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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Art in Beijing

Prior to making the trip to China this time,I decided I would apply to see if I could attend a art residency in Beijing, to coincide with Brianna doing her 12 month university degree at Fudan and Shandong.
I was thrilled to receive acceptance for a Residency at Red Gate for September 2011 or January, February, March 2012

. . Red Gate Residency has been working to develop an initiative to bring innovative individuals working on socially and environmentally responsible projects to Beijing. . . .

Red Gate offers a program that offers the time and space to work in a studio environment with local and international artists. There is a competitive application process with two main deadlines a year for six two – three month residencies. . . . . . Red Gate assists all participants to connect with the art scene, meet local Chinese artists and to source art materials.
So of course we had to visit the Red Gate Gallery. http://www.redgategallery.com/location This incredible space has an exhibiting factor of ‘wow’. We met the director, who was charming, informative and in my good books, as he gifted me with a beautiful red bound collection of the current exhibiting artists works . . .what is there not to love?

We then moved onto Feijiacun, to the Beigao studio compound to meet the director Ms Zehui, who is helping Crystal with the Red Gate residency program. We were shown the studios and met some of the very talented residing artists.

However, after serious consideration I dec
ided that the first option of one month for September 2011 was too short a time to emerse myself in any serious body of work and the second choice was smack bang in winter.( I know I would not be able to endure the extreme cold of a typical Beijing winter) My final decision was to re apply at a later date.
So we decided to continue with the ART theme, with a visit to the innovative and exciting

798 Art District, at Dashanzi..

There are sooooooo many studios to look through. . .
White space Beijing,
Beijing Tokyo Art project, Art Scene Beijing,
798 photo Beijing and The Long March space are all worth a visit.
There are book shops, cafés and nik nak shops a plenty.
You could spend days at this sprawling feisty art hub.
Oh! Yahhhh! we did get some seriously great food in some very funky cafe environs, while observing some facinating behaviour by the attending crowds. . . . .

Yep! Great stuff!!

We soaked up lots of inspirational ideas and left with a renewed desire to get on with some serious CREATING !!!!
What more could one ask for???

Monday, August 22, 2011

Variety - the spice of life

Food glorious food . . . .that’s what we live for.
I can still hear the little orphan boy singing that song just before he asked for more.(Yah! Oliver Twist . . . . Please Sir may I have some more . . . . . . ?)
Yah! I know, that is so incorrect and unfashionable, but here in China it is so acceptable. . . .Beijing cuisine can be summed up as the distillation of the creations of generations of Imperial chefs over almost a millennium. . . .
Grandmas Kitchen, Brownie covered in icecream & cream
By 1271 with the arrival of Kublai Khan Beijing was made the centre of the Empire, importing elements and influences from a variety of sources; amongst them was the Mongolian influence – lamb roasting and the Hot Pot. Each province throughout China provided the Capital with ingredients. Shandong (as the birthplace of Confucius generally being regarded as the oldest) . . . was one of the most important agricultural producers, with numerous fisheries and farms which supplied Beijing with most of its food. Tianjin its capital is a treaty port, resulting in the added influences from the Russian & Japanese.

Now you tell me how all that could not result in a cuisine that is varied and delicious. . . . it also is one that encourages the attitude of, if you don’t like that dish, there are a 1,000 more to try!!!
- Liulichang street tea house. Buddhas tears tea and clear vegetable & noodle soup.
Element fresh, Sanlitun smoothie - kiwi fruit, orange and blueberry
Chinese chicken Hot Pot - and it was very HOT!
what you can afford?
or what you can make?
or what you are game to try?

Ready to cook our lunch

Pulling noodles with chicken and vegetables, at The Hutong cooking school

For more information on this cooking please visit Bri's blog at http://poiseonarrows.blogspot.com/2011/09wondrous-cooking-night-number-one.html

The ancient Chinese kept pigs and grew millet, wheat, barley, rice and fermented their grain to make alcoholic beverages. Around 1100BC they added Soya bean which was soon followed by soy sauce and bean curd (tofu). . . . .

Now 2011, there has been the introduction of fast food and dairy outlets: potato chips, smoothies, hamburgers, ice cream, pizza and various variations on numerous Western/European themes.

