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Tag : china

Receiving and Giving Blessings through Art Making

I am a member of the Warrandyte Uniting Church and was asked to respond, in a presentation to the congregation, on the theme:

Stepping out into the unknown and the Blessings this can lead to.

Sharing and passing on of peoples’ gifts and how this benefits others.

Below are the notes I wrote to support the presentation.

I spent more than 17 years engaging with China. It became familiar to me almost like a second home, however, there was a time when China was unfamiliar; only known through books and information passed on by a dear friend.

Stepping into the Contemporary Art World of China was exciting to meet and discover other artists; however, it was scary as to how I would ‘fit in’. What did I have to offer as I was fresh out of my Art Studies and came from down under, middle aged with very little communication skills? So many other international artists came from UK, Scandinavia, Europe and USA. I had no grand resume’, publications or catalogues.

So, I got to work making art in response to my experiences.

My first artworks consisted of rice. Rice is a staple food for Chinese, they eat it, they do not make art from it. Very soon I was invited to participate in exhibitions that continue even now. I found that people were interested in what I did, where I came from, how I expressed myself and the way that I wanted to learn from others. I was not only accepted into the world of artists in China but regarded as an equal. I learnt an immense amount about Chinese culture and those around me were willing to teach me. China is challenging, even in everyday activities yet for me during the 17 years of amazing experiences every experience has been a blessing.

Because I have been very fortunate in my engagement with China, I achieve a great deal of satisfaction in sharing my knowledge and skills at all levels.

Working with children is always joyful, watching them discover new ways of creating through different materials and ideas, talking with their parents to assist them to understand how and why children are exposed to a range of educational methods.

I was listening to a programme based on teaching men to cook and the thrill that the men had in knowing that they had the ability to create and coordinate a tasty meal was so exciting for them.

I am excited to know that by passing on my creative knowledge encourages others to have a go. I am excited to know that my knowledge and skills can be of benefit in collaboration and team projects for the broader community.

And then I am excited to know that my skills in creating has assisted others in need. The current Fundraising exhibition at Montsalvat for Fire Relief means that the selling of my artwork will give benefit in a practical form. As of 4 March, $17,640 had been raised from the generosity of artists’ giving.

During the past 17 years I often stepped out into the unknown to discover wonder, to be blessed with opportunities, meeting and making friends, discovering new ways and developing deeper understanding.  I look forward to the future with hope that I continue to have the courage and confidence to step out into the unknown.

I have been blessed with seeing little lights flick on when a child or adult realizes that they can do something or understand something that I have taught or explained. I am pleased that I can offer my knowledge and skills to benefit others, to collaborate and be part of a team, especially in our church where our outreach stretches far beyond the boarders of this plot of land.

 

