Guo-qing Heaton

Guo-Qing Zhang Heaton was born in the northwestern deserts of Gansu, China during the Great Famine of 1958-61. Her grandfather was merchant who transported his wares by caravan to desert oasis cites like Urumuchi.

Upon graduating from high school she was sent down by Mao to a mass collective farm, but after his death in 1976, Guo-Qing was able to obtain one of the first university positions at Beijing Central University of Art (now Tsinghua University’s Academy of Arts and Design) just as China reopened its institutions of higher education following The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Upon graduating in 1982 she was given a teaching position at the X'ian University of Fine Art where she tough for 5 years. During this time she completed a major public commission for city of Xi'an and then obtained permission to leave the country to enter graduate school in Japan in 1987.

She studied under the dry lacquer master Shinkai Osamu of Kobe and graduated top of her class from Kyoto University of Fine Arts in 1991 with an Masters of Fine Arts. She then moved to New York City with James Heaton and continued her art career, placing works of both lacquer and brush painting in collections all over the world.


East Asian Lacquer

Lacquer works are the product of extended, intimate and intense labor. This process of creation imbues them with a kind of life not detectable in the product of machine manufacture. Such products of consumer culture so dominate our lives here in the United States that it is increasingly difficult to remain receptive to this subtle inner numinous being that an art object can possess. My work is intended to bring attention to this other interior life of objects.

To sit with and observe a great work of lacquer is like being in the presence of a living thing. My object is to create such “living” works of lacquer.

Meaning, metaphor and the perception of history are of course all culturally specific. My work when viewed in Asia is immediately situated in a strong in a strong and clear historical context, not unlike oil painting in Europe or America. It can be instantly positioned within the tradition of of dry lacquer making. As such the work is stands out for its abstraction, its simplicity and its size. The experience of seeing the largest of the works for the first time is meant to be akin to seeing a fully functional hang glider made of porcelain. It is a kind of leap from the typical usage and syntax of the artistic idiom from which it was derived.

In America lacquer in and of itself carries little or no meaning. It floats in a void. This work therefore paradoxically reads as traditional to the Western eye, and rudimentary questions of technique tend to rise up into this void: What is it made of? Is it heavy or light? Why does it take six months to make? How can this material last 2000 years? How can anything last that long?

This level of permanence has no foothold here, no context, and so no meaning. Processes this slow (and the objects that testify to them) rarely exist in the realm of Western consciousness. We have moved (or been pushed) past this stage in our development.

I see my work in lacquer as the embodiment of a kind of irreducible human time.