The objective of Qiheng Liu’s work is to try to understand different elements of painting and to explore the relationship between them, thereby achieving self-expression. His artistic creation originates from the unfamiliar experiences that various surroundings have brought him. Those experiences forced him to focus his attention on himself—gradually, he came to realize the existence of the “self.” His concept of “self” was established step-by-step and became the foundation of his creation. Thereafter, within the process of uninterrupted daily practice, he developed a space in his work, a stage that could embrace any element or any character. He has always been interested in how the elements incorporated into his work compete, interact, and compromise with each other. He believes that painting is a game, just like other games. Each element brings a relevant discipline when incorporated into a work, and those different disciplines were often the genesis of the “game.” However, the future of each element of his work is determined by the “self.”
AMM: Why painting? What makes you choose painting to be your vehicle?
Qiheng Liu: I have been enthusiastic about painting since I was little. My parents always supported me and tried their best to create study opportunities for me. I met my first influential teacher when I was 16, in high school. He graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art, which is the top-level art college in China. He believed that I am a talented person and helped me a lot in terms of establishing the foundation of painting. He introduced me to a series of old masters: Rembrandt, Hans Holbein, Anthony van Dyck, etc. I never imagined painting could be so powerful until I saw their work. I knew then that I would like to be an artist.
After I entered my art college, I tried different mediums, but I realized that painting has always been the most available vehicle for me. Some people were often anxious about the convention of painting history. They believed that, as painting has existed for thousands of years, it has been explored and created by generations and generations; thus, you will not get rid of the convention or history behind it no matter what techniques you use or what painting language you choose. In my point of view, I think all existing conventions, concepts, and technical skills are valuable. I hope I could embrace them, grasp them, and attempt to use them in my compositions.
AMM: What is painting to you?
QL: Today, it’s difficult to define any form of art, including painting—trying to push the boundary and expand the definition of each art form became one of the major jobs of artists. For me, painting is more than a tool of expression. It is independent.
AMM: Throughout these years, you’ve been to many places. You are from Inner Mongolia, you did your education in Glasgow and London, now you are living in Portland. How do these experiences relate to your work?
QL: To be able to travel around is a big bonus for my career, because I could always have new experiences while I am traveling. My works, in a way, depend on unfamiliar experiences, including the beginning of my artistic creation. Those experiences forced me to put my attention on myself, gradually, I realized the existence of “self.” The concept of “self” became the foundation of my work since then.
AMM: Tell me about your self-portraiture.
QL: Self-portrait has always been a crucial subject of my work, because it is the most available subject to me, especially when I entered a new environment. Self-portrait is a media that could express the unique existence of artists and is an appropriate vehicle that could carry their personal style and subjective spiritual elements. The special quality of self-portrait led to it not relating to any person except the artist, and guaranteed its extremely pure character. In other words, self-portrait in a way is the most direct and efficient method to express the self and to reach the self. The nature of self-portrait is a process of self-analysis and is a form that artists only use for themselves. Hence, I believe it is important to focus on self-portrait in order to understand self-expression.
AMM: Do you think it’s important for someone who wants to be an artist to have a grasp of technical skills?
QL: It really depends on what type art you are interested in. For me, it’s important to grasp technical skills because of their supportive function to my work. In addition, I am big fan of technique from old masters. I place a lot of importance on the process of making a painting, because I hope to achieve a certain quality in it.
AMM: What do you think the connection is between art works and their audiences?
QL: I think artists offer opportunities to think and feel rather than provide answers to the audience.
Qiheng Liu is an artist from a small town in the north of China. Born in 1990 and his parents’ only child, Mr. Liu described his childhood as “happy and healthy,” with parents who “didn’t spoil him” but did their best to create a positive environment for him to live and study in. His proficiency in painting and drawing earned Mr. Liu admission into the best high school in his home area, where he enrolled as an art student. Mr. Liu characterized his high school days as a transformative, if challenging time for him, as he had to reconcile his intensive art studies with an academic system that judged students exclusively by their scores in standardized testing. Undaunted, he forged ahead and “tried his best to improve himself.”
Mr. Liu considers himself a “person who really cannot become used to a new environment very quickly,” but still left China to live in Glasgow, Scotland in 2009. He said that everything in Glasgow was “completely strange to him, even the sunlight” and that he was “absolutely lost.” Through this experience, he started to become aware of “the existence of self” and “focused on it gradually.” Since then, he said, “everything around him became fascinating” and it represented “a brand-new start of artistic creation for him.”
If interested in Qiheng Liu artwork please contact: Reiss@ArtsManagementMagazine.com