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Benjamin Sigg Collection - The Art of Collecting

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Xia Qing

Eastern Aesthetics of Violence

I juxtapose the friendliness and peacefulness of the birds with the gory violence of organs together. The tension comes from here, and in a way this also reduces abjection in viewers’ mind - because it is too realistic. Dealing with this, I deliberately cancel off the inner realistic aspects. For instance, I treat organs as if these are mountains - although it is realist in style, I have been trying to make it subjectively Shanshui-like.
Bloody Rare No.592016年,110x110cm x2,Oil on canvas

Xia Qing has just moved into his new studio in Beijing. This big guy from Liaoning province was all hands-on during the decoration. Scattered in the space are frames and wood chips, stacked on the bookshelves are Violent Art, Classic of Mountains and Seas, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio - books that are marked by signs of mythologies and oriental significations.

He does not impress as a tough man, but seems like, indeed as he once jokingly said during an interview, a man “with a lady’s heart”; his works are paradoxical hybrids: oil paintings that are meticulously executed, on which are birds that feed themselves with exposed organs, splashed blood. Relatively dark colour schemes and simple compositions, the intense works strangely form a serenity. It is the series of Bloody Rare, the signature series of Xia Qing’s, merging Western realist traditions into Easter concepts.

Bloody organs appear like jewels in Xia’s paintings. He says:”It is in fact quite beautiful if you approach it as an abstract object.” There is only a fine line between violence and beauty; this tension of infinite paradox is expressed best in Xia’s paintings.

TEXT: CoBo Editorial Force

What is your personal history of painting? What styles have you been through?

Bloody Rare No.34,2015,41 x 30 cm,Oil on canvas

I did animation direction when I was in college, but I only did painting before that. Because of my passion for it, I have always been painting, even when I was doing my master degree program. It was pointed out to me that my paintings were good, so eventually I arrived at painting professionally.

I was influenced by figures and monsters in video games, so I was exploring the realist and the violent. Back then it was more of an Western style. In 2012, I experimented somehow by accident with the Birds and the Organs series, and have been working in this direction ever since.

The birds and organs are signs quite distant from each other. Why the match?

I juxtapose the friendliness and peacefulness of the birds with the gory violence of organs together. The tension comes from here, and in a way this also reduces abjection in viewers’ mind - because it is too realistic. Dealing with this, I deliberately cancel off the inner realistic aspects. For instance, I treat organs as if these are mountains - although it is realist in style, I have been trying to make it subjectively Shanshui-like.

Bloody Rare No. 35,2015,41 x 30 cm,Oil on canvas

What is your understanding of violence?

I have been researching extensively, have been reading books on the nature of violent art, or the ancient history of violence. I try to experience the difference between Chinese culture of violence and that found int he West. Chinese is rather calm in terms of violence. Chinese tortures are different among many other things. Western violence is very direct, offering you with a monster or a zombie. Chinese violence is abstract and conceptual, the object of horror fleet over and that is it. Chinese violence is invisible; the emphasis on the psychological is very different from its Western counterpart.

How could you paint so realistically?

Bloody Rare No.58,2016,50x100cm,Oil on canvas

You have to have good references. You either take photos or download photos from the internet. I sometimes would go to the market and buy a pig’s heart, but that is in fact only a very small part of the organ. So presenting the object in art means abstraction. I have also thought that if I describe the whole thing in painting probably people would not be comfortable with it.

Normal size works take about two months. I apply oil paints in a rather light way. I layer different textures one upon another, sometimes for a three dimensional effect, sometimes very solid, juxtaposing this with the very transparent areas and make the whole thing more lively.

Already, four years are in since you have started the series. What changes will there be in the future?

I want to keep on doing this. But I will have to also keep on considering how could it be better accepted, in what form et cetera. Galleries and collectors alike are not perfectly happy with hanging the works in their places. My collectors are about my age, or are international collectors. They are pretty fine with it.

I sometimes would paint in the ink painting style with oil paint and canvas, as a practise. But I have never received proper trainings in either tradition. I explore myself, so my style may be different from the academic school. I brushstrokes are rather fine, so it is both meticulous and expressive in nature. I sometimes would like to try to experience what pure act of painting can offer me.

Bloody Rare No.49,2016,25x35cm,Oil on canvas

What are the new plans?

Next group of paintings would be more conceptual. I have come up with new questions and thematics, but visually it wouldn’t be dramatically different. Take two hearts connected by an arrow for instance, people may find it beautiful as soon as you simplify the pattern. I think realism has to be firmly grounded, so I would transfaorm the two hears back into real hearts, and place this pair next to a simplified pattern of it. Is it true that men cannot accept things as they are? Why?

In the national anthem there is a line of “pave the new Great Wall with our blood and flesh”, I want to translate this into painting. Will people be able to accept the gory Great Wall? That is also material for violence, and it will be a rather large piece.

Xia Qing

Born in 1977 in Jilin, now lives and works in Beijing
2004 graduated from Beijing School of Arts and Crafts
2009 graduated from China University of Communication

Previous exhibitions include Hindsight, Beijing De Shan Art Space, 2013; Collision: Conceptual Figurative, Art Beijing, 2016; Determined and Different, Beijing 1+1 Art Centre, 2015; 1st Conceptual Realism Exhibition, Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, 2014; New Realism, HIHEY Art Centre, 2013

Collector & Artists