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Sheng Qi


Ref. VA561

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Year 2007

Category Painting

Technic Acrylic on canvas

Height x Width (cm) 200 x 300

Signature Signed and dated on back

Geographical zone Europa

Certificate SHENG QI, daté de 2010.

This work is a diptyc of boards 200 cm x 150 cm each one. This work is also listed on Mr. Qi's website: http://www.sheng-qi.com/artwork/97. read more >>

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Born in 1965 in Anhui province China, Sheng Qi set up the first Chinese performance artist group with some fellow students, called Concept 21. Their actions, which are preserved through photographs and film, were carried out in symbolic places such as The Great Wall in 1988 - the year Sheng Qi graduated from the Central Academy of Art and Design in Beijing - when they attached themselves to the middle of a fabric spider's web and tried to perform Tai Chi movements in order to illustrate a feeling of loss of liberty.

On June 4 1989 in Tiananmen Square, when the young peoples' peaceful protest against a regime that meant to control every aspect of daily life, was crushed by violence and bloodshed, Sheng Qi fled. This, combined with a feeling of having been exploited all his life by the official line, left him devastated by guilt, to the point of suffering a moment of madness and cutting off the little finger of his left hand.

Having recovered through the practice of Tai Chi, Sheng Qi was welcomed in Europe as a refugee, first in Italy until 1992, then in Paris and London, where he got a Masters in Fine Art at the Central St Martin's College of Art and Design in 1998. The suffering of his country drove him to return to China but he soon realised that he could only share the ideas and social values that he had acquired in the West with artists living abroad and those born in the 1960s: whilst the latter were, like him, driven by ideals, the generation of the 1980s kept out of politics, aiming for nothing more than comfort acquired through consumption. So much so, that from then on Sheng Qi split his time between China and London.

It was only a decade after the tragedy that he realised that his self-mutilation, the ultimate and unique performance, was part of his identity and that his personal history intersected with Chinese History. So he stopped hiding his left hand and started to take photos of it. He then started to photograph all categories of modern Chinese society, and present these clichés the size of a postage stamp in the hollow of the painful hand. Later he would do paintings and sculptures of it.

Having then created amongst others, Universal Brand Happy Chicken in 1997, a performance denouncing the injustices of globalised consumerism, Sheng Qi endeavoured above all to perpetuate the memory of the events in Tiananmen Square and paint the social portrait of today's China in spite of Government censure.

Alongside paintings inspired by cuttings from magazines and imprinted with melancholy hiding the pain, he also created a series of monumental diptychs History in Black and Red, going back to the spatial symmetry of the official order and the colours typical of traditional painting: the white, grey, black and red of the artist's stamp. But Sheng Qi is also plainly adopting the colours of communism, omnipresent since his childhood, in formats that echo official propaganda posters, like a sign in the face of the impoverished condition of the majority of the population. The drips of paint that he liberally applies are for him symbolic of the sadness still attached to memories, of the blood generated by the violence, and of tears of pain.

He sometimes went further back into his past, recalling tragedies brought about by the Cultural Revolution launched in 1966: Revolution shows a field of skulls dominated by a giant figure of Mao, all smiles. But he feels equally concerned by the political and economic tendencies of the day: in 2002 a series of gilded bronze astronauts brandishing an amputated hand seem to hail China's first attempts to conquer space and its strong Olympic aspirations, given the real political stakes involved in sport, but it is also a satire on the idea of 'National Hero'. More recently, and always with subtlety, Sheng Qi has denounced corruption and the power of money: he presents stars or political figures holding in their hand 'the people's money', banknotes from the RMB Bank, as though they were holding a traditional fan.

Sheng Qi's work is represented in numerous major galleries including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery in Victoria (Australia) and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk (Denmark).

(Martine Heudron)

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Description in 'History in black and red', Redgate Gallery, Beijing (China), 2007. read more >>

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Private collection, Brussels (Belgium) (acquired from the artist). read more >>

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