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

Portrait of a Gentleman

QIU YACAI (CH'IU YA-TS'AI, 1949-2013)
Portrait of a Gentleman
signed in Chinese (lower right)
oil on canvas
151 x 98.4 cm. (59 1/2 x 38 3/4 in.)
Private Collection, Asia

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Lot Essay

Born in 1949, Qiu Yacai was born in Taiwan during a chaotic era, he lived like a nomad, flowing with the tides of change. Qiu Yacai was a modern day literati, he wrote novels as well and was a cultured introvert. He began his artistic career during the late 1970s as a self-taught artist. Without the constraints of the academic repetitions and clich?s so prevalent at the time, his individualistic style blossomed. Qiu Yacai's artistic output is characterised by the spirit of modernism, presenting "a reality shaped by images, thoughts and impressions". His figures are often characterised by elongated bodies and the delicate features of the faces are similar to 'gongbi' style of traditional Chinese paintings. Also, The overall tone and compositional devices are combined to accomplish a unified simplicity and contemplative mood.

The signature elegance and poise of Qiu's human subjects is evident in this exceptional group of paintings. Portrait of a Gentleman (Lot 532) is an example par excellence of Qiu Yacai ability to infuse his figures with soulfulness. Dressed in a fur coat, the gentlemen depicted standing in a cold barren landscape, looking afar, as if unsure of his direction in front of him. A Man Wearing Green Gloves (Lot 552), belongs to the early stages of Qiu's career, where the brushstrokes are relatively freer. The painting presents a man standing astride with hands on his hips wearing a green glove with a background that resembles the universe behind him. He appears to be in command of his destiny looking ahead with confidence. Qiu Yacai is skilled at conveying the universal truth of loneliness and sadness through his own unique artistic vision. His works evoke the Chinese artistic ideal of "being able to encapsulate essence with form". This "essence" is beyond the representation of joy, anger, sadness and happiness, pointing to the truthful, natural qualities that define human beings.

The artist's lively sense of color is displayed in this exceptional group of painting. With only a few broad brushstrokes, Spring Sun (Lot 530) is bursting with sunshine. These freehand brushstrokes are in the style ofgN belonging to traditional Chinese paintings. Landscapes are very rare in Qiu's artistic oeuvre, making this a very rare painting. In Gazing Youth with Pattern Clothes (Lot 531), Qiu has incorporated geometric patterns into the composition as a device to illustrate the landscape. The full-length figure is wearing a decorative suit with multiple shapes and colours. The luminosity of the whiteness of the tree and the rectangular shapes of the suit combines to unite the composition and brighten the canvas. The details of the tree in particular are reminiscent of the Chinese Literati style painting. The brilliance of the color and compositional technique make Gazing Youth with Pattern Clothes an extraordinary painting. In Pristine (Lot 555) the brilliance of the crimson geometric shapes is striking amidst an onyx backdrop. Belonging to the later period of Qiu's artistic oeuvre, the painting's overall style is more formal and his brushstroke more concrete, demonstrating his maturity as an artist. With Gentleman with Brown Top (Lot 553), the artist's application of muddy yellow contrast beautifully with dark cocoa, creating a uniquely earthy effect. Woman with White Blackground (Lot 554) is a close-up portrait essentially in black and white, illuminated only with a pouty red lip. It urges the viewer to second guess the figure's gender. Man or Women, this portrait is seductive and playful.

Within this group of paintings, Qiu Yacai reveals his life long search for completeness - the intangibility and concreteness, the abundance and scarcity in life. Another significant factor of his works is a sense of timelessness, an absence of the drama of time. This is an indication that Qiu has established the bounds of his own artistic realm that is away from the trends of the artistic community, creating a unique visual style that is distinctively his.


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