In the Studio with Xu Qin

Qin Xu is an active jeweller, fiber artist and product designer who spreads her time between Beijing and New York. We met with Xu to talk about her formal training, her major influences and the limitations of sticking to one medium.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist? 
Truthfully, I never had a clear point and suddenly realized that I could become an artist. I think doing art is a natural thing to integrate into my life. Someday, I think I might not want to do it. But who knows?
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I spent my childhood in a city called Changsha in China, and the experience of that time has always been the theme of my works. After my childhood, I studied and traveled between different cities: I went to university in Beijing and spent my graduate career in San Francisco. Later, I went to Los Angeles to live for a while, and now I continue my studies in Rochester, New York. This kind of life on the road has shaped me into a person who is quick to adapt. My works reflect my thinking in various periods, and I also add found objects which I collected in various places, or my personal items into my works. 

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience?  

I received strict art fundamental skills training before going to university which helped me to better establish a stable framework for my future works. After that, I received B.A and M.A diplomas in industrial design from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and San Francisco Academy of Art. This experience of studying industrial design has exercised my ability to transform the things in my mind into entities. More importantly, due to various chances and coincidences during that period, I unexpectedly found the direction I really wanted to pursue. After giving up the designer work, I began to explore a more artistic direction through observation and practice.

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?
Through using organic forms and natural materials in my art works, I want to establish a particular connection between nature and human beings on the one hand, the self, and the outside world on the other hand. The human body and nature drive me to explore the boundaries of different worlds using synaesthesia and intuition. Through the creation of works, I transform my strong emotions and mysterious sensations into entities, and lead everyone to capture the fragments of the invisible worlds that pass by.

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? 

I never plan my works, nor do I expect others to give me opinions and evaluations. I want to be a selfish person in front of my creation. If everyone must be considered, I am not myself.

Who and what are your greatest influences?

The biggest influence on me is myself in childhood, because childhood is the origin of all my creation: It is the animals in the stories that brought to me truth and knowledge, and it is another way for me to observe the world by the way of strong imagination.


What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

A good piece must be sincere.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise? How has your art evolved? 

The development of aesthetics takes time, not something people can figure out overnight. My supernatural, fairy-tale art style is formed through long-term self reflection and observation of nature. My creation is never limited to a certain fixed material and medium, from soft and warm wool, fiber materials to hard wood and metals – all appear in my work. My works also range from paintings to sculptures to jewellery pieces. I think that materials and media are just a tool for expression. It is good to find the most suitable tool to express opinions. Using new materials also requires some time and running-in, so experimentation is indispensable, but working with unfamiliar materials is often most surprising. I focus on emotional expression, so I don’t consider parameters.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is that people will cry in front of my work in empathy.

How have you been keeping creative during isolation?

Because I have been adapting to the rhythm of working at home, the pandemic has not affected my creation. When working at home, I can focus on fiber materials that are easier to obtain and organize. After school started in August, I went to the school’s studio to use more equipment to process metal materials.


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