Traditional arts and crafts have long played an important cultural role in China. Today, however, there are numerous artisans who have put a decidedly contemporary spin on these longstanding customs. To celebrate this modern approach to Chinese craftsmanship, Lane Crawford has assembled the works of three brands, X+Q Art, Shang Xia and The Fabrick Lab, each of which emphasises the beauty of the process as well as the end product.
We caught up with Chinese sculptor Qu Guangci – one half of X+Q Art, which he co-founded with his wife Xiang Jing – whose immediately identifiable work is known and loved for its cherubic, soulful and whimsical aesthetic that invites introspection from the viewer, to discuss the intersection of art and gifts, the future of his craft and whether art exists to subvert convention.
X+Q Art exists at a point where art and gifts become interchangeable – why do you think this is important?
Gifts can be very simple, such as coffee, chocolate or flowers. However, when a gift comes from sculptors or artists, it should be more meaningful. It should evoke an emotional connection and recount a cultural background. Each piece of art has a story behind it, which is an important part of giving gifts.
In today’s increasingly technological society, what role do you see arts and crafts playing?
I believe that art will separate into two parts. One is technological – in the future a lot of things will be produced by machines, by technology, so there will be no trace of history. The other part is where X+Q Art comes in. Our products are all handmade, so there is a trace of humanity and of the human touch – you can see it in the brushstrokes and minor differences between each piece. Even if they are not perfect, they are human.
Art is often seen as something unattainable by many. With X+Q Art do you hope to make it more accessible?
We would like to make art more accessible – for everyone to share and enjoy. Everyone has the freedom to appreciate art, everyone craves beauty. I want X+Q Art to relate to everyone, because when art is too expensive it is alienating. But as an art brand, it’s very important that we don’t become too commercial, because we do not ever want to give up our freedom of creativity and expression. We try to achieve a balance between art and commercialisation.
Does art exist to make a statement, or can it simply be something beautiful?
I think that art is there to simply to be, and to make a statement at the same time. Making art is like giving birth to a child. By giving birth to a child, it doesn’t mean you’re expressing anything or making a statement, but the child on its own – like the art piece – will develop its own opinions. Those opinions will be the child’s own, but by granting it existence you have given it agency to form them. There is a balance sought between dependence and independence that affects the artist in the same way it does the parent.
Ai Mei · Midsummer series
Lead image courtesy of Zoe Shengwu