|Classic Beijing wiring|
Well, here are a few things:
A girl just sailed past me on her bicycle, dressed entirely in gold lame including her Roman sandals, her waist-length black hair flying behind her as she effortlessly threaded her way through the cacophony of honking, swearing taxi drivers, BMWs and Mercs with tinted windows, three-wheeled carts laden with enormous piles of mattresses; recycled cardboard; stacks of timber; watermelons and, in one case an entire family and a refrigerator. Bicycles of every possible shape, size and degree of decrepitude ridden by people of every age, shape (and degree of decrepitude) followed random paths across the 8 lanes of the intersection, taking no apparent notice of the kamikaze taxis and trucks. I have never seen a helmet on anyone riding a bicycle or a motor bike. Most have several passengers riding side-saddle. Pedestrians dart into the middle of all of this chaos whenever there is the most minute gap in the traffic, holding up one hand like King Canute parting the waves. And it works! I take my life in my hands and stick close to old ladies and people carrying children, hoping that the magic talisman of holding up one hand against the streams of traffic will work for me too. So far so good, but I had better not try it in Sydney!
Towards me along Gongti Beilu come hordes of walkers in the late evening light. Hipsters in weird matching skin-tight suits with digital prints and geometric haircuts; a girl wearing a Union Jack poncho with a Louis Vuitton - maybe - bag dangling with Hello Kitty accessories; and tiny old ladies and men wearing cloth shoes. The sellers of "Tibetan" jewellery are out in force. A snack cart is selling pineapples scored into beautiful swirling shapes and weird sausages on sticks. A family group sits on stools around a brazier next to the subway entrance eating chuan'r (lamb - maybe - grilled on a skewer) and squid. A young woman in head-to-toe pink throws a massive hissy fit and storms away from her sullenly resigned boyfriend, throwing invective back over her shoulder. He trudges behind, carrying her shopping bags. In the park the older women - aunties and grandmas - are dancing in unison in the fading light and the water calligraphers are intent on their beautiful transient characters. There is pink blossom on the trees, musicians playing in all the pavilions - some beautiful and skilful, some not so very - and tiny children are everywhere.
|Solitary Musician in Tuanjiehu Park|
|Evening in the Park|
And - there's the art! I have seen an exhibition of Ma Yanling at 798 - an unexpected discovery. You can find my previous article about her work on Creative Asia here: http://www.creative-asia.net/content/secret-script-painting-and-performance-work-ma-yanling
|Ma Yanling exhibition "Ethereal Conclusions"|
So far I have spent time with artists Lin Jingjing, Hu Qinwu, Tony Scott, and Gao Ping and today I drove so far out of Beijing that we were actually in Hebei Province to see the extraordinary Dong Yuan. Her new work to be shown at Art Basel Hong Kong next month continues her elegiac memorialisation of her grandmother's house beside the sea near Dalian. She told me she is too sad to return - the sea is polluted - even the groundwater in her home village is polluted and toxic and all the landscapes that she loved have gone. Her new paintings are constructed like cabinets of curiosity, with doors and drawers that open, revealing paintings within the painting. A world of secrets.
More about these artists later, but here are some links to my previous writings about their work.
|Hu Qinwu in his Beijing studio, photo Luise Guest April 2014|
|Lin Jingjing in her studio, Photo Luise Guest April 2014|
Gao Ping: http://theartlife.com.au/2012/still-life-girls/
Lin Jingjing: http://dailyserving.com/2014/01/material-practices-stitching-fabric-and-textiles-in-the-work-of-contemporary-chinese-artists/
Dong Yuan: http://www.randian-online.com/np_feature/in-grandmothers-house/
|Dong Yuan with her work 'Grandmother's Cupboard', photo Luise Guest April 2014|
|The extraordinary trompe l'oeil of Dong Yuan's painting (detail) |
photo Luise Guest reproduced with the permission of the artist
|The work in progress on the easel in the artist's studio, reproduced with permission of Dong Yuan|
|Snack window in Caochangdi|