So yes it has taken a few years, but you have to agree that the influences to date have produced some extremely delicious and varied meals of which we have sampled, Peking duck, Mu Shu Pork, lamb and scallion, Mongolian Hot Pot, Sweet and sour fish, drunken empress chicken, Sichuan pepper with green beans, steamed dumplings, noodle soup, Chips with ketchup, pizza, mango smoothies, cold stone icecream with numerous add ins and hot candied apple & strawberries . . . to mention but a few.

So in this cosmopolitan city we have discovered that there is never a shortage of variety , it is more about trying to chose, what you feel like?

But one thing is for certain . . . . it is never boring.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Drawing in Beijing

While Bri is away i am finding things to do . . . .
I decided to take myself off for Life Drawing classes, something I have not done for YEARS.
I emailed The Hutong and booked my first class, which would start at 7.30pm.
I walked out of my apartment building not knowing which way I was going.
I stood on the side of the road to hail a taxie. At this point, the idea that a detailed map of Beijing would be a good idea, crossed my mind.
I was lucky to have a driver who was honest, friendly and able to drop me close to where I needed to be. I found myself standing on the side of a major cross road, not knowing which way to go, until a nice young man took pity on me and without any verbal communication directed me to the hutong entry.

It is so very easy to get lost in the warrens that are the Hutongs
Being early I stopped at a cafe, Grandmas Kitchen, for apple pie and coffee . . . . Yah!, not your usual Chinese fair, but something left over from the French, which I certainly appreciated .

Finaly I arrive at the door for The Hutong cooking and art centre. A place founded by creative Australians who live in Beijing. There were a dozen individuals all from varied backgounds . . . there were easels, a generous supply of great paper, charcoal and a male model from Finland. . . . (He looked awfully familiar, but as he was naked I was not about to ask if we had met before . I think he may have modeled at BIA in Brisbane?) Oh! and red wine, juice and lots of talking.

We did several 3 minute warm up drawings, a few 5 minute ones and then some that were 15 minute poses. Half time we had a break and I managed to talk to people from South Africa, Sweden, Mongolia and said Hi, to the other people attending.

The time went all too quickly. 9.30pm arrived and I was just feeling like I was finding my stride.
Now i was filled with trepidation . . . it was dark and I had to find my way out of the maze.

Looking hesitant, yet again! a young English girl took pity on me and offered to walk me back to the main street. (I am so very thankful to all the generous souls I have encountered during my stay. I would have been so lost without them)
Standing on the side of the main crossroad I was not sure which way I was ment to go . . . so my beautiful young companion hailed me a cab, told the driver my address and waved me goodbye. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!

Arriving at my apartment complex, I did my nighttime shopping for water, fruit and bread, had an evening meal of pumpkin deep fried in egg white (like sweet chips with a crisp tempura coating), a mango smoothy . . . then made my way to my apartment.
It was a great introduction that confirmed my passion to draw. Once I reached my apartment I sat down and emailed to make further bookings. . . .

Hutongs, Smog and People

While Brianna is in North Korea I decided I would take myself off to explore some of the areas close to our apartment, (thus avoiding the long taxi drives in bad traffic, with the possibility of a driver that wants to make a wee bit more money, taking me on a very long, long drive) Even with these limitations I have found some gorgeous parks, great shopping and stepping off the main roads, a maze of Hutongs.

Shopping . . . .all the Big Brand Names
Beautiful parks and community areas
Cafe on first floor of our apartment complex - very modern

At first glance Beijing appears like a very modern city, however you can still find the city’s alleyways (Hutongs) weaving across most of central Beijing. These were formally the houses of the well to do, officials or prostitutes.

The modernization & increasing population within Beijing has destroyed many traditional Sibeyuan (courtyard houses within the hutongs). With few opportunities for work in the countryside, tens of millions are moving to the cities in search of a better life.
As space became an issue additional buildings have filled in the area traditionally open as a leafy quiet courtyard in the middle of most structures.. Several families may now live within an area once designed for only one family.

Traditional Inner courtyard

Living in poor conditions, dissatisfaction is widespread and increasing with regards to corruption, pollution, environmental degradation, and the expensive rise in the cost of living.

However, if you don’t dwell on the social inadequacies and want an interesting afternoon, wandering around the hutongs looking into the Sibeyuan, is a fascinating way to spend some time.

