Qiu Zhijie, “Imaginary Geography,” 2017, 366 × 244 cm. Shanghai Himalayas Museum installation view, 2017


“Imaginary Geography” is part of a series of large-scale, ink-based maps and diagrams by artist Qiu Zhijie. Taking on questions of how to chart things beyond a physical space, Qiu adapts the practical and hyper-rational methodology of mapmaking to create unexpected relationships between disparate-seeming concepts. The sense of surprise his maps elicit in viewers by often unconventional pairings is meant to invoke further contemplation. In reconsidering overlooked connections, he includes those that are serious and academic in intention, as well as those of a more light hearted nature.

Qiu casts off the constraints of cartography to render maps with no obvious boundaries. His works seem indecipherable at a momentary glance, but deeper inspection illuminates the ways in which thoughts, concepts, histories, and ideologies intersect, depicted as mountains, rivers, oceans, and islands. He charts relationships, pathways, and connections between arrays of ideological endeavors, from Confucianism to the Enlightenment. In conflating the logical and the conceptual, Qiu encourages us to reimagine the knowledge-based world in which we live.

Meticulously hand drawn in ink, Qiu Zhijie’s map series also demonstrates his interest in calligraphy, the grand scale belied by the intricate lines, text, and shading contained within. “Imaginary Geography” even includes the red stamps characteristic of print collectors claiming their place in the work’s provenance. Redrawing the very boundaries of our world, Qiu asks us to imagine the ideological foundations of the societies we inhabit and what that means for their transformation.

Qiu Zhijie is an artist known for his calligraphy and ink painting, photography, video, installation and performance works. His art is representa- tional of a new kind of experimental communication between the Chinese literati tradition and contemporary art, social participation and the power of self-liberation of art. As an art writer, Qiu Zhijie published several books including: The Image and Post Modernism (2002), Give Me a Mask (2003), The Limit of Freedom (2003), The Photography after Photography (2004), and On Total Art (2012). Catalogs of his work include: Breaking Through the Ice (2009), The Shape of Time (2007), and Archeology of Memory (2006), among others. He was also the curator of the first video art exhibition in China in 1996, and curated a series of Post-sense Sensibility exhibitions during 1999 and 2005, promoting the young generation of Chinese artists. In 2012, he was the chief curator of the 9th Shanghai Biennale “Reactivation,” and in of the Chinese Pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale.