I was recently invited to the China Academy of Art to do an Experimental Printmaking Residency in Hangzhou, China from Sept. 27th to October 22nd.
30 plus years have passed since I was last in China, when I was studying at The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Middle School in Beijing as a teenager…and 40 plus years have passed since I was there as a child of 9 at the tail end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution running free with my little friends in Dazhai Village in the hills of Shanxi Province waving corn cob embers to draw animals in the night sky.
This “time warp” of a trip was so intense for me that I almost don’t know where or how to begin! …but I’ll just jump in and try to touch on the highlights, of which there were many!
My Chinese was tucked deep in the database of my mind, and, as my brother reassured me, would present itself slowly but surely. I practiced Chinese with whoever would engage me, which included many shop keepers who saw me (and foreigners in general) as a prime candidate for a sale. Zihao, the graduate student who was assigned to look after my stay, practiced his English on me as I practiced my Chinese on him. About half way through my stay, whole phrases started to pop out, which I didn’t trust at first, but when I checked my translator app, these utterances were indeed correct each time! (needless to say I could no longer read more than a hand full of basic characters). The last time I was in China (1982) people were still wearing blue or green cotton “Mao jacket” suits and the only real means of personal transportation was bike riding. At the time, I myself rode a bike for a minimum of 2.5 hours per day (rain or shine…or snow) to get to and from school at the academy in Beijing.
Upon arrival to China this time, I was instantly struck by how globalism has drastically changed things in China! Western clothes, high fashion, Jeeps, Porche dealers and many more modern amenities. Of course there are many things that seem exactly the same as well; the love of children, the particular brands of friendship, the innovation, curiosity & earnestness of Chinese people.
Shortly after I arrived, the security desk man gave me some recent issues of the China Art Weekly Magazine to look at, and I was immediately struck by the realization of just how deep my early study of Traditional Chinese painting had truly been. Even in my most recent work the influence was blatantly evident to me…mainly in the dramatic expression of the dynamic contrasts found in landscape. I found this very inspiring for the initiation of my “Art of Transformation” Hybrid Art Residency, which like most of my residencies, are fairly experimental.
China Academy of Art (C.A.A.) “Art of Transformation” Lecture:
To kick off the residency, I gave an autobiographical Power Point Lecture, where I also stressed the fact that mixed media, multi media, collage and montage lend themselves well to bringing the divergent parts of an individual together as a holistic way to represent the self.
Using details, all the parts make a whole. This is the ideology inherent in mixed media or collage/montage. Because of this the medium itself can also become part of the message and self expression…
My residency within the China Academy of Art Printmaking Department was all about having the students create hybrid works combining conventional drawing and printmaking with digital techniques in Photoshop to illustrate some form of expressive identity narrative. About half way through my residency I found the need to explain the importance of thoroughly “owning” your mixed media and demonstrating how to truly make an image your own, despite the use of digital software settings and filters…Never settle for the “pre-packaged” look!
Final Student Art Exhibit (In between all those meals we actually got something done after all!):
Click Any CAA Student Art Work Or The Exhibit Poster below for a wonderful Student Exhibit Presentation. China Academy of Art Printmaking Department, Show Dates: 10-21-2015 to 1-1-2016
This post is dedicated to the young, the steadfast, the man who solved every problem, graduate student, Zhang Zihao. A special thanks to you!