Hu Qingyan
"Eternal Glory"

February 7 - April 12, 2015
Opening: Saturday, February 7, 2015; 4 - 7pm

Hu Qingyan

The People, 2014
steel tube, air, 330 pcs,
sizes vary from 6 x 35 x 8 cm to 10 x 60 x 35 cm


2015 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce the opening of Eternal Glory, Hu Qingyan’s second exhibition at our gallery in Beijing, and the first comprehensive presentation of his unique sculptural oeuvre. Hu Qingyan’s approach to sculpture has become more and more conceptual since his graduation in 2010 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. His teachers were focused on the search for the perfect form, but Hu Qingyan has long moved beyond that. His ideas on representation and space are based on an expanded definition of the medium of sculpture, and he challenges his viewers with his autonomous concepts.

The relationship between an original and its copy is one of the fields Hu Qingyan explores in his work. Here, Narrative by a Pile of Clay 81-120 (2012-2013, c-prints, set of 40 photos, each 20 x 30 cm) and Firewood are exemplary. Narrative by a Pile of Clay is an ongoing series of photographs. Each year, over a fixed period of time, Hu Qingyan sculpts objects from his daily surroundings out of a given amount of clay. Once an object is finished, the artist uses the same clay to sculpt another one out of it. The title of the exhibition, Eternal Glory, alludes to a similar idea about repeated reoccurrences, and being reborn in different forms. The series Narrative by a Pile of Clay is presented in forty photographs depicting the original object next to the different stages of its clay copy. Although sculptures are usually static objects, this sculptural work manifests the process of sculpting, and borders on performance. Hu Qingyan has a strong interest in intermediality, and combines the medium of sculpture with others, such as photography, performance, video, or painting.

Firewood (2012, camphorwood, 200 x 200 x 200 cm [8 m³]) is also the result of an extremely labor-intensive work process. Hu Qingyan carved thousands of logs out of camphorwood and piled them into a six-foot stack. The logs look like firewood, but because of their color and markings, the viewer realizes that they are handmade. According to Hu Qingyan, the finished pile is both an artwork and a cord of firewood, and this ambiguous, shifting context is what interests him. Black and Yellow Cloth (2014, acrylic on canvas, 3 rolls, each roll 115 x 3000 cm) is also a copy of an everyday object, but here, the artist is also interested in the relationship between painting and sculpture, as well as in using a roll of canvas in new ways by painting on both sides of it. Most of this laborious work is not visible, because the cloth is presented rolled up. The same is true of Firewood: only the logs on the outside of the stack are visible. Another work that exhibits an original use of canvas is From the Studio to the Gallery (2014, video on canvas, 135 x 240 cm (canvas size),62’5’’(screening length)). A video is projected on a blank canvas; it shows the same blank canvas being carried from Hu Qingyan’s studio in Heiqiao to Galerie Urs Meile in Caochangdi. The swaying, the shadows on its surface, and the noise create a “landscape,” which is in turn projected onto the canvas.

Aside from his works dealing with the idea of copies and the replication of everyday objects, Hu Qingyan is also interested in the opposite approach: representing objects and people in sculpture without shaping their original appearance. “Making an object that is, in some ways, very distant from its original, actual form, while at the same time very closely resembling it, is for me, much more interesting than making a figurative sculpture in the perfect form.” This becomes evident in works like One Breath - The Portrait of the Wife (2015, marble, 15 x 25 x 23 cm) and The People. One Breath is a series of portraits that are not actual likenesses of the people portrayed. Instead, it makes it possible to see the amount of breath each person can hold. Hu Qingyan asks the people he is depicting to exhale once into a plastic bag. He then translates the bag into a marble sculpture. Each one of The People (2014, scrap steel tubes, air, 330 pcs, sizes vary from (H) 6 x 35 x 8 cm to 10 x 60 x 35 cm) also contains a small amount of air. Hu Qingyan cut used iron tubing into sections, squashed the ends of the pieces, and then welded them together to make them airtight. Although their shapes and colors vary, they are not inherently different, just like an individual in society or a soldier in formation. From a broader perspective, the individual exists only as an abstract idea. Hu Qingyan has the visitors look down upon and walk over the “stifled breaths”: “We sympathize with this dependency: even though we are allowed to trample over them, are we not actually Page 2/2 in the same situation? And so, while looking at them, we are also looking at ourselves.”

