Qiu Shihua — Impressions



Qiu Shihua

Past: September 1 → October 6, 2018

“What seems to me the highest point of art (and the most difficult to achieve), is not to make people laugh, nor cry, nor sexually excited or furious, but to act like nature which means make people dream…”

Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance VII, Louis Conard Editions, Paris, 1930, P. 369


The Galerie Karsten Greve present the new works of the Chinese painter Qiu Shihua. This will be the second solo-show of the artist in France, following the great success of his last exhibition, held in 2015 in our gallery space comprising of about fifteen paintings completed between 2000 and 2012.

Qiu Shihua graduated from the Fine Arts Academy of Xi’an in 1962, and he started his career in the 1990s when his first solo exhibitions were held in Chinese galleries. Over the past twenty years, European art audiences have been discovering his work via large monographic exhibitions that prestigious museums have been devoting to him: the Kunsthalle Basel in 1999, the New York Kunsthalle in 2001 as well as the Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin in 2012. His works have also been presented at the Sao Paolo Biennale in Brazil (1996), at the Venice Biennale (1999), at the Shanghai Biennale (2004) and also in the exhibition Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2013.

Nature has always been the source of Qiu Shihua’s art. The artist often refers to his journey across the Gobi desert — its immensity and its dryness — as being a founding experience for his artistic process. While he did indeed begin his career painting outdoors, he would soon discover a preference for working in his studio where he would translate the feelings that nature inspires into paintings. His works are therefore “Natural atmospheres” more so than representations of a physical reality.

In his landscapes, white is master. Everything hinges on subtle variations. The image itself, hidden amongst nuances and transparencies, is brought forth as the onlooker gazes at the painting. Qiu Shihua takes western-style oil paint and makes it work within what is a very Asian technique based primarily on diluting the amount of material absorbed by the untreated canvas — similar to the way ink on paper is used in traditional Chinese landscapes. Qiu Shihua twins white with light itself, and conceives of the pictorial creation as a transition from the realm of shadows into the clear perception of the pattern or image: as would an impressionist who makes light the focal point of the piece. Layer by layer, he subtly reveals a landscape comprised of nuances and transparencies that do not provide an immediate visual epiphany for the spectator. An ideal incarnation of Taoist ideology — a religion to which the artist has adhered to for over twenty years — these paintings invite the onlooker on a journey for the eye and the mind, one in which attaining the final destination is less important than following along the necessary path.

Scarcely any trace at all remains of the genesis of the creation on canvas, and the matter itself has a transparent fluid-like quality that allows the canvas to show through and to look almost completely untouched. In this way, Qiu Shihua employs the Taoist concept of “action without action” — allowing the result to occur according to its own path — or rather, vice-versa: no action via action. Through the creative act itself, he obtains a painting that is intriguing to the onlooker due to what does indeed look like its own apparent absence: he has managed to depict emptiness. It is worth pointing out that in Chinese the word for ‘white’ and the word for ‘empty’ (respectively Baise and Kongbai) have the same root (-bai-). The colour white therefore answers to a yearning for emptiness as the ultimate essence of all things.

Qiu Shihua’s paintings therefore require the onlooker to adjust their eyes continuously, thus allowing the painting to reveal itself in time. This exhibition encourages the public to travel into a metaphysical world ruled over by a sense of calm, and wherein the experience of looking becomes one of self-awareness and of ultimate realities.


Qiu Shihua was born in Zizhong, in the province of Sichuan, China in 1940.

In 1962 he would graduate from the Fine Arts School of Xi’an, having specialized in oil painting techniques. In 2001 The New York Kunsthalle arranges for his first monographic exhibition outside China and since then his work has been included in numerous collective exhibitions, also held in Europe: Mahjong at the Kunstmuseum in Berne, Switzerland (2005) — an exhibition that would subsequently move on to Hamburg, Germany and to Salzburg, Austria; The sublime is now at the Musée Franz Gertsch (2006); and Shanshui at the Kunstmuseum in Luzern, Switzerland (2001). Qiu Shihua has become an internationally renowned artist. In 2012 the Hamburger Bahnhof of Berlin and the Museum Pfalzgalerie of Kaiserslautern in Germany devoted two large solo exhibitions to him. His works have also been presented at the Sao Paolo Biennale in Brazil (1996), at the Venice Biennale (1999), and also at the Shanghai Biennale (2004).

Qiu Shihua lives and works between Beijing and Shenzhen, in China.

  • Opening Saturday, September 1, 2018 6 PM → 8 PM
03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

5, rue Debelleyme

75003 Paris

T. 01 42 77 19 37 — F. 01 42 77 05 58

Official website

Filles du Calvaire

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 7 PM

The artist

  • Qiu Shihua