject on social stage. People living in city-apartments are part of a recessive competition relationship and they take each other as their counterparts in inner heart. The space of buildings in the city only turns out to be a machinery with duplicating characteristics. The volume and density created by numerous people swallows their special and individual qualities. Within this living space of “collective unconsciousness”, representation of human kind has eliminated the characteristics such as class, ideology, fortune, gender and age, which could only be expressed through numbers by collectivity. With the macro meaning, she has understood the people’s living mode as “social animals”. The concepts of ruling and being ruled, government and non-government have been concretely represented by the order among the people’s living space, and at the same time reflected the sequence of social, politics and systems. This is her vivid explanation toward Chinese publicity or public area. Certainly, besides what is said above, Qin Fengling sometimes also makes use of non-patterns and parables, personification, imagination and exaggeration to represent her paintings. For example, in her work named Flying, she imagines that people were flying freely over the sky, which seems like the reappearance of a dream. In a work named “Insect”, she personalized insects climbing up a cabbage, and dealt with the picture in a spirit of exaggeration and humor with her natural childlike innocence. In her work “Climbing”, a much high ladder and people fighting to climb it up is a metaphor of the people’s endless desire towards fame and gain.

Qin Fengling has her own instinctive opinion towards painting. She explains and resolves all the strict and heavy social and living matters into “picturesque aesthetics”, and even turns social and political aesthetics humorous and facetiae. In the “discourse” of Chinese mainstream art and contemporary art which gives priority to social or political aesthetics, her paintings make people feel easy, like releasing deadweight, with a smile coming from the inner heart. Her paintings are just like herself, goodness, trueness, happiness and easiness. She intended to draw painting from social liability, as “no more deadweight” back to what she understands as: “I have done nothing but drawing a picture”. She has never talked about her faith and ambitions towards painting. She is not good at words, and in particular obviate from interviews. She is not willing to talk about her paintings. She told me that: “what I have painted is much better than what I said, and what I can draw on a paper is what I cannot express out.” What she has done is no more than draw her “painting” which could not be expressed or substituted by words through her talents and instincts in painting. She changes the understanding towards the painting by changing the way it is being viewed. The unique painting language she created comes from her own understanding and feeling towards things. For her, “oneness” is not pursue of will but natural expression. How easy, natural and modest her paintings are. The “naturalness and bluntness” expressed in her paintings are so charming. She walks freely in her painting, using her unique “touching vision” to develop into a new field without consciousness and feeling the pulse of Chinese “New Painting” without date.

Her “New Painting” consists of “sculpture-natured” material elements and goes beyond the painting itself. To some extent, it is an object difficult to be defined. They still follow a certain traditional concept of painting, however, I think it may be better to call her paintings “basso-relievo painting”. Obviously, this kind of painting has deviated from a traditional definition of painting. Her painting has some concept of “non-painting”. “Non-painting” does not mean the formation of anti-painting, but of an anti-rigid attitude in comparison to established painting traditions.

Today, against the background of Chinese economic and cultural transformation, the past narrative way of art finds it difficult to represent current social reform, for the issues being noticed today are more abroad, deeper, more independent, more free, more micro and more personal. That is to say, micro narration has gradually taken the place of macro narration. Qin Fenglings paintings represent the characteristics of this kind of art transformation. We can discover that her micro analysis leads to an explanation of historical memory and “collective unconsciousness”, just like her reflection of daily life and public area. There is no doubt that her kind of narration reflects the conscious conception that Chinese contemporary painting is struggling to deviate from the domination of “discourse” of post-colonialism and mainstream art. This conscious conception shows a kind of self confidence and re-building of individual subject. Therefore, this kind of rise of painting narration and methodology reflects that Chinese contemporary painting is at a stage of multiple units. “Discourse” of centralization is disorganizing and being broken. The circumstance that several painting modes take control of the structure of Chinese contemporary art has been attenuated. We may say that this is a course of transition. Past “discourse” has found difficulties in measuring the rushing birth of new art, past experience could not even summarize the arising new phenomenon of art.


Under these circumstances, Qin Fengling has found her own art language and fixed her position. She takes a style of individuation, an admiring personality of freedom, independence and creativity. Her attitude toward art has preserved her active, struggling, modest and optimistic spirit.

Finished in Zhu Jinshi’s Studio in Fei Jiacun



New Year’s Day of 2007

[Editor] Elemy Liu