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The Fusion of East and West: Qu Leilei's new exhibition


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Qu Leilei’s new exhibition Echoes at London’s 3812 Gallery sees the artist fusing traditional Chinese Ink painting with Western ideals, creating art that floats between cultural boundaries.

The contemporary artist uses black ink to create intense photographic chiaroscuro works that demonstrate a mastery of his craft. Leilei combines his keen understanding of the human form from his studies of anatomy at university with his familiarity with calligraphy, resulting in an emotional representation of the human body.

Qu Leilei, 'Reclining Nude', 2016. Image courtesy of 3812 Gallery.

Echoes holds an impressive display of Leilei’s hand studies. These large-scale paintings of a delicate and detailed subject capture the vulnerability and yearning of an outstretched hand. Works, like Hope Remains in Our Hands, are a complicated amalgamation of Western ideas of naturalistic form and traditional Chinese principles. The ink paintings are overwhelmingly detailed, yet they are enormous in size, creating a contradictory experience. The subject of hands is intimate and personal, yet their enormity allows the audience to inspect every crevice of the skin surface as if you are reading a map. There is an emphasis on the strength of human relationship here, both to each other and on a more spiritual level.

For Leilei, it is not just about painting what the eye sees. The artist uses the art of Shuimo, a traditional Chinese method that values the spirit of the subject over a direct imitation. The emotional experience these hands provide is at the forefront of the artist's intentions, evoking an intimate experience for the viewer. The hands become universal, capturing the spirit of human connection.

Qu Leilei, 'Hope Remains in Our Hands', 2018. Image courtesy of 3812 Gallery.

The lower floor of the exhibition is Leilei’s investigation into the human form. The walls are adorned with figures of naked women from all angles, some lounging on a rug, others with their backs turned, but each as detailed as the other. With the subjects’ faces often hidden, the female body takes centre stage, with the dark ink highlighting the curves of the figures and the delicacy of the skin. These life-like images overwhelm the senses, evoking the need to touch.

The exhibition’s title, Echoes, is a reference to Leilei’s belief that art and the human spirit are entangled. The artist says of this relationship: “From the form, sound, soul, human nature, to time, art itself is the echo of life.” Leilei gives tangibility to existence in these detailed paintings.

Qu Leilei, 'Nude Lying on Decorative Carpet', 2017. Image courtesy of 3812 Gallery.

The co-founder of 3812 Gallery Calvin Hui says of the exhibition: “Echoes offer the perfect opportunity to view the intriguing ink medium via the work of an established master. Qu’s remarkable blending of Chinese aesthetics with Western artistic traditions encapsulates the experience that 3812 brings to our new London gallery.”

His unique position as a Chinese artist living in London allows Leilei to objectively look at these two aspects of his life and manipulate them in his work, allowing for a resonance of culture onto the canvas. Echoes illustrates Leilei’s triumph in reinvigorating a traditional style of painting, breathing new life into an old art form.

Qu Leilei, 'The Future Remains in Our Hands', 2018. Image courtesy of 3812 Gallery.

Echoes is on display at 3812 Gallery until the 9th March. To find out more about the exhibition, click here.

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