We would miss Jiang Qionger’s genius if we only saw her as an abstract painter, that is if we considered her as the heir of a pictorial tradition born from the Western mode of thinking which can only comprehend the world through dual oppositions: figurative/abstract, ancient/modern, yes/no. The daughter of a China which has thrown itself headlong into the adventure of development, she is indeed perfectly familiar with our modernity whose codes she became acquainted with during a two-year stay in France and whose icons she regularly mixes with today. We would then conclude, indulging in the short-sighted ideas of fashion rather than genuine analysis, that Jiang Qionger is an example of bi-culturalism, an artistic and conceptual bridge between East and West.
I know full well that ours is a time of cross-cultural pollination. But I assert that Jiang Qionger is a primary identity, what defines her artistic practice, is her Chineseness. Writing this, I do not refer to her art as belonging to some incomprehensible exoticism, some unsurpassable otherness: I name the key which opens onto the mental universe that has created the fabric of China and, beyond the borders of this country, the fabric of all the sinicized world. A mental universe which, through its very difference, exalts the infinite variety of the mind.
It would be easy, and therefore deceptive, to place Jiang Qionger’s painting in the tradition of some great predecessors, bi-cultural like herself: Zao Wou-Ki or Chu The-Chun. Or even the most Chinese of French painters: Georges Mathieu or Pierre Soulages. In his Talks of Bitter Gourd Monk about painting, didn’t Shitao declare: If my work happens to meet with this or that other master, it is he who followed me and not I who sought him? Beyond the paradox of this eminently Taoist maxim, I will say that Jiang Qionger shares with here predecessors a similar gestural conception of painting :the work, once completed, may present a mental landscape which the observer will make his as he wishes: the analyst can try and reduce the combination of strokes and colors to some semiotic or aesthetic structure; but what seems to characterize Jiang Qionger is her calligraphic draughtsmanship; it is the energy which surges from the inmost depths of her being and frees itself in the strokes of the brush, now the vehicles of this energy which fills and drives us.
In the Chinese tradition the success of a work is subject to the mastery of the brush together with the mastery of the ink here of course the paint, the colors. To have the ink is to possess the technique which makes for an easy gesture; to have the brush belongs to the realm of interiority, to the intimate understanding of the world: it is, Shitao wrote, to be receptive to the spirit of life. Jiang Qionger’s works are truly the products of this combination of the inextricability of which is the condition for the artist’s quality. Her brush runs naturally, freely, because it goes to the point, to the distilled reality of the physical world, to the very roots of life’s dynamics.
Thus Jiang Qionger’s painting rises well above the profuse energy of Shanghai, her native city, and at the same time constitutes its perfect embodiment. It is both universal and timeless. It is simply the act of painting which originates in the unique brush stroke (Shitao again) by which the infinite nature of reality is manifested.