Odyssey The Return – ‘what the artists say’

This post is also available in: 简体中文 Chinese (Simplified)

Fion Gunn, Niamh Cunningham, Gulistan, Li Xinmo and Qingqing
Fion Gunn, Niamh Cunningham, Gulistan, Li Xinmo and Qingqing

In concluding his essay for this exhibition academic curator Huang Du writes 

In short, whether the featured works are abstract or imaginative, whether rational or perceptual, the five artists participating in this exhibition contemplate, to varying degrees, the links between image making and literature and what these concepts mean in their individual artistic practices. They interpret James Joyce’s work from Irish and Chinese perspectives; in a profound way and in a variety of visual languages, they reconstruct a visual Odyssey from the lens of their personal experience.

They have fully wielded their imagination, judgment and expressive power; they have expressed their lived experience from different viewpoints, either subjectively or instinctively. They have contemplated identity, critiqued gender politics, explored the classics, reconstructed artistic ontology. Ongoing and close investigation of these themes has enabled the artists to construct unique, personal and ideological visions – to develop formidable, artistic narratives with confidence. This is what will enable the viewer to find a deep sense of spiritual connection to their work.

The five participating artists say a few words about their works in the exhibition.


古丽斯坦 / Gulistan《记忆的性质》Essence of Memory Series

Gulistan essence of memory series
古丽斯坦 / Gulistan《记忆的性质》Essence of Memory Series Composite drawing on leather drum, 45 cm diameter (2007)

Both Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus conjure many reflections on the past in Ulysses, these reflections are both individual and collective memories. Gulistan revisits the classics in a postmodern way and reconstructs this classical elegance making reference to the Homeric parallels of the “The Odyssey’.

 Memory of a Portrait II  Gulistan
Memory of a Portrait II Oil on Canvas , 60x120cm Gulistan (2012)

Gulistan: What the artist says:

My particular focus is exploring the nature of memory throughout the journey of life. Works from “Roaming Europe Series”, “The Legend of Time Series”, “Portraits of Memory” seek to capture time and temperature of memory rather than specific characters and events. The ancient and the forgotten are worth probing , Odysseus’s wandering and returning are fascinating to me.

Works by Gulistan at 'Odyssey the Return
Works by Gulistan at ‘Odyssey the Return


Li Xinmo

Viewing Li Xinmo's installation 'Dissociation'
Viewing Li Xinmo’s installation ‘Dissociation’

The book Ulysses focusses on relationships within the male community, full of conversations on philosophy, history and politics often descending to bodily functions, bawdy jokes and backbiting.   Artist Li Xinmo reconfigures this male dominated setting to create a new book with different media languages to tell the story of one day… from a female perspective. The installation includes pages of a hand written book and ink drawings immersed in layers of salt.

Installation detail  by Li XInmo
Installation detail by Li XInmo

Li Xinmo: What the artists says :

The installation presents itself as a new form of book which is written mostly in the framework of images. Integrating various images, both digital and painting and also the written word, my intention is to trace the experience of one day lived by a woman including her memory and imagination. The name of the work is “Dissociation”, a state of departure  and at the same time a state of acquiring oneself.

Installation detail by Li Xinmo
Installation detail by Li Xinmo


Fion Gunn

The Immigrants  Fion Gunn 2017
The Immigrants no. 1 100x100cm, acrylic, canvas, collage Fion Gunn 2017

Fion Gunn: What the artist says:

‘The Immigrants’ refers to my great grandfather James Mintern from Cork, Ireland. From about 1896 onwards he spent his adult life building boats in Cork for 6 months of the year and then sailed to New York for the remaining 6 months where he worked building sets on Broadway. He did this so that his family could avoid the grinding poverty of Ireland at the time. Ellis Island was the gateway to New York for all the immigrants and they arrived with aspirations and ambitions to make good their lives. Today millions of immigrants and refugees are living out the same dramas. ‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake’ James Joyce, Ulysses .

The Dream of Zhang He,  Fion Gunn 2017
The Dream of Zhang He, paper, acrylic,collage, 190x57cm Fion Gunn 2017

The trials of Chinese Admiral Zhang’s personal life, family loss, capture by the Ming armies and castration seem an unlikely preparation for his extraordinary journeys of exploration. These voyages would have been impossible without his endless curiosity and fearlessness, his desire to encounter other cultures and other peoples. Joyce is profoundly interested in ordinary, everyday resilience – how a person gets through life, gets through a day. The millions of experiential snapshots create the narrative of a life.

