Between Chongqing, Shanghai and Liverpool…

The beginning of the week presented itself as a full on “transcultural” dialogue between Chongqing, Shanghai and Liverpool. This was due to two different projects colliding though their associated content and contexts, which I will elaborate on as this post unfolds. On Monday, I spent the day at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, with Jiehong Jiang (my PhD supervisor), Jonathan Watkins (Director of the Ikon Gallery), and Diana Stevenson (Jonathan’s first-hand man (or woman!))…along with James Moores (founder of the Liverpool Biennial and Head of the A Foundation, which sadly due to the arts funding cuts not meeting their £70k need, will have to soon close its doors), and Dan Wang (a student just finishing her MFA in curating at Goldsmiths). So together we welcomed the four prize winners of the ‘John Moores Painting Prize China’, and the prize coordinator and Director of Overseas Projects at the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University, Ling Min. Ok, so that introduction to the group was long…but you do know I like to be specific and provide as much detail as possible, anyway…for the winners, the prize was not just the usual monetary reward and social kudos…it was a residency and exhibition opportunity in Liverpool, UK, in addition to a once in a lifetime organised international networking experience around the UK to meet and greet curators, academics, critics, museum and gallery directors and other artists. The latter two prizes I definitely think are worth far, far more than money. I wish all art prizes offered these kind of professional development seems more holistic, right?

The session began with introductions from Jonathan (below left) about the work of the Ikon Gallery, and then Ling Min (below right), who went on to present the four artists, their prize-winning work and their practice then, in 2010, and now, as to how it is developing during their current residencies.

Three male and one female artist that included Zhang Wei, Zhang Zhenxu, Zou Tao, and Li Zhouwei respectively. So Li Zhouwei was the only female prizewinner. She spoke of how she has strived for many years to become recognised for her painting and practice, and has over 9 years teaching experience at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. It made me question how someone can teach and lecture without having some of the necessary “professional” qualifications (if that makes sense). I do realise that the kudos is not always necessary, and that it won’t always provide you with the necessary skills to teach, however, it does give you experience of and within the art world and art market…it gives you experience in applying for and getting accepted/rejected from exhibitions, experience of building international relationship and networks…that confidence and belief. This was a strange dichotomy I tried to get my head round. It was good those to see some female blood as part of the prize though as female artists, let alone painters are few and far between in China. Another topic certainly worth discussing.

So from left to right it was Zhang Wei, Zhang Zhenxue, Ling Min, Jiehong Jiang, Li Zhouwei, Zou Tao, James Moores and Dan Wang…and me behind the camera. After lunch, Joshua and I spoke about our recent endeavours. For Joshua, it was his exhibition ‘Guanxi – Contemporary Chinese Art’ that he has recently curated at the Guangdong Museum of Art (it is moving on to the Today Art Museum, Beijing, in October 2011)…and for me it was about my PhD research, to discuss some theories and raise questions. We decided it might be more beneficial for me to talk to them after their residencies have finished to see if and how the Western contexts have changed their artistic practice and thought. It was a very fruitful day and it will be good to continue conversations with both Dang Wan and Ling Min during my time in Shanghai. Only 12 weeks to go…

The other project that I have become involved in, is with London-based curator Helen Kaplinsky, who is undertaking a residency called ‘MEGA MODERN’ from the 4th July to the 10th August at 501 Contemporary Art Centre, Chongqing, China. Her research examines the development of young artists’ networks in China, the emergence of potential house styles from Chinese art academies and schools, and the relationship of the art market to these educational establishments. She has commissioned London-&-Berlin-based artist-&-DJ collective psychoanalYSL to produce new work for the exhibition which will take place at the beginning of August. She also has this blog through ‘Artists’ Talking’ on a-n online, which documents her research and where I will be engaging in “transcultural” dialogue with her for the duration of her residency. We will also hopefully be doing an ‘In Conversation’ style event on her return from China, and I’ll be writing a more critical text in response to her experiences and my research. Take a look at the blog if you can where your contributions would be greatly appreciated to extend the “transcultural” conversations and networks. I’m looking forward to the development of this collaboration…when world’s collide.


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