Interview with Qu Weiwei

Loneliness is not about melancholy, but extraordinary commitment, something worth our notice and attention. A feeling common to every soul, loneliness is communicable.

Before my interview with Qu Weiwei, her works would suddenly find echoes in my heart during my contemplation of them. I was overwhelmed by a sense of childhood helplessness, a feeling of isolation from the crowd, and a sharp pang of pain, a true pain that came from her being true to herself.

In Qu’s studio located in Beijing’s Shunyi District and half bathed in warm winter sunlight, the fragrance of tea and the puffs of steam over the stove gave me a taste of her obstinacy, loftiness and freedom from the fear of loneliness. With a sky clearer than past years, this winter proves beautiful.

Lydia Duanmu

With great skills in traditional Chinese ink-wash painting, you are good at using colors. But your paintings exude a sense of modernity, evocative of a well-educated young French lady of classic beauty, frosty-faced, loitering beside the Seine River in her most fashionable clothes, with a cigarette between her lips… In the first place, did this style reach out to you or the other way around?

Qu Weiwei

I was educated in ink-wash painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. I majored in traditional Chinese painting. Soon after obtaining the master degree, I was exposed to a great number of contemporary Western works, which gave me huge visual and conceptual impacts. The conflict between the West and the East led to a year-or-two break in my ink-wash painting. During that period, I’ve been thinking about how to inject a sense of modernity into this traditional art, and working to crystallize whatever came to my mind with my watercolors. I think I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel: What you paint, or rather its truthfulness, is far more important than what you paint with; only when you are able to control your mind, can you control the way things turn out on your paper. Of course, I feel lucky to have received training in traditional Chinese painting. So I credit my style to a combination of many unique things in my life. They reached out to me and made me who I am.

Lydia Duanmu

Please tell us more about yourself. There is a touch of loneliness in your work. Does this has anything to do with your experience?

Qu Weiwei

Yes. I think it is delicate emotions that distinguish human beings from animals. An unhappy marriage left me severe trauma. The end of an unforgettable relationship that lasted over a decade keeps provoking me to stand back to ponder over my raison d’être. In painting, I am a shadow of what I create, and what I create is the way out for myself. Now I have an adorable 4-year-old daughter. But I’m unable to be always by her side due to the cruel reality. And this separation overshadows my life. So in this painting you can find a lovely but strong-minded girl, which is a way to express my love and nostalgia for her. And as these complex emotions are shared by all, my paintings can always bring back the memories about some of your own experiences.

Lydia Duanmu

You see, when God closes a door, he opens a window. This holds true especially to artists. Profound insights in life came as a great gift, but unfortunately not a free one. You get to pay a price.

Qu Weiwei

Indeed, now I live an unstable life. If I could choose between a cozy life and painting, I would still paint, probably because I can get a stronger sense of self-fulfillment from painting.

Lydia Duanmu

Perhaps because you have a lonely soul (we both laughed)…

Weiwei, as a full-time painter whose works have been auctioned at a higher and higher price over the years, have you ever asked why they wanted to have your works in their collections?

Qu Weiwei

Actually, I’ve been painting for over a decade, and my style varies in different stages. For example, one of my paintings shows a boy dressed as Superman standing in the corner; the buyer said that was exactly what he looked like when he was a boy. This painting recalled his childhood memories.

Lydia Duanmu

Oh, I saw that painting from your album. Why is there a pool of something out there? Wetting his pants from excitement?

Qu Weiwei

Ha-ha, of course not. It is about curiosity! It is a rain puddle, one of those childhood puddles that my parents forbade me to wade in case I might wet my shoes. But as a little girl, I was so curious about nature that I would just ignore the warning by splashing through.

Lydia Duanmu

When I was a little girl, I had so many things to do for fun during the day: climbing trees and walls, running wild in the fields, or blocking chimneys as a prank. Children at that time enjoyed great freedom. Is it true that quite a few of your works are an expression of your nostalgia?

