Day 32- Last Day

My group started from the Beijing Studio Center for the airport at around eight in the morning. Mr. Zheng Xuewu drove us. It was the end of a great journey in Beijing as well as a peaceful morning. I would describe the state of mind I was in this morning as “steady and calm.” The mood in the car was light. We thanked Mr. Zheng Xuewu for the work he had done for us when we arrived at the airport. We ran into Mr. Hwang Yeong-Seong and the other artists from the Gwangju Museum of Art’s Gwangju residency program at the ticketing line for Asiana Airlines. We took off at ten forty and arrived in Korea in the afternoon. Mother greeted me when I walked into my home.


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Day 31- Songzhuang, Studio Visit with Jia Youguang, Film Screening at Beijing Studio Center

I had lunch with Mr. Zheng Xuewu, Mrs. Fion Gunn, Mr. Li Guorui, Mr. Li Guorui’s wife and a couple of friends of Mr. Zheng Xuewu, one of whom is an artist and the other a professor. After lunch I took a walking tour of the vicinity of the Beijing Studio Center in Songzhuang. I visited a couple of galleries and saw other buildings from the outside. Mrs. Fion Gunn and Mr. Zheng Xuewu had planned a video screening event at the Beijing Studio Center in the afternoon. Artists from Australia and Europe visited for the event. There were some Chinese artists there as well. We all went to Jia Youguang’s studio where we looked at his works and chatted. Then we returned to the Beijing Studio Center and watched a video of Mrs. Gunn’s curatorial activities in Beijing and the artist Xiao Kung’s sculpture making, a video of Italian artist Giancarlo Norese’s projects, the video projects of Gwangju-based artist and part of our group, Kim Dan-hwa and New York based Spanish artist Ignacio Campo Salinas’ website. It was interesting to watch scenes from a curator’s projects while listening to short interviews and a narrator. The picture quality was clear and of memorable color. It was also very interesting to see the sculptor Xiao Kung working hard on his cinder block sculptures. The background music of the video fit the theme well. After viewing the films, we went out to dinner. I packed by my bags when I returned. I was in a sanguine state of mind.

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Day 30- Studio Visit with Li Guorui, 798 Art District, Opening of Gwangju Museum of Art Exhibit

At the opening of the Gwangju Museum of Art Beijing artist residency exhibition. Myself pictured front row, fourth from left.

My group visited the studio of painter Li Guorui, the 798 Art District and attended the opening of the Gwangju Museum of Art Beijing residency artists’ exhibition.

Li Guorui had paintings of horses and boats and a larger painting of blue collar workers hung on one of the walls of his studio. I asked him through Mr. Zheng Xuewu why he painted the boats. Li Guorui responded through Mr. Kim Namo, a Beijing-based Korean artist who accompanied us, that ‘these boats he painted are of the old, neglected and disappearing ones in his hometown, which was a fishing village. He remembers seeing many of these boats as a child and is sad that they have disappeared. He painted the boats as a reminder that human beings, too become forgotten about when they grow old and weathered.’ I nodded. I also asked why the artist painted his horses, to which Mr. Kim Namo responded that the horses were commissioned by a buyer in Taiwan.

My group headed on to the 798 Art District, a bit of a ride from Songzhuang, where we arrived first at Mr. Kim Namo’s cafe and gallery and had lunch. The gallery is named 798 With Space and is where the opening of the exhition of Gwangju Museum of Art Beijing residency artists was to take place later in the afternoon. My group was joined by another group of artists from Gwangju, also sponsored by the Gwangju Museum of Art. A different group of four artists from Gwangju, and one Beijing-based artist, are each staying at the Gwangju Museum of Art’s studios in Beijing for one year (3 months in the case of the Beijing-based artist). The exhibition at 798 With Space is of works by those five artists and was organized by the Gwangju Museum of Art. The Gwangju Museum of Art has been making notable outreach efforts to artists in Gwangju. They’ve been running five studios in Beijing for artists from Gwangju for the past two years. I’ve heard from a number of sources that no other art museum in Korea has a residency program in Beijing yet.