Age of Exloration ( to the right ) by Fion Gunn



Viewing Qingqing’s work centre Han Feng -Artificial Artifact Series
Viewing Qingqing’s work centre Han Feng -Artificial Artifact Series (2016) alongside smaller installations at Odyssey the Return

On the subject of nature and material Qingqing’s works make reference to both the modern epic ‘Ulysses’ and the ancient epic ‘The Odyssey’. Penelope, Odysseus’ wife weaves her textile work (tapestry) by day and unravels  it by night  so that she can continue to wait for Odysseus’s return and thus avoiding the promise to marry another. Qingqings expansive Han dynasty garment is ‘a new dress woven’ of organic grasses and hemp stands strong stately in the ancient Daoist space of Dong Yue Art Museum.

‘Heaven is not far’ by Qingqing 天堂不遥远,庆庆
‘Heaven is not far’ by Qingqing 天堂不遥远,庆庆

Qingqing: What the artist says:

The installation ‘Heaven in not far’ might be interpreted to be about surviving and aspiring to greater things both individually and collectively in the midst of living an ordinary life which I believe Ulysses is about.

The measure of things 走为上计, Qingqing2018
The measure of things 走为上计, Qingqing2018


Niamh Cunningham

Swim Duck (cataracts, whirlpools , maelstroms.. still) Niamh Cunningham 2019
Swim Duck (cataracts, whirlpools , maelstroms.. still) Niamh Cunningham 2019

Swim Duck – Blooms thoughts when filling a kettle

 The video title ‘Swim Duck ‘ comes from a pub scene in the Cylops chapter.  It is typical of a quirky Dubliner style turned/twisted phrase . Joe Hynes offers the narrator drink  ‘Can you put a hole in another pint ?  ‘ where the narrator responds in the affirmative “Can a swim duck “ .  The actual video focusses on the text in another chapter Ithaca when Bloom fills a kettle and ponders on the subject of water.  I aligned these thoughts with underwater filming and above water surface filming of different outdoor waterways and swimming pools.  The idea of swimming in thought is used in Chinese “shényóu”  and so I think this is both  relatable from a Chinese perspective and particularly relevant to Joyce’s writings.

Wandering Rocks Series of portraits

Niamh Cunningham with Wandering Rocks Portraits
Niamh Cunningham with Wandering Rocks Portraits

Dublin Walk – The Sucroses

Sam Beckett Bridge detail Sucrose mixed media March 2018
Sam Beckett Bridge detail Sucrose mixed media March 2018
Sam Beckett Bridge detail Sucrose mixed media March 2018
Sam Beckett Bridge detail Feb 2019

These sugar works are of different parts near the river Liffey in Dublin which are referenced throughout the book Ulysses. One of the sucroses is a view of the Sam Beckett bridge in Dublin. Joyce knew Becket well in Paris and acted as a mentor to him . The sucrose technique explores the concept of transformation, time  and crystallization. This crystallization can push and move the suspended ink as well as obscure the surface of the image. The above images show the transformation occuring over the course of a year with additional surface crenellation but also some interesting shifting of the addtional chinese ultramarine colour in the water .

Exhibition records or art library archives:

Should you wish to a have a copy of Huang Du’s  essay either in electronic or catalogue form please contact me on this website.

I would like to thank the cultural attache at the Irish Embassy Jack Mc Cormack. Also I wish l to thank the Embassy of Ireland in China  and supporting organisations who have made this project possible including: the Asia Pacific Fund, Culture Ireland and Dublin City Council.

Her Name Penninsula Art Museum Weihai, Shandong 16 July- 22 Oct 2021
Linear….. showing at LangKong Art Museum (朗空美术馆) 07.7-30.7.21
Currently Showing in Suzhou Couples Retreat Gardens
The Second Step – mini solo of 18 portraits in HouHai from 6.6 tp 8.8
Astro World Exit Tourism – Group exhibition June 2021
Recently ART Beijing 2021 Booth B28 Irish Contemporary Art
Niamh Cunningham- Bio 。。。个人简介-倪芙瑞莲
Current Events 正在展出



