“[The past] is deep in my soul and brings me long-lost tranquility and bliss when I work.”

Born Harbin, Heilongjiang, 1977

Qiu Xiaofei’s paintings and installations often explore the interface between dreams and daily life. The hissing gas tanks of Cakravada Mountain 2 (2007) were inspired by a news report the artist saw on TV. An old man had systematically stolen cooking-gas bottles from his neighbours. When he had assembled more than a dozen in his tiny room, he sealed the door, opened the valves, and calmly waited to die. Rescue workers burst in just in time to save him. When they asked why he had tried so deliberately to kill himself, he replied, “I wanted to find another world.” Qiu Xiaofei’s battered fibreglass gas bottles—of varying heights and girths—stand in a cluster like the family and friends the lonely old man did not have. The artist named them after the Cakravada (Iron Circle) mountain range, which in Buddhist belief encloses the entire world, the oceans, and the deep, dark hells beneath. He says the news images of the ring of tanks made him think of “the invisible wall in all of our minds”.

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