Sacred Mountains, Holy Water, Prayer Flags and Humanistic Spirits in “Heaven” Author:Chen Mo Date: 2013-09-04 Size:
“Heaven”is a core concept in Chinese civilization. Starting from a description of objects, Chinese culture then tends to adopt personification and in the end sublimation comes with discussion on godship. Distant as heaven may seem, it is closely related to many aspects of Chinese culture.

  Reflections on Qiu Guangping’s Recent Works

  “Heaven”is a core concept in Chinese civilization. Starting from a description of objects, Chinese culture then tends to adopt personification and in the end sublimation comes with discussion on godship. Distant as heaven may seem, it is closely related to many aspects of Chinese culture. The relationships themselves, however, are beyond clearly-articulated expression just as the mysterious gods. In Chinese civilization, the earth is considered as solid, vast and profound so that it can carry everything, nurture life and spirits. The god of the earth is the mother of matter and heart of the world. The sky above where the heaven lies, on the other hand, abounds with ethereal airiness. Together creating the boundless universe, earth and the heaven up above witness the endless circle of life and its ceaseless motion. The samsara remains and repeats itself with no end.

  So where is heaven? Does it refer to the immortal’s abode, a holy realm where the souls are supreme or the pure and serene sky? No matter how the answers vary, it is sure that heaven is different from the mortal world. Generally speaking, everyone can go to heaven or hell. The distant concept of heaven is what people all strive for. It is a spiritually holy place which can be compared to the snow-covered plateau, whereas the coastal flatlands in China are a realm of mortals with individuals in pursuit of material comfort. The difference between those who are spiritually rich and the ones boasting only material wealth is only too evident. So where is hell? Is it complete darkness where justice fails to rule, the abode of the devil or simply a mortal world full of filthy souls? As a matter of fact, everyone holds the key either to the heaven or hell in his very own hands, which depends on the particular person’s morality and deeds. He has to choose between the two, in which process a monetary slip of mind can lead to a diametrically different result. The rule that those noble souls go to heaven while the filthy ones descend to the hell will always be executed. It is our fate, the absolute end and the ordinance of the universe.

  What about art? Where does it exist anyway? It is not in heaven nor hell, but exists between the two realms. An artist can be a messager who delivers wisdom and energy through his works. He can also be an on-looker who quietly observes the world, an arguer making judgment on different things or a thinker who contemplates on the bitterness of life and all the mortal beings. Artists do what people don’t ordinarily do or ordinary people can’t do, which, however, accords with the heavenly principles and morality. Therefore, art is not beautiful-looking yet insignificant nothing which we use simply to entertain ourselves. Instead, it can function in a helpful way, being adopted to express our care for others as well as the determination to solve problems, conflicts and make our voices heard on certain issues. Powers of a person can be put into the embodiment of art.

  Qiu Guangming’s art works have exactly this kind of powers. The pieces depict the solitary wildness in nature where everything is bleak and lonely. It of course has something to do with the artist’s personality, but more importantly, the arts reflect his ideals, pursuit and the explosion of power within himself. Obsessed with such images as plateau, horses, vulture and world of snow with a sincere care for people, he has his energy consumed and spirits tormented while creating the art works, because in them also lie his dreams. It might be said that Qiu is misplaced, which can explain his strong belief that he lived in a world of snow in the previous life. Therefore, he is always tied to the snow-covered plateau which is close to heaven and at the same time serene, solemn, holy and magical. Qiu insists that art must be consumed to ask for responsibility and reveal the power of human dignity.

  I find that in the recent works created by Qiu that the psychological and visual focus have gradually shifted, which is a result of his many visits to Seda Prairie and the experience there in the past few years. It is a place rich in humanity and natural resources. There are glaziers, plateaus and you can see yaks, the solemnness and mysteriousness of religious life as well as the magnificent Buddhist construction. The believers pray piously, who, together with everything else, create a breath-taking realm of Buddhism. One just can’t help standing in awe, overwhelmed by the magnificent vision and never daring to offend. It is also natural to devote oneself the Buddha under that circumstance, with a wish to wash all the past sins and to do good deeds. For those who live in Tibet, the religious place for Buddhism is like heaven, which is a lofty, supreme world.

  Vulture is considered as a sacred animal in Buddhism, which is the messager from heaven and a carrier of life and luck. It brings auspicious signs and leads our way to the future. Its heavenly mission is to protect the abode of immortals so that we can never show disrespect or offence toward the vulture. In Qiu’s works we can see the image of the holy bird, looking solemn, dignified like a person with an air of authoritativeness. While it flies, there seems to be an echo with a call and dream from the ancient times, accompanied by the clear water flowing in the river as well as the mountains and valley. Indeed, the nature, be it snow, water, clouds, mountains or vulture, is alway in harmony without the slightest wish to strive for anything. It is in this environment that one can pray piously in the bosom of the mother nature and feel his soul floating to sublimation.

  What is the purity of art expression? It refers to a state of not being bothered by the outside world, not tempted by material gains, not swayed by the others’ opinions and not unconvinced of one’s value. It surely requires one to insist on his stance sometimes. As for Qiu’s art works, we can see from them that the artist is always negating, tormenting and training himself so as to move forward while remodeling his art. Indeed, if we give up on negation there will be no rebirth and only spiritual torture can bring us profoundness. Training, on the other hand, strengthens our spirits and remodeling the work ensures us a brighter future. It is no wonder that I always find Qiu busily occupied with something nowadays. It seems that there is an invisible whip whipping him and power pushing him. I think the whip is his inner-self while the power comes from his sense of responsibility. In this way, the endless motion of life continues and never cease.

  Will art have an end? Physically, death marks the end. But spiritually speaking that is not the case for art, since it will be transmitted and carried on, continuing in another form. Of course the precondition of the continuance is that what has been created is valuable. The history of art records only works worthy of our appreciation and remembrance. From this perspective, it is not so difficult to understand why Qiu, someone who is nice and friendly to others, tends to in a way torture and push himself to limits: in his love for horses, vultures, respect for the holy river and mountain, good will towards the ordinary people etc. we can find his sense of conscience. In this sense, there are humanistic spirits shining in the flying prayer flags and every other detail in his art work. Art merges with purified spirits, touching every heart.

  April 2013, Fangcaodi, Chengdu

  Chen Mo:well-known art critic, curator, Professor at Chengdu Academy ofFine Arts, chief editor of The Great Art

[Editor] 常霞