Out of China- The second session of Zhang Jiajie International Oil Painting Creation Camp.


Wuling Mtn Mama Niamh Cunningham


Red Earth Niamh Cunningham





city rock Niamh CunninghamThere once was an art camp in Hunan, at the foot of the Wuling hills………….

second last stop 2 copy33 amazing artists came from 13 countries to paint at the Pullman Hotel which treated us to a lifestyle to which I was quickly getting accustomed. Pullman with investor partner the King Group sponsored and managed this wonderful event. The art program management and curation was headed by the formidable Wu Shixiong (Steven), with support of master printer Gordon Novak  from Canada. Time was tight and even amidst all the hotel luxury the pressure was on to complete works.

crossing river at Feng huang Phoenix city

Outside excursions included trips to Wuling Mountains, old farming villages, the Venice like city of Phoenix (Feng Huang) and epic style outdoor concerts.


The team bus stopMany evenings were also busy with introductory artist talks.



As people began their work you could feel them still working on it in their minds at mealtimes. And of course the unusual opportunity of working in a huge group of very accomplished artists many heading various national art colleges/academies, this may have awoken some teeny weeny insecurities which was useful but uncomfortable and may well have kept many of us on our toes.


I had the pleasure of having the articulate New York artist Theresa Bloise as my studio mate. It was just the two of us. It was wonderful to listen to her work through her decision making, how could she bring some parts of her signature metaphysical landscapes into this very different work and circumstance. In fact most artists may have felt a little out of place with the work we were doing. A few decided to wait and respond to the area and others worked straight away on preplanned signature work.


On the first day or so it was good to hear the easy going but sharp minded French artists Phenix Varbanov, Adrein Leopold, and Martin Mc Nulty babble and argue away in French at meal times before we all dispersed in an effort to get to know each other.


Park Mikyoung’s mountaintop-water landscapes are of places undiscovered and perhaps not fully formed in the imagination which may be what makes them so liberating. Park Jongho’s (also from Korea) interiors within interiors were applied to his shared studio space in the Hotel.

Stephanie & Laura

From Canada the swirly road compositions by the witty Marianne Gerlinger, Anong Migwans Beam whose landscapes often inform of native Canadian culture. Stephanie Kaduck’s fun loving and wonderfully  twisted psychological landscapes and the well informed Kim Houghtaling was ever generous to listen with his curatorial ear. The reknowned Jeffery John Spalding’s had numerous canvasses but it is his landscapes on pine which will linger for a while .

Jiang and Wu dirty hands

Slovenians and Croatians, Ana Zerjal , Boris Zaplatil, Bruno Paladin, Goran Stimac lit the place on fire with a thirst for humor that was sought in the bar most nights. Strangely enough …the bar was a safe place to leave any work anxieties behind .Wang Jian


From Slovakia, Stanislav Buban’s political figures recoiling from the media glare and Laura Ellero from Italy infused the place with brio. Jaan Elken from Estonia has a mind I suspect is genius, sitting near his seat on the bus journeys, it was always a good idea to keep an ear open for his jokes and observations.

Lu Ying

On the last day the exhibition revealed some works not yet seen Macedonian Tatjana Maneva’s leafy landscapes and Liu Ying’s fascination with strange and perplexed birds. Wu Tian Yi’s inner biological workings and from Xiamen the subdued work of Qi Yu textured with ceramic.





Wang Jian must have the deepest voice in China and his monochrome abstract movements are as strong as his voice is deep. Zhang Hengjun, works so fast and ceaselessly, if he wasn’t working on his canvasses he was painting on stones when ever I happened to see him.

image_3Yi Ling applied a detailed collaborative piece getting each artist to contribute a motif on his landscape vista. Jiang Huan worked on the softest portraiture work I have seen.

German Dieter Hasse brought light clean colour with his tongue ‘n cheek statements on love. Benjamin Hao from Hong Kong worked on the colours of the earth of the surrounding terrain and Lu Jun’s calming monochromed tree trunks contrasted Wu Shuangs clever psychedelic compositions in motion.

Phenix, Wu Shuang and AdrianGordan Novak’s monoprint workshop was a respite for many of us and after my one liberating afternoon there I could now understand the hero worship people had for the wonderful Novak.




Monoprinting is something I hope to explore as a daily practice. The relief to move as fast as one wished and pull through metres of paper reworking on old favorites instead of the slow work on canvas. Chance and reclamation are the guides for outcome as Spalding once mentioned. That chance to recollect past glories by invention and intervention making a new fresh present moment.