I was amazed at how often I felt like I was back in Italy . . . .the flecking layered paint, decorative wood paneling and detail to architecture. . . .

As population growth drives a consumer boom, China’s energy needs are fast outstripping its capacity and a major expansion of its network of coal-fired generating stations is planned. When China is already the planet’s biggest polluter – resulting in an atmosphere that is almost furry enough to stroke, you wonder what the end result will be?

Coal blocks used for heating and cooking - continuously polluting the air
I cleaned the air conditioner when we first arrived in our apartment, and only two weeks into our stay, I am amazed at the thick layer of sooty debris that is coating the vents. Yuckkkkkkkkkkkk! It is no wonder that the city has many gorgeous parks that are widely used for social gathering, exercising & gambling. I will post on these soon.

Open green areas are artificially created and well maintained

Monday, August 08, 2011

Beijing - a contradiction at every turn

Temple of Heaven
Olympic stadium
Gardens along every road are well maintained, beautiful and used by the Beijingers
The older buildings are rapidly being replaced by high rise modern buildings
Di TAn Park - playing cards
Dancing in the streets Beijing style. Very nice way to spend an evening with the gals
I know I have been around for awhile now, but I had never in all my years considered using a chair in this fashion. Silly me !! I thought the legs went vertical to the seat ?
Turn a corner and another intriguing vista . . . though Brianna is quick to point out that we are in an area of some affluence . . .which is different to the ones with more effluence!!!!
On this outing I stumbled across Beijing’s most spectacular temple complex, The Lama Temple. This has 5 main halls flanked by numerous smaller very ornate buildings that were constructed during the 17th Century and converted into a Tibetan Lamasery in 1744. The highlight is the 55ft statue of Mailtreya, the future Buddha. The idea that impressed me is the fact that this 17m high structure (with another 6m underground) was carved from one single sandalwood tree. The tree was a gift from the Tibetan people to the Emperor and took 3 years for numerous Imperial carvers to sculpt the single gold covered statue. I can’t help but wonder if trees of such magnificent height and girth even exist today.
Bri is back and we intend on doing some more girl things . . . .guess!!!!!

Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China is one of the world’s largest cities with a population of over 14 million. It is a microcosm of modern China and all its contradictions. A bustling city of affluent shoppers, trendy youth, and beggars that rub along with a myriad of outlets with diverse cuisine, 6 million bicycles and 20 thousand new cars ( that win their place on the clogged roads through a national lottery with over 100,000 entries each month)

Expanding in concentric rings from the Forbidden City at its core, the grid-like layout of modern Beijing still echoes its Ming dynasty blueprint. Old Beijing survives in its temples, palaces and old alleyways ( hutongs) that crisscross the city outside the second ring road, which itself charts the loop of the demolished City Wall. Within this ancient outline are towering skyscrapers, shopping malls, huge avenues, vaulting flyovers, ancient structures of cultural significance and the vast expanse of Tian’anMen Square.

While Bri was away I took a taxi to Di Tan Park, an ideal place to relax amidst the trees where the city does not appear to intrude. This was the venue for Imperial sacrifices, with an Alter dating from the Ming Dynasty. Wandering around watching people play cards in the ancient renovated structures, walk their babies in modern strollers, play musical instruments or dance is a great way to spend a hot Beijing day. I was still there at dusk to see the modern young couples stroll hand in hand or sit smooching. . . I could not help but wonder if the Ming imperial worshippers ever imagined such a use of their Fangze Tan (temple of earth alter)

I spent another day wandering around the Hutongs of Dongcheng. Many of the shops were under construction but I found some interesting enough to spend time rummaging.When I encounter these chaotic collections I feel avidity or greed or liberated excitement. It is hard to explain what it is like to have something so alien in your hands for the first time, to pick up a snuff bottle, a lacquered box or a exquisite cup - or a netsuke - in a material that you have never encountered before and shift it around, finding its weight and balance, rubbing a finger along the raised decoration of a stork in flight through clouds? There are objects that can only be described as 'play things', small carvings of animals that roll in your hand- 'plus gras, plussimple, plus caresse' . . . . .very rich, very simple, very tactile. . . . . . Seductive Things