Inspired by London’s children’s tales and her lived experience in the UK, Wu Qiong fused her unrestrained imagination with skilled technique to create this series of seemingly childish but wonderfully riddle-laden paintings. In the UK, a great number of children’s tales are accompanied by singing games which refer to the city of London and other landmarks. The church is the most representative. People trade there across long corridors and staircases. The ringing of bells proclaims important gathering and events. The beheading of the aristocracy was a popular spectacle on those occasions.
Children’s tales also appear in literature, especially detective fiction as a decoding tool. Wu Qiong’s interpretation of children’s tales becomes painted riddles, filled with windows, the sun and moon, arch games, circles dances, clapping games, catching games, courtship and marriage games, skipping rhymes and other mythic elements. These games in her paintings often allude to historical events; for example the arch game is a kind of catching game where the kid being caught when the arch falls will be out, like the execution at a guillotine. Many of the stories are drawn from London fires, pestilences, disasters and executions. The singing children, however, might not realise these implications. Children’s songs seem to be innocent, but actually contain an array of riddles.
They are like a mirror which reflects children’s fantasy world but at the same time opens the door to history and riddles, passing along the traces of history and time while playing. In Wu Qiong’s work, the painter writes the riddles, while the viewer solves them. Myriad meanings are embedded in the riddles.