After lunch, I ran into Mr. Park Su-Man, a talented Gwangju-based painter who had stayed in Beijing for six months with the Gwangju Museum of Art residency program. We toured the galleries in the 798 Art District together. Stopping in front of a sculpture of a saturated blue, muscular alien; I asked, ‘Who decided to make this the uniform style of 798?’ I was referring to the abundance of hyper-muscular or hyper-volumized figure sculptures on the streets of the 798 Art District. Every figure sculpture lining the streets in the district seem exaggerated in some way. I was really wondering who first said that this was a standard to be followed for public sculptures in the area. In the 798 Art District, I discovered, many galleries are entered from indoor hallways. Lack of knowledge of this made me walk amid a thinness of galleries the last time I was there.  I entered one art space that was a pleasure to look at just for the mere spacious architecture of it.

As I walked with Mr. Park Su-Man back to 798 With Space, I saw the back of a familiar person- Dr. Uli Sigg, the contemporary Chinese art collector so famous as to have either his name or picture included in every other art magazine I picked up one time in Beijing. I had met Dr. Uli Sigg in Gwangju, where he was visiting for the art fair, Art Gwangju 2011; and had spent a day interpreting for him, Ms. Anna Liuli who I know to be both a businesswoman and the wife of a renown artist in Beijing and Mr. Han Chang-Yun, the chair of the exhibitions department at the Gwangju Museum of Art. I walked up to the person, confirmed it was Dr. Uli Sigg, was glad to see him and walked along him looking at him in the eye while he smiled back and continued his conversation with his companion at the same time. When he had a moment I said, “Hello Dr. Sigg” and he said hi and “So you made it to China.” I said yes and he probably asked how long I was staying and I that my stay is for a month. He told me he had to go to meet someone at the moment but that it was nice to see me. I, too had arrive at 798 Art Space by the time. I told the people around me that ‘that is a famous collector.’ I saw Mr. Han Chang-Yun, too and he told him about running into Dr. Sigg and Mr. Han Chang-Yun said that he ran into Dr. Sigg as well. The opening of the art exhibit was a joyous time. I also attened the dinner that followed. Mr. Hwang Yeong-Seong, the director of the Gwangju Museum of Art was also in attendance for the evening.

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Day 29- Visit to the Studio of Zi Qian

I visited the studio of the painter, Zi Qian with Mr. Zheng Xuewu and Mrs. Fion Gunn, who is an artist and curator visiting Beijing to organize art exhibits. Mr. Zheng, Mrs. Gunn and I had dinner at a local restaurant before we went to the studio and had a light conversation about mutual aqaintances. A friendly Mr. Zi Qian and his wife greeted us at the artist’s studio. While sitting in Mr. Zi Qian’s office space and having a tea ceremony, I asked Mr. Zi Qian through the interpretation of Mrs. Fion Gunn (Mr. Zheng had stepped outside at the time) how he felt about the international attention that Chinese contemporary art has been getting. Mr. Zi Qian replied that ‘although contemporary Chinese art has been getting a lot of attention, not all of the works are good. Some are, some are not’ and that he feels ‘the art worlds of the East and West are communicating, or collaborating, better and this would continue in the future.’ I showed Mr. Zi Qian and Mrs. Fion Gunn my 33m x 1.5m acrylic drawing of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals using my i-Phone and Mr. Zi Qian told me that ‘he would like for me to study Chinese painting for he feels I would find something in them.’ It was a nice evening and I enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. Zi Qian and his wife.

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Day 28- The Forbidden Palace, Changsan Park, Beihai Park, Hutong

Myself, taking a boat ride at Beihai Park

Myself, taking a boat ride at Beihai Park
Myself, taking a boat ride at Beihai Park

I visited the Forbidden Palace and Changsan Park, Beihai Park and a part of Hutong. It was a crisp, sunny day. I ate lunch at a restaurant inside of the gates of Tienanmen. I rented an audio guide for my tour of the Forbidden Palace, which is now called a museum. The most surprising part of the audio guide was when it told me that the allied troops that invaded Beijing had scraped off the gold gild from the water cauldrons inside the palace while they looted the place. I was impressed by the sense of volume in the dragon stone carvings in the center of a stairway at one of the main buildings of the palace. I appreciated the sense of idyllic narrative in the jade carvings (pictured below) on display. The Forbidden Palace has such beautiful architecture, including its white stone bridges. Changsan Park is a park across the street from the Forbidden Palace and has a hill overlooking the palace. I went up the hill to have my view. The Forbidden Palace has a nice moat around it on the northen side. Beihai Park has a large lake, in which I enjoyed a refreshing boat ride. I was smiling ear to ear. I walked around the lake afterwards and headed out to the Hutong area. I walked the streets of Hutong to a restaurant for dinner and headed back to my studio, walking past Tienanmen Donglu on my way. Tienanmen Donglu has storefronts that are well-lit at night.

