A Labybirth Within an Allegory, or an Allegory Within a Labyrinth An Examination of Qiu Guangping’s Ultimate World From Several Key Words
Source:Artintern.net Author:Yang Xiaoyan Date: 2013-09-04 Size:
During the appreciation of Qiu Guangping’s paintings, the first word that I thought of is allegory. But with further contemplation, I find that the world he has created is more than just an allegory, or, in other words, far more than just a simple one. Rather, under the surface of an allegory, we can find a second allegory hidden inside, and another one within the last one… Qiu’s art is like a labybirth created by allegories, or an allegory expanding inside a laybirth, which points to an ultimate end that is blurred and misty.

  Yang Xiaoyan ( Academic Director )

  The Opening

  During the appreciation of Qiu Guangping’s paintings, the first word that I thought of is allegory. But with further contemplation, I find that the world he has created is more than just an allegory, or, in other words, far more than just a simple one. Rather, under the surface of an allegory, we can find a second allegory hidden inside, and another one within the last one… Qiu’s art is like a labybirth created by allegories, or an allegory expanding inside a laybirth, which points to an ultimate end that is blurred and misty.

  It reminds me of a short story named Labyrinths written by Jorge Luis Borges, which is about the king of Babylon who invites the king of Egypt to visit his labybirth but secretly leaves after taking his Egyptian counterpart inside. The king of Egypt manages to walk out by himself but ends up much confounded and humiliated, who tells the king of Babylon upon departure that he appreciates his treat and would like to invite him to the labyrinth in Egypt. After returning to his country, the Egyptian king launches a war against Babylon and captures its king, who is then taken to the dessert. The king of Egypt tells his Babylon counterpart: this is my labyrinth and walk out of it by yourself. The story ends with the Babylon being left there alone and it is clear that he can never leave this natural labyrinth.

  Qiu may not have read this story but it seems to me that he is naturally connected to it. He spent a long time painting horses, which, as everybody knows, are not real or domesticated ones. For the artist, the image of horse is a series of eye-catching visual symbols, and the media to create his world of meanings. Maybe it is not the whole picture but there is no denying that Qiu’s horses are a combination of sensitiveness and restlessness, with an inborn, instinctive passion. Later he turned from horses to vultures, a species with the same craziness and bewilderment.

  I do not want to discuss Qiu’s labyrinth of allegory or the artistic allure within just in a general way. Rather, I attempt to demonstrate my very own understanding of the artist’s emotions and meditation with several related key words. From my point of view, there is a certain kind of secret yet paranoid fastness, coexisting with an anxiety about the ultimate and publicly-displayed coldness.

  Words I: The Horses and Wildness

  Qiu is famous for painting horses.

  I have not asked him why he has such a preference but as far as I can remember, the first time I saw his painting, it was about horses, and wild ones. To put it more specifically, it was about horses and wildness, since the subject of Qiu’s artistic expression was firstly horses, to which a touch of wildness was then added. The addition itself served a purpose of rhetoric: while horses themselves are wild, the artist still wants to make it even more so. It is a kind of contradiction which should be better termed as “horses and wildness”.

  Just the first glance of his paintings of horses left me a deep impression.

  Speaking of horses, most would just think of the ones painted by Xu Beihong in ink. It is artistic and centered around horses. Liu Boshu is also good at this subject and strives to approach it differently from Xu, yet ends up only being a little bit more wild by painting longer and thinner bodies of the animal. The running of Liu’s horses is more like a form of elegant dancing.

  Qiu rejects the image created by Xu and Liu, or any other traditional patterns of horse painting. The horses he creates are abandoned to wildness, not pride or handsome but the very opposite of them. Craziness runs deep in his horses, denying domestication and obedience. Qiu never paints domesticated horses since after the process of domestication, horses would become the gentle beasts of burden. Rather, he looks for the wildness that exists before the horses are domesticated and regards it as a metaphor of life: every individual has to somehow be domesticated by civilization when exposed to all kinds of organizations, whether actively or passively. Even if one returns from civilization to primitiveness, traces of domestications still remain. What Qiu tries to present is the primitiveness before one is domesticated, so that his horses are extremely restless, running ceaselessly and daringly, with mouths opened and teeth exposed to the public attention. As the audience can notice, a large proportion of the painting is devoted to the physical existence of teeth. Clearly Qiu is interested in the typical wildness before the horses are domesticated, which are always threatening, protesting, roaring and whimpering. It is because humans have already dominated the world for a long time, so that if a species bears no significance for their existent, it is not endowed with the meaning to live on. Domestication is exactly the only symbol ensuring that it would bear such significance. The relationship between humans and horses is as long as several thousand years, so that there are hardly any wild horses. Since they have been domesticated for such a long time, horses have become another species that is gentle, obedient and willing to reinvent itself according to the wishes of humans. In this regard, the horses in Qiu’s painting only live in imagination. The artist tries to imagine what it had been like before they were domesticated. It is a difficult process since everything Qiu has encountered in life are already domesticated. Even if fierce animals like tiger, lion and leopard are only imagined existences in the fictional world.

  In 2006, Qiu named one of his paintings of wild horses “The Allegory of Horses”, indicating that his horses are only served as a symbol of wildness and life. He relied on the imagined horses before domestication to tell an allegory, which are used to express subversion that must come from physical restlessness. Yet nowadays such restlessness has long gone and been domesticated, so that Qiu can only express this state in a rationally imagined way.

  The horses in the painting have two striking features: firstly the proportion is exaggerated as if viewed through a wide angle lense, with the head of horse facing the audience and neighing impressively while the tail seems to be much farther away; secondly, because of such a perspective, we can only see the bare teeth and staring eyes of the horses, which look at the audience with fear and anger expressed through shaking its head and neighing.

  Keeping its teeth open in a forceful way, the horse shows their teethridge utterly. With a closer look the audience can find that it is like a group of small hills as the muscle goes up and down with the vivid color of blood. The tenon is stretching the muscle to the upmost, with a breath-taking force that even tinges the main and the tail with blood red.

  In this way, the artistic exaggeration of Qiu gives a voice to the painting. It is a low, hoarse and unavoidable scream. Therefore, both the eyes and the ears are deeply impressed when we look at his works. Of course, the painting itself is always silent and never gives out voice, which Qiu totally understands but he still manages to convey the sound of neighing through the bare teeth and wild looks of the horses, so that the audience can “see” the voice.


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[Editor] 常霞

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