‘We humans depend upon the earth’s existence and continued vitality.’
Born 1972, Chengdu, Sichuan. Lives and works in Shanghai.
Qiu Anxiong spent 12 years working on his New Classic of Mountains and Seas trilogy. During that time, China’s urbanisation and technological transformation picked up ever increasing speed and Qiu’s work reflected tidal waves of social change transforming his city of Shanghai. He was inspired by the Shan Hai Jing, or ‘Classic of Mountains and Seas’, a 2000-year-old text that is part geography, part bestiary and part creation story. Qiu’s series of animations made using thousands of his own ink-wash paintings catalogue all the ills of the modern world. In Part 3 Qiu added 3-D animation technology to his stop-motion animation techniques. The result is a dystopian nightmare. One-eyed creatures become surveillance cameras and people’s faces are creepily covered by octopus tentacles, worn as anti-pollution masks. They run on treadmills powered by dogs, an allegory of the mindless busy-ness and competition of the contemporary world. The ‘mountains and seas’ of the classic text have become concrete, steel and glass. The artist says his work depicts ‘monsters made by humankind; the audience knows what these monsters are, and what these monsters have brought or will bring to us’.Temptation of the Land (2009) adapts the style of Young Companion magazine, published in pre-World War II Shanghai, to comment on China’s rapid transformation since the Maoist revolution. Qiu Anxiong thinks his country is obsessed with the new and the Western, which are widely seen as identical; “creation of the new world is equated to destruction of the old world”, he says. As a result, “modern China faces all manner of crises bereft of traditional roots, especially cultural, spiritual and religious”. His references to classic literature and his use of ink-wash paintings are a gesture of resistance against that trend.