“In my painting, I am talking to myself in a language of my own.”

Born: Beijing, 1957

Qin Fengling had no formal training in art. But living with an artist—she is married to Wang Luyan—and spending time with his artist friends kindled her interest. Unschooled in conventional techniques, she devised a method that didn’t need a brush, squeezing colours straight from the tube, forming the extrusions into tiny people, then adding dots for mouths and eyes. Her theme is society, a seemingly unlikely choice for a self-declared homebody. But Qin Fengling says it’s an inescapable one in China: “Everyone is affected by society,” she says. “Living in this society at this time leaves scars and marks that can never be erased.” Her view of Chinese society is an ambivalent one: works like Red (2006) and Scaffold (2008) show people imprisoned in close-packed grids that the artist says represent “social structure”. And Shipping To and Fro (2006) shows humans being exchanged by the boatload for cars. But the rigid uniformity never quite suppresses small marks of individuality, and when viewed from a distance Qin Fengling’s teeming social patterns have a beauty all their own.

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