Hu Qinwu, Meditations: purple 2, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 150cm. (14712)
Illumination : Meditations
Hu Qinwu talks carefully, in measured tones, when asked about his practice.
He is not quick to divulge the meaning of his work with conversation.
His works are richly textured and layered. Bold red canvases reveal dark shadows beneath, and expansive black paintings give way to a deep glow. A myriad of seemingly organised dots, lines and monochromatic colour traverse the surface of each work. There are no symbols or images, there are no focal points or centre, the works have an over-all quality suggesting infinity, continuity and harmony.
They reveal the world as Hu interprets his experiences - his mosaic metaphor suggests that our perceptions of reality are made up of taking individual lines and divisions and putting them together to form a whole.
The process of layering marks is a critical element of his work. It is like going on a journey he says, and not unlike a pilgrim arriving at the holy site, Hu feels a sense of spiritual satisfaction on the completion of a work. Canvases are covered, spread, poured with paint; scraped, smoothed, sanded back; dotted, spotted and touched. The process is the motivation, not the endpoint, and the order comes about without plan. 'I have no blueprint', he reminds us. Working with dot marks is an exercise in shared control - the marks generate a rhythm and regularity that could continue even beyond the canvas. He revels in being able to control the process but not the outcome. He draws an analogy with himself, "If I plot myself on a graph, I know what has been before, but not what will be. I can predict trends, but I have no control over where the graph will rise or fall in the future".
Hu believes paintings should speak of what is inside, not out. Much of his work is a dialogue of oppositions - day and night, space and fullness, control and release. In his notebook writings (parts of which are included in this catalogue) he describes his works as microcosms, explaining that there is no middle dot, there is no centre - but there is harmony. For him, this harmony is an open and unlimited feeling - like the Buddhist idea of 'kong', or empty space.
He accepts that his paintings do not fall into a traditional Chinese aesthetic, but he is resistant to be categorised as either Chinese or modern, abstract or other. To refuse definition is his prerogative. "I have my own language", he remarks.
Hu continues, discussing the changeability of nature, but is momentarily interrupted - the door opens, and sunlight floods into his studio.
Sophie McKinnon, interview with Hu Qinwu took place in his studio, 9 March 2009.