朱晓晴：我在艺术上的启蒙老师是我的父母。他们两个人都从事与艺术相关的职业，爸爸之前在出版社工作，同时是版画和水彩画家。妈妈也是画家，同时经营一家画廊。小的时候家里总是有人在画画，我跟着模仿，久而久之就喜欢上画画。我家除了我们三个以外，还有我的弟弟也喜欢艺术，他正在英国的 Goldsmith University of London 艺术学院念本科。如果追本溯源的话，我们家喜欢艺术的源头要从我爷爷和外公那代说起，他们两个都写得一手好字，也喜欢画国画。
Xiaoqing Zhu completed her MFA in printmedia at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently based in Beijing and New York. I (Esther Wang) know she has been doing very well in arts and finished some major works such as “5 am” “Mutual Measurement” and “Sooner was Later” etc. So I had a short interview with her when she came to Zhuhai with her parents for Chinese New Year vacation .
Esther Wang：Hello Xiaoqing , I’m Esther , a reporter from the” International Art News”. It’s a pleasure to interview you today. Could you please say something about yourself first?
Xiaoqing Zhu : I was born and raised in Beijing. My parents met at the Minzu University of China, both of them happened to be Dong (One of the 56 ethnic minorities, living in southern China). After graduation, they stayed and worked in Beijing, but very often we would go back to our hometown in the South. I like the food and natural scenery of the South as well as the prosperity and the historical heritage of Beijing. So I am basically a southerner living in Beijing.
Esther Wang：How did you become interested in art? Is there anyone else in your family doing art?
Xiaoqing Zhu：My first teachers in art were my parents. Both of them were in art-related careers. My dad used to work in a publishing company and as a printmaker and watercolor painter. My mom is also a painter who runs a gallery. When I was a child, there were always people drawing at home. I imitated them and gradually fell in love with painting. In addition to the three of us, my younger brother is also interested in art. He is currently an undergraduate student at the Goldsmith University of London in the UK. Getting to the root of our love of art, I have to mention my grand grandparents. Both of my granddad and (maternal) grandfather wrote good calligraphy and liked to draw Chinese paintings.
Esther Wang：How many different stages have you gone through in your artistic practices?
Xiaoqing Zhu : When I was 14 years old, I enrolled in the secondary school affiliated to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, in where I received a systematic painting education. At the age of 18, I was recommended by my high school for the admission to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, majoring in oil painting. In four years, I learned various oil painting techniques, traveled to many places to sketch, and painted many easel paintings. In the final semester of my undergraduate, I started to experiment with new mediums, such as print, rubbing, collage, etc. I completed my graduate work with this new research direction, then applied to the School of Art Institute of Chicago in the United States and successfully admitted by their MFA program in Print media. From 2015 to 2017, when I studied in SAIC, I experienced several changes in media and concept. After graduation, I participated in a number of artist-in-residence program in the US and was affected by many factors.
Esther Wang：What do you think is the most important turning point in these stages?
Xiaoqing Zhu : The biggest turning point occurred during my second summer vacation in graduate school. I went to Mexico to participate in an international artist residency program, in which the experiences greatly affected my art direction. Most of my previous works including painting and printmaking were studio-based. During my stay in Mexico, I became interested in the external environment of the city and began to think about the possible ways of creation outside the studio. From then on, I began to have a passion with lens-based art. I do painting and printmaking occasionally, while most of my attention has shifted to photography and film.
Esther Wang： From the studio art to video art, how has your previous experiences affected your later shooting practices?
Xiaoqing Zhu : I remember when I was in high school, everyone studied painting very hard. In addition to the daily painting and sketch lessons, on weekends, my classmates and I would go to the Beijing Train Station to sketch all night. As time when by, I developed a set of methods for observing people and the environment. Thinking back, the process of observation and the result of painting has caused equal importance in terms of impact on me. Now, I use the camera, a more objective and quicker vehicle to record the daily happenings. However, many shooting criteria, such as the scene setting, color, composition, light and so on, are still influenced by my previous painting experiences.
Esther Wang：Which artists have influenced you?
Xiaoqing Zhu : Painters such as Zhang Zeduan, Katsushika Hokusai，Bruegel Pieter, Albrecht Dürer, Salvador Dalí, and François Magritte have inspired me. In general, I like a painting which contains specific information like scenes, stories, fables, metaphors, secrets, paradoxes and so on. I enjoy spending time on decoding and thinking. Compared with the painting technique, I care more about the ability of expression. As for the lens-based art, my preferences are various. Lately, one of my favorite artists is the Polish filmmaker Zbigniew Rybczński. I like his absurd but reasonable storyline and his very poetic philosophy thinking.
Esther Wang：Many of your works have been completed in the artist-in-residence program, can you talk about your experiences of the residence life?
Xiaoqing Zhu : Artist-in-residence (AIR) programs are organized by different artistic institutions to provide artists with places for communication and creation. Some of them provide artists the accommodation and creation stipend, and invite renowned scholars and experts from different fields to hold lectures and visit artists’ studios. I think AIR is a great opportunity for artists to broaden their international horizons and learn from each other. Invited artists usually come from different backgrounds. For example, a project I participated in Florida involving writers, composers, cartoonists, and performing artists. Such a community is not only conducive to breaking down the stereotyped work pattern but also easy to burst out creative passion. I collaborated with different people and learned a lot of new things from them. After the program, we became very good friends. Many artists describe AIR as Utopia, I personally believe that Utopia like this benefits artistic creation a lot.
Esther Wang：How do you balance your life and art?
Xiaoqing Zhu : When I draw, it’s quite easy to distinguish art from my real life. Basically, entering the studio means the beginning of art creation, otherwise, it’s the real life. As for the lens-based art, I can hardly tell the difference. I would go outside to shoot and stay at home for editing and post-production, sometimes the subject of filming happens to be my daily life, then life and art became integrated. I’ve never balanced the two, basically letting nature take its course.
Esther Wang：My last question: How is your current creation and what is your future plan?
Xiaoqing Zhu : Last month I just finished a short film in New York. It was a relatively new attempt and took a long time to shoot. At present, I am preparing to use it to apply for some domestic and foreign film festivals and exhibitions. At the same time, I am constructing a new work. Next, I plan to stay in China for a period of time. I feel that I have been away for a long time, which somewhat caused me to have a disconnection with the current situation. I want to experience what is happening in China as a participant rather than a spectator. In this case, in the coming half year I should be working in different cities in China while making art, and then I may work and shoot between China and abroad.
Esther Wang in Zhuhai