Qu Weiwei

Yes. Nostalgia for childhood and good old days is an eternal topic. Some blockbusters lately also dealt with the theme. When I was a little girl, I would spend lots of time climbing trees, fishing, and making toys, paper cards and clay figures. This is a memory shared by all, for back then we played all together. It didn’t take an appointment, because you would find your peers all around in the neighborhood. However, such collective memory has become a luxury for children nowadays; and even worse, the more toys they have, the lonelier they seem to be. On nostalgia and the fear of future, people have talked their way into the new century. My works strike a chord with those like-minded collectors with similar experiences, many of whom are working at Chinese embassies abroad.

Lydia Duanmu

In your paintings, the walls have many small holes and cavities. Are there any special meanings?

Qu Weiwei

The perfection in imperfection. I once retreated into my shell when on the rebound. But when depicting these cavities and holes, I felt a sense of relief. I learned to accept my true feelings that I used to be afraid of facing, and came to live and play with those imperfections. This change of mindset made imperfections so powerful that I grew fond of tragedy, which gave me as much pain as profound aesthetic insights.

Lydia Duanmu

Although all the figures you paint are children, the content varies greatly. Do they tell different stories or express different moods?

Qu Weiwei

This is perhaps a psychological problem. “The child is father of the man.” I think children as the subject suit me better. Each of my painting stages is dominated by a theme decided by my feelings at that time. Feelings shape moods, and then images on the paper. For instance, once I was a fan of Tarot cards, so a series of my paintings were themed on card playing, giving you a sense of uncertainty and expectations about the future. After divorce, I moved to this studio, feeling sad and shutting myself away from the outside world. That’s how The Fugitive Poker Soldier came into being. In the painting, the girl stands helplessly in an enclosed space. The poker soldier has fled through the hole in the wall, with her “heart” left behind from her split body. However, now when I look at the painting, I see the hole as a way out instead of a scar. There must be a way out for everything. Wounds heal, only with time.

Lydia Duanmu

Your paintings give some people a sense of melancholy. Do you think it is a good thing?

Qu Weiwei

For an artist, it is always good to send tingles down your spine, because it offers a taste of the real life and inexhaustible source of inspirations. It is a godsend. For me, art is about recording life, nostalgia for childhood, emotional injuries in adult life, as well as uncertainties and expectations about the future. I present life as it is. We savor what life has to offer through various experiences. Too many of us only show others the best of ourselves instead of facing failure, loneliness and anger boldly. Actually, the perfection of life lies in the complete gamut of experiences, and it would be a pity to miss some of them.

Lydia Duanmu

What’s your artistic philosophy?

Qu Weiwei

I have never thought about it, nor been bothered by it. I remain true to myself and present a true picture of life with my brush. It is not hard for me, because I can’t do otherwise.

We viewed Qu’s paintings once again. With delicate artistry, she applies colors repeatedly and sometimes even to the back of the paper, which gives her works a rich and clear texture. There is a stark contrast between her romantic gentle hues and the mood of the figures portrayed. I think this, however, is about tolerance, tolerance to what is going on against a broader background, and finally a sense of joy that follows what you have been through. The composition is also fascinating, even evocative of Pop Art: big children, small toys, holes in the wall, and tufts of grass… You can feel the tension and interaction between them, and a sense of puniness behind mightiness.

 

After the interview on that Sunday, I walked down the street, with an unprecedented sense of sobriety and connection. It was the power of art, collective communication in silence, and solace of greater sublime. My thanks go to Qu Weiwei.

