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Artist Spotlight: Qingqing Liu

Welcome to our latest interview with Qingqing, an artist who is making waves in the world of performance installations and moving image. Qingqing's work focuses on creating surreal scenarios and exploring the animistic concerns of inanimate and animate objects. With a constant theme of animism running through their work, Qingqing's art celebrates the joy being born out of darkness. In this interview, we delve into Qingqing's inspirations, creative process, and future plans. So sit back, relax, and get ready to be inspired by Qingqing's unique artistic vision.

How did your artist journey start?

As an artist, I have a slightly different background from many of the artists I've met here. Unlike some of them who grew up in an art family or started to get in touch with art from a young age, nobody in my family has any relation to the art world. I grew up in Nanjing, China, where I didn't have the opportunity to visit any contemporary arts museum or gallery until my 20s.

However, when I was around five or six years old, my mum asked me about my interests, and I said, "I love drawing." So she sent me to a drawing class. Back then, I was an extremely shy person and preferred to hide myself behind the group of other kids. To help me be more open-minded and learn how to talk and communicate with others, my mum also sent me to a performance class. Ironically, I never expected it, but now I'm a performance artist. It's a coincidence that it all started from that drawing class.

After finishing university, I moved to Beijing, a big city, to become an illustrator because I still didn't know what fine arts were at that time. While there, I made a lot of friends and met many mentors who helped me explore my artistic interests. After communicating with them, they told me, "What you like is actually not illustration. What you're interested in is fine arts." This confused me at first, but after talking with more people, I began to create my first moving art piece.

Despite making many connections in Beijing, I wasn't fully satisfied with the atmosphere, so I applied to a school in London for my MA. At first, I had no intention of settling there, but during my MA course, I found myself enjoying the art world in London. I met many people who shared my passion for the arts and had good energies and good hearts.

You have an incredible performance piece called Dragon Spam. How did that come about?

I've always been a film fan since I was young, even when I didn't know much about fine art. Dragon Spam is actually a short story I wrote during the lockdown in 2020, while I was working for an old artist who is much more famous than me in Wales. We had no phone signal and he bought a huge mansion at an auction. It's a weird space, and I was cut off from the internet and everything. I was in an empty room with all these letters from the 1960s on the floor, and I just stayed there and imagined and wrote something. It was a great time for me to create things.

The story talks about a brother and sister living together who haven't seen anyone else since they were born. They only have each other, and they hunt for food. They also regularly visit a box called the Ark. The brother tells the sister that the box is called the Ark of Covenant and it will tell them everything about the world. The box tells them about stars shining in the sky and a magnificent Chinese dragon flying through it, spraying water on them. At the end of the story, I bring the camera back to reality. The stars are just mould peeling off the wall, the Chinese dragon is actually a leaking tube from the broken ceiling, and the Ark is just a broken radio. I'm still figuring out how I'm going to do this film, but Dragon Spam is like a practice run or another idea born from the story.

You mentioned you have a love for film. Are there any kinds of films you particularly like?

I like lots of different types of films. As long as it's good or it makes my heart happy, but my favourite film director is Roy Andersson. I just like the dark humour from his stories, and the visuals. The visuals are my favourite. I quite like the really surreal visual stuff.

What were some culture shock moments you experienced when you first moved to the U.K.?

The first thing that shocked me when I arrived here was seeing people sleeping on the grass and enjoying the sunshine. Back in China, where I grew up, if you walked on grass, someone would tell you not to stand on it because the grass would die. But after some time, I began to enjoy lying down, touching the earth, and feeling the grass.

Once, I went to Florida to visit a friend. After a long trip and a tiring day, we bought a whole box of Popeyes Fried Chicken. We didn't want to eat in our bedrooms as we had booked an Airbnb, and we didn't want the fried chicken smell to linger in the rooms. So, I suggested, "Should we just eat on the grass, behind the garage?" My friend thought it was weird and asked, "Why would we eat in the garage on the grass?" That's when I realized that I'm becoming more British than before, starting this year!

Where is your favourite area in London?

Peckham. I moved to my studio closer to Peckham. I first visited Peckham when I was doing a show at Safe House, if you know that space. I'm so fascinated by the main streets, the high street in Peckham has so many diverse shops and also the vintage shops. I love staying there and watching everything because it has a similar vibe to where I grew up in a small town.

What is something you don't like about the art industry?

The Studio System and Exploitations from this System.

I used to work for a famous artist who earned a lot of money, at least the median income. He had his own company, but me and some other assistants were part of a system during that time. He required us to each make three contemporary art proposals for him every two days. Then he would select which proposals he wanted and reject the others. What's the point of being an artist if your work isn't being used?

So, I left that job soon after. Although I enjoyed everything he provided, such as the cheese and the forest in Wales and the old house, but I just didn't want to put my effort into this kind of industry.

If you could star in any movie, what would it be?

I really want to be in a Wes Anderson or Roy Andersson film.

I quite like the visual style of these two directors, and yeah, the reason I want to be in those films is because I really want to have a look at how they make the visuals happen.

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