Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011 China - Paper cut, copies & many things creative

For eight weeks Brianna and I rented an apartment in Beijing, on the second ring road, near the lama temple, just outside the city.


It was a studio apartment with two queen size beds, a small kitchen, bathroom, laundry and balcony - with a view across the street to other apartments. . . . nothing flash, but comfortable and very central. Safe!!

I was thrilled that Arron was able to spend a couple of weeks with us exploring. An incredible experience, to share The Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, the Summer Palace . . .and many other unique experiences with my children . . . .

During the day, the businesses downstairs would be in total flux as they were renovating, expanding and resizing. 
The entire place bustled with activity,ensuring there was always a spectacle or some form to observe.

Don't get me wrong. I did not have rosy glasses on all the time.
There were many things of which I did not approve, like or understand.
I did not like the pushing, the putrid smells of drains and stinky tofu . . . the public spitting.
I did not approve of the chaotic traffic, shoving and sheer mass of people and the obvious attempts at cheating you.
I found the tangible smog of pollution depressing . . . & the obvious lack of birds disconcerting.

I did not understand the language, the perceived rudeness's or the need to haggle continuously.
However, there were many, many things of which I approved, enjoyed, marvelled at, photographed and wished I could bottle and bring back with me to Brisbane, Australia. I admired the gardens everywhere. The amalgamation of species from different climates seemed to thrive in one garden plot. Standard weeping wisteria, roses, bamboo, grasses & shrubs.
I adored the colours everywhere. Be they in the food, the paintings, carvings, lights, reflections, foliage, flowers and clothing.
I admired the imagination, creativity and ability to produce work of an admirable quality, under less than satisfactory conditions.
I liked the humour, ability to laugh at themselves, the hunger to learn and the ability to share knowledge.
Combining the more traditional with modern concepts.
I had originally applied and received approval to attend a residency at the RED GATE residency, just outside Beijing for 2 - 3 months (hoping to obtain the allocation of time that would coincide with leaving Brianna in Jinan after our 6 week holiday . . . . . when she had resumed her studies and the weather was still warm enough to survive comfortably. . . .September, October, November 2011)
I intended on furthering my studies in layering, paint effects & paper cut, so that I could incorporate them with more productivity and accuracy into my printmaking.
I have used grounds, layering and paper cut outs and stencils for years. I tend to use a layering printing process (combining block, screen and intaglio) with found and created objects, printed onto canvas, which I then cutout, paint and layer.
Studying these processes under expert tutelage was something I envisioned as being highly beneficial & enjoyable. . . . .

Exceptionally detailed works are plentiful and varied. Shown in portfolios through out the art/craft shops. Many now are cut by machine . . .
Alas! the timing for this particular proposal was not appropriate. I was offered a later time slot, (from September - October, then Jan - March) which would mean that I had a few months between leaving Brianna and commencing the final part of the approved residency. I would need to leave the country to renew my visa and find alternative accommodation for the few months in between the two time slots.
Also, The January, February and March period in Beijing can get to - as low as -30 degrees. . . . did you see that minus? I was informed that it is a dry cold and therefore more tolerable . . . . however, and this is by no means a little HOWEVER!!! being from PNG and Queensland, I did not feel that this GIRL would be able to acclimatize and enjoy a stint in such conditions . . ..
regardless of the obvious attractions. . . .
and believe me the attractions were hard to resist. (BUMMER!!!!!!! I want to be resistant to cold and 20 again!)Regardless of the disappointment I had many opportunities to see some interesting works.
I did visit many places were they practise the printmaking and paper cut out traditions and where they are adapting them to more modern techniques.
It was great to see the diversity of materials & styles. . . .from the more traditional to the obvious ones with a modern flavour. Layered paper cut using grounds and black paper. Huge cutouts & Traditional cut outs
I was aware of the ability of many artists to ignore copyright and ownership of any sort . . . . people seem to BORROW ideas and repeat processes, without any obvious consideration of who may have previously DONE a similar work.
Throughout the markets and art district works were blatantly repeated ? . . . . . .copied ? . . .. . . .Borrowed ? Painting seen repeated. Ink drawing on wall. Paper cut multi- layered
Then you would turn the corner of some obscure Hutong and there stencilled/drawn/etched/grafitied or painted on the dirty wall, were works that gave you something to think about . . . . an emotional message with some originality?
Stencil of girl on old hutong wall. Grafitti? Etching on glass window
There were entire shops full of cutouts in fabric, leather or paper . . . .stencils on the more isolated parts of the Great wall of China and cutouts used through out architectural interior displays. Leather cut outs. Stencil on Great wall. cutouts of Butterflies
Yes, as I have said on numerous occasions . . . .China gives you much to think about . . . .