The portrait of Hu Qingyan’s teacher, Dong Zengshan, is titled Memory (2012, two bluestones, sizes: 50 x 210 x 83 cm, 49 x 210 x 83 cm; two railway sleepers, each 22 x 16 x 109 cm). At first glance, the halved block of bluestone seems a little more traditional, as a figure resembling the late teacher was cut out of each half. But the artist understands the inverted statue as a trace of what his teacher left behind; it serves as a container for all the memories of him. As the title suggests, The Empty Room (on display: No. 3, 2014, square steel tube, air, 491 x 200 x 157 cm; No. 4, 2014, square steel tube, air, longest axis 205 cm; No. 5, 2014, square steel tube, air, 15 x 430 x 191 cm) also deals with the empty space inside a space-filling sculpture. Square-shaped steel tubes were randomly cut and then welded together to form a coiled pipeline. The two ends were connected, becoming a closed circuit. To draw attention to the interior, rather than to the exterior, Hu Qingyan had an assistant randomly create the form, so that he exercised no influence over the general shape of the work.

Hu Qingyan experiments with form, medium and representation but at the same time his works are symbolically charged beyond their concept and production process. Mountain of Gold No.2 (2014, gold paper, (H) 100 x Ø 230 cm) reminds one at first glance of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s piles of candy. But unlike Gonzalez-Torres’s series, the small paper shapes are not gifts for the visitor, but just the opposite; they are commonly used as an offering. Hu Qingyan folded golden paper in the same way that money is folded when it is burned for the dead. This ritual is performed with the idea that the deceased can use the money in afterlife. Hence, the fake, symbolic money, which is not used in strict accordance with the ritual, is an illusion emblematic of wrong goals and the fictitiousness of currency. The forms used for Fruitless Trees (2014, cast bronze, 29 pcs, sizes vary from 11 x 21 x 10 cm to 45.5 x 92 x 56 cm) only accidently resemble trees. At a metal foundry, the shapes were cut out of the channels through which molten metal flows into sculpture molds. Because the forms that the copper would flow through are cut off, Hu Qingyan calls these “trees” fruitless.

Hu Qingyan was born in 1982 in Weifang, Shandong Province, China and studied sculpture at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in Guangzhou and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He lives and works in Beijing and Jinan. A selection of his most recent exhibitions includes: 28 Chinese, Rubell Family Collection/ Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, USA; Datong International Sculpture Biennale, Datong, China; 中 (Middle), Not Vital Foundation, Ardez, Switzerland; Building Bridges – Zeitgenössische Kunst aus China, Wolfsberg, Ermatingen, Switzerland; Starting – Youth Artists Introducing Plan by China Sculpture Institute, Today Art Museum/China Sculpture Institute, Beijing, China.




Ai Weiwei, Hu Qingyan, Li Zhanyang, Liu Ding, Not Vital

March 3 - May 9, 2015

Hu Qingyan

Cloud, 2012
45 x 96 x 55 cm


2015 (english)

With the group exhibition Mármakos (the Greek word for “marble”) Galerie Urs Meile is showing a diverse selection of marble sculptures by Ai Weiwei, Hu Qingyan, Li Zhanyang, Liu Ding, and Not Vital. Marble has been a popular material for sculptures since the beginning of time in both Western and Chinese culture. In China marble from Dali is especially favored. Dali marble is known for its great variety and its natural striations of black and white. Often it is cut into slices and polished, and the various natural patterns seem to resemble mountains or rivers, a popular motive of Shanshui painting. Not Vital’s (*1948 in Sent, Engadin, Switzerland) works ((Landscape, 2014, marble, plaster, 126 × 65 × 22 cm; untitled, 2011, marble, plaster, 51 × 36.5 × 23 cm; Mountains, 2013, marble, plaster, 76 × 45 × 20 cm; Mountains, 2013, marble, plaster, 45.5 × 64.5 × 20.5 cm) are inspired by this tradition. Vital selected a slab of marble and set it in a three-dimensional plaster frame. The reliefs mounted on the wall are reminiscent of inverted windows in historic Engadin houses. Combining local materials with references to his home territory in Engadin, Switzerland, is a typical approach for Not Vital, who also has a studio in Beijing and spends time working there.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (*1957 in Beijing, China) likes to sculpt everyday objects out of marble, contrasting and ennobling the ordinary object by using the precious material (Marble Plate No. 4, 2009, marble, 28 × 50 × 28 cm). Ai Weiwei’s Marble Tree (2012, marble, 205 x 87 x 90 cm) is much more abstract than the sculptures of trees he has made out of wood or iron. But, as we can see with Ai Weiwei’s Marble Chair (No.5) (2008, marble, 125 × 52 × 50 cm), it is possible to produce very detailed work in marble. The realistic Marble Rebar (2012, marble, 11 × 57 × 20 cm) is a critical monument commemorating the Sichuan school corruption scandal. Because they were unprofessionally constructed, many school buildings collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and five thousand students died.

