Lives and Works: Shanghai
For more than thirty years, Qiu Deshu has steered a steady course between traditional ink painting and the brash experiments of the avant-garde with his signature style of artistic creation called “fissuring” (liebian). Fission reflects the concept of "independent spirit, independent technique, and independent style," which was put forward by the Caocao Society (Grass Society) that the artist established in Shanghai in 1979. Fissuring, which literally means tearing and change in Chinese, is a pictorial metaphor for the artist’s life and as his artistic career, as well as modern China and the world. In these works, Qiu applies ink or vivid colors to xuan paper (Chinese painting paper), which he tears up and mounts as fragments to a base layer, often leaving gaps between the layers of paper to create a pictorial field with the “cracks” that he feels are symbolic of life’s journey. In this way, each resulting work of fission is both painted and sculpted.
Qiu Deshu’s time-consuming artistic method breaks the rules of classical Chinese ink painting in order to establish an entirely new technique of contemporary art creation. The color in Qiu’s work is revealed from the background rather than the rice paper foreground, so his works develop an organic sensation of darkness and lightness, similar to bass-relief. Since there is no brush involved and forms are built up by hand, layer by layer, each of Qiu Deshu’s distinctive works showcases the richness and texture of the xuan paper. This textual quality is certainly evident in the artist’s landscapes, Qiu’s best-known series. Inspired by the crags and peaks of traditional Chinese mountainscapes, here the artist’s vivid color choice and fissuring technique reveals his own majestic view of nature. In the past two years, the artist’s latest series of monochromatic abstract paintings has taken him back to the origins of fissuring. In these deconstructed geometric forms, we discover the artist refining the dynamic power and rhythm of fissuring, in a search for the most essential properties ink on paper.
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