Thursday, 15 October 2015

After China

The three weeks since the Beijing International Art Biennale opened and I walked around the huge halls has passed in a blur of activity. I spent quite a long time writing a report about the event, describing being an invited artist and how this has impacted on my painting, and the artwork from 96 countries. This will be published in THE JACKDAW in the November/December edition. 

'Where Thoughts Go,' ink on rice paper
'Chinese Journey,' ink on rice paper
'Where Thoughts Go,' (2) ink on rice paper

'Chinese Journey,' ink on rice paper

In between my writing I began to use the Chinese art materials I bought in Beijing. Working on rice paper has been a journey because it is quite different to watercolour paper. It absorbs liquid paint quite greedily and is quite thin, so it requires a different approach. I have been playing with combining the structural elements of my previous artwork with fluid brushstrokes - also a component I value highly. As a child I copied Chinese paintings from library books and in particular admired the economical brushstrokes that captured animals, landscapes and people. In these new works I am hoping to extend my work and how I approach oil on canvas. I have always been interested in the directness of brushstrokes and their inner life. 

So far I've painted 12 ink paintings. Each time my brush touches the paper, I learn something new about ways to force space and mood onto the paper with different kinds of lines, wet-in-wet shapes, pools of dark ink and intuitive mark-making. It has opened up a new world!

I didn't want to look at any other art until I was well into my series of ink paintings. I didn't want to taint my response to the freshness of my accumulated memories of China - I wanted them to flow out of the end of the brushes. What surprised me was that it was the landscape seen on the trip to the Great Wall of China that forced its elements into the paintings. I'd expected the city to find its way in but the landscape and its configurations have pushed new ways of rendering land forms into my work.

 I have still to sort through 1,450 photos and then I will post them on here and write more about the amazing experience of being in China.

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