Li Zhanyang’s (*1976 in Changchun, Jilin province, China) 80’0000 RMB (2010, marble, 40 x 55 x 35, cm, edition 2/8), on the other hand, is a personal memorial. Once 80’000 RMB in cash were stolen out of Li Zhanyang’s cabinet. After a lengthy and unpleasant investigation by the police, the money suddenly reappeared in the same place and the same position. Li Zhanyang credited this miracle to a Christian policeman helping with the case and and the incident is recalled in the marble sculpture of a stack of money.

The human body is a more traditional subject for marble, but, as the title suggests, Li Zhanyang chose a very unconventional part for his work, Marble Ass (2004, marble, 14 x 38 x 28 cm, edition 2/4). In contrast, Liu Ding’s (*1976 in Changzhou Jiangsu Province, China) Hero (2007, white marble, black marble [sculpture on base], 210 cm, ø 30 cm, edition 3/8) is at first glance an idealized and traditional marble sculpture. Liu Ding applied the rules of the Russian revolutionary sculpting tradition—which remains the primary style Chinese students study in art academies to this day—to the portrait of an anonymous person. For example, he enlarged the head 1.5 times, made it face the right at an angle of 45 degrees, and highlighted every facial feature. Furthermore he placed this “hero” bust outdoors for a period of time until it was covered with bird droppings and dust, thus giving the classic work a defiant and ironic twist.

Hu Qingyan (*1982 in Weifang, Shandong province, China) studied sculpture with the same traditional approach, but has since developed his own conceptual idea of sculpture. Inspired by a dream in which he was flying through the sky, Hu Qingyan realized a self-portrait as a Cloud (2012, marble, 45 x 96 x 55 cm), because he wanted to make a sculpture that deals with the relationship between the image, mass, and the sculpture itself. The marble cloud with a matte finish has exactly the same amount of volume as the artist. Related to this idea is the work One Breath – Karin (2011, marble, 27 x 23 x 16 cm). One Breath is a series of portraits showing the lung capacity of the person portrayed. The works make it possible to visualize the amount of breath each person can hold. Hu Qingyan asks the people he is depicting to exhale once into a plastic bag. He then translates the bag into a marble sculpture.


2015 (deutsch)

Galerie Urs Meile Luzern zeigt mit der Gruppenausstellung Mármakos (griechisch: Marmor) eine divergente Auswahl von Marmorskulpturen von Ai Weiwei, Hu Qingyan, Li Zhanyang, Liu Ding und Not Vital. In der westlichen wie in der chinesischen Kultur ist Marmor seit jeher ein beliebter Werkstoff der Bildhauerei. Der Marmor aus Hebei und Dali ist in China besonders begehrt. Dali-Marmor ist aufgrund seiner grossen Vielfalt und seiner ausgeprägten Maserung gefragt und wird häufig in Platten geschnitten und gerahmt, so dass die natürlichen Muster an Berge oder Flüsse wie sie aus der Shanshui Malerei bekannt sind, erinnern. Not Vitals Arbeiten (Landscape, 2014, Marmor, Gips, 126 × 65 × 22 cm; untitled, 2011, Marmor, Gips, 51 × 36.5 × 23 cm; Mountains, 2013, Marmor, Gips, 76 × 45 × 20 cm; Mountains, 2013, Marmor, Gips, 45.5 × 64.5 × 20.5 cm) wurden von dieser Tradition inspiriert. Not Vital wählte Marmorplatten aus und fasste sie mit einem dreidimensionalen Rahmen aus Gips ein. Die skulpturalen Reliefs, die sich verjüngend aus der Wand heraus ragen, an umgekehrte Fenster eines alten Engadiner Hauses. Das ist ein typische Vorgehen für Not Vital, der auch ein Studio in Bejing hat und dort zeitweise lebt, lokale Materialien mit Referenzen aus seiner Heimat Engadin zu verbinden.

