I am currently in Beijing, China, half way through my most recent adventure undertaking a month long tour followed by a residency with Red Gate Gallery. I am living in a cosy artist studio surrounded by a quaint community of artists. Three of my travelling buddies are also living in the same village, they are China de la Vega, Guy Maestri and Peter Gardner.
A group of 7 contemporary Australian artists are in our group and we have been guided around this foreign landscape by the amazing Catherine Croll, without whom this trip would not have been possible. The remaing artists in our group are the one and only Fiona Foley, Philjames (both of whom are living in apartments in the city for the month) and Zhou Xiao Ping who is currently down south somewhere sorting out one of his installation pieces.
The first part of this once in a lifetime journey took place during September 2010 where we were fortunate enough to visit Pingyao, Xian, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, and Shanghai. From Chongqing (population 32 million), we boarded a rusty old boat and cruised down the awe inspiring Yangtze River.
It is hard to pinpoint just one highlight from the trip as each city we have stayed in has been completely different as has the food. A few of the highlights so far have been, the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, the Giant and Red Pandas in Chengdu, visiting a school in the earthquake region, getting off the rusty boat to cruise through the 3 little gorges, the dumplings in the restaurant we went to in Wuhan, being a VIP at the Shanghai Expo and the clear blue skies we’ve been blessed with in Beijing.
The lowlights so far are pretty obvious, they include the public toilets, lack of hygeine, pollution and the overpopulation in general, but these are all things that you must expect when you visit a country a large as China. Sure it has been a culture shock but over time you adapt to it and learn to embrace it.
The final month is a residency in which we are making artwork that will somehow relate to our Chinese experience. I have a few ideas of what I will be creating including an installation about the 56 ethnic groups that make up China (55 of the 56 are considered minority groups).
Exciting times ahead, keep checking back for progress on my new work.
Our group exhibition ‘Hard Sleeper’ will open 3pm Saturday 30 October at Red Gate Gallery Beijing.