The Riddle of Qiu Guangping’s “Heaven” Author:Yifei Gan Date: 2013-09-04 Size:
The themes of “Heaven” are a riddle for the art observer to interpret. They include such images that could possibly be imagined as screaming horses, hungry vultures, violent events, and predicament of humanity... These are balanced by soul seeking actions, as described below.


  The themes of “Heaven” are a riddle for the art observer to interpret. They include such images that could possibly be imagined as screaming horses, hungry vultures, violent events, and predicament of humanity... These are balanced by soul seeking actions, as described below.


  The twisted bodies of horses are neighing out of fear, and running through an inferno. The vultures are surging toward and dancing on the platform where celestial burials are performed. Flashing fresh bloody images from the world’s daily news are impacted in the wet paint. The shabby sheds inhabited by the migrant workers in Chinese coastal cities are in front, as if you were there with them. In contrast, the graceful sutra chanting is coming from the Wuming Buddhist Theological Institute. All the above scenes are presented as a combination of real and surreal imagery. They seem to be bombarding us with questions: Where is heaven or hell? Are both within reach? Those images are in Qiu Guangping’s latest solo exhibition presented in Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou City Guangdong Province. China)


  Does art represent life, or it is simply “art for its own sake”? This has been an open endless question for generations. Mu Xin, a well-known Chinese artist and author, once commented: “What kind of art can be disconnected from human life?” None. And “what kind of art can exist without an art form as its foundation?” None. Indeed, if art is detached from real life and social issues, it will be deprived of an important source of motivation and meaning. This is especially true for contemporary art, which is closely related to our current social affairs. Without the assistance of an appropriate artistic form, the social content will become simple political dogma. The artist does not want his work to be reduced to simple slogans. Thus, the saying goes “life is art and art is life”. It is important for an artist to keep both art form and content of life balanced in their art works. Qiu excels among his Chinese peers at doing so.

  In his early art career, Qiu Guangping became successful with a series of paintings of horses. Through metaphysical impersonation of men, the artist used deformed horses against a surrealist background. Qiu put the profoundness of the meaning of his art in a grand perspective, merging with an expressionistic style. His work shows his abstract philosophical thinking while visualizing his fully loaded passions. To use grand scenes and distorted or exaggerated horse images is a signature of Qiu’s art. His unique style fuses introversion with flamboyance, melancholy with boldness, and constraint with features of “Bacchus” and “Helios”. He presented numerous soul-stirring scenes about body and soul, fate, and relief from suffering. The Baroque style perfectly combines the flamboyant exterior contrasted with the inner spirits of tragedy and conflict. In this way, Qiu Guangping’s position in China’s contemporary art scene has been established.

  We can perceive magic-like mysteriousness, pathos of humanity, overfilling passion and the vigorous life forces in Qiu’s art. These characteristics can be easily associated with the artist’s unconstrained, forthright and sincere personality. Good art works should challenge the intellect, inspire emotional resonance, and provide spiritual shock. They should be a truthful revelation of the artist’s life spirit, intelligence, and talent.

  Artistic sensitivities and the ability to portray social problems are crucial to an artist. All the great artists since antiquity have adopted art to enhance quality of life. Qiu is no exception. When you see his art, as if you can read his mind, understand his emotions, and communicate with him in person.

  Qiu Guangping’s “Heaven” solo exhibition was a personal challenge and big step forward for him. In it, he made reference to reality and meaning of life on a higher level. The epic characteristic of the exhibit reminds us of the despair of Dante’s Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia). His works may make us feel embarrassed or excited; encourage us to have self-examination and reflections, and to embark on a spiritual journey looking for “heaven”. The artist himself plays the duo roles of Virgil, showing the horror of hell, and Beatrice, displaying the charm of heaven, in Divine Comedy.


  It is ironic that the era reflected by the Divine Comedy is quite similar to political, social, cultural conflicts presented in current China. Both represent a transitional stage where people want to break from a feeling of imprisonment, and seek relief from suffering. During the early Renaissance in Europe there was a search for a balance between God and humans. Current Chinese society is faced not only with conflicts between body and soul, but also with the struggle between freedom of human spirit and confinement from feudal ethics.

  In a short time, China has gained big leaps in material wealth and scientific achievement. In some aspects, this progress is superior to that in Renaissance Europe. Yet, despite the economic reforms and the open door policy of the 1980s, which produced strong economic development, China’s social values have not evolved much like the rest developed countries in the world. Due to lacking of the education on enlightenment, notion of universal human rights, China has not promote human dignity, life value and meaning, and the notion of freedom and independence. Because of these deficiencies, China lags far behind in these required elements of our era.

  As a result of the relationship between ideology and the economic system not being well-coordinated, along with a lack of appreciation of human values, the social culture suffers. The unfortunate result of China’s rush to achieve and catch up with economic development, materialism without substance and meaning is prevailing in China. If this persists, China society will become even more power-and-money centered, not people centered. This twisted, deformed and abnormal situation will only be worsening.

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[Editor] 常霞