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Qu Qianmei, space and time

Issuing time:2019-02-26 15:24

Qu Qianmei, great renowned Chineseartist in her country, visited Tibet a few years ago and it has deeply changedher life. She identified herself to the spirituality carried in an immemorialway by the Tibetan people so much that she decided to change the way shepainted. It really was a second birth for her, bringing new expectations to herart, as if she had to meet the expectations of responding the spiritual masterMilarepa who, from the deepest part of the 11th century, called out now to her:

At the frontier of the void andthe Eternal, limitless sight is already lost. I haven't, in its Nature, fixedReality.

This reality, forseen by QuQianmei in Lhasa, is the one called ‘gnas-lugs’ in Tibetan language: the levelof absolute Truth. A reality perfectly natural and unspeakable that only Artcan help us approach it. Since then, her titanic pictorial work (piecessometimes huge, using material extremely dense and heavy like the kaolin soil,the Hunan cinnabar or the red wood…) seems to me is fulfilling a sharedambition of the greatest Art creators of the history: Space temporalization.

Once returned from Tibet, QuQianmei has produced a whole series of masterpieces in Beijing, then nearParis. One of the remarkable is named Tibet Series A3 (mixed techniques, 2010,244 x 346 x 5 cm). In it, the implacable development of thick vertical streaksgoing from left to right suggests irresistibly Time animating Space that ispart of the same painting. But this is only possible if Time intervenes underthe kinds of movement that we will be able to see from its trajectory. Movementis a temporal adventure, but it has a trajectory that leaves a wake. That wakeis the challenge of the artist's work, whose effort reminds certain Bergson'sstatements in L’évolution créatrice (the creative Evolution). The philosopherthought of the trajectory as Space as ‘a Duration expansion’, like a looseningrhythm. Who can only see, in Qu Qianmei's work, the trajectory of its wakes is definitelynot the instrument of a kind of knowledge (she has definitely chosenAbstraction) but a formal Space determination? It is not what moves, but theresult of the movement.

In another wonderful painting,Tibet Series A19, mixed techniques 2010, 8.50m high, 4m wide and again (it isnot insignificant), 125px thick, for which the artist had to use an elevator, thepictorial Space is temporalized because it is given to the audience like astructured and oriented space, where privileged lines reminding gigantic tiretraces in the soil represent trajectories, huge from the movement they make inthe motionlessness. But this outstanding piece can only manifest the imprisonedmovement in the motionlessness if a conscience comes to decipher it and hencebreaks the mysterious spell that holds the movement captive. Qu Qianmei demandsthat we live her painting. We adhere to her piece, obviously, so that Kant‘slesson is verified: the movement in the subject precedes the movement in theobject. That explains why we perceive a melody as a duration schematized by therhythm. This is why, in all visual perception, simultaneity is mediatized bysuccession. Qu Qianmei guides our eyes downwards through her giganticcomposition, she doesn’t let us rest. So the pictorial object animates becauseit has deeply shaken us. We could say that the artist has successfully ‘moved’us by moving us.

Therefore, all Qu Qianmei 'sart, that is also a clever chemistry where layers and under-layers of ricepaper, of natural lacquer intervene, where certain rare colors hues have beenobtained thanks to the maceration of old Yunan tea leaves, all her art lies, toquote André Lhote, in ‘this internal gesture, this aspiration to sign that allshapes have as soon as the audience reaches saturation.’ Yes, Qu Qianmei’s artcan intoxicate you: vowed to an apparent immobility from its materialscarefully chosen and arranged, she has the power to weld this supremetranquility, a kind of impatience from the piece to be heard. She starts off inus the sensation of a true movement that is an auto-movement and not a move inspace. That movement is a deployment of sense, like self-affirmation. Whichsense? Obviously, it is not a story or a discourse. The meaning of a paintingfrom Qu Qianmei is inexpressible because it both lies in the form and in thecontent of the pictorial object, like a living soul of this assembly. Its truthis not in a relation from us to something else, but a relation from us toourselves.

Let's take another extraordinarypainting of the Tibet series: Series A1 (mixed techniques, 2010, 244 x 244 x 125px). Here, the movement of the piece is circular. The material masses that seemto be in fusion organize in an oval form located at the centre of the superiorpart of the piece, and an unfinished circle clearly comes up at the centre ofthis form. The movement of the piece summed up in this way requires that oureyes rest on it for a while for it has time to blossom like the music spreadsin our ear while, through an inverted movement, we penetrate it more.

It is our look that lasts, andthat duration is required by the piece, not as rigorously as a music piece thatbends us at its own time, but enough to have the feeling that we have betrayedthe piece if our attention has been too brief. We have to let the piece accessitself and, perhaps, transmit its message that obviously lies in the unfinishedcircle, both geometrical centre and symbolic centre of the painting.

In the wheel of ecstasy, at thehead

Is the divine assembly of Guhyasamâja

That does not see the creativeforce of the subtle channels anymore

This is the circle of greatfelicity

I do not know anything about theartist's intentions, but I can feel her creative force, I can see maybe some ofthe subtle channels from where the modalities of her creation go. And what Ican see after having long looked at the centre of this square painting; isn'tit the sign of the great felicity circle?

Jean-Luc Chalumeau | writer, arthistorian and critic

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