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QIU YACAI (CH'IU YA-TS'AI, Chinese, 1949-2013)
QIU YACAI (CH'IU YA-TS'AI, Chinese, 1949-2013)

Philosophy Professor

QIU YACAI (CH'IU YA-TS'AI, Chinese, 1949-2013)
Philosophy Professor
signed in Chinese (lower right)
oil on canvas
116.5 x 72.5 cm. (45 7/8 x 25 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1995
Private Collection, Asia

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Lot Essay

Born in Taiwan in 1949, Qiu Yaicai's's portraits faithfully reenact the spirit of modernism. In two of his notable pieces, The Clown No. 2 (Lot 514) and Lady in Colour (Lot 610), Qiu relied on his brushwork and color scheme to achieve a slightly primeval effect for his human subjects, rather than delivering an objective depiction of their character traits. Qiu does not highlight the dimensions of his subjects - the faces of the latter are often flattened to accomplish an unified simplicity.
Absent from The Clown No. 2 (Lot 514) and Lady in Colour (Lot 610) are Qiu's usual fluid, slender and affable human characters, and it makes these two portraits especially unique. The bust of the clown and the elderly woman in her colorful attire are positioned in the portraits serenely, oblivious to the changing tides of time. They are invariable, despite the ebb and flow of affairs around them. Rather than suggesting that Qiu's works are devoid of the drama of time, critics might be better-advised to indicat that Qiu has established the bounds of his own artistic realm that is off-limits to the rest of the world. In other words, his works imply Qiu's attempt at sequestering himself from the society.

Qiu's paintings typify the nature of abstraction in his human subjects. The dignity and poise of Qiu's human subjects in Philosophy Professor (Lot 611) and Untitled (Lot 612) are distinct manifestation of what a literatus should be, in Qiu's perspective. Yet in The Clown No. 2 (Lot 514) and Lady in Colour (Lot 610), we are offered a precious glimpse into Qiu's experimentation with two rare subject matters as he stepped out of his comfort zone . These pieces bring to mind "the presentation of spirit through visual appearance" philosophy in conventional Chinese portraiture. The exhibition of "spirit" is an upgrade from the simple portrayal of emotions: it puts the truest, most undisguised element of being human on display.
Portraits were depended on to faithfully represent the likeness and personality of the person before the advent of photography. More often than not, the nobility, the rich and the officialdom were consignors of portraits to advertise their power, socioeconomic status and wealth. The consignors favored an idealized symbol of what they looked like: the solemn, self-contained looks, the elaborate, sumptuous attires and backgrounds had to be reenacted down to the last detail by the portraitists. Yet Qiu's portraits are the exact opposite, and that is what makes them so eye-catching: they spotlight the distinct characteristics of the literati, and perspectives on life. Similarly, Philosophy Professor (Lot 611) and Untitled (Lot 612) feature richly coloured backgrounds to complement the Asian faces of the characters. They are reminiscent of the literati deportment in traditional Chinese paintings. The contrast between red and green in Untitled gives the piece a spirited feel; while the cold, muted hues in Philosophy Professor remind viewers of the Blue Period in Pablo Picasso's works. Both characters are what Qiu considers to be the ideal version of a modern literatus. The poise and self-assurance in Qiu's style are translated into an artistic viewpoint in his works.

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