From Typography to Paper Cutting

I thought it was about time I uploaded some photographs of my teaching sessions from this semester at the Academy of International Visual Arts (AIVA), Shanghai. We have 21 students in total this academic year (2011-12) at both pre-BA and pre-MA level studying jewellery design, animation, product design and visual communication…I have 6 visual communication students (2 pre-BA and 4 pre-MA) at mixed levels of ability.

In the first module, regarding typeface design and typography, I asked my students to search for the alphabet in a still life, to find the form and then draw individual letters. Some students were not content with the idea of drawing from a still life, in a traditional sense, but after a little while they soon got to grips with the concept and began the A-Z hunt.

One of my more promising students came to me with these drawings shown above…I was particularly impressed with her eye for aesthetics. I’m not sure you’d even see this level of skill in UK art institutions anymore! (My personal Western cynicism kicking in there.) She continues to use these drawing skills as part of her current practice in the book design module…I’m looking forward to seeing what she creates.

Another project I set the animation, product design and visual communication students, was to recreate the cityscape of Shanghai from a projected image through the use of photo-collage and photo-montage techniques. Some students were not familiar with this image making and what I call a “physical drawing” technique…they all engaged with the afternoon session, producing this artwork as shown below on the visual communication studio wall. The one dynamic product design student decided it would be appropriate to include the mac logos, mac doc, drop-down tool bar menu when you right-click on the mouse, and the cursor arrow. It certainly placed the Shanghai cityscape in additional context, that of the digital and reproduced realm of mass distribution. Anyone in the world can see Shanghai if they want to…

A couple of weeks ago, the contemporary Chinese artist Chen Hangfeng came to give a lecture and paper cutting workshop session for the day with all the AIVA students. He began by introducing his artistic practice, including presenting many short videos that explained in detail artworks, such as the ‘Logomania’ series (shown below). This video visits Hangfeng in his studio and accompanies him on a paper-finding walk while he talks about his paper cut work, his teacher, inspirations and materials.

Hangfeng also spoke about his solo exhibition ‘Unnatural Selection’ at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, on display until the 26 February 2012. I hope to see this when I am back in the UK for a few weeks at the end of January 2012. This exhibition is part of ‘The One Square Mile 2010-11 project’, which asks people to map the biodiversity, cultural diversity and aesthetic diversity of their local neighbourhood.

During the afternoon workshop, students created a variety of paper cut works either based on already existing images that Hangfeng had selected and printed, or based on their own drawings. We encouraged the students to appropriate the original images or work on their own drawings however, I felt some students felt it a safer (and easier) option to work with what they were given. A few students were even seen to experiment with colour when their paper cut was finished as shown below.

I obviously couldn’t write a blog post without mentioning food, or what I’ve recently eaten. A friend emailed me at the weekend to say he thinks my blog is about 40% food related now…and I also saw another friend and Chinese art colleague at a show opening on Thursday afternoon who said she and her friends thought my blog was like a general Shanghai review. I fear very often that I veer away from academic and PhD chatter to talk “Shanghai” and my normal reality…at least it makes for a diverse and interesting read right? I hope it does anyway!

When Hangfeng was with AIVA for the day, we went for lunch at a local Xinjiang Uyghur restaurant on Yan’an Lu. He recommended going to this restaurant as he used to go here when he had his studio at 696 Weihai Lu before the complex was closed down. The food had a Turkish-esque influence, certainly refreshing to eat. We had natural yoghurt that had a wonderful bitter taste. It was so nice to have this as I am a little bit sick of eating over-sweetened Chinese yoghurt. We also had a seeded flatbread, a mixed pepper and chilli noodle dish, and a fresh pepper, onion and cucumber salad. Hangfeng also had some lamb kebabs but as I am no longer a meat eater I stuck to the other offerings. I will be seeing Hangfeng on Wednesday as I am heading back to the artists studios at the Hero pen factory in Taopu to meet with artist Giromalo Marri. Another communist style lunch ahoy! Tokens at the ready…


    1. Isn’t he just…a real pleasure to work with.

      Thanks for the comment, very interesting blog by the way, I’ve added you to my links page for reference, I feel like we should talk at some stage too! Keep in touch…

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