 

Lydia Duanmu

CHINESE/ Lydia Duanmu

曲薇薇采访

孤独不是伤感,是一种非凡的专注,是一种被值得看到和关注的东西,孤独是一种语言,是可以集体交流的,因为这种感受,存在所有人的心里。

在采访曲薇薇之前,我看着她的作品,突然的心灵深处的链接,一种儿时孤独的无奈,在群体中的孤立感,一直猛烈的钻到我的心里,我感到了一种真实的痛。来自她的真实的痛。

冬日,曲薇薇顺义的工作室里,阳光暖暖的撒遍了半个工作室,好闻的茶香和炉子上热气腾腾的水汽,我感觉能触摸到一种不屑孤独,倔强而又清高的气息,北京今年冬天的天空好于往年,很美。

Lydia Duanmu

你的色彩很美,有很棒的中国传统水墨的功底,可是你的画面内容有很当代的气息,就像一位受过良好教育的法国古典美人穿着最时尚的衣服在塞纳河边懒洋洋叼着一根烟,冷淡的面容。。。谈谈是这种选择走向了你,还是你走向的它。

曲薇薇

我是在中央美院接受的水墨教育,主要学习中国传统绘画,研究生刚毕业,大量的接触到西方的当代艺术,从视觉到观念上对我有了巨大的冲击,这两种文化的冲突导致了我那一两年内停止了水墨画,如何将水墨语言具有当代性,迫使我在一直思考这个问题。期间我尝试用水彩将某些观念性的东西记录下来,当画面呈现,我似乎找到了某种水墨语言的出路,材料成为媒介,内容的真实才最为重要,驾驭内心才能驾驭画面,当然,我也非常庆幸曾受过传统绘画的训练。所以今天我的画面风格,是一个集体吸引。各种我生命中最独特的元素相互的感召。他们自己走向了我。

Lydia Duanmu

谈谈你自己,你的作品里多少有一些孤独感,这和你的经历有关系吗?

曲薇薇

是的,我想人类和动物的最大差别是具有细腻的情感。爱情的失意曾给我带来了很大的创伤,一段长达十几年刻骨铭心的爱情和婚姻的结束,使我不断的自我剥离,我的存在究竟具有何种意义?在绘画中,我是画面的影子,画面是我寻找自我的出口。现在我有一个四岁的女儿,非常可爱,我没有一直待在她身边,我和她的爱的连接被残酷的现实生活割断,成为内心当中挥之不去的影子,所以在画面里,你会发现一个可爱又倔强的小女孩形象,那是对她的爱和思念。而这些复杂的情感,才是人性的共通之处,所以在我的画里,或许你会发现曾经有过某种共同的体验。

Lydia Duanmu

你看,上帝总是公平的,尤其是对艺术家来说,深刻的人生体验是多大的礼物啊,但是遗憾的这个礼物你需要付出代价。不可能白来。

曲薇薇

当然,我现在的生活并不稳定,但如果让我和另一种安逸的生活却不能继续绘画,当中选择其一的话,我还是会选择前者,或许在绘画中我得到更多的是自我满足感吧。

Lydia Duanmu

估计是因为你有一颗孤独的灵魂(我们大笑)。。。

薇薇,最为一名职业画家,你的拍卖纪录近几年也是一路上升,你有没有和你的藏家沟通他们为什么喜欢你的作品?

曲薇薇

其实我画画十几年了,每个时期的风格都有不同的变化。比如一个藏家买了一幅站在墙角穿超人衣服的小男孩的作品,他说简直太像他小时候了,这幅画给他的连接就是对童年的回忆。

Lydia Duanmu

噢。我在画册里看到了那幅画,地上有一摊水时怎么回事儿?是太激动尿裤了吗?

曲薇薇

哈哈,当然不是,是好奇心!小时候下完雨之后地上总会有很多水洼,大人总是不让你踩,怕湿了鞋子,我越是爱磨磨蹭蹭,踩的水花四溅,就是人对自然的好奇。

Lydia Duanmu

我小时候,白天有太多好玩儿的事情要干了,登树爬墙,野地里疯跑,上房檐把人家烟囱堵上,那时的孩子们太自由了。你有一批作品都是对童年的回忆的,对吗?

