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Qiu Jie

Mao in Winter


Qiu Jie
Born in Shanghai in 1961


Mao in Winter




Graphite, coloured pencil


140.2 x 100.2 cm


Gift of Cynthia Benjamin-Copper and Pia Camilla Copper, inv. 2013.521


Graphic Arts

Qiu Jie’s pencil drawings are a synthesis of Western photorealism, socialist propaganda, traditional perspective and calligraphy in a unique blend of Chinese and Western styles. Like many other Chinese artists of his generation, Qiu was indelibly marked by the Cultural Revolution. Mao in Winter presents Qiu’s favourite subject, the cat, which also provides a pun: the character “mao” (猫), meaning “cat,” is homophonous with “mao” (毛), as in Mao Zedong. The cat’s human body evokes the famous photo of Mao taken by Hou Bo in 1954 at Beidaihe. Although a cat can be auspicious, the allusion to the Great Helmsman provides an unexpected twist. The blending of traditional and contemporary elements here reflects Qiu’s inalienable Chinese-ness, and renders his art pertinent in today’s cross-cultural reality, eschewing geopolitical shortcuts. Qiu’s personal displacement is evident in his signature, which reads “ta xiang shan ren” (他鄉山人), or “the man who comes from other mountains,” hence a foreigner. His interpretation of “otherness” resides in his own experience as a Chinese man living in Switzerland, and as a transnational artist returning to the traditions of his birthplace.

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