“It is easy to forget time passing, all the things that happen … friends, everyone, time itself.”

Born Shenyang, Liaoning, 1966

The Chinese character for “1” is yi, a horizontal line. In Chinese culture, this line evokes the origins of heaven and earth and the union between them. Taoists say that yin and yang, and from them all life, emerged from the Tao, the eternal One. For Qu Fengguo, horizontal lines also represent the passage of time. “Things change over time, and with each change, there is a new feeling, a new relation between things. Sometimes I write down the time when I start and finish a work.” His focus on abstract painting makes him unusual in China; critics have accused him of being “Western”, a tag he welcomes. He prefers abstraction for the simplicity it affords: “A line is something people find easy to understand.” He layers paint on the canvas in a succession of different colours and, using a device like a slide rule, covers each layer with horizontal lines, also in different colours, which he allows to bleed and smudge “to give a feeling of a timeline, time passing”. The result is akin to visual music, a complex score in which light and colour move in relation to each other and to space and time.

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