The“Heaven”Prophecy for the Spiritually Banished Author:Huang Zongxian Date: 2013-09-04 Size:
Moving from his horse painting series to the current exhibition featuring “heaven”, Qiu Guangping has launched a visual art experiment, which can be compared to a spiritual journey exploring how to transform and transcend.

  Reflections on Qiu Guangping’s Recent Artworks

  Huang Zongxian

  Moving from his horse painting series to the current exhibition featuring “heaven”, Qiu Guangping has launched a visual art experiment, which can be compared to a spiritual journey exploring how to transform and transcend.

  Qiu is a young artist who has been very active and accumulated fame for his hard work in recent years. With a sharp mind, strong passion and humanistic spirits, he constructs avant-garde visual art and meditates on the visualization of culture. Many of us might be familiar with his horse painting series in which personification is employed, however, in the interpretation of the horse image, misreading exists which results from the modern context. People tend to think of animal protection or the ecological relationship between animals and human, human and nature, but as far as I am concerned, this way of understanding is a little bit far-fetched and deviates from the image and message in the paintings. Undoubtedly, the horse is no more than a metaphorical vehicle for the artist to present his situation and experience, which, while being unique to individual, serves to demonstrate the sense of contradiction and conflicts in an age when technology and material become the supreme doctrine. The horses he depicted are struggling, sighing, so that we can feel a conflicting tension between containment and explosion, pressure and fighting, destruction and resurrection. The strong visual effect and emotional power are like a passionate piece of symphony music, arousing us to start a spiritual journey. What Qiu expresses on the canvas is his experience of life and meditation on human’s existence.

  With the background of fast development in technology and material, people mostly focus on fulfilling sensual desire, which, however, brings a sense of strong conflicting tension that tears our heart. Our inner self is torn between the impulse to fulfill individual desire and the restraints from reality, the pursuit of our dream and the pressure from society, as well as the wish to be spiritually free and the controlling force of regulation and technology. Qiu has sharply and artistically captured the conflict, confusion and anxiety, using the metaphorical image of horse to present a spiritual world which not only belongs to him but also to everyone of us. Hardly can be traced an emotional tone of warmth or an affectedly sentimental expression of feelings. Instead, we are overwhelmed by the pathos and helplessness of being constrained, the struggle for rebirth and the fight like a phoenix undergoing nirvana. The exaggerated, twisted and struggling image of horses demonstrates a state of life, concerns about our existence and the wish for resurrection.

  What matters with historical and cultural resources is not the external format, language or symbols but the way to think and the mentality which is consistent with the expression. The narrative in Qiu’s art is of course very Chinese, since he has employed the conventional ways of personification, metaphor, emotional expression and impressionistic style. However, the stand and perspective he takes is quite modern as well. The artist has made a perfect combination between Chinese traditional cultural resources and modern human’s mentality and apperception. The horse image is more than just a kind of animal, which stands as an embodiment of his mentality and ideas as well as expresses his intention in creation. While many art creations nowadays tend to present ordinary life, emphasize secular emotions and desire as well as promote value nihilism, Qiu’s works differ from others in their sense of misery, pathos and solemness. There is no denying that in an age of consumerism, the worship for material comfort has diluted people’s passion for spiritual development, so that they abandon themselves to fulfilling sensual desire and revel in bodily expression. It has become not only part of the status quo but also an atmosphere in the visual world of modern art. In the modern age it may be inappropriate to ask or think about such issues as spirit, soul, the meaning and value of life etc. which are at least shifting far from people’s focus. Thus what we can see nowadays are just fashion symbols and image products. It is common to see shallow narrative, emptiness in meaning, value and shattering visual effects as well as monolayer use of language. We know that structuralism is opposite to logocentrism in emphasizing doubt, rebellion, denial, subversion and reconstruction. However, it does not guarantee new thoughts or spiritual construction, at least we can hardly feel the spiritual power to transcend or the courage to doubt and criticize in most modern art images in China. Instead, art is more combined with sensual desire. The alliance between avant-garde and vulgarity not only demonstrates the blind recognition of reality but also the potential destruction of our spiritual world. How Qiu uses the metaphorical image of horses to express the conflicting tension between body and soul, to be limited and to transcend, as well as reality and dreams can show us the artist’s alarm and concerns over the temptation of sensual desire and his rejection to use shallow narrative or compromise with reality. The frontier consciousness not to follow the popular trend is voiced in Qiu’s construction of spiritual images which might seem inappropriate in this era.

