The Rhythm of Life -Xishuangbanna artist residency on local ethno- and bio-diversity Nov 2021

Dai Zu artists Han Xuan  (Nam) singing and Tie Farong on beats at the giant Buttress tree. 

The role of art and culture have important roles in advancing human partnerships with nature. An ecocentric orientation in our cultures could provide landscapes for new stories of sustainability.

 I was very excited to be invited to be part of this residency at a time when both art practitioners and art academia are more committed to supporting and building better stewardship for preserving the environment .

This residency had an earlier rendition during the Dai Zu “water throwing festival” in April. During that time Covid restrictions were more relaxed and the artists had a number of academic evenings with scientists learning about their work at the tropical botanical research centre based inside the park. Unluckily for me, the Oct/Nov residency (running at the same time as the Dai Zu  “Opening door festival”)   was no longer possible to enjoy such presentations at the research centre due to the recent restrictions for Covid control.

I did however have a couple of really nice chats with prof Harald Schneider who sat on my corner of the studio for 20 mins one day. He observed that the particular Bauhinia flowers outside from where I painted were pollenated by bats rather than insects.I took great pleasure in this new knowledge, I felt enriched by it and it made me aware of how little I know of plant and animal life .

Over fifteen Chinese and foreign artists participated in the project with a supportive painting postgraduate team and also a documentary film team from Yunnan University, Kunming.  Here we can take a quick look at only some of the artists and their work and where possible I will interweave a little environmental philosophy, history and systems thinking.


Participants :


Duan Jianwei 段建伟, Chen Nan陈楠, Han Xuan罕璇, Mica米卡, Che Bai 车白, Bowa Gonggao博瓦·公高, Wu Hong武宏, Gaoxiang高翔, Zhangxin张鑫, Zhu Jinghua朱景华, Zhou Rui周睿, Dao Jun刀军 , Huang Yan黄燕, Yan Wen岩纹, Wang Wei王伟, Niamh Cunningham 倪福。瑞莲, Zhao Weijia 赵伟家, Zhao Zijie, 赵紫婕, Wang Cenjun, 王岑君 , Shang Heng, 尚恒 , Chen Tiantian, 陈甜甜 , Wang Chu, 王楚,  Zhu Xiangqi, 朱祥琦, Guo Ziyuan, 郭子媛, Tie Farong, 铁发荣, Huang Shunfu 黄顺富 

18:8 M:F (26)


DocumentaryTeam: Wang Yue, 王跃 , Li Sihan, 黎思涵, Luo Wenxin 罗文鑫

Duan Jianwei 段建伟

Artwork by Duan Jianwei, 段建伟

Duan Jianwei’s work focused on stylised studies of Dai Zu community in Xishuangbanna . I really enjoyed the honesty of our chats in the evening at dinner, such as the uncertainties and discomforts of beginning a work. It was easy to understand the high respect he had earned from all around. Later I realized there was burnt orange wall of the Daizu village“ opening door festival” we visited earlier and wonder if this was what caught his eye. I will ask him as I hope to visit his studio here in Beijing some day!

Photo taken on a visit to Daizu village celebrating the “Opening Door festival”.

with graduate student Zhao Zijie, 赵紫婕 and Menglun resident  Xiao Yu 小玉

 Chen Nan, 陈楠

Artwork by Chen Nan 陈楠

During the first week Chen Nan explored symbiotic relationships with organic plant and insect life. And so I was surprised  on the second week to see him working on  primitive icons of ethnocentric icons. The ‘bird man’ painting above is my favourite !

Hanxuan 罕璇

Artwork by Hanxuan

Xishuangbanna artist Hanxuan  (also known as Nam) was one of my favourite artists at the residency. She had the  gift of being able to share her good will with ease and  grace . She has impressive Dai Zu tatoos on her upper arms extending over her shoulders reaching the upper neck. HanXuan also has an amazing  singing voice (see video at the start of this blog) . Her paintings explored her native culture and stories she heard as a child.


Artwork by Mica

German digital artist Mica presented his Tree of Life to the upper floor of the guest house restaurant. Tree of Life is a special digital work on canvas where he invited all the artists to add and contribute drawings. His newly created work is of carefully trimmed exotic flora that merges into a ferocious dragon.  Mark Elvin (The retreat of the Elephants ) referred to flower viewing  as an instinctive remembrance to the lost world of human interaction with an untransformed nature. I  believe  here the notion of ‘Untransformed Nature  is turned on its head ! Mica was incredibly helpful when I had computer problems and gave me a crash course in storage of digital data. 

 Che Bai, 车白

Artwork by Che Bai

Local artist Che Bai 车白 is of Jinuo nationality. When we were on the road travelling, Jinuo mountain was pointed out to me “That is where Che Bai’s people live”. The Jinuo are specifically located in Xishuangbanna. He has been called the Picasso of Jinuo ethnic minority 基诺族. During the two weeks he painted several different ethnic groups in exaggerated styles with figures in motion.

