Arts: The black and white of realism

SINGAPORE - When he started as a child at the age of 10, Chinese artist Qiu Jie used pencils for his drawings because he couldn't afford more expensive materials.

Now at the age of 51, he still uses the humble pencil to create most of his works, and this includes most of the 30 pieces that will go on display at his first solo exhibition in Singapore.

It takes the artist between three weeks to do a small drawing to a year-and-a-half for a large drawing, but the long process does not tyre or intimidate him one bit.

In fact, he says that to him, being hardworking is the most important trait for an artist, and is exactly what sets him apart from others.

"When I first started, I used pencils because they were cheapest and most convenient. But then I realised very few people use pencils, so I decided to keep using it, and have been until now," he says.

Though Qiu Jie grew up in China during the time of the Cultural Revolution, he has spent the last 20-over years of his life overseas, and now lives in Switzerland after moving there to attend the School of Fine Arts.

His current self-titled exhibition, which opens at the Art Plural Gallery today, contains works that were inspired by these connections he has with the East and the West.

These include, more specifically, the propaganda that he has encountered in China and the current advertisements that he is exposed to in the Western world.

"Advertisements are a kind of propaganda. It has motive - in the past it was for power, and now it's for money. So I think they are the same. And I am a mixture myself, of Chinese and European systems. So I am also expressing myself in the drawings," he explains.

Propaganda has always been fodder for Qiu Jie's art, having started out with copying propaganda images on smaller sheets of paper when he was young.

Another thing that hasn't changed over the years is his drawing style. He says: "The drawings have changed on the surface, but the foundation is still the same. I still draw realistic drawings, and I'm sticking to it."

Qiu Jie's art pieces are for sale at the Art Plural Gallery, from $20,000 to $130,000.

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