Past Exhibitions

Tracing: A Retrospective Exhibition of Qu Fengguo's 30 Years of Work


Artist Qu Fengguo
Curator Wang Wei

Life Is World 

Wang Wei, Director of the Long Museum

The relation between the “world”, the inner self and others has remained a recurring theme Qu Fengguo keeps delving into through his exploration in the realm of painting. According to the artist, if the world has its own “traces”, they must be created from man’s mind; and in Qu’s case, “traces” epitomize what his art naturally leads to. Inwardly, these “traces” delve into the artist himself; and outwardly, they show admiration to the world in a silent yet powerful gesture. Qu Fengguo’s paintings, with his determination to test the boundary, manages to bring the familiar yet strange world and everything in it back to viewers.

The exhibition features 39 works selected from four series, namely Trajectory of hands, Untitled, Seasons and World. With the progression of the depth and breadth of the artist thinking and a focus shifting gradually from the “self” to the “world”, the exhibition presents a holistic picture of Qu Fengguo’s 30 years of painting career since 1993.

Among the works on view, I’m particularly touched to see the Trajectory of hands, one of his earlier series brimming with explorative spirit and subconscious impulse. Back then the young Qu Fengguo managed to make a declaration that “I have existed” on paper with his own hands. He paid tribute to human civilization of the remote past in the form of “handprint” and embraced the challenges of technical innovation by abandoning the use of conventional painting tools. The artist used carbon powder and charcoal as media to feel the rolling of tiny particles under the influence of temperature, gravity and the friction of paper with his fingers. Smudging, highlighting or darkening, the artist resorted to an almost instinctive manner to explore and celebrate the force of nature.

Personally, I always feel “untitled” indicates “the meaning beyond meaning” and “the imagination beyond imagination”. I think such an understanding is in line with Qu Fengguo’s own interpretation of his Untitled series as he believes Untitled reflected the possibilities of individual destiny unfolded through the course of time”. Under the backdrop featuring dim color blocks there’s a protagonist that cannot be overlooked – straight lines, which are the simplest and plainest “traces” left by actions between two points. The straight lines rubbed by carbon powder highlight the unconscious and irreversible passing of time. Being the results of repetitive actions, they remind us that life depends on time to unfold, and to experience the passing of time also depends on the consciously tender perception of life.

The relationship between man and the “world” is intimate for all time even though we’re not always aware of it. The World series manifests such intimacy in a visual way. The colors on the canvas give out an exuberant sense of vitality – following the “self” as a clue, the “world” becomes the creator behind the canvas, drawing on gravity to delineate the boundaries that never exist and colors that are never specifically visible. Using the different years as an index, the different colors demonstrate the varying degrees of warmth of the relationship between the artist and the world in different time and space. A large number of straight lines in fluorescent colors once again highlights the prominence of “traces” in Qu Fengguo’s language of art. In addition to the fascinating visual experience brought about by colors and traces, looking at these paintings in a way is like reading a collection of private chronicles, enabling viewers to converse with the artist’s memories from different time and space.

If Untitled promotes people to reflect upon time through the “traces” of action, Seasons presents the dynamics of “passing of time” in an intuitively visual and metaphorical way. Walking past the eight monumental paintings under the titles from Midnight to The Day, viewers get a chance to rethink about this limited time period from “night to dawn” that recurs on a daily basis and to reflect upon the everydayness that we’re immersed in. The fleeing of time always makes people uneasily excited. Hung opposite to the eight large paintings is the last work of this exhibition. Contrary to the uneasiness sensed from previously, this work, titled Seasons 2018 – The Spring, gives out a brisk sense vitality and poetry- a metaphor of the new encounters that may pop up the next second in our life. I really enjoy this painting. The artist’s childlike amazement at the nature echoes the passion for the arrival of new life and composes a beautiful poem in the simplest language.

Under the seemingly grand theme of “tracing” what’s on display is actually artist Qu Fengguo’s perceptual delineation and thinking over the past thirty years, a humble and gentle declaration he’d made on the limited space of the canvas. Life is world; and the world is made up of the splendor of each and every individual’s life. 

About the Artist

Qu Fengguo’s (b. 1966 in Liaoning Province, China) paintings give out a strong sense of reflection upon life, with individual perception of time, memories and oblivion running throughout his practice. By “eliminating” conventional painting tools, the artist manages to visualize temporality through the motion of fingers, human bodies and the pigments. A shift of focus from “world loaded with chaos” to “the relation between the world and order of time” could be perceived in the evolvement of his practice. The artist endeavors to present in his paintings the primitive movement of the world as well as the primitive state that is ever-changing through straight lines. In Qu Fengguo’s painting practice, colors imbue the imagery with sense of change while lines give shape to the presence of human in this constantly changing world.

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