Artist Qiu Shengxian believes one’s artistic development and style is directly related to their life experiences and artistic practice. “Although the factors nurturing an artist vary, the traces that are revealed in their work are clearly evident,” he tells me.
Qiu Shengxian was raised in a small fishing village in Jiangxi province during the turbulent times of the 50s and 60s. “My father was the backbone of my family, he worked supremely hard. My mother was a typical housewife, she could embroid beautiful patterns whilst doing chores involving heavy lifting. Her selflessness and love left an imprint on my young heart.”
It was at primary school that Qiu first picked up a brush through the influence of his elder brother. “He is a traditional painter, he gave me a lot of books, catalogues and ink sticks. But most importantly he taught me each painting requires a spirit that should be made up of tenacity, persistence, and courage.”
After being trained in traditional art, Qiu went to work in an arts and crafts factory during the cultural revolution where he gained an interest in Chinese comics and subsequently learned to make this form of art. “Some of my works were actually published in several publishing houses.” After the Cultural Revolution, Qiu enrolled at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute and majored in sculpture. It was here that he was exposed to Western art and the beginning of his love affair with impressionism.
“Traditional culture is my soil, my roots, my blood and our nation’s spiritual pillar for survival. While the western modern concepts are the air, sunshine and rain, which I need and are the elements which could make me grow sturdily.” After learning many techniques and philosophies, Qiu’s first proper paintings were of colourful characters on raw rice paper and then depictions of a female character, which is based on his wife.
“My wife looks naturally, classically beautiful. Her oriental exquisite and subtle qualities make me never tire of painting.” But the image of his work has a much deeper resonation than just a face. “Art reveals an emotion. My meaning is that in the human value system it is always like a mother and a child’s love. Sincerity, unselfishness and big love are the true meanings of our existence. In my paintings, I have consistently used an oriental woman as the carrier of emotion, that is an artistic symbol created with my wife’s image as a prototype.”
Qiu Shengxian has a long history of using different artistic approaches, such as ceramics, traditional art, and comics, giving a clear sense of where the subject of his work comes from. With his love for impressionism, and his philosophy of what love and emotion mean, his life experiences have made him a true artist.