  If Qiu’s spiritual journey is restrained in the meditation and visual expression about the conflicting relationship between material and mentality, our sensual desire and the spiritual end, then probably he will be labeled as cynical. However, the artist’s pursuit is way more than that. Continuing to think about our spirit’s reflection on reality, the way to transcend desire and the ultimate goal as well as its meaning, Qiu explores such questions as where the heaven lies, how to get there and whether it is truly a peaceful ultimate world etc. In recent years Qiu’s art works have focused on the above concerns, which are also the theme of the exhibition under discussion.

  We know that men are a transient existence with body and soul, who easily get confused over such metaphysical questions as desire and spirit, finite and infinity, transience and eternality, to be limited or to transcend, life and death etc. Individual lives build up men,s collective existence, which, along with different cultural modes based on different ways to think and behave, are always seeking how to transcend desire, finite, transience and death. In this way, how to transcend has become the essence of philosophical, religious thinking as well as art creation. To really transcend our focus should be directed to spirituality, for which the ultimate goal is a “heaven” constructed by ourselves. It is a utopia, like the “Pure land” in Buddhism, “Abode of the Immortals” in Taoism or Plato’s “republic”. All kinds of utopia, be it for religion, politics or aesthetics, can be regarded as men,s imagination for a pure world in response to the dissatisfaction, confusion and disappointment from their life. This kind of heaven is imaginary and indefinite, transcending the restrains, desire, ugliness and pains in reality. However, when the idea of any utopia or similar ultimate values emerge in a definite system, it is inevitable to resist or expel other idea systems or cultural values. Therefore, when people think that they have come closer to a utopia or found the way to get there, very probably we can soon witness the value in other individual lives, cultural modes or heterogeneous power are treaded on or even destroyed. In his exhibition featuring “heaven”, Qiu has adopted powerful visual formats to demonstrate his reflection on life’s ultimate meaning and the spiritual end. Faced with what the artist has presented, such as the horse image, “bird of paradise” in a dream-like space, strange-looking “guarders” and the “landscapes in paradise”, we can not help wondering whether it is the way holy heaven looks or just imagined scenes at the end of the world. Every time when men,s desire explodes, social conflicts increase or disasters lurk around, there are always elite with a sharp sense of worry who hold the wishes for “redemption” and “salvation” and try to depict a faraway and hardly reachable “heaven” for those suffering from reality or experiencing spiritual confusions. The way and rules to the holy land are also outlined. However, Qiu is not a saint with the ambition for “salvation”, nor a believer obsessed with the “holy land”. He is simply an artist with humanistic spirits and a sense of worry. Instead of hypnotizing himself with constructing a dream-like heaven, as always he questions human’s value orientation. In this sense, we should say Qiu is employing the power of thinking to question whether the “heaven” we have been chasing after is really the home of our spirits and the end we wish for, rather than finding the way to transcend with visual language and to have “salvation”. Similarly, we have been promoting modernization, believing that our power can change everything and use everything to our advantage. While we are quickly building an ideal life model with the governance of technology, reason and rules, what waits for us is an even more unclear and confusing future. Driven by desire, men are frantically pursuing happiness and brightness, until we are confused and destructed by the very same desire. Our wishes are both swallow and deny reality, which at the same time lead to a sense of confusion and destruction on the journey to find happiness. Compared with the temptation of a hardly reachable utopia, the conflicting tension between to be limited and to transcend, the reality and dreams, body and soul etc. is much more powerful so that we seem to be torn by it. In the reality lurk different kinds of danger. Even if we do enter the “heaven” in our dream, we will probably find it to be just another form of reality that we detest. Heaven forever lies in a faraway place which is unreachable for us. The above is what Qiu has experienced in his spiritual journey launched in the “heaven diaries” and the current exhibition, which serve to enlighten us intellectually.

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[Editor] 常霞