In the comfort of something akin to the Eurostar I sped at 300 km/h to Xian. A 1200 km journey that takes roughly 5 hours (?!). The Bullet train known for its pace also performs as the perfect tour of China’s hinterland.
Like some kind of zombie apocalypse THOUSANDS of new and unfinished – 30 something storied residential blocks stand like a never-ending domino game. Each paired with it own enormous crane perched on top – remember China has more cranes than the rest of the world put together. It’s seriously strange. The gigantic skyscrapers have no way to return the cranes to the ground and so they remain hundreds of stories high to assist with maintenance and window cleaning.
Through the haze of bad weather and some smog these gloomy towns felt overwhelmingly abandoned. Work largely had come to a halt, masses of unused materials, concrete pipes, parking lots full of frozen tractors – that go on for the entire journey. This is what 30ish years of 10% economic growth per year looks like. As you inspect these pictures please bear in mind that – no one lives there – these are China’s ghost towns. While local planning appears to be unorganised, wasteful and utterly bewildering it is important to remember that China’s plan is long-term. The concrete communities being formed, destroyed and rebuilt may be at the hands of collapsed financial backing and dodgy management but as long as these decisions create jobs… It really doesn’t matter it they function as true towns or not.
It is all surprisingly green in between the developments. Old villages built in to the hills, tiny crumbling churches and schools are a stark contrast to their neighbouring concrete counterparts. Undisturbed – for now – these quiet clusters of old rural China will house elders that have seen the most rapid transformations. The end of foot binding to the Cultural Revolution to China’s own Industrial Revolution- homes in the hills to apartments sky high. It is all a bit mind boggling.
A st-icky few days in Hong Kong included a visit to the Hong Kong Museum of Art to see Chinese Painting : Legacy of the 20th Century Chinese Masters. It showcased some of the finest examples of work created in Paris by Chinese or inspired by their time there with a focus on the 70’s. Mostly consisting of works on paper this show was the perfect introduction to China’s historical love affair with ink and paint.
I also began to thread some real-life experiences with themes for my project there. I visited the night markets in Kowloon known for their spread of neat knickknacks to logo-ed leathers. Full of ‘Mulberry’ and ‘Gucci’ for both locals and tourists – different prices depending. Real skins of high quality these branded goods were the norm. After my initial bafflement of whack ‘Wilson’ and the brand that surely only exists in the imitation world and wont go away ‘Paul Frank’ – I acclimatised quickly. How different are these knock offs to Topshop’s interpretation of a Celine? As for the legalities around the loot the general consensus was that it is illegal to sell the bags, bras or books as genuine goods. And, only illegal if the said brand wishes to do something about it…. Huh. Really?
Then on to ‘Sneaker street’- less street more district. Surely this would provide some respite and perhaps a purchase or two. Hailed as the limited edition/one-of-a-kind/rare tantalising trainers experience – the fashionable flock to these overflowing stores. Shops spew onto the pavement their endless rows of plastic covered products. It was all pretty gross. I’m quite confused as to what ‘rare’ truly means here…
I have now been living in my new studio (pictured below) and village (above), Feijiacun, in the outskirts of Beijing – for a week. The vibe is ‘friendly ghetto’ – locals sitting on the stoop of their shop or restaurant, kids playing, dudes gambling, stray dogs, street food… but the area is fast changing so I expect in a few years this may all be gone to merge with the high-rise accommodation speeding towards us. There have been weather warnings – three consecutive nights of spectacular thunder storms, lightning for hours and flooding in the village followed by blue sky and full sun. My time is equally divided between discovering great things and getting lost.
I am off to China tomorrow to begin my 3 month Artist in Residence at Red Gate, Beijing. Thank you ASIA Foundation and Wellington City Council for choosing my project. It will be an incredible time and I will be making lots of new work to exhibit in Beijing and then back in New Zealand in 2015. I get a studio and apartment an hour and a bit out of the city – a bike too!
I will be updating this as much as I can while away – mainly for family and friends but also for anyone who may be interested to know – what it is like to make art in China? There are many reasons for me to be in China – I am very interested in how China is setting consumerist trends for the rest of the world and the ripple effects of that. I continue to approach my practice from a fashion background – the realisation of my own consumerist behaviour and concerns of wanting to have ‘newer’ and ‘newest’ things. If we like old, aged and sometimes broken things then why do invest so heavily in their imitated and replicated counterparts? In other words…
Why do we replace our old jeans with new jeans that look old?
Click the box below to watch a video made by Russell Kleyn as we worked together in my studio in Wellington. Thanks to Russ and also to Martin Le Breton for supporting my work and the arts.
With it’s large windows, high ceilings and vast space akin to a NY loft, Willis York a hairdressers in Wellington had left an impression on me after my first visit. As a frequent guest to events and parties there I have seen the sprawling salon switch between many ‘do’s’. It wasn’t until my first stint in the chair (ever)… 7 hours of first-time foils- that I fully experienced the preened pampering and preparations of a cut’n’coloured curl. This sanctuary of lux lotions and caramel conditioners became the host of my newest work.
