Galleria Continua
San Gimignano
Les Moulins
Sao Paulo

Viewing Room



“Racing Against Time” by Qiu Zhijie is a project that occupied the stalls area of Galleria Continua / San Gimignano. The spaces were transformed into something representing an archaeological site, with the floor embedded with slabs of patterned paper relief, coloured with Chinese ink. 
“It is like a palaeontological dig and a time machine of humanity. Looking back in time to the dinosaur kingdom, the bird kingdom and the mammal kingdom, the whole history of evolution is based on the survival of the fittest. The theme of this exhibition is the battle of powers and the war between empires. It dwells upon the dichotomy of these two logics” Qiu Zhijie
The project includes a series of landscapes with the title “Evolution”. These works are made through an ancient Chinese technique of creating a relief by padding sponges. It’s a traditional technique that is usually employed to place onto paper the inscriptions and motifs that are normally depicted on ancient vases and ceramics. The paper reliefs produced for this project feature animals, architectural features like doors, windows, arches, patterns, as well as fossils, plants, bone formations and space men. 
The “Evolution” series develops chronologically, starting in Pangaea, moving through the agricultural period and the “birth of God”. Qiu Zhijie explains some of the symbolism like so: “Attestations of merit and heraldic symbols are forms of power; swords, armour and pistols are used to show off; gates and towers are both architectural forms of symbolism, an expression of perseverance: gates represent power and will, towers symbolize a reaching upwards; plants and animals are links between the history of evolution and the history of empires: birds and eagles, detritus of buildings, Duogong brackets, Roman columns, all shattered fragments and ruins of imperial formalism.” 
“Racing Against Time” is an all-encompassing experience that takes the visitor on a pathway of understanding; chronologically investigating the stages of the development of our world. It presents us with reliefs of recognisable images. The fossils and bones are at home in this setting resembling an archaeological site, but as society “develops”, we see weapons, missiles, architectural structures, flying objects and futuristically dressed human figures, causing us to ponder the extent of our evolution and its moral sensibilities. 

As an artist, Qiu Zhijie is known for his calligraphy and ink painting, photography, video, installation and performance works. His art is representational 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 include: The Image and Post Modernism (2002), Give Me a Mask (2003), The Limit of Freedom (2003), The Photography after Photography (2004), On Total Art (2012). Catalogs of his work include: Breaking Through the Ice (2009), The Shape of Time (2007), Archeology of Memory (2006), etc.

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”, in 2017 he is the chief curator of the Chinese Pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale.

He was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize administered by the Guggenheim Foundation due to his work of The Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge Project. He was awarded “Artist of the Year” of the Award of Art China in 2009, and was nominated for the same award in 2016.

His works are collected by major museums and institutions around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Foundation by Christian Dior, Ullens Foundation, Neuer Berliner Kunstrerein, and the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney.

Mario Cristianico-founder of Galleria Continua, talks about working with Qiu Zhijie. 

Racing Against Time

Installation views at Galleria Continua San Gimignano, 2016

Photo © Ela Bialkowska

"What Forms in Time, Gone with Time "

Archaeology, the profession of perseverance and endurance. From the deep layers of strata and rotten soil of the deceased, comes news borne in fragments and pieces. The emperors have long gone, leaving only the zhennan coffins with lingering fragrance; the exquisite beauties have turned into buried skeletons; the visage of the glorious era can still be pieced together with rusty stones and broken jades. Back in time the banners and flags used to cover the sun; tens of thousands of envoys carne to worship the great nation; when the great emperor sat on top of the mountain viewing the territory map, he exclaims: "What to do! There is no more land to be conquered under heaven!" Glancing around at the modern prosperity, archaeologists see crumbling walls through resplendence and splendour, see skeletons with green patina through scenes of feasting and revelry. Looking at the bountiful land and proud people already on the wane, they lay aside the books and sigh: "Where is the empire which was supposed to be as indestructible as the monolith? Hieroglyphics have long disappeared in silence, where is your homeland today?" 

Saber-toothed cats, trilobites, gymnosperms, tyrannosaurus, who is the fierce hero of its time? The Jehol Biota organisms, archaeopteryx, platypus, cyanobacteria, who is to fall to its doom? The species carry out according to their abilities, the weak being at the mercy of the strong, some flaunt their prowess, some are oblivious to their surroundings. The once most dominant terrestrial, dinosaurs, can come to its complete extinction, and humans used to be nocturnal shrews during the timeline of evolution. Lessons from the past two hundred million years are right in front of our eyes, the dreams of empires are like magic spells. 

The king of Yelang thinks highly of his kingdom, so he must have built grandiose gates to intimidate the common people. When establishing an imperial court, even on an isolated island, you immediately build a soaring tower to honor the grace of God. The stories may be different, the manners are the same. Piles of brackets of buildings, cauldrons of food and offerings, prominent official rankings and titular honors, and indulgence in wars of aggression. Policies of dynasties may be different, but their essences are the same. While imposing exorbitant taxes and levies on people, they also must scheme to build giant structures as symbols of prosperity: the plump grapes and hills of wheat may as well be illusions of painted cakes. So, we weave a net of literature, burn the banned books, and shut the opposition's voice; we only spread the auspicious and happy words to encourage the hearts; and build temples and shrines to bribe the ghosts and gods. The nature of things may be different, the affection is the same. No matter how small the Yelang tribes were, they had domes, and under the domes, stand their proud and honored men. From the Tower of Babel to the Colosseum, from Tatlin's Tower to the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, from the Siosepol Bridge to Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, how can the everlasting vaults in your views for three thousand years be an isolated architectural coincidence? It is the essence and crux of the imperial aspiration! The sentiment may be different, the forms are the same. 

The unescapable curse of empires lies in the disbelief of statutes and the manifestation of forms. Though nations can be irreconcilable enemies for generations and impossible to live under the same sky, centuries later, when looking at the visuals of their stateliness, they seem to come from the same family. Looking at the similarities of the flags and emblems of newly decolonized countries and their former suzerainty, are they enemies? Are they partners? 

The forms in Gates of Empires stem from Emperor Huizong of Song's painting Auspicious Cranes, where the secret birds hover above the Forbidden City, looking ancient and serene. In the work the cranes become imperial eagles flying above, the majestic buildings become hummocks with crows cawing in the secular world. The imperial forms are like what Ferdinand de Saussure once said: 'What forms in time, must be gone with time". 

Qiu Zhijie 

67th Year of PRC and 1st of January of Year of Bingshen 

The Skeleton Fantasy Show (1)


video, ink on paper

176 x 80,5 cm | 69.29 x 31.69 in


unique work

Photo © Dong Lin

Map of Mythology


Chinese ink on paper

245 x 125 cm | 96.45 x 49.21 in

unique work

Photo © Ela Bialkowska

Tellurian 5: Geography of Interests


Chinese ink on paper globe, copper

47 cm | 18.50 in diameter

unique work

Photo © Dong Lin

Tellurian 4: Ideological Geography


Chinese ink on paper globe, copper

30 cm | 11.81 in diameter

unique work

Photo © Dong Lin

All Living Things series

Man with destiny -out of border


ink on paper and canvas

146 x 183 cm | 57.48 x 72.04 in

unique work

Photo © Pamela Bralia

Map of Mythological Creatures


ink dub rubbing on paper
7 pieces

7 pieces, 120 x 240 cm | 47.24 x 94.48 in each

total dimension 120 x 840 cm | 47.24 x 330.70 in

Ed. 3

Photo © Meng Wei