Changing Direction: From Melbourne to Beijing and Beyond

I was introduced to China through an old friend, who passed away about 10 years ago.
Whilst living with June and Hugh Antonoff, in their very quaint cottage, June opened her heart and photo albums about her love of China. She had traveled to Middle Kingdom many times and often was accompanied by her daughter Lesley.
Lesley who also became a long term friend had arranged to tour a small group of Fengshui Students into China and I was as invited to attend. That was in the Chinese Autumn of 2002.
I was smitten. I have since traveled to the country every year, sometimes two or three times per year and now write this Blog whilst sitting in my friend Jia Jingjing’s apartment on the outskirts of Beijing in the developing area of Shunyi.
After two residency stays; in 2003 with Redgate Artist-in-residence (AIR) and in 2004 supported by the Australia China Council AIR Program, I rented a studio in the newly built Beijing International Art Camp (BIAC) of Suo Jia Cun in 2005. the studio became ‘Yellow Flower Studio’ named after my favourite part of the great Wall.
The excitement of being in China and especially in Beijing at that time was mind-blowing, artists from across the globe were pouring into the city for their ‘China Experience’. Chinese artists were pouring into Beijing from the many provinces endeavouring to ‘make a success’ with their artworks.
An immense amount of interactions, engagements, collaborations, creations, invitations and exhibitions were about to unfold for me.
The BIAC studio compound in Suo Jia Cun consisted of about 80 studios, where international and Chinese artists lived and worked, sometimes exhibited and performed in the thoroughfares and studios.
I moved in mid 2005 until suddenly just before Christmas 2009 was informed that the compound was to be destroyed to make way for the new Subway Line 15.
January 2010 found me in a heavy snowfall in Beijing packing up my goods and chattels in a freezing studio while searching for another place to go. I am ever grateful to Photographer Gao Yuan opening her home for me to stay for the two week duration.
My dear friend Zheng Xuewu, now living in New York, was at the time restructuring his AIR Program in the Art Village of Songzhuang. He offered me a studio at the 60 Art Area compound.
I had first been introduced to the Art Village in 2003 through the Chinese Cultural Centre a Tourism Company offering a wide range of experiences for internationals. It was a bus tour to visit artists in a district that seemed to take forever to arrive.
Beijing currently has 6 Ring Roads, 1st is the perimeter of the Imperial Palace and the 6th skirts the outside edge of the Beijing International Airport. BIAC was located North East of the outer edge of the 5th Ring Road. 60 Art Area is located South East of the outer edge of the 6th Ring Road. By public transport a distance 3 hours OR 25 Kms as the crow flies.
Warrandyte is approximately 25 kms from Melbourne CBD and I can take a 50 minute bus ride into the city. Songzhuang is approximately 25kms from Beijing CBD and I could take a 1 hour bus ride into the city. I rationalised my shift in this way as many people found Songzhuang to be ‘too far away’.
The ebb and flow of life in a Beijing studio continued and being located in a smaller compound of about 20 studios allowed for a greater focus on production and being more selective regarding city and gallery visits.
In September 2018 I was advised that the studio roof needed replacing due to a few incidents around Beijing of poorly constructed roofs. Fortunately I could bypass Beijing on my return from Gwangju in Korea to cover and shift artworks and furniture to minimise exposure to the elements.
The roof had not been replaced when I returned for my Winter residence in January 2019 and the other artists were unsure when it would occur. Being due to leave on 17th March I was informed on 10th March that my contract would not be renewed and was asked to leave. Now that was a surprise. My good friends Lu Si and Jia Jingjing negotiated with the owner for me to have at least 3 months to move out. Seems the owner had decided to reconstruct the interior of the building while the new roof was being installed. He had plans to create small apartments for rental and “it is all about the money” he said. As I had been one of his best tenants I was given 3 months grace.
Many friends asked, “where to now”. My reply, “nowhere”. I made the decision to close down the studio, give away as much as possible with regard to furniture, fittings and equipment, find storage for the artwork, then decide on the next step.
For two weekends in May and June 2019 a team of friends assisted me to clear all but the internal shell of the studio. Ten years in a studio amounts to a lot of ‘stuff’. I was AIR in Wuhan in South of China and was given leave to pack up the studio but had to return on Mondays. We all agreed it was absolutely exhausting.
Lu Si stayed on in the aftermath to coordinate the finalization of the clearance.
Yesterday I returned to the scene. Lu Si has set up an AIR Studio across the street from 60 Art Area and it was such a pleasure to see many of my ‘things’ having a new life, even the timber flooring from my mezzanine. My old studio is now four apartments, each apartment will cost the tenant the same amount that it cost me per year. So the owner now gets four times the money, when he gets the tenants, of course.
For this China trip Jingjing offered for me to stay in her new apartment in Shunyi area, I am sitting here on my old lounge suite, looking at my old bookcase, eating at my old table and using my old fridge with contentment.
My artworks are secure, dust free, damp free and waiting patiently for shipment to Melbourne.
I look forward to my Survey exhibition of Chinese works in 2021 and look forward to returning to China with a changed direction.

Written as the warm sunshine melts snow.
21st January 2020