2021年3月4月 ART Beijing 2021









202012 艺术推动可持续未来” 中国企业社会责任国际学术研讨会, 北京泰富酒店




20207  “沉默的爆破”,无锡外滩美术馆,江苏无锡, 7月11日至31日



2019年11月”中国 爱尔兰  MUSEu&m , 上海

*2019年11月装置中国—红房子首届国际户外装置创作营在乐山沙湾红房子开营 …开始阶段

*2019年8月*Gobi Heaven- August 戈壁。天堂-八月

*2019年7月”1919″ 爱尔兰  Sligo -Hamilton Gallery  

*2019年5月“胜日寻芳“ 山东济宁市泗水等闲谷艺术粮仓美术馆

2019年5月-16 爱尔兰大使馆布卢姆日的展览

20195-6  《一张棉花纸》   在宋庄东区玖层美术馆展出



*2018年11月-12月“地图与疆域”国际艺术邀请展 北京吉利学院


*2018, 10月中欧国当代艺术全球巡展·上海

2018, 9月-10月“纸上·至上”展览,沈阳市拓•空间,

2018, 6月-11月诗人叶芝日,爱尔兰,斯莱戈(SLIGO),汉密尔顿艺术画廊

*2018年8月 淮阴艺术馆提名展,淮安市

*2018, 8月 “纸上·至上”展览, 鄂尔多斯,

*2018 , 6月30日 济南“国际抽象艺术展”

*2018 , 6月17 日 纸上•至上2018 在青岛,

*2018 , 5月20 日存在-国际女性艺术展,湖南长沙,

*2018 , 4月21 日延缓的时间,4月21日-29日,红门画廊,798艺术区

*2018 , 4月20 日 挖掘,,和画廊,来鹏高尔夫俱乐部

*2018年4月-12日 挖掘, , 展览,悦美术馆,北京798艺术区




*2017年12月末至2018年1月末, 《时间之外》主题艺术展, 北京中关村融科资讯中心

*2017年12月, 形质与叙事, 形质与叙事, 东岳美术馆

 *2017年12月,广州新造当代艺术中心,纸上·至上 纸艺作品群展.

Upcoming Exhibitions

* AstroWorld Kun Art Museum June 5

*Portraits (solo) Joybeans  Hou  Hai 6.6-8.8

*River things  Suzhou Zhenyuan garden UNESCO world Heritage Training and Research centre June 12 th

Current Exhibition


Recent  exhibitions:

*Art Beijing  2021 Booth B28  Garden of Friendship

*“Art promotes a Sustainable Future” China CSR international symposium Dec 2020.

*Silent Explosion, Wuxi Bund Art Centre, Jiangsu,  July 11-31 2020

* Sculpture project in HongFangzu , Shawan, Sichuan , begining phase Nov 2019

Current Exhibition

*China Ireland exhibition at MUSEU&m, near the Bund , Shanghai, Nov 29th 2019

* Sculpture project in HongFangzu , Shawan, Sichuan , begining phase Nov 2019

*1919 – Group Exhibition (Hamilton Gallery) in New York, Irish Consulate

*1919 – Group Exhibition Hamilton Gallery , Sligo , Ireland July – September

*Gobi Heaven Art Festival , Inner Mongolia , August 2019

*A piece of Cotton Paper  9th floor gallery Songzhuang June 15th

*”Winning the Day ‘ Granary Art Centre,  SiShui , Shandong, May – June 2019

*Beyond the form of Art , Wick Art Centre , Budapest, Hungary may 2019

*Odyssey The Return ; group exhibition at Dong Yue Art Museum, Beijing  in April

Map and Territory Art IRRCA at Beijing Geely College Nov 20- Dec 20 2018

*Thousands of Sprouts, an experimental online exhibition – by Elizabeth Ross  Nov 2018

* On Paper Supreme, Gwangju Art Museum Beijing Creative Centre Songzhuang Nov- Dec 2018

*China Europe Internaitional Contemporary Art Global Tour Shanghai Oct 2018

*An Irish Airman foresees his Death – Hamilton Gallery Sligo, Ireland June – Nov 2018

*On Paper Supreme, Extension Space, Shenyang, Liaoning,  Sept 16th – Oct 21st  2018

*Artist Nomination Exhibition, Huaiyin art gallery, Huai ‘an shi, Jiangsu, July-Aug 2018

*On Paper Supreme, Ordos Culture and Art Centre , Inner Mongolia , Aug 17th – Sept 10th  2018

*International Abstract Art , ChungChuen College, Jinan, July 2018

* On Paper Supreme, QingDao , Tiantai Art Centre, June 2018

* Existence , International Feminist Art Exhibition,  Mezzi Bookstore Art Space , Changsha

* Excavations 20 April-4th June  He Gallery, Golf Club.

*’Mortgaged Time’ 21st- 29th April at Red Gate Gallery , 798 Beijing  April 21st

*’Excavations’ 12-18th Enjoy Museum 798,  Beijing   preview 5 pm 12th April

* 5 week residency at Guanlan Printmaking base , Shenzhen (Feb-March 2018)

*Lunar New Year theme exhibition “Red Fruit” showing at Raycom IT centre, Zhongguancun,  28th Jan continues to March 3rd, organised by RoveArt , supporting the Female Protection Fund.

