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Collect – Art Journal
Issue 1 | June 2017

Cover Story


Collect – Art Journal | June 2017

Miracle, Ink on paper, 145cm x 93cm, 2014(Courtesy of 3812 gallery)

Historic and renowned Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University is going to have a retrospective exhibition of accomplished Chinese artist Qu Leilei to honor his wellestablished visual language and achievements.

Qu Leilei is revered as the master of chiaroscuro, which is a shade and light treatment technique developed during the Renaissance, but Qu applies this method with ink instead of oil, effectively establishing his style that is not only highly technical but also personal and original in that it reflects his identity as a traditionally trained Chinese artist who moved to England to practice art where he explored ways to reconcile Western art with Chinese ink.

Qu Leilei’s photo-realistic paintings of human hands and bodies are the combination of the realist painting technique from the West and “xieyi” from the East, resulting in works that are beyond depiction of the reality. Qu’s expressive portrayal of the subjects is his interpretation of the world, it communicates profound concepts of humanity, history, politics and love, also calling to the power of the universal body language.

The words by Dr. Rose Kerr, who wrote the foreword for this exhibition, fully reflect Qu Leilei’s extraordinary talent:

“As the twentieth century drew to a close Qu Lei Lei started his ‘Facing the New Century’ series, attempting to express universal sentiment with all mankind. He came up with the idea of using simple pictures of the human hand that would transcend class, race and gender. But the paintings were more than straightforward visual images, they represented an urgent proclamation to humankind to confront the opportunities, challenges and crises of the world. Their technique was interesting, because although they appeared realistic in a western style they were in fact painted entirely in Chinese brush-and-ink.”

“Around 2005 Qu set up a new challenge for himself. Still employing the traditional Chinese brush on xuan paper he set out to attain the effects of light, shadow and threedimensional form achieved by European Renaissance painters. The subjects were a series of life-size nudes. The figures were anatomically correct, for Qu had studied anatomy at Beijing medical university. Their appearance was naturalistic, the ink following every contour of the body and gradation of the skin. I think it is true to say that no other ink painter has managed to capture modelling and chiaroscuro with such skill. The pictures are chiefly composed of black, grey and white. In Chinese terms these provide balancing tonalities of yin and yang, in western terms they convey three-dimensionality through light and shade.”

The exhibition runs from 7 November 2017 to 15 April 2018.