The Art of Travel
“Journeys are the midwives of thought,” said Alain de Botton in ‘The Art of Travel’. Perhaps this explains why so many artists, often restless, yearning souls, have worn tracks across the globe, seeking new wonders, new experiences, new visual languages.
Sometimes their travels are an escape from a more limited version of themselves, or from a stifling culture (think of hundreds of artists arriving hopefully in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century, pilgrims seeking the elusive ‘centre’.) Sometimes they are diasporic journeys. Sometimes an artist embarks upon a series of journeys through a willingness to seize the day, to embrace new opportunities as they present themselves. Whatever form an artist’s journey takes, it’s not tourism. A thoughtful, reflective immersion in new places, different cultures and languages, embracing the richness of visual experiences: the inevitable result is a new way of seeing and interpreting the world, and, ultimately, a change in the artist herself.
Irish artist Niamh Cunningham has lived in many places undergoing a state of flux and change: South Africa just before Mandela became president, Hong Kong during and after reunification, and Dubai, where she saw a hypermodern city rising from the sands. A year in Prague – a city and nation in transition from one kind of political and cultural identity to another – was followed by a move to China, where she has lived and worked since 2011. Beijing, some might say, is the ultimate transitional, liminal place: a city undergoing constant, convulsive change as the grey-walled hutongs are overwritten by steel and glass skyscrapers and new ring-roads push the city ever further into the countryside.
Curated by Philip Tinari and Guo Xi
John Gerrard’s first exhibition in China featured Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), Farm (Pryor Creek, Oklahoma) and Exercise (Dunhuang) recently shown at UCCA in 798 , Beijing.
Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) John Gerrard, POWER.PLAY at UCCA, 798, Beijing Summer 2016
What is real and what is a real representation are some of the internal workings going on with you as you experience these huge simulated light sculptures. These ambiguous interventions are so very similar to camera work. The slow steady panning of movement is quite hypnotic and the viewer needs time to find out how they are responding to this slightly strange yet familiar world.
But there are many layers to this new media and lucky for me Gerrard is one of the most articulate artists I have come across.
These pieces of software do not exist if they’re not energized. “The works are effectively energy in transit. That’s their condition. There is no film. There is no artifact. You simply have this set of instructions, which is bundled into an executable file. Without a computer to execute it, you have nothing. So my logic around that is that this is a very pregnant way to respond to contemporary conditions, because a lot of our realities are profoundly influenced by what I would call the algorithmic turn. Investment banking, political decision-making, military decision-making, trade, supermarkets: they are modeling reality, and, on that basis, they are making decisions about how reality is formed.”
As with all other aspects of global life, China has a greater impact today than it did 30 years ago. But Chinese artists, especially the women, are still an unknown quantity. Luise Guest tries to tackle this shortfall in knowledge with an intriguing and well-presented look in her book, Half the Sky. At 224 illustrated pages the book highlights the work, sometimes bizarre, always thought-provoking, of the gender in China that Mao claimed held up half the sky. Anyone who has visited China know they do more than that and the 32 artists featured in the book keep the sky from falling in ways you can barely imagine.
12.11.15, monoprint Niamh Cunningham 70 x70 cm
This series of paper works are a contemplation on process, chance and reclamation. For this series I can act as fluidly and quickly as surface tension allows creating the movement of colour captured on the xuan zhi paper. Although traditional Chinese materials are being used it is very different to the traditional brush work on paper .
Some of the works here are revisits from works on canvas, some are of intended works that have yet to reach the canvas. And others are organic abstractions of life, evolving into cellular microcosms or botanical forms.
Traditionally blooms that are most favoured in China are the peony (an emblem of wealth and honor) and the plum blossom because it symbolizes the five blessings (Fu). But what of the China Rose?
China Rose Tunnel 164 x 110cm Oil on Canvas
Birth of a Nation, IRISH WAVE 2016
This post will take a very brief overview of the main exhibition “ Birth of a Nation” held at the beautiful old warehouse space NING SPACE in 798. Only some of the works are mentioned here.
Here is a short clip installing the ” Pillar of Time” at Dong Yue Art Museum August 2014. Many thanks to the team at CCTV – My China, a documentary which was filmed during the preparations for the solo show “An Eastward Calling”
I made “Pillar of Time” several years ago for an IRISH WAVE 2012 exhibition called ” Intimate Revolution” . While travelling on long journeys by bus I would often take the beginning sections of this work to knit. Often there would be a woman next to me striking up a conversation ‘Are you making a sweater? ‘ No I would reply. ‘Are you making a scarf?’ No I would answer ‘ I’m making a pillar’. Inevitably the conversation would dwindle down to a polite but confused silence……. another conversation lost in translation.
IRISH WAVE 2016 “Birth of a Nation” Exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai as part of the Irish Festival in China this March.
This post will take an overview of “Identity” exhibited at the Emerging Arts Research Centre (EARC) in 798, Beijing and a brief look at a few individual works.
It has been to New York, it has been to Beijing, now the exhibition “Intimate Transgressions ” is showing in the impressive new Hangzhou Library until April 16th 2016.
This collaborative work with Fion Gunn has taken several months in the planning. Having worked with Fion for years preparing, installing and deinstalling group shows in China this was an exciting project to finally make an artwork together. The work is called “Inside Out” and on first glance is presented as a bed.