Sunday, January 29, 2012

'Art' in China

...copper red flash on a pot in Jingdezhen...
On my recent trip to China, I met many artists who worked in the traditional brush painting styles and their level of skill was amazing. They mostly painted onto fine rice paper and then had the paintings mounted onto 'silk' scroll panels. Animals, insects, birds, trees, mountains, water and 'minority' peoples were the common themes.

...paintings by Li Jun, in Wuxi, 1 hour West of Shanghai - We hope to see him in Australia soon teaching a workshop -If you live on the Sunshine Coast and would like to attend, let me know.
Calligraphic poems were also popular, and I learnt that artists often use the old style of calligraphy known as 'seal' [as in the name stamps] style writing. Most people can't read the poem, but no matter - the forms of the letters are beautiful and are art works in their own right.
...Xie Rong Ren at the Art and Literature Society, Xiamen...
...children in a calligraphy class...
We found a fabulous art form in a gallery on Gulangu Island [piano island], just a short ferry ride from Xiamen. The letters are carved into wooden blocks in the old 'seal' style, then painted, forming fabulous abstract designs with a hint of representation.
Some brush artists specialise in painting onto ceramic forms - from vases to large flat porcelain slabs, usually
with cobalt oxide under white or clear glaze.
We were taken to a factory in Xiamen producing china table ware for export - hmmm - some lovely tea sets but some very gaudy red and gold stuff as well.
We visited the factory in Yi Xing where famous small red clay teapots are hand made from a fast disappearing clay which is said to bring out the very finest flavour in the teas.
Did you know that some teas [picked from the tiny top leaves at a special time of year] are worth thousands of dollars a kilo. The tea culture is very serious.
We had a glimse of one of the commercial art zones where artists often copy other artists' works for the mass market in the West. Not quite sure how all of this worked.
This is the 'famous' laquer style of Xiamen...
...and the weird and dusty fibreglass multiple images sculptures...
...'splash' in the Meridian Hotel foyer, Xiamen...
...clean, new, spacious studio/display rooms...
...a very pleasant painting with mass appeal...
...cutest sales girl ever, with one of the many machinery paintings - appealing to the mining magnates of the world????
We did meet a young man, Mr Yi Lin, painting in his own style - apparently popular in America.
Unfortunately, I saw very little contemporary art to my taste. I think if we had gone to Shanghai or Beijing [next trip??] it would have been a different story. We were mostly in rural cities and 'new economic zones' and were mostly guided by non artist contacts.
These are my 2 favourite 'art works' of the trip.... 
...on the wall above our old style accommodation in Xiamen...
... fresh peeling paint on the wall of one of the new art gallery spaces.

My trip to China was fabulous in many ways - people, food, old villages, scenery, history. If I go again, I hope to find the areas where the contemporary artists hang out. Even so, we have made many new friends and have made contacts for future collaborations.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Letter A Week, 2011

I am part of an online group creating a letter a week, for 52 weeks - resulting in 2 alphabets. It is great fun to participate - motivating myself to create something every week and then thinking of ways to display the final alphabets - a book form being the most obvious. There are some brilliant alphabets out there and I am so impressed by the calligraphic skills of so many people.
Fiona is the co-ordinator, and the project is open to newcomers. Check out the blog site for 2011 and email Fiona if you want to join.
I completed one alphabet on time - an alphabet of photos of letters taken on my trip to Morocco and Europe early last year, and presented as a concertina book.
..some details -
M from Gaudi's Casa Mila rooftop tiles in Barcelona,
N from a painted sign in the Moroccan desert saying 'nomad',
O from the bronze doors of Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and  
P a parking road sign in Porto, Portugal.
I have just put the other alphabet together. I went a bit off the beaten track with this one - making 7cm shapes with copper wire, teabags and gold wax rubbed over the top. The letters are based on the Mayan alphabet - a civilisation which has long fascinated me. The teabags lend themselves to being 'seen through', so I wanted the alphabet to work against a window - with daylight and night light - a bit of a compromise and a challenge. Here is the result - the shapes sewn onto a clear perspex offcut and dangling from a lovely piece of driftwood.
...and here is the alphabet hanging in a window with the light filtering through the letters -
a Mayan jungle, perhaps?
...some details.
...a, b, c, d taken with flash,
...a, b, c, d, blu tacked to the window, taken without flash.
Hopefully we can exhibit the alphabets at some stage - many of the participants are from overseas - Fiona is working on finding a suitable venue for a show.