The Chinese Artist Whose Abstract Paintings Depict The Emotions Of The Four Seasons – QU Fengguo
“I think little in my brain but more relate to the color,” QU Fengguo tells me as we chat about his upcoming exhibition, Midsummer, at the Don Gallery West Bund. “For example, when I was doing Autumn, I related it with the natural color in autumn and how I feel it.”
QU Fengguo is an abstract artist in the truest sense of the word. A Liaoning native, he began abstract painting around 1990, after graduating from the Stage Design Department of Shanghai Theatre Academy in 1988. Explaining why he uses oil paint, he says, “It is more stable for me and can express more hierarchy. But sometimes, I do watercolor painting too.”
Talking to him about the latest stage of his practice is illuminating, giving sense and meaning to paintings that demand the viewer to study them intently. He has been working on his Four Seasons series for over 10 years now and it’s interesting to see how the series has developed.
Autumn, Four Seasons 四季 秋, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 120 x 120 cm
Corn Rain, Four Seasons 四季 谷雨, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 80 x 100 cm
Mí Shēng, Four Seasons 四季 弥生, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
Peach Month, Four Seasons 四季 桃月, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 80 x 100 cm
Qing Ming, Four Seasons 四季 清明, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
Severe Cold, Four Seasons 四季 大寒, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 x 220 cm
Spring Commences, Four Seasons 四季 立春, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 80 x 100 cm
Spring, Four Seasons 四季 春, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 120 x 120 cm
Summer, Four Seasons 四季 夏, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 120 x 120 cm
Twelfth Lunar Month, Four Seasons 四季 腊月, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 80 x 100 cm
Winter, Four Seasons 四季 冬, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 120 x 120 cm
“The Seasons series is exploring the matter of time,” he states. “Individuals could have different feelings and memory about different seasons, you can feel the disappearing, extension, and beginning of time from my paintings, like through the use of lines.” QU Fengguo’s use of horizontal lines of color and leveled stripes gives the feeling of temporality, endowing a sense of change and unpredictability.
His past works in this series were an expression of his feelings for a season, “that’s why my paintings look pretty but emotional.” But his recent works in the series, which form the Midsummer exhibition, are more visual in their structure with perpendicular cuttings and diagonal tangents as intersections, extracting the form of time and space being intersected.
“I hope the audiences could find the new change in my work through the interlace and incline of lines,” QU Fengguo says rather sanguine. “I have been through a lot of things in 2016 and 2017, some were intersected, and some were different from before.” It’s clear the emotion is still there, but there’s more depth, a multi-dimensional perception perhaps a reflection of what the artist has been through recently.
Recently QU Fengguo was alongside Damien Hirst as part of a group show at a new gallery in Shanghai called AuraA. “It was so much fun. I created my work when I was in Sweden on my holiday,” he says about the paintings at the show. “Due to the limited conditions, I just created my work on paper stuck on the wall. At that time, the sunshine just fell right on my painting and that was good enough for the season. That’s why I only had summer and winter paintings.”
Summer 四季夏, 2016. Watercolor & crayon on paper 水彩 蜡笔 纸上, 51.5 x 71cm
Winter 四季冬, 2016. Watercolor & crayon on paper 水彩 蜡笔 纸上, 51.5 x 71cm
As we discuss his future beyond the exhibition, QU Fengguo explains, “I hope I could explore more in this Seasons series, like bigger painting with more contents. I hope I could introduce more changes and images in my work. Hope I could make it.”
He also reveals that his family is growing and quite possibly this is influencing his work: “As the ages goes on, my life is more and more interlaced with my family and daughter.” As with any artist their surroundings play a part in how their art develops. As QU Fengguo’s daughter grows up, so his compositions become more dynamic perhaps reflecting these changes in his life.
What is clear is that QU Fengguo has a deep passion for this project. The abstract nature of his work reflects one’s emotions in general. Just as the four seasons affect people’s emotions, so those emotions reflect your life at that time. “People also have the same or different understandings of time in their different periods of time, like about the understanding of spring. But all changes of feelings will go toward one direction throughout that time.” Somehow QU Fengguo finds an abstract way to perfectly explain the arbitrary nature of the four seasons and his paintings.
Midwinter, Four Seasons 四季 隆冬, 2015. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 200 x 300 cm
Spring, Four Seasons 四季 春, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 x 220 cm
Summer, Four Seasons 四季 夏, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 x 220 cm
Autumn, Four Seasons 四季 秋, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
Spring Showers, Four Seasons 四季 雨水, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
Insects Waken, Four Seasons, 四季 惊蛰, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 x 220 cm
Corn Rain, Four Seasons 四季 谷雨, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
Corn on Ear, Four Seasons 四季 芒种, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
End of Heat, Four Seasons 四季 处暑, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 X 220 cm
Severe Cold, Four Seasons 四季 大寒, 2016. Oil on canvas 布面油画, 145 x 220 cm
China Art Museum (Shanghai, 2016)
Ming Contemporary Art Museum (Shanghai, 2013)
CAI-Contemporary Art Institute (Sapporo, 2010)
National Art Museum of China (Beijing, 2008)
Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, 2004)
Vienna Künstlerhaus (Vienna, 2002)
Montclair State University Art Gallery (New Jersey, 2000)
The 3rd Shanghai Biennale (Shanghai, 2000)
Liu Haisu Art Museum (Shanghai, 1997)
Yokohama Museum of Art (Yokohama, 1993)
Selected solo exhibitions
“Mí Shēng” (Don Gallery, Shanghai, 2016)
“Grain Rain” (Line Gallery, Beijing,2015)
“Into the Spring” (Don Gallery, Shanghai, 2013)
“Endless Landscape” (Beijing Art Now Gallery, Beijing, 2007)