Qiu Shihua - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Beijing

  • Catalogue Essay

    Qiu Zhijie is one of the most prolific and interdisciplinary avant-garde artists today. He works in conceptual calligraphy, photography, video, performance, and installation, and is also an immensely influential curator and critic. His calligraphic works remain the most inventive and lyrical works of that medium in contemporary Chinese art. In his celebrated work, Copying the Orchid Pavilion Preface a Thousand Times, Qiu took the classic calligraphy text by China’s most famous calligrapher, Wang Xizhi (303 – 361 A.D.) as his theme. Qiu wrote this classic calligraphy text by a thousand times on a single sheet of paper from 1986 to 1997, producing an opaque black surface that formed an unprecedented work of cultural commentary. This monumental work was exhibited at the groundbreaking show, “Inside Out: New Chinese Art” in New York and San Francisco in 1998 and 1999. “Ten Tang Poems,” another seminal work, is a video of Qiu writing ten Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) poems played backward so that the artist appears to be erasing the poems with his brush. It should be noted that Qiu’s work is not primarily iconoclastic, but rather comments on the concept- rather than content-driven nature of contemporary art.

    In Heart Sutra, produced in 2001, Qiu employs his concept from Orchid Pavilion to illustrate one of the most famous sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. Originally composed in Sanskrit around 100 B.C., the Heart Sutra developed into an integral part of East Asian Zen Buddhism and has served as a source of inspiration for numerous contemporary artists such as Allen Ginsburg. In the sutra, Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, declares that human existence only comprises form, feeling, volitions, perceptions, and consciousness. Qiu writes the sutra a hundred times on this sheet of paper; in the sutra’s first rendering the entire text is visible; by its end it is a dense accumulation of ink that we can only identify through prior knowledge. Through this immense act of patience and artistic devotion, the artist uses calligraphic practice to illustrate the principles of endurance and selflessness at the sutra’s core.


Heart Sutra

Calligraphy Scroll with ink on paper and silk border.
7 1/8 x 30 1/4 in. (18.1 x 76.8 cm).
Signed "100 Heart Sutras Qiu Zhijie, Beijing, 2000 Spring [in Chinese]" lower left.

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £15,600

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm