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'Rising star' draws inspiration from memories
By Wang Jie

YOUNG contemporary artist Qiu Xiaofei wanted to be a rock star and create art with music - by comparison, painting seemed prosaic.

But now - in only his mid-30s and considered a rising star - he finds painting and installation a satisfying way to express himself, his memories and his feelings about the results of China's modernization.

He is famous for realistic and impressionistic works addressing memory, perception and reality, evoking both nostalgia and irony.

His colors evoke the mineral pigments characteristic of Chinese painting as well as the printed images and posters of the 1960s and 1970s.

His current solo exhibition is titled "Repetition," a reference to Soren Kirkegaard's observation, "Repetition and recollection are the same movement, except in opposite directions, for what is recollected has been, is repeated backwards; whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward."

This is a bit obscure, as are elements of the exhibition. It contains a black, blue and yellow room, entered sequentially and titled "Hallucination," "Preconscious" and "Subconscious," respectively. It includes early and new works.

Early works evoke both nostalgia and scepticism. One work in the exhibition titled "Anxiety," depicts a young boy wearing a laurel wreath and a medal, marking him as a hero. He also wears a blank expression indicating that he under-whelmed or bewildered by the accolade.

Black room

Visitors first enter a black room containing realistic paintings that are supposed to raise the question, "Besides producing hallucinations, what is the importance of paintings nowadays?"

Next, the blue room contains doodles and scribbles made by the artist as a boy. They are supposed to express "preconsciousness" of paintings, rather than demonstrate the artist's aptitude at a young age.

The yellow room, the "subconscious," contains paintings that are neither doodles nor deliberately created works. They appear to be disorganized images, which can only be rearranged and made sense of by personal experience and memory.

Born in 1977 in Harbin in China's northeastern Heilongjiang Province, Qiu graduated from the oil painting department of the National Central Academy of Fine Arts.

"The young man was stirred by a passion for music that made art seems prosaic by comparison. He even entertained the idea of becoming a rock star: an arousal of enthusiasm and creation ambition with which the metier of artist could not compete," says exhibition curator Karen Smith.

"The creating of these paintings was a process of elimination and emotional release that allowed him to confirm his love of music, but importantly that assisted him in finding a rationale to concentrate on art."

In returning to his youth for inspiration, Qiu realized that his memories and their images evoke compelling issues of modern life: stress, competition in the job market, financial concerns, divorce, neglect and breakdown of the family.

Date: Through March 7, 10am-5pm

Venue: Minsheng Art Museum, Bldg F, 570 Huaihai Road W.

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