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Day 27- Beijing Studio Center

It was cold and rainy so I stayed at our studio. I read Zhao Wenbing’s Chinese Sculpting. It was a good read. I got a comprehensive overview of the history of Chinese sculpting and an upgraded sense of China’s history- the names of the different dynasties seem more solid and pointed to me now.

An interesting sculpture inside an art magazine

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Day 26- The Capital Museum, Wangfujing Dajie

I visited the Capital Museum. It felt a lot like the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago on the inside. I viewed the exhibit Retrospect of Ming Dynasty: Experiencing the Period of Wanli. Wanli was a Ming emperor who rarely held morning court with his officials. It was said that the culture of the empire flourished under his rule but the country’s military weakened. There were many interesting artifacts on display. I came away with the impression that the Ming dynasty had excellent cultural achievements. Other than that exhibit, I viewed artifacts of ancient China including ceramics and buddhist sculptures, a folk arts exhibit and an exhibit on Chinese opera. There also was an exhibit of Beijing’s history beginning from the stone ages to the cultural revolution. I feel I learned a lot from this one. The Capital Museum was a very educational experience. I visited the bookstore there and purchased Chinese Sculpting by Zhao Wenbing. It was refreshing to look over parts of the book about Chinses sculpting in a historical context. I went to Wangfujing Dajie afterwards where I had dinner and bought Chinese Painting by Lin Ci at a foreign language book store. I had a good day.

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Day 25- Exhibition of the Alliance of Artistic Conception

Today I stayed in Songzhuang. I visited the exhibition of the Alliance of Artistic Conception, an eight-member artist group. One of the artists, Mr. Liu Bin was there and, although he spoke little English, he made phone calls to exhibiting artists who spoke more fluent English and allowed me to speak with them. Mr. Liu kindly told me the names of all the artists as well as they were not written anywhere in English.
I noted how the still lifes of Mr. Li Xia Zheng seemed to be of candid moments in a person’s home. The painting of golf clubs, for example, had the golf clubs scattered in a criss-crossed messed. There was little if any element of objects being staged in all of his paintings. This was new to me. There is a certain plainess and greyness about Mr. Li Xia Zheng’s subjects and sense of color that give his paintings an aura of transcendance. I asked him what he intended to capture through his still lifes over the phone and he said, “Life is art. Still life is also art.”
Mr. Liu Bin’s landscape paintings really captured a sense of atmosphere like nothing I’ve seen before. I could almost smell the sweet air, in detail, which would vary depending on the painting. Compositionally, Mr. Liu seemed to have used a little bit of artistic license in that his mountain ridges are more vertical than what can be seen in real nature. His colors are bright and captured the sunlight very well.

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Day 24- The Great Wall of China, the National Center for the Perfoming Arts

I went to the Great Wall of China in the morning and the National Center for the Performing Arts in the evening. The Great Wall was impressive, at first because it is so famous and then because of the steep hilliness of it. Imagine climbing up and down a black, brooding wall at the height of a mountain range and the glossy floor under your feet freely slants sideways as you go up and down at steep angles. Fun. As I looked over the mountains below from the Great Wall, I joked with Mr. Zheng saying “I can imagine how the Huns would have come up to the walls and the guard would have said, ‘please don’t trespass, this is civilized territory’ and the Hun would have said, ‘Oh O.K., I’ll think about it.’ When we arrived at an indoor space that had columns creating niches, I said to Mr. Zheng Xuewu, ‘If a Hun accidently found himself over the wall alone, then he would have been running around these columns while Chinese guards chased him.’ Mr. Zheng Xuewu laughed.