Bowa Gonggao, 博瓦·公高

Artwork by Bowa Gonggao, 博瓦·公高

The Losuo river flowed a couple hundred metres from our Octagon guest house and Bowa Gonggao’s panorama of the tropical forest park reflected in its red clay waters with four local figures guarding the river banks. A second work by Bowa was a dance of wildlife with Dai zu roof architecture in the background . GongGao brought cheer where ever he went and is another new friend I hope to see again .

My current reading “The Retreat of the Elephants- an environmental history of China“ by Mark Elvin Yale University Press refers to an official of the Ministry of Works in  nearby Guangxi province Xie Zhaozhe’s publication “ Fivefold Miscellany”(published in 1608) The people of Yunnan rear elephants the way those in the heartland of China rear cattle and horses. They ride them on journeys. They load them up with grain…”

However by late imperial times the only elephants survived in the southwest (ie here in Yunnan ) and for palace ceremonies in the capital .

Wu Hong, 武宏

Wu Hong, 武宏

Wu Hong explores  natural earth pigments in his work. His filtering and sieving processes suggested pharmaceutical precision of locally sourced clay. He painted meditative patterns  of the Bodhi leaf motif, his intentions also include making floor installations with his pigments.

Art work by Gao Xiang, 高翔1

Art works by  Gao Xiang 高翔2

Gaoxiang is known for his large scale, contrasted impasto brushstrokes. On a previous residency I really enjoyed watching him think and pace around his canvasses before he rushed to stab them with the brush. On this occasion we were opposites sides of the wall and could not observe his process this time. His vibrant wildlife cycles of life and death such as the deer caught in the leopards mouth is a figure reworked on large canvasses. A paper in Biological Conservation (Rostro- Garcia et al 2016) listed the Indochinese leopard having only 7 viable populations , extinct in Singapore , likely to be extirpated in Laos and Vietnam, and almost extinct in Cambodia and China , with small distributions in Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. (Study published over 5 years ago.)

The Octagon House  ( where we slept )  &  Restaurant and  other buildings where we made studios 

Zhang Xin, 张鑫

Kunming artist Zhang Xin workspace was under the roof of the Octagon house. He layered sheets of pigment both acrylic and oil. This layered materiality made me think of the layers of time,  the eons , our notions of history are often so limited to our own era.  Zhang Xin’s work helps us put into perspective a wider history of our planet and its materials.



A mechanistic world view : 

Eco philosopher Carolyn Merchant in her book The Death of Nature (1980) examined the mechanistic world view of modern science which she claims sanctioned and gave license for the exploitation of nature. For me there is some difficulty in accepting this view, my early adult academic training is in science, I have respect for the sciences and now I discover that I identify with them which is why I am a little “put out”. The more I learn about ecophilosophy, I see contradictions are inherent in complex systems of knowledge, meaning and behavior.  But surely it was more economics that gave that licence.

 Zhu Jinghua, 朱景华


ZhuJinghua interweaves machinery into the  wood of the Black heart tree . When his wood arrived we all gathered in his studio /shed after dinner that night to marvel at the dark centre of the wood, feel and smell the sap. Zhu said the wood is strong and can quickly resprout and grow. Local residents grow it in front of their house as fuel for their homes to avoid deforestation.

I hope to visit Zhu Jinghua in his studio in CAFA Beijing  soon and he might even have a tree story for the ‘Memory Palace of Trees’.

Zhou Rui 周瑞

Artwork by Zhou Rui 

Xishuangbanna artist Zhou  Rui explores the roots of his native land, both in painting  celebratory ethnic dance , Dai Zu architecture and peace of place. Zhou Rui is also organizer extraordinaire, he is the other half of the curatorial team with Gao Xiang . Throughout the two weeks if he wasn’t at his easel he was moving about trouble shooting and fire fighting ensuring a safe passage for the project.

Dao Jun , 刀军

Art work by Dao Jun

Local artist Dao Jun was always up  very early and cheerful . We shared opposites sides of the studio shed .  He kindly provided me with insect repellant  rings to burn in the late afternoons and evenings. He focused on the Daizu  culture in his work . Weaving is a fascinating subject for me and  I loved this dramatic composition .


 Huang Yan, 黄燕

Xishuangbanna artist Huang Yan was the only artist  to  work on  paper, using ink and brush to investigate patterns of nature .


Wang Wei 王伟

Yunnan artist WangWei made small scale but powerful studies of tropical plant and animal life .


Niamh Cunningham 倪福。瑞莲

 Artwork by Niamh Cunningham

Entering the forest for one last walk was a highlight  of Xishuangbanna for me.  I walked in silence and paused when it started to rain, to listen to the drumskin thuds of different leaves and tried to distinguish different sounds coming from which exotic tree. The paintings were studies of the tree canopy and the huge butteress featured in the video at the beginning of this blog. They are giants of the forest and although roots are not embedded very deeply, their height is stablised by these wide extension structures.  Trees that look perfectly straight from a distance can often be spiral like when viewed from the base.


A note of gratitude:

A huge thank you to all the artists for their excellent company and from whom  I have learned so much . Also a big thank you to the postgraduate students and local artists who were ever so helpful. Special thank you to Wang Cenjun, 王岑君 and  Yan Wen岩纹. Also a big thank you to Yu Jin 玉金 manager of the Octagon(八角楼) guest house.