The installation is called, ‘Put Those Curls Away You’re A Policewoman Now’, exploring the interplay between human values and the material world. Using ‘direct’ mediums such as collage and other lo-fi techniques to analyse the processes of transformation, renewal, decay and transcendence. It includes a three piece site-specific wall installation of hand-cut vinyl on lino alongside painting and collage on found works. It continues a dialogue set forth from my last show
‘Good News For Harassed Housewives’ seeking to highlight the contrasts between our idealised perceptions of ‘the domestic life’ and the impacts our realised lifestyles have on it.
It will be up for the next 3 months, thanks to Bex (Willis York owner) for letting me put my stuff everywhere.
After a pretty fun trip back home (UK) and also checking out the Venice Biennale I was pretty excited to get stuck into making new works for this show.
My first exhibition in Auckland, GOOD NEWS FOR HARASSED HOUSEWIVES, opened last week with two separate private events over consecutive nights. I had wanted to continue to explore some things that were happening in the floor piece from I WE’RE THEM . I have been looking a lot into patterns, prints, textiles and collecting interior deign books from the 70’s. The full immersion of one colour palette appealed to me. Matching artwork with floors, wallpaper and curtains paralleled things I have seen in temples and churches. I have continued to allow the audience to stand/walk on the installation just as Dancefloor and interact with the work in a completely primary way.
The floors are large collages, I suppose. Lots of hand cut vinyl and electrical tape on top of lino tiles. I am hoping to exhibit them again in Wellington- if they aren’t too ragged when this show finishes.
One cell had a site specific floor installation called People appreciate a touch of quality with a painted work on paper For all those who have short holidays. The second cell had another floor installation which I named the show after, GOOD NEWS FOR HARASSED HOUSEWIVES. In the hallway hung two collages from earlier in the year Good girls use talc after the bath and A covered jazz festival poster.
Through corresponding traditions and historical links there are certain tales or myths that are shared. Derived from specific stars and constellations a particular motif reoccurs throughout Siberia and North America, the cosmos is interpreted as a battle with hunters, their dogs and game animals, killed or pursued. Cosmic Hunt is a series of paintings and collage works that explore the themes which lie within an Inuit myth relating to Orion’s Belt.
Four men were hunting a bear. The bear escaped by climbing into the sky and the hunters decided to follow it. As they climbed higher and higher, one of the Inuit lost a mitten and decided to return to Earth to fetch it. The other hunters continued their hunt in the sky and we can still see them today climbing after the bear in single file.
The legend goes on to say that it was the Inuit hunter who returned to Earth to find his mitten who told the story.
These works were made as part of a solo show that sadly feel through last month. Due to other commitments in the coming months I decided to pass on usual formal fuss of a show and get stuck into some new work instead. They were all painted in the kitchen at my house which I am quite proud about but are now in my new studio at Toi Poneke, Wellington (much to the relief of my housemate I’m sure) If you would like to see them before they head off to their new owners in a couple of weeks please arrange a time with me.
I had a pretty rad start to the year working with a bunch of brilliant artists in a shared space. It was always going to be temporary due to the nature of the arrangement we had- basically we could what we liked in it until we got the demolition notice. It was short and sweet but something about the looming letter encouraged us to have a loose approach to events we held there. For me, it started with participating in a garage sale where by all the artists who were involved gave a combination of typical garage sale objects plus small artworks (prints/drawing/photographs). Nothing over $100 and we just asked for the customers to make a fair offer with the usual retail value of the artists work in mind. A percentage of the sales were given to the space for exhibition, upkeep, power costs. It was great for younger or starting out collectors to get a real bargin on some beautiful work.
After that was a group show 8,2,1 ( eight artists, 2 countries, one show) where I made site specific floor work. Lots of fun, lots of tape.
The space/collective is called I WE’RE THEM, you can see more of what happened on the tumblr. We hope to work together again at the end of the year, for now we are all concentrating on our own work.
It was quite a combined venture with many people helping to turn the vacant show-home into an exhibition space and studio. Below are just a few of the artists involved which are worth a look at, you can probably follow their fb pages if you interested as they are frequently have new work.
I have slowed down a bit this year to focus on my own practice, taking time to put together another solo show which will open next month. Since good internet is like gold here (not even joking) I tend to update on instagram more often.
Each year, in Wellington, there is a comedy festival that is well-known for its vibrant and funny marketing campaign. The portraits were commissioned by design agency CREATURE and photographed by the wonderful Russ Kleyn.
I worked alongside the Creature team to help them realise their characters eg. Punk/Monk by pulling together the outfits for the initial shoot. After the editing process Russ passed them on to me and I was invited to transform them with hand-cut vinyl and paint. It was great to be able to work in the ‘design world’ without actually using a computer. So, the bright brazen bits like hair, jewellery and some clothing were additions I did.
It’s the first time I have been involved in a marketing design- fun, fast and fluorescent. It has been silly seeing lots of posters and booklets around. Mainly chuffed about the buses though…