Bri, how you manage to live there alone, is beyond my grasp . . . there is no way I would have endured CHINA without your company, let alone at your age and level of experience. I am in awe of your capabilities. . . . . . . Sooooooooo a HUGE thankyou. )

So, now I need to Sits and thinks . . .

or maybe it is time to . . . . just SIT - or even take some advise and RELAX !!!?
But, be it sitting with some thinking or just sitting . .. .I know all the things I have enjoyed, fought the traffic to see, shared, photographed, documented, drawn, painted and thought about - will eventually percolate into something to create . . . .

Thank you to my delightful and clever daughter, Brianna . . . . .I adored your company, strength, enthusiasm and ability to communicate with the People.
(Without this huge asset of language, I do not think the trip would have been as incredible and I certainly would not have been able to understand what the people we met, were trying to say. . . . and we would not have known which individuals to avoid!!!! 

and thank you China. . . . . what a spectacle!!!! I'm glad I have seen you NOW.

I think given the current pace of change it will be a completely different animal in a very short space of time. Just in the period between our last two trips, a mere span of 4 years, the changes have been mammoth.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!! Yes, it has been an eventful and extremely pleasant journey.

Shanghi to Beijing then onto Jinan - an adventure 2011

Brianna on Boat on the lake of Summer Palace, Beijing 2007. . . . Beijing 2011

Brianna started this journey in China, in Shanghai at the University of Fudan, in January 2011.
I joined Arron and Brianna in July, to have a few weeks exploring Beijing. We had a fascinating time in this eclectic city. The Summer palace, Forbidden city, Peking duck, food markets . . . . . it is amazing what you can fit into 24 hours of each day, when your days are not enough . . .

and when are they ever enough???

Arron had to return to Brisbane after 3 weeks travelling with Brianna to various destinations, and time with Bri and I in Beijing. I would have enjoyed having more time with Arron, but such is life . . . .and what we did share was extremely enjoyable.

Arron on the Great Wall of China. . . .Bri pounding peanuts. . . . Arron drinking yogurt. . . .Bri on the Great Wall of China.

Arron in Food Night Markets Beijing. Bri with Fairy Floss Man. . . 
Peking Duck night out
Brianna and I continued our affair with Beijing. ( I am extremely grateful to have spent this time with my daughter in such exotic locations, while exploring places this suburban mother and wife would never normally venture . . . without the assistance of her warm, intelligent, and daring daughter, who is proficient in Mandarin . .. .what an amazing time I have had !!!!! Can I ever say Thankyou too often ? . . . . Thankyou!)

During our stay at the Beijing apartment Brianna took a trip across to North Korea, leaving me alone for a week . . . . if your interested in North Korea her blog is a very good read.

After 8 fabulous weeks exploring, experiencing, and being decadent in Beijing, it was time to move onto the Shandong province, to deposit Brianna into her New University, for the second part of the year. We caught the fast train which recorded its fastest time during our journey as 367 km hour . . . .

I thought the bullet train in Japan was fast . . .?

The journey from Beijing to Shanghai only takes 4 hours . . the one from Beijing to Jinan was only less than 2 hours. Incredible! Safe? Who knows . .. but we made it!
Cake creations at the LOcal bakery?  . . .Modern shopping centres. . . .
Bri in her University of Shandong.

Jinan is an interesting city. We did not spy another European face in the first 3 days. Considering it's size and beauty, you wonder why more people do not visit this area. This region is the origin of 700 plus fresh water springs. This copious water supply flows into water ways, lakes and fountains throughout the city. They are well maintained and the lighting of an evening is spectacular.

Outside mammoth, modern shopping centre, Jinan.  . . .Brianna in University of Shandong, Jinan.  . . .Bri and  Me exploring Jinan at night.

The shopping is a mix of old, and extremely modern, mammoth structures housing all the expensive and desirable commodities out of Italy and France!I have a feeling that before too long we will not be able to afford to shop in China!

I felt comfortable knowing Brianna is in Jinan. The pace is a BIT slower, the people more ready to smile, the traffic less hectic and the sheer size less daunting. Yes!, it is a NICE 'little' place!!

I kept wondering what the difference is between Australia and China . . . why does it feel so foreign? Yeah! Yeah! I know the different nationality of the inhabitants is a certain give away!! . . and the architecture, and the obviously Grey vs Blue skies . . . but there is something else.

After my travels, I think I have nailed one of the variances that makes it obviously different.
In Australia we tend to have extremely structured and strict building codes and policies that protect areas from being 'different'. 

Well, I don't think the government has initiated these strict codes in China . . . .

Walking anywhere, you will find a children's toy and clothing shop next to a sex shop, which rubs shoulders with the local bakery . . . . moving right along you'll find a very expensive boutique which derives it's aroma from the open sewerage drains that flow between it and the semi demolished houtong.

Yep! It is this juxtaposition of such variances that causes us foreigners to feel uneasy.

I talked to a lot of foreign visitors (while attending art classes at the The Hutong, and doing the cooking classes etc) and it seems that you either love this or hate it . . . there is vary little room for nonchalance. I found at first it unsettled me. 