*Chinese & Foreign Visual Arts Hunan,  at the Meixi Academy Book Complex, Changsha Dec 26th to Jan 26th 2018.

* ‘Beyond Time’  Raycom IT Centre, Zhongguangcun, Beijing Dec – Jan 27th  2018

*”Qualitative Phase and The Narrative” Beijing Film Academy Triennial Exhibition at Dong Yue Art Museum, Beijing, curated by Li Zhen till Dec 18th 2017…………………………………………….


由此及彼——中(国)爱(尔兰)女艺术家邀请展 The Pattern That Connects Sept 2020
Wuxi Bund Art Centre “Silent Explosion”
My interview with Today Art Museum and Today Art Media on the COVID era

Recent Interview , click on above image April 2020

Link to newspaper coverage -Carlow Nationalist (click on image)

In Her Eyes, F&E 100x100cm acrylic on canvas, 倪芙瑞莲Niamh Cunningham 2019

Silent Explosion
‘China-Ireland’ exhibition Shanghai Nov 29th 2019

China Ireland exhibition at MUSEu&m, Shanghai , opening Nov 29th

Early stage – Sculpture project HongFangzi ShaWan Sichuan
‘Whirls in the Old’ in New York at the exhibition ‘1919’

1919-Whirls in the Old Terezin acrylic on canvas 30x30cm Niamh Cunningham 2019

Gobi Heaven Art Festival August 2019

Participating in the International Artists program for this exciting event in the Gobi Dessert

Jul.Aug 2019 Group Exhibition , Hamilton Gallery , Sligo, Ireland and also Sept 2019 at the Irish Consulate Offices , Park Ave NYC
Granary Art exhibition SiShui Shandong June 2019

Granary Art Exhibition SiSHui , Shangdong June 2019 click on image

Swim Duck Video …30 sec clip of original work recently shown at Bloomsday event at Embassy of Ireland Niamh Cunningham 2019
clip from Swim Duck video Niamh Cunningham 2019

Clip from 'Swim Duck' Video by Niamh Cunningham 2019

Group exhibition in Sishui, Shangdong 正在展出

Granary Art Museum , Sishui, Jining , Shandong

April /May 2019 in Budapest 近期展出匈牙利

Currently showing in Budapest Aprli- May 2019

Wandering Rocks series of portraits 游岩系列
Talk on James Joyce at Bookworm with prof Fu Hao 乔伊斯座谈会
Aritst Talk on James Joyce at Beijing Bookworm

Talk on James Joyce at Bookwork Beijing April 2019

RTE interview on preparing for upcoming group exhibition 2 min clip
Web Of Fabulous Grass – Sucrose Series Click on image for Artist Profile English &简体中文
Artist talk at Beijing Geely College Dec 11th 2018
Map and Territory project Nov -Dec 2018 at Beijing Geely University
Map and Territory

Map and Territory

-.On Paper Supreme made its final exhibition for 2018 in Beijing Songzhuang opening Nov 16th
Group exhibition Hamilton Gallery, Sligo
Hamilton Gallery Sligo - Lonely Impulse 2

A response to WB Yeats poem 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death'

Group show Oct 27th Shanghai Bund 27 The House of Roosevelt House , the Bund Shanghai
Recent ‘At your Leisure’ Summer exhibition Jiangsu “悠游“——淮阴艺术馆
exhibited in Jinan curated by Ma Yi Ying
With curator Guo Zhen at the opening of Existence in Changsha , exhibition continues till end of July 2018


简体中文Artist Interview & Profile for the Art Project ‘Existence’
Group exhibition at Red Gate in April 2018 focussing on antiwar poet Ingeborg Bachmann
Niamh Cunningham 'Bachmann Girl' 2017

Artwork for poster is 'Bachmann Girl' 100x100cm Acrylic on Canvas by Niamh Cunningham 2017

Excavations showing at Enjoy Museum 798 April 2018

Excavations , a cross collaborative exhibition showing contemporary art by Chinese and Irish artists , showing in Enjoy Museum, 798 , 2018.4.12

Very honoured to have Irish Ambassador Eoin O’ Leary visit Chinese New Year exhibition “Red & Fruit”

Irish Ambassador Eoin O'Leary with subway paintings at Raycom Centre exhibition Feb 2018

Stay updated with Niamh’s work and her trips around Beijing

Recent Posts
Stay updated with Niamh’s work and her culture vulture trips around Beijing