Two Poems by Su Shi
ink on paper, two hanging scrolls
marked with seven seals of the artist
Qiu Zhijie is one of China’s foremost conceptual artists whose works encompass printmaking, photography, video, calligraphy, installation and performance. The present lot features two poems written by the noted Song dynasty poet, calligrapher and statesman Su Shi. Each poem refers to Su’s deep interest in Chan Buddhism and subtly alludes to discontent with the state of current politics. Qiu’s decision to copy Su Shi’s writing is a conscious effort to bring the words of a respected public official into the socio-political context of the present day. What is most unusual about this calligraphic homage is that Qiu has written the text in backwards stroke order from left to right, and in reverse character order from bottom to top. The resulting hanging scroll is meant to be a record of this action of subversion and not merely a conceit for aesthetic purposes. By subverting the convention of calligraphy, Qiu defines a relationship between technique and its ideology, which causes the viewer to question the past in current visual culture. Similar calligraphic works created by Qiu Zhijie are featured in a video executed in 1999 which records the artist writing famous poems backwards and is then played in reverse so that it seems the artist’s hand is un-writing the text. (See Ten Tang Poems
which sold in the Experimentation and Evolution sale of the Ullens Collection at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 2nd October 2011, lot 146.)
Trained as a calligrapher and a graduate of the printmaking department at The National Academy of Fine art, Hangzhou, Qiu’s work relates to the legacy of ancient Chinese art yet consistently provokes the contemporary viewer to reconsider its roots. His additional roles as curator, critic, and professor distinguish his total art practice. He can be best described as a cultural archaeologist who thoughtfully presents the historical past in an effort to better understand the future. His various conceptual works have been featured in over a hundred institutions and exhibitions around the world, including the 53rd Venice Biennale; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan; J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Valencia Institute of Modern Art, Valencia; Norwegian National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo; Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.