Der chinesische Künstler Ai Weiwei fertigt häufig Alltagsgegenstände aus Marmor. Er kontrastiert und adelt die gewöhnlichen Objekte zugleich durch die Umsetzung in dem wertvollen Material (Marble Plate (No. 4), 2009, Marmor, 28 × 50 × 28 cm). Ai Weiweis Marble Tree (2012, Marmor, 205 × 87 × 90 cm) ist viel abstrakter als seine anderen Baumskulpturen aus Holz oder Eisen. Wie man an Ai Weiweis Marble Chair (No.5) (2008, marble, 125 × 52 × 50 cm) sehen kann, ist es möglich, naturalistisch und detailliert mit Marmor zu arbeiten. Beide Werke von Ai Weiwei wurden aus einem einzigen Marmorblock gefertigt, was neben grossem Geschick auch extreme Vorsicht erfordert. Die bis ins Detail ausgearbeitete Marble Rebar (2012, Marmor, 11 × 57 × 20 cm) ist ein kritisches Monument, das an den Sichuan School Corruption Scandal erinnert. Durch ihre unsachgemässe Bauweise waren während des Erdbebens in Sichuan 2008 ungewöhnlich viele Schulen eingestürzt und 5000 Schüler umgekommen.

Li Zhanyangs Arbeit 80’0000 RMB (2010, Marmor, 40 × 55 × 35, cm, Edition 2/8) ist hingegen ein eher persönliches Denkmal. Li Zhanyang wurde einmal Bargeld in Höhe von 80’000 RMB aus seinem Schrank gestohlen. Nach einer langen und für alle Beteiligten unangenehmen Ermittlung im Umfeld des Künstlers tauchte das Geld plötzlich wieder an der Stelle auf, an der es verschwunden war. Li Zhanyang schrieb das Wunder einem christlichen Polizisten zu, der bei den Ermittlungen geholfen hatte, und erinnert daran mit seiner Marmorskulptur eines vergrösserten Geldbündels von 80’000 RMB.

Der menschliche Körper ist sicherlich das traditionellste und häufigste Motiv von Marmorskulpturen. Li Zhanyang wählte für seine Arbeit Marble Ass (2004, Marmor, 14 × 38 × 28 cm, Edition 2/4), wie der Titel nahelegt, ein selten allein porträtiertes Körperteil. Im Gegensatz dazu ist Liu Dings Hero (2007, weisser Marmor, schwarzer Marmor, 210 cm, ø 30 cm, Edition 3/8) eine auf den ersten Blick klassische, idealisierte Marmorskulptur, die streng in der Tradition des Russischen Realismus umgesetzt wurde. Liu Ding wandte die Regeln des bis heute vorherrschenden Stils an Chinesischen Kunsthochschulen auf das Portrait einer anonymen Person an. Er vergrösserte beispielsweise den Kopf um den Faktor 1.5, liess ihn in einem Winkel von 45 Grad nach rechts schauen und verstärkte alle Gesichtszüge. Weiterhin platzierte er seinen „Helden“ für einige Zeit draussen, so dass dieser durch Vogeldreck und Staub verunreinigt wurde. Dadurch und durch die Überhöhung einer anonymen Person fügte er der vermeintlich klassischen Arbeit eine trotzige und ironische Note hinzu.

Hu Qingyan erhielt ebenfalls einen traditionelle Bildhauerausbildung, hat aber seit dem Studienabschluss seine eigene konzeptuelle Idee von Skulptur entwickelt. Inspiriert von einem Traum, in welchem er durch den Himmel flog, realisierte Hu Qingyan ein Selbstportrait als Wolke (Cloud, 2012, Marmor, 45 × 96 × 55 cm). Er wollte eine Skulptur kreieren, die das Verhältnis von Bild, Masse und Skulptur verdeutlicht. Die matte Marmorwolke hat dasselbe Volumen wie der Künstler. Verwandt mit dieser Idee ist auch die Arbeit One Breath – Karin (2011, Marmor, 27 × 23 × 16 cm). One Breath ist eine Serie von Portraits, die das Lungenvolumen der dargestellten Personen zeigen. Sie machen die Menge an Atem sichtbar, die der Einzelne halten kann. Hu Qingyan bittet seine “Modelle” ein einziges Mal ganz in einen Plastikbeutel auszuatmen. Die mit Luft gefüllte Tüte setzt er dann in Marmor um.