After the solo show at the Beijing gallery in 2013, Galleria Continua presents, for the first time in its San Gimignano space, a one-man exhibition by the Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie, entitled “Racing Against Time”.
The project comprises a group of new works specially conceived for the occasion. Qiu Zhijie is not just an internationally established artist but also a key point of reference on the Chinese art scene. His artistic practice embraces calligraphy, poetry, teaching, criticism and curating. A thinker, activist and cartographer, Qiu is a multi-faceted intellectual figure, and his work is articulated through an all-inclusive practice which in Chinese is called Guangdong art. The term encompasses various different meanings. It is the expression of individual freedom whilst respecting social responsibilities, it is the concurrence between rational analysis and impulse, it is the harmonic interaction between the different spheres of action in which we engage. And finally it is the reciprocally advantageous fellowship between the explosive experience of making art and the experience of everyday living. “Art does not just concern the work produced, but also the more general environment to which the work reacts; it is a complete practice,” says the artist.
It cannot but engage, then, with real life, society, politics and history, both that of our own age and that of the past. Qiu’s art is the representation of a new mode of communication between the Chinese literary tradition and contemporary art, social participation and the power of self-liberation given by art. In his work he uses different media, ranging from video to photography, performance to ink painting and installation. This mixture of languages function as a single whole: “I try to use all types of media, I believe that my ideal medium is the relationship established between all the objects,” he explains. Racing Against Time, the project conceived by the artist for the gallery’s large ground-floor rooms, takes the form of an archaeological site: “It is like a palaeontological dig and a time machine of humanity. Looking back in time to the dinosaur kingdom, the bird kingdom and the mammal kingdom, the whole history of evolution is based on the survival of the fittest. The theme of this exhibition is the battle of powers and the war between empires. It dwells upon the dichotomy of these two logics”, comments Qiu. The show features a series of ‘landscapes’ entitled Evolution.
Reflecting Qiu’s typical style, they are realized using the centuries-old Chinese technique of padding with sponges: “It is a very advanced traditional technique,” explains the artist, “usually employed to transpose onto paper inscriptions and graphic motifs depicted on ancient vases. All the studies about traditional Chinese inscriptions on stone, jade, bronze, etc. are based on this technique. The main difference between padding and a cast is that the former is able to transform the three-dimensional into the two-dimensional, in effect to transform the world into texts.” These paper reliefs, some scattered with fossils and fragments of artefacts, are a world that comes to the surface thanks to Qiu’s archaeological sensibility. The Evolution series develops chronologically, from Pangaea to the invention of agriculture and through to the “birth of God”; the images of the intricate skeletons of Lover and those of the legendary bird Kunpeng represent the final point of evolutionary history. “Attestations of merit and heraldic symbols are forms of power; swords, armour and pistols are used to show off; gates and towers are both architectural forms of symbolism, an expression of perseverance: gates represent power and will, towers symbolize a reaching upwards; plants and animals are links between the history of evolution and the history of empires: birds and eagles, detritus of buildings, Duogong brackets, Roman columns, all shattered fragments and ruins of imperial formalism,” explains Qiu.