Several months ago, I decided to create a one year program to explore the art I was making, the art around me, and have the world's greatest contemporary artists as my teachers. For free.
This project takes three main forms:
* Research of contemporary artists and concepts relevant to my work, listening to artists' lectures and watching documentaries and interviews, reading articles and books, etc. One artist or concept per week.
* Exploration of the art in my city and others I visit: participation in exhibitions, attending events, meeting new practitioners, and curating exhibitions in a private gallery. One event per week.
* Creation of work informed by the research, breaking out of media and methods I've become comfortable with, and making maximum use of my Beijing studio. Production of one complete series of paintings, and two multimedia installation projects.
Soon, my documentation will be available here: ArtMFA.com
These are methods which may be applied to a DIY art education no matter where you live.
Image: The Great Dictator's Office Window, from the China Obscura Cyanotype painting series
My first solo exhibition in Beijing opens this Sunday, 27th September. It's a book and photo installation inspired by living in the…unique conditions…of China today. Conditions which have me looking at censorship in other places, particularly my home country, where 'freedom of information' has never really been free.
Opening is this Sunday at Meridian Space, a gallery/performance venue behind Beijing's National Museum. Stop by from September 27th-October 11th, get a close look at acupuncture models, and practice censoring great American literature like a real official. Kids welcome, but you may want to keep them away from the needles -
Windows are barriers, lattices, screens. They keep out enemies, the hot and cold, and they shut us in.
These Cyanotype murals are views of rooms in China where pivotal people stayed, slept, and worked to change the country's future. The window paintings are all diptychs: they portray the perspectives of those inside them, and those of us peering in from outside.
In Mandarin, the polite way to say '[western] foreigner' is "outside country person", which hints at the historic insulation of the country. Foreign perspectives of China – those from outside - are inherently incomplete. These dual views of the same window show how different the opposing sides appear of what is inherently the same structure.
Painting in progress: Mao's Office Window (Wuhan) from the Outside
Cyanotype chemicals are pale green when first painted, then darken as they dry, and turn blue in the sunlight.
Finished prints,Views of Mao's Office (Wuhan), from the Inside and Outside
Visible are silhouettes of his calligraphy, which was surprisingly refined.
In Beijing, we have reliable sunlight only half the year. To make my blueprints, I need strong sunlight and no rain. In spring, the pressure is on to create work which I've designed over the winter.
Below: a video of Cyanotype printing on the rooftop of my studio, illustrating the process from fresh painting (the photochemicals are green) to quickly layering negatives before they are exposed to the sun and turn blue.
Clips from a long-term project across China, searching for paper for my artwork: fromSilk Road papers from Xinjiang to tea papers in the Southwest to the famous Xuan paper used by artists and scholars for centuries.