Now aged 52 and based in Switzerland, Qiu Jie was born in Shanghai and grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period that had a huge impact on him as an artist. Gwen Pew finds out more.
8 Oct 2013: Now aged 52 and based in Switzerland, Qiu Jie was born in Shanghai and grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period that had a huge impact on him as an artist. Children were only sent to school for a few hours each day at the time – mainly to learn about the greatness of the Communist Party – and so the young Qiu passed his time by learning how to draw.
‘Chinese people have a tradition of studying a lot and as they had a lot of time at home, they used to practice music, dance or drawing more intensively than before the Cultural Revolution,’ he explains. ‘When I started to learn how to draw [at the age of ten], the only images I could copy were propaganda images. You could say I did not have the choice.’
Qiu went on to graduate from art schools in Shanghai and Geneva, and is now best known for creating works in pencil that merge images from the historic East and contemporary West. Around 30 of those pieces are on display at Art Plural this month, featuring sentimental portraits by a man caught between two worlds.
‘Today, I am inspired by [Chinese propaganda] but also by images in Western adverts. Both represent my identity and my education in China and Switzerland,’ Qiu says. ‘It is not difficult to express this contradiction in my work because I am living it every day. However, this confrontation is hard to live with, and so I always feel the need to show that in my drawings.’