Echoes: An exhibition of work by Qu Leilei

28th January – 9th March 2019

Academic Advisor – Dr. Wang Chunchen Artistic Director – Calvin Hui
Echoes Qu Leilei
Qu Leilei, Figure 5. Night Light, ink on paper, 170 x 92 cm, 2018

3812 Gallery is delighted to present Echoes, an exhibition of new and recent works by UKbased Chinese contemporary ink artist, Qu Leilei. Inspired by, yet simultaneously breaking with traditional Chinese ink painting, Qu creates starkly realistic works and intimate portraits. His paintings, executed in ink and water, demonstrate mastery in brush control and handling of monochromatic pigments. The result can be intensely photographic.

Calvin Hui, co-founder of 3812 Gallery says: “Echoes offers the perfect opportunity to view the intriguing ink medium via the work of an established master. Qu’s remarkable blending of Chinese aesthetics with Western artistic traditions encapsulates the experience that 3812 brings to our new London gallery.”

Traditionally, using shuimo (ink and water) to paint a subject has never simply been about reproducing it, but about capturing its spirit. Portraying soul and emotion are of more value than copying reality. The works exhibited in Echoes tap into this artistic tradition.

Qu also employs a keen understanding of the human form. He blends Chinese principles with Western aesthetic conventions, which value naturalistic form and authenticity in artistic representation. In Figure 5. Night Light, Qu uses varying ink intensity to achieve extraordinary tonal variations across his subjects’ skin. Educated from a young age in painting and calligraphy, Qu later studied human anatomy at Beijing Medical University, an experience which has educated his understanding of the complex form of the human body. Although traditional Chinese painting does not depict light, Qu is accomplished in this area. Light and shade are dexterously handled across the human form in Figure 5. Night Light; dramatic chiaroscuro heightening the figure, making it palpably real.

Working across these traditions, Qu’s work stands in the unique position of viewing these cultural and aesthetic traditions objectively, engaging with them lithely. This is why, for celebrated art historian Rose Kerr, Qu Leilei’s work represents a successful fusion between the painting of East and West: “some ink painters have chosen to push boundaries by making traditional styles more abstract or ornamented. By contrast Leilei has sought to blend descriptive, realistic styles of the European Renaissance with Chinese ink painting”.

The title for the exhibition can be read as a reference to Qu’s adroit depiction of the human spirit in all its tangible detail. Of Echoes, Qu Leilei says: “From form, sound, soul, human nature to time, art itself is the echo of life”. His work adheres to ink painting traditions but also to Western artistic principles of capturing reality. These cultures reverberate throughout his work. Nowhere is this more evident than in his images of hands in Determination & Responsibility. The gentle opacity of the ink mimics the crevices of skin but these clasped hands – symbols of friendship and care – also capture the spirit of human connection throughout time.

As a Chinese artist living and working in the UK, Qu Leilei’s reinvigorated traditionalism is intimate yet subtle, and each piece speaks with overwhelming emotional power.

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