Why have an exquisite shop or boutique Hostel next to a smelly old crumbling food outlet? . . . . a fascinating, modern Art gallery in a dark labyrinth of an alleyways. An exquisite, meditative garden next to a market district lit with the most incredible neon lights . . 

But after awhile I did not find this disturbing. (however, I am well aware of the positive differences, that being able to communicate with the local people - speaking their language makes. Just being in Beijing by myself for the week, while Brianna was in North Korea was a slight night mare. Hoping into a taxi was fraught with dangers, ordering a meal off an all chinese menue an adventure, getting lost a firm reality . . . )

But !. . .and However !. . .. I must categorise myself as, 'loving the strangeness' of the place.

I know I will find Brisbane plain and under whelming.

I will find the sameness and slowness claustrophobic.

Initially, I will look for something new and unpredictable, knowing it will be without success. (Brisbane is like a well manicured garden, with predictable pathways and water features signed and fenced . . .. nothing is left to explore, with an adventurers heart or a soul that craves something different!)

However, like most humans I will adapt and eventually appreciate the orderliness of the roads, the ability to be able to read and understand most signs, the sameness of quality, the Blue skies, the quietness and the safety . . . of sleepy little Brissy.

Yep! Home will certainly be a LOT different . . .

for one thing, I will miss my daughter.. . .again !. . . .but,I would never want her to miss out on such an adventure . ..

"You Go Girl" . . .ain't life grand, for those brave enough to take it face on. 

We will be here when you get back. Enjoy! X

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nearly time to go Home

As my time draws near to having to leave Brianna & Beijing, I find I have ambiguous emotions.

Bri and I at The Hutong, making & eating Chinese food

Obviously I will miss my daughter and this opportunity we have had to share such a wonderful adventure, but I am extremely surprised to realize I have grown rather attached to China . . . . this brash, confusing, contradictory, creative & exciting place.

So much creativity . . . . .

< I look around and am continuously blown away by the talent, creativity, ingenuity and sheer audacity of the multi faceted inhabitants.

Throughout our journey, just when I think I am over the pushing, jabbering, grey haze of pollution, traffic and sheer size and rate of expansion . . . I turn a corner and am confronted by someone whose generosity and humour confounds me, or an environmental panorama that takes my breath away. I do think Being an artist is a big influence. I tend to scrutinize the construction, detailing and placing of things that many confess they do not acknowledge, witness, comprehend or see at all. (This process can be annoying as a short journey may take hours. . . . . . ) Peeling paint, layered patterning, constructed landscaping, the juxtaposition of shadows silhouetted on a path, all are cause for pause, examination and reflection. China is an ideal place for this type of minute exploration. The unexpected appearance of a huge paper cut out under a bridge. The stencilling of images on abandoned buildings, the appearance of sculptures at every turn . . . .I watch people walking past all these installations without any outward sign of recognition and I am bamboozled . . . . So much talent . . .
In Brisbane I would have to walk throughout the GOMA ensuring I witness each and every item carefully accumulated, to see anywhere near as much as I can see just walking down a suburban main street in Beijing.

I am incredulous of the changes this county is experiencing. In 2007 we travelled through the major cities, to see the major tourist highlights . . . we saw a country in change and opening to all and any possibility. Now only 4 years later the changes are incredible. No more grey communist garments, no open fear of exposure, no hiding of exuberant emotions . . .

One of many Very large Paper Cuts behind glass under bridge.

We saw people holding hands and even kissing openly. We witnessed consumerism being all consuming. We saw the outward benefits of a new wave of 'liberal communism' . . . .sort of what we would consider entrepreneurial . . . . . capitalist . . . .or plain in your face avaricious money making?
Creative architecture everywhere

Through out my 6 weeks I have listened to a lot of criticism from numerous foreign individuals ( the peoples blatent production of pollution, their over- consumption, the one child policy collapsing, the want,want,want of the people . . . . .) and though I thought about their opinions and had to believe that they were observing obvious trends . . . . However, I could not help but be sympathetic with the way things are going. After the 'so long without' still in daily dialogue and current memory, I think the need to want and the want to desperately need, would be extremely hard to resist . . . . . The swift rush from Cultural revolution to consumerism is surreal.Everywhere you look there is change.
Everywhere there is construction there is planting of expansive parks.
Everywhere that something is changed a cultural installation or sculpture is installed . . . . .
Water park in shopping centre . . . .with Huge TV screen. Cool !!

The people know what they have missed, they know what they now want . . . . and who can blame them for wanting it all now.

But and the Big BUT is . . . .they are making small steps toward rehabilitation. Electric bikes, wind fans & solar power to generate electricity, planting of trees along every road and parks everywhere, the law to stop public spitting, the one child policy . . . . .the list goes on and on.

YES!, I will miss China and her people.
I have enjoyed so many of her attributes. . . .

I do wish her good management and good luck in the future . . . . .