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April 11, 2010

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Streets alive with 3-D painting

IT is true that you are standing at ground level on a busy street, but it looks like you are about to step into a flowing river ... That is the glamor of 3-D street paintings, amazing passers-by and arousing general curiosity and interest. Michael Qi, the first 3-D street painting artist in China, is exhibiting his latest work in the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. Gorgeous paintings vividly depict wartime scenes and fill audiences with awe.

Q: When were you first interested in the 3-D street painting?

A: When I first by chance saw a picture of 3-D painting in 2003 on the Internet, I was shocked and found it unbelievable. "Is it true that you can achieve the marvelous effect by just drawing pictures on the ground?" I asked, and have been obsessed with the art form since then. But I had no technical materials at that time, so I didn't expect that I could draw such pictures. ?

Q: "Whirlpool" is your first artwork of 3-D street painting. What inspired you to draw the picture? Why did you choose Tsinghua University and Peking University, the two most prestigious universities in China, to display your work?

A: After I discovered 3-D street painting, it became my most favorite art form, and I made up my mind that I must create a painting like that as my graduate artwork. It took me a whole year to research the techniques and finally "Whirlpool" was unveiled in 2005. I wanted to express the spirit of breaking traditional constraints in this artwork. You know, we were too constrained by traditional academic thinking -- Chinese education focuses too much on rankings and performances. A lot of students cannot get rid of the rigid control in their hearts, even when they become professionals. ?

Q: Almost everyone is shocked by the 3-D effect of ground painting when they first see it and must be curious about it. Would you please explain the basic principles?

A: To make it easier, the basic painting technique is "reverse perspective," a convention of perspective drawing where the further away the objects are, the larger they are drawn. But painting technique is only part of the secret. The astonishing effects depend on boundless imagination and creativity.

Q: When did 3-D evolve in overseas countries and China? Is it well developed in China?

A: As far as I know, 3-D street painting began in 1982, invented by artist Kurt Wenner. I exhibited my work "Whirlpool" as the first 3-D street painting in China in 2005. From 2008, some 3-D street paintings began to show up in Beijing and Shanghai, including my work "Chinese Dragon Charm" at the 2008 Olympics. Advertising companies and art studios also created some paintings, considering it a business chance to promote products. Development in China is relatively slow because art lovers cannot support themselves only by 3-D street painting, so they only take it as a hobby. Professional artists concentrate too much on traditional art forms, such as oils and ink-wash paintings.

Q: Would you please introduce your latest work "War-Horse Resurrection?"

A: It is the first wall-and-ground painting in China and of all my paintings, it took the longest time. I had been to the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province in 2007, and found the place ideal for 3-D paintings. I began the design in 2008, but there were problems in the exhibition area. Not until the end of last year did I pick it up again. It was a coincidence that the museum also invited me to paint its theme. After three years, the painting is now exhibited in the museum.?

Q: Why don't you paint on the ground? Do you think painting on canvas may alter the effects of your work?

A: Street paintings can be divided into two categories. Simple paintings, like the works by Julian Beever, are done in chalk on the ground. However, huge paintings, like the works by Kurt Wenner, have to be painted for more than 10 days so they can't be done outdoors. Chalk works are unmovable and easily washed off by rain. So I use propylene, mixed with lithopone and bone glue. The material is brighter and is not reflective, so it is highly effective in an exhibition area.

Q: What do you think is the spirit of 3-D street painting?

A: Art serves human beings. 3-D street painting is the art form closest to the public.

Q: If you were invited to paint in a street in Shanghai, where would you like to paint? What subject would you choose to paint?

A: I would choose the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The subject is a secret. If I was offered the chance, I would come up with a surprise.


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