Many thanks to the great curatorial duo team Zhou Rui and Gao Xiang. Sincere thank you to Xishuangbanna Culture and Tourism Bureau, Xishuangbanna National Museum and all the departments involved in ensuring this artist residency a success.



The  following links have some good overview  videos


Media link One 

Media Link Two 


Niamh Cunningham- Bio 。。。个人简介-倪芙瑞莲
'The Pattern that Connects' is part of the Common Threads project showing at EPIC Museum Irish Emigration Museum, Dublin Feb 1- 14th

Currently Showing Oct 2022: The Sasse Museum of Art , Pomona, CA, in the US opened a photography exhibition last weekend showing a process print (23.01.2018) from my mixed media Sucrose Series "Ginkgo Palace", Niamh Cunningham 2018
The original physical sucrose plate and accompanying print on aluminium was collected at Art Beijing 2021
Promoting Connectivity through Creative Industries Sept 2022 at Yindi Art Museum, hosted by Opportunity Lab
Hair Skull recently exhibited (Oct 1st-7th 2022) at Art Plus Shanghai , the group exhibition"Linear" is curated by Chang Feng

For more information on the Hair Skull and working with DNA as an art material click HERE

Ann Derwin, Ambassador to Ireland in China with gallerist 庞春慧Peng Chun Hui at For 觅 gallery , August 2022
Currently showing - Moon Covenant

Artist talk on gathering peoples tree stories before Spitoon Book Club discussion on Pulitzer prize winning novel " The Overstory" by Richard Powers
Online Catalogue launched Jan 2022 , showing Sucrose Series alongside Microbe Art
Recently exhibited in Xishuangbanna State Art Museum Dec 2021
Canal Bank Walk , Yuan Dadu Culural Relics Park Beijing
Grand Canal artist Residency and Exhibition

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
Suzhou Couples Retreat Gardens
The Second Step – mini solo of 18 portraits in HouHai from 6.6 tp 8.8 2021
Astro World Exit Tourism – Group exhibition June 2021
Recently ART Beijing 2021 Booth B28 Irish Contemporary Art
Early stage – Sculpture project HongFangzi ShaWan Sichuan
Current Events 正在展出


2022 9月   谷山村中国农民丰收节暨大地艺术节


2022 9月   传粉者:北京西山鼓山乡村公园的再生材料雕塑



2022 6-8“月亮之约” For觅画廊,通州,北京

2022 1 来自爱尔兰的艺术家 ,线上展览 在线链接

2022 1 清华大学精准医学研究院, EBM 中心





20217 “线性”,798朗空美术馆,北京



2021610“万物有灵——多样之美” 艺术展与企业社会责任国际论坛,北京

20216“第二步”(小型个人展),龙头井胡同JoyBeans Space,北京

20216“天体世界:出逃旅行” 蓝色港湾KUN美术馆,北京

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:

* Gushan Rural Village Park Harvest  Autumn 2022

Current Exhibition


Recent  exhibitions:

2022 Moon Covenant Forgallery , Grasse Town , Beijing June- August

2022 Artists from Ireland (online) Sasse Museum of Art Pomona, CA, USA (catalogue link)

2022 Peoples’ Portraits EBM Centre, Tsinghua Uni Intelligent HealthCare, BJ

2021 Rhythm of Life Xishuangbanna Art Museum, Jinghong, Dec

2021 Linear Jingheng Art centre, Jinshan, Shanghai Dec

2021 Abstract China, Taizhou, Jiangsu Oct-Nov

2021 Meet the Grand Canal Xinguanda Centre Tongzhou, Oct

2021 Linear Langkong Art Museum 798, Beijing July

2021 Her Name – Existence Peninsula Art Museum, Weihai, July

2021 Silent and Soft -New Interpretations Suzhou classical Gardens June

2021 All things Bright CSR symposium Shangrila Hotel, Beijing June 10th

2021 The Second Step (mini solo) Joy Beans Space, Jiu Longtou hutong, June

* AstroWorld Kun Art Museum June 5 2021

*Portraits (solo) Joybeans  Hou  Hai 6.6-8.8

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

*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

‘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
Web Of Fabulous Grass – Sucrose Series Click on image for Artist Profile English &简体中文
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

Map and Territory project Nov -Dec 2018 at Beijing Geely University
Map and Territory

Map and Territory

Artist talk at Beijing Geely College Dec 11th 2018
-.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
With curator Guo Zhen at the opening of Existence in Changsha , exhibition continues till end of July 2018


Recent ‘At your Leisure’ Summer exhibition Jiangsu “悠游“——淮阴艺术馆
exhibited in Jinan curated by Ma Yi Ying
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

Recent Posts
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

The Grand Canal (Hangzhou to Beijing) artist residency(August 2021) and exhibition (Oct 2021)

RTE interview on preparing for upcoming group exhibition 2 min clip

Currently showing as part of the Common Threads project, at EPIC Irish Emigration Museum , Dublin

Feb 1 -14th , 2023