曲薇薇

是的,对童年和旧时光的怀念,是经典的话题,最近很卖座的几部电影,大都围绕这个主题。童年的记忆都是美好的,我从小喜欢爬树,去河里捞鱼,没有什么玩具,自己叠的纸牌,捏泥巴啊能玩很长时间。还有集体记忆,那个年代大家都是集体娱乐,与邻居、小朋友啊,不需要约啊,到处都是玩伴。现在的孩子们就很少有这种集体记忆,玩具多了,反而更孤独了。人们对未来的担忧和对过去时光的留恋,是个跨世纪的共同话题,我的收藏家有很多也是来自使馆和外国朋友。所以我的作品是在连接有共同经历和情怀的人,很容易理解。

Lydia Duanmu

在你的画面里,有很多墙角的小洞和墙面的缺口,这有什么特别寓意吗?

曲薇薇

不完美中的完美吧。从早期的感情伤害中,我变的一度封闭了自己,当我把这个墙角的小缺口画上去后,我觉得有一种被释放的感觉,我以前太不敢面对这些真实的情绪了,后来我发现,你去接受和拥抱这种不完美,和它做游戏,换一种心态时,这种不完美变的如此有力量,这就是为什么我喜欢悲剧的原因,它带给你痛点。让你有更深更美层面的思考。

Lydia Duanmu

你画面里的内容变化很大,而且人物形象都是小孩子,是代表不同的故事吗?还是人的不同的情绪?

曲薇薇

这可能是一个心理学问题,小孩子也是成人的代表,我只是觉得这个形象更适合我。我的每一个阶段的主题都是由当下心理的感受引导的,心理感受带动我的情绪,画面自然就形成了。比如有一段时间我玩塔罗牌,我就画了一组玩牌的画,从画面里你能感受到对未来的不确定和期待。我离婚后刚搬到这个小工作室的时候,很沮丧,很封闭。就画了这一幅“逃走的扑克兵’,画面里一个小女孩无奈的站在一个封闭的空间,墙角有个小洞,扑克兵从小洞逃走了,纸牌上的红桃心留下来了,因为她已经破碎。。。。但是现在再来看这幅画,那个墙角的小洞不是一个伤痕,反而像一个出口,你看,万事都有出口,都可以疗愈,只是需要时间而已。

Lydia Duanmu

有一些人看了你的画会觉得有点伤感,这对你来说是个积极的信号吗?

曲薇薇

对艺术家来说,所有能敲打到你骨髓的东西都是好的,积极的。因为它带给你真实活着的感觉,带给你无限的创作灵感,这是上帝特别的礼物。我的艺术就是在记录生活,对童年美好的回忆,成年以后感情的创伤,对未来的不确定和期待。。。这就是生活的原貌,所有人都在各种经历中经历着生活,太多的人不愿意面对失败,孤独,愤怒,他们只想展示给别人最完美的一面,生命的完美是一个全面的组合,错过了这些体会,人生才是遗憾了。

Lydia Duanmu

你的艺术信仰是什么?

曲薇薇

我没有思考过这个问题,因为没有被其困扰。我就是真实的活着,真实的用画笔记录着我活着,这个对我来说不难,因为我不知道怎么做不真实的自我。

我们又再一次参观了曲薇薇的作品,她的用色非常讲究,一种颜色的多次渲染,有的还需要从反正两面画,使颜色相当的饱和透亮,而所有画面的颜色是很浪漫柔美的,和画面中的人物情绪有强烈的对比,但我觉得是一种包容,一种更大空间里对当下发生事件的包容,最终是一种经历过后的喜悦。画面的构图也很有趣,你甚至可以看到一些波普艺术的影子,大大的小孩和一些小玩具,墙角的小洞,几颗小草,他们之间心灵力量的交换和对抗,一种强大背后的弱小。

结束参访,当我再一次回到周日的大街上时,我感到了一种前所未有的拥挤中的清醒和连接,这就是艺术的魅力,沉默的集体交流,一种更高境界的精神慰籍。感谢曲薇薇。

Lydia Duanmu 01/19/2018 于北京