A meditation-like process and mixed cultural and educational background provide a rich context for Menganan Qu’s ceramic and metalwork. She reconsiders Western society through traditional Chinese culture; and she rethinks Chinese society from an international perspective.
Qu was raised in Nanjing, a traditional cultural center in China. She had the opportunity to start training with a professional artist when she was 15, as a painter, and developed a sharp eye for expression with vivid colours. Qu was attracted to NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada, where she completed the BFA program in Jewellery Design and Metalsmithing. She then received a full tuition scholarship from State University of New York at Paltz to complete her MFA program. Qu’s works have been exhibited, published, and collected worldwide. She has returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to continue to explore the world of fine craft.
Traditional enameling and metalsmithing techniques had popular eras both in Western and Eastern culture. Enamel embodies Qu’s perspective of mixed cultures. With her sensitive eye and mind and great patience, she can spend more than one hundred hours on one piece of enamel jewellery.
“Cultural background cannot be escaped. During the past years of working on jewellery and metalsmithing, my understanding of cultural identity has been distilling. Cultural symbols are widely used at a superficial level in art and popular culture. However traditional culture is like an animal caged at the zoo. It’s alive, but without soul.”
Qu’s work is inspired from everyday life and the rethinking of traditional Chinese legends and texts. She realized that the absurdity of Chinese superstitions and mythologies might be real. And, real incidents happening around us may look ridiculous. Through her work, she asks the viewer to rethink what culture is, where culture lives, what the value of traditions is.
One series of Qu’s work “Honour for the Single Child” provides a critique of China’s single child policy, which, in her eyes, has permanently affected the Chinese family. She depicts a variety of family dynamics that it has wrought: the almost throttling embrace of a single child on the caregiver; the absence of parents from the single child’s life as they leave rural areas to provide for the treasured child; and the entitled perspective of the single child.