School visit to An Eastward Calling

We had a burst of lively activity here at Dong Yue Art Museum on Friday morning (Sept 12th 2014)  as a  local junior school Bai Jia Zhuan paid a visit. (You can see here a student/budding teacher mimicking me on the microphone)

student teacher mimicing microphone







We started the tour in the west with river Barrow scenes of my hometown Carlow, Ireland where I lived for a year in 2008 . There are a few points of historical note such as the gatehouse of St Dympna’s hospital where William Farrell wrote “Voice of Rebellion Carlow in 1798 ” his memories as a younger man during the rebellion and the harrowing experiences of it suppression. I passed by this house every day walking to school during the 1970’s and 80’s but I only experienced the horrors of that time when I read the book in 2008.

Sandbags on Barrow 23 x 28 cm low resFarrell's desk St Dympnas 26 x 26 cm low res






Moving from west to the East is the city of Prague where I lived for a year, summer and winter views from Prague castle, an overview over the Vltava river and the famous Charles bridge from Letna park with the historic roofscapes stretching behind.Moses dreams of Adam Prague Cunningham Acrylic on canvas  50x 50 cm


The Czech work also includes an acrylic painting of one of my favourite sculptures “Moses dreams of Adam” by Frantisek Bilek in the old Jewish quarter of Prague and autumn scenes of Stromovka park which in previous centuries was the Kings hunting grounds.

Moving further eastwards we arrive at the saltwater creek of Dubai is the lifeblood of the city with the coming and going of it people being ferried across by abra boats. Souk vendors, office workers, labourers, tourists, locals all sitting side by side taking the same journey. This authentic place was the original centre of commerce and trade, the various old souks and also the harbour crowded with old wooden cargo boats from India and Iran.  Also from the same region are the very thick oil  desert mountainscapes. Thick Impasto is the signature motif for most of the Dubai work. The paint is rich and thick with ripples of water encrusted in time.

Abra Channel X4

Even the four acrylic channel panels of four colours have mixed media to thicken the acrylic texture.

Pillar tsunami

Finally we progress to the China landscapes which are interspersed with portraits of young learners whom I taught on my first few years in Beijing. Lush green hills of Yunnan and Guilin and finally the sleepy canals of yuan Dadu.

Public transport in Beijing is also celebrated such at the red silhouettes of passengers on subway platforms and also the public bus stop flower pots reflecting the importance of public transport in urban living.

Bus Stop near andingmen 130 x 90cm low res

The Beijing bus stop painting was the most challenging work so far. I wanted to enhance those roadside flower pots. If you happen to be travelling on a doubledecker bus they look like space ships shooting past. The green and yellow foliage of the trees are in solid colours with well defined and unrealistic shapes and edges but the manmade poles and the signature Beijing railings are given softer shading and appear more sketched. Here I intended to have a dialogue with the organic living in simplified block shapes and the manmade structures expressed in sketch like shading while celebrating the unloved but essential bus journey.

Beijing canal &Yunnan bamboo

I first met Mr Yaun Qiu Lai the curator of Dong Yue Art Museum when I joined a few other artists: portrait painter Liu Dan, Shanghai artist Wu Jun and photographer Gao Yuan on a painting trip to Yunnan in Feb 2013. We were at the far west of Yunnan and sometimes we could see the Myanmar border. A year and a half later I was given this wonderful opportunity to show my varied work as the opening show of Dong Yue Art Museum.

skull discussionHair Skull

Thought processes interest me, when we are able to look at ourselves while we understand something we take into account our own perceptions and those limitations. I love the idea of being able to look at ourselves when we think and having a see-through skull made of our own organic material is what you see here. Thankfully at this point Bella Su assistant at Dong Yue Art Museum stepped in for translation

pillar Bai jia Zhuar

The knitted Pillar of Time was an installation that suggests our perception of time can use two calendars: one of past public events running parallel with personal intimate histories. Past public events knitted in circular images spiral downwards starting with the Cuban Missile crises to the current financial crises. The spiral red line is a personal intimate calendar of a woman, gold discs on the spiral line indicate the 450 -550 cycles of a woman’s lifetime. Sometimes when remembering  a personal event the two calendars are aligned  where a personal memory is joined with a public world event and the two are linked for time reference.


Last night Dong Yue Art Museum closed its doors for An Eastward Calling. These past two months have been an amazing experience. There has been some improvement on my spoken Chinese,  the support from fellow artists has been wonderful, Mr Yuan Qiulai  and staff of Dong Yue Art Museum have been exemplary in management and vision, they are currently building an online 3D of the Museum for virtual tours of exhibitions.  And later this week I can meet up the CCTV crew (who are great fun to work with) for a final shoot in Olympic Park for the new documentary series “My China”.

Things are well and truly wrapping up now.


Saying goodbye