Point of No Return
A Qiu Xiaofei Solo Exhibition
4 September 2010 to 10 October 2010
Boers-Li Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of a solo exhibition for Qiu Xiaofei entitled Point of No Return on 4 September 2010 and continuing through 10 October.
The phrase “Point of No Return” is derived from the text Record of the Classification of Ancient Painters authored by Xie He, the first Chinese art historian, where it was used to describe the insular working methods of Eastern Jin painter Gu Jun. In borrowing this vocabulary for the title of his exhibition, Qiu Xiaofei both expresses an honest evaluation of the state of his own practice and reflects on his attempt in this project to investigate the primal intentions of the current spiritual conditions of the Chinese people. Different from his earlier works that focused on the elements of time and materiality in the creation of the superficial markers of memory, the artist here considers the complexity of spiritual consciousness in contemporary China, a complexity that lies precisely in the unique mixture of idealism, materialism, and utilitarianism. These works attempt to reveal this complex consciousness that has formed throughout a process of decades in the two dimensional space of painting through a methodology that surpasses the purely schematic, constituting an intellectual consideration of the present.
The titles of these works all appear as the ambiguous ravings of somniloquy, reflecting dreamlike historical objects or isolated phrases from torn pages, forming in the exhibition space a subtle but tangible integrated entity. “Hospital” suggests an empty relationship that wavers between surface, space, and time, while the text, perhaps revolutionary slogans, that appears in the background of “Rafters” hints at the existence of a certain controlling power. Through the transition space established by these two works, we ascend then into a complex and integrated world of public and private space, reality and memory, text and image. The indistinct revolutionary symbols of “Utopia” and “To Call a Stag a Horse” gesture at the mutually determined relationship of disintegration between the collective and the individual throughout the transformations of history, while “State-Operated Object” and “Stiffness of the Limbs” revise, through methods of inversion and mirroring, the revolutionary architecture of Le Corbusier and the interior settings of a Chinese household of the revolutionary era, respectively, thus drawing out the quality of madness of revolution and explicating the subtle influences of architecture and design in the transformation of the self. Similarly, “Together Again” and “Thing of the Past” express, through the revision of old newspapers and literary illustrations, the faint moment in which reality and memory become indistinguishable. Finally, “Desolate Wood” borrows the form of the large-scale historical painting to collect and ultimately reveal the chaotic territory between fantasy and reality to which all of these works refer but never explicitly depict.
In these works, the artist no longer emphasizes the sense of temporality within the scene as he did with his earlier works, but rather resolutely interrupts the lasting relationships between symbol and body of reality and memory, history and archive, text, and image, then regrouping their elements and, through this seemingly irrational ordering, expressing a world of spiritual absurdity. This absurdity is embodied in the mechanisms of control with which the great discourse of history buries at all times and in all places the experience of the individual. The decontextualized phrases that appear as text here form one manifestation of these mechanisms, while the indefinable geometric objects that appear repeatedly within these paintings similarly indicate the transformation of the external control of the discourse of revolution into an internalized and difficult to dispel examination of the self that has occurred alongside the passage of time. As the title of the exhibition proclaims, the phrase “Point of No Return” indubitably describes the psychological state of suspension from which the Chinese people have not yet discovered any method to escape. Commendably, these works bear little resemblance to the image-based schema of contemporary Chinese painting; the artist here seeks precisely to remake the symbols and schematics that have been, for whatever reason, abstracted from reality such that their affected solemnity appears even more clearly, thus reflecting the madness that emerges in the process by which history coordinates individual consciousness as well as portraying the actual but thin and weak existence of a seemingly determined individual will. One may go so far as to say that End of the Line corresponds rhetorically to the Lu Xun text Diary of a Madmen now some 100 years old. Comparing the two at this present moment, we sense a surprising stagnation and expansion within the dimensions of both time and history, but there is already no way to turn back.
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