At the National Center for the Performing Arts, I saw the Peking opera performance Red Cliff. Red Cliff is about the Battle of Red Cliff in the history novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century and based on actual events in China around 180-240 A.D. It was very entertaining to revisit my memories of reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms comic books as a fifth grader. The opera, Red Cliff went into some detail on the conversations at the royal court of Wu just before deciding whether to “resist” Cao Cao’s enormous invasion or not. My favorite quotes included Cao Cao singing ‘With a long sword I wish to make a sweep of the world’ and ‘I will prove myself to be the hero of the world.’ Then there were Zhuge Liang’s last words of the opera, ‘Who would not want to live in a peaceful world?… Cao Cao is treacherous but the people deserve peace and although I am a scholar I must [intervene] in order to establish three kingdoms which will forge peace (checks and balances).’ It was interesting how an official of Sun Qian told the ruler ‘Even if we surrender, the officials will keep their positions in government. A hero such as you on the other hand will be like a tiger without wings. The officials argue for surrendering on account of preserving their social status and wealth so do not listen to them.’ Then there was also the scene in which Cao Cao is floating on his mighty warships on a foggy night and Zhou Yu floats along in a sailboat while strumming a stringed instrument to which Cao Cao says, ‘I’ve heard of Zhou Yu’s musical talents and his reputation is well deserved.’ Cao Cao’s officers ask ‘But how do you know this is Zhou Yu playing the music?’ to which Cao Cao answers, ‘I am floating on this river with 1 million troops and the entire land is trembling in fear of it. Who other than Zhou Yu would have the guts to play music so calmly on the river right now?’ Cao Cao’s officers praise him, ‘Your wisdom is unrivaled Prime Minister.’ Cao Cao’s mighty ship was a sight to look at as was the mist covering the stage which changed color to resemble river waters. In actual history, three kingdoms are formed as per Zhung Liang’s wishes in the novel but one of them overtakes the other two in a generation or two.

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Day 23- Yong He Gong Temple, National Art Museum of China, Wangfujing Dajie, Tienanmen Dajie

I went to Yong He Gong Temple (a Lama Temple), which is very large in scale and well preserved. It has a giant buddha statue that was carved from a single 26 meter tall piece of sandalwood. There were museums inside the temple that kept intricately shaped golden buddha statues and other gifts presented to the royal court of the Ching Dynasty. Yong He Gong was an interesting and spiritual place. Yong He Gong is where Yongzhengdi, the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty lived before becoming emperor. His successor, Qianlongdi turned it into a Lama Temple and changed the color of the roof tiles from green to yellow, giving it equal status to imperial housing. After Yong He Gong I went to the National Art Museum of China where they had a large exhibition about the 1911 revolution of the Republic of China. I was impressed by how many paintings there were depicting Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, each in its own way. There must have been at least eighty oil paintings and sculptures about the revolution at the exhibit. One painting outside of the revolution centennial exhibit was particularly pleasing in its colors (12th picture below). After the National Art Museum of China, I went and walked all of the busiest retail shop lined section of Wangfujing Dajie. The street is wide. Then I walked up and down Tienanmen Dajie, taking in sights of the shops lining it on either side.

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Day 22- Official Opening Day, 7th Culture and Art Festival of Songzhuang

I visited the Songzhuang Art Museum on the opening day of the 7th (annual) Culture and Art Festival of Songzhuang. It was interesting. There were billboards lining the street leading up to the museum and some sculptures on the lawn of the museum. There were European masters’ paintings, paintings with the theme of sunflowers and design exhibits on the first floor inside the museum. On the second floor was a cartoons exhibit about global warming. Another exhibition at the museum, this one curated for the Culture and Art Festival, was to open on October 28, the day my group is scheduled to return to Korea.

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Day 21- Tiantan Park

Tiantan Park is 2.67 square kilometers large (1 square mile). I went to Tiantan Park and visited the Temple of Heaven, a mongolian style building used for imperial ceremonies of offerings to the heavens and built during the Ming dynasty. Impressive was the elaborate architectural facade of the simple, cylinder shaped building. I enjoyed viewing the white stone stairs surrounding the temple building for they had a great sense of volume, especially for something made of stone.

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