The Art of Individualism

Ian Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize winner and reporter for the Wall Street Journal, writes on Chinese contemporary artist Qiu Zhijie (邱志傑). Qiu is known for incorporating video and traditional Chinese media in his artwork. From the Wall Street Journal:

Last November, Qiu Zhijie endured a series of personal crises that left him elated and exhausted. The result was another of the mercurial Chinese artist’s bursts of creativity—and a cycle of work that tackles some of the most sensitive aspects of modern China.

[…] Once a 1990s radical who put on underground shows designed to shock, Mr. Qiu is now considered one of China’s greatest contemporary artists. Unlike his forerunners, who completely broke with Chinese tradition by painting in oil and creating repetitive motifs, Mr. Qiu is more comfortable with Chinese themes and uses calligraphy in many of his works.

I met Mr. Qiu in Beijing this month, and after a few hours with him, it’s clear how he acquired his reputation. A gregarious, funny man, the 40-year-old talks about philanthropy, political control of art, the strange history of contemporary Chinese art, General Motors, the Nanjing massacre and the green tea market. “His mind,” says University of Chicago art historian and curator Wu Hung, is “very fast-moving; it’s like a fireworks of the mind.”

More of Qiu’s art can be seen in the Wall Street Journal’s featured slideshow and at his website’s portfolio page.

The following video (in Chinese with Italian subtitles) covers a day in the life of the artist:

April 23, 2009 10:13 PM
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Categories: Culture & the Arts