My immediate environment of my studio and the Dapu Art Centre design influenced A personal Perspective, Lines and Light and He Cha artworks.
In Part Two we go outside, further afield to Daqing city and beyond.
Daqing city was established through the finding of oil. The city is literally built on top of an oil field. It is China’s largest oilfield, discovered in 1959 and today is home to a museum in celebration of Wang Jinxi, deemed to be the responsible person drilling in the area.
The city built up around the oil drills and named Daqing, translated as Big Celebration has become one of the wealthiest cities in China.
As it is a young city with basically no history it has become a famous industrial centre with oil and petrochemical as the primary industry.
In 2011 I was fascinated to see hundreds of portable oil rigs in an amazing array of locations across the city.
Located in parks, schools, apartment blocks, on the roadside and in the road median strips they reminded me of a child’s toy, The Drinking Bird, that has a weighted tail that causes the bird to rock back and forth as though it is drinking. The Daqing Oil Rigs continuously rocked back and forth pulling up the ‘golden liquid’ from beneath the surface.
A report on the 70th anniversary of the Daqing Oilfield on September 26th, 2019 states that it: “had an annual crude production of over 50 million tonnes for 27 consecutive years and over 40 million tonnes for 12 straight years. Its annual crude oil and gas output still remains over 40 million tonnes of oil equivalent, with proven oil reserves at 6.48 billion tonnes. Its annual natural gas output has exceeded 4 billion cubic meters.” (Xinhua/Xie Jianfei) Source: Xinhua 2019-09-30.
North of the city towards Qiqihar are the Zhalong wetlands. The Zhalong nature Reserve covers an area of 2,100square kilometres and is home to the Red-crowned crane that breeds in Siberia and migrates South in Winter.
In Daqing I saw many of the other type of crane, ubiquitous to construction. In an effort to ‘catch up’ to the rest of China construction was at a peak. The Dapu Art centre was still under construction when the group of International artists arrived.
Our residency co-ordinator Zheng Xuewu drove three of us from Beijing, with an overnight stop in Harbin. The residency program varied for each artist. Mine was for two months split by negotiation for July and September. Walter was having a retrospective exhibition in August that I attended.
It was a great gathering of artists several who I had met before. Jin Nanwu from Korea, Emily Orzech (USA), Peter Kocak (SLOVAKIA), Rieneke de Vries (Netherlands), Hayoon-Jay Lee (USA) and myself.
With long daylight hours we had no concern to be back from outings before dark at about 11pm and sunrise at 3am, sleep could be difficult at times.
Several Chinese artists had day studios in the centre, a few teaching rooms for students building up folios for the exams and an IT centre that was good for me.
I created an installation in response to the Wetlands that was suspended in the lightwell over three levels of the five storied building. Three University students assisted me at times as they were on Summer break and could use the extra money.
At the wetlands I took heaps of photos, designed a stylized flying bird that was laser cut in acrylic. The IT guys helped by making a file of selected wetland images into the shape of the acrylic bird. The installation consisted of photographic images on acrylic and coloured cut-outs.
Jin Nanwu instigated an interactive artwork using a stack of bricks in the grounds of the building. Artists were invited to participate in building a tower to heaven. Unfortunately, I did not see this finished as I returned to Australia at the end of July for Walter’s exhibition. In September the bricks had all been used for paving.
Also, unfortunately for me when I returned in September, A crew of workmen started concrete rendering the building outside of my studio window. Although I had not had an attack for many years and actually thought I was no longer an asthmatic, the concrete dust caused a recreation and after 2.5 weeks in residence I had to be flown back to Beijing for medical treatment.
All in all, I was extremely pleased with the work that I produced in Daqing. Part One shows the crate works and apart from Flight I produced a series of works on paper based on the stylized bird. In September I produced one piece in a Chinese concertina watercolour book.
It is based on the Red-crowned Crane, wetlands and Chinese traditional costume.
I thank Zheng Xuewu for the invitation to create artworks and interactions with Chinese artists in the far North of China.