- Qiu Jie is an artist.
QIU JIE NEW WORKS IMPRESSIONby Wang Fei
I met Qiu Jie in a Go club in Geneva. He was in his thirties and about to gain publicity in the Switzerland art world. It has been more than twenty years since then. Qiu Jie hasn’t changed his career path. Nor has he given up painting. In fact, he has stayed the course and made enormous progress, for example, becoming a professional painter abroad. Only those close to him would know the difficulties he has been through. I can’t help sighing and thinking, “How stubborn you are, Qiu Jie!”
Compared to conceptual artists, Qiu Jie’s work is more sentimental. Fifteen years ago, with his vanguard artistic sense, he introduced works that focused on China’s Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, China’s economic reform, and the conflicts between Chinese and western cultures. Although he was overseas, we should still categorize him as an early political pop artist in China. With deeper understanding for artistic phenomena, Qiu Jie’s style has adapted significantly. In the past ten years, he has developed a unique talent for lead pencil painting. His lead pencil paintings have shown people a fresh form of artistic expressions and earned great acclaim in the art world.
Qiu Jie excelled in canvas painting, creating some great works in that genre. But ultimately he chose to make a change; he decided to put down the tools that he was familiar with and switch to lead pencils and paper. It goes without saying that it is difficult to stand out in the modern art world with such rudimentary tools. I remember that Michael Jordan once said that with his jumping ability he could be a professional pole vaulter. However, he could be the absolute best in basketball. Qiu Jie has chosen lead pencil painting, which is usually viewed as less prestigious than canvas painting. But in fact, it’s like fighting a rabbit with the force of a tiger. It is actually heavy but seems light so it creates another level of painting. Although Qiu Jie’s decision is different from Jordan’s, their thoughts are quite similar.
There is a saying: People prefer reading articles with inflection than those that are dull. Qiu Jie has made tremendous effort to perfect the structure of his works, to the point where has so absorbed that he neglected to eat and sleep.
Qiu Jie applies a cavalier perspective to traditional Chinese painting, strictly rendering all types of content vividly. This is different from the traditional western perspective in which the close subject is clear and the distant subject is out of focus. Every detail in Qiu Jie’s work is concise and clear. Even a facial expression of a person, as small as a match, is clear. Yet the whole painting itself seems quite harmonious, interactive or even aggressive. This is to say, his years of hard work on sketch structure have unified disparate opposing forces and thus his work possesses remarkable strength. This strength is also the reflection of the pressures in everyday life.
The strength of canvas is the hues so the painters need to pay much attention to black, white and grey to depict it accurately. In Qiu Jie’s paintings, there are many excellent details that almost could exist as separate works unto themselves. But to have a whole picture, he has to make some sacrifices and make them part of the grey-toned background. As a result the backgrounds of his paintings are exceptionally well rendered, featuring multiple layers with different levels of meaning. Furthermore, Qiu Jie harmonizes the subjects of his drawings with a strict application of light. We see not only the delicate grey layers of the paintings but also the precise remaining white parts where the artist makes his greatest effort.
If someone were to ask, “How to catch a lion in the Sahara desert?”
I would answer, “Remove all the sand.”
In his lead pencil painting, Qiu Jie made tremendous effort to render whites and grays accurately, like removing all the sand from a desert to catch a lion. He has been cultivating this talent since the age of 10. Then, he drew a sketch of a plaster model daily in the Russian drawing style. We can say it’s a Tongzi Gong.
Without understanding history, one would become a barbarian, and if one does not absorb new knowledge, he would become ignorant. Besides canvas and traditional Chinese painting, Qiu Jie also learns from prints, Chinese New Year woodcut prints, propaganda posters, paper-cut, farmer’s painting, stamps and calligraphy. The more he extracts, the better his work becomes. Although the pencil Qiu Jie holds is slender, his mission carries great weight.
Such a great, profound lead pencil painting requires not only superior technique, but also energy, excellent eyesight and perseverance. We are indeed in the midst of a Golden Age of Qiu Jie’s style: his expression is creative and let it be. The presentation of everyday life in his works is at once indifferent and warm, implicit and bold. With the simplicity of lead pencils, he creates multiple layers of artistic expression.
Though his heart is in his home country, he embraces the whole world.
Though he has accomplished much in his long career, he still works hard for art.