China


I thought it would be funny to make very purely digital images in Japanese woodblock technique. The contrast in time couldn’t be greater: one tap of a button for the computer, translated to a long time to carve some wood, then get paper dampened, then patient printing by hand, involving a gradual building up of colour over a few hours to days…

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It was entertaining, and laborious, and then just a little bit overwhelming.

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After a while I wanted to record the actual process rather than the final images, and then I started to worry about why I was trying to make perfectly registered images each time, when really the process of making the prints would naturally generate interesting frames.

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So the eyeballs swivel around and then bounce out of the head, and I made some dark lashes and a kind of fluttery blink…

Smiley Rock deconstructed

All in all I made 51 prints, but there are many more photos as they also record the build up of colour on each piece of paper.

Smiley Rock on the bedIt’s still very rough round the edges, but if you’d like to see the first trial animation, here it is:

https://vimeo.com/221670482

The sound is work in progress as well. More refined version coming soon…!

 

 

Sometimes it’s interesting to take photos of the physical world that we cannot see.

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My scarf is my collaborator: together we try to defy gravity.

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The red earth, scorched yet still wet, is a piece of land in Changsha Normal University, cleared for a playing field. I spent one month there in April teaching Japanese woodblock  printmaking and giving talks in various venues.

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I like the small shadows from the overhead sun after days of torrential rain and misty gloom. Photos freeze time.

Meanwhile in the UK, just the act of leaning in the forest is like that thought experiment: If a tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it, did it make a sound?

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If I lean on the air, and no one sees it, did it happen?

Ahhhh, but of course! I am seen! Here is the proof online!

In December last year I was invited to teach animation and artists’ books in Changsha Normal University, China. I had a great time! The students were enthusiastic and technically brilliant and we had a fun time working individually and collaboratively.

IMG_1561While I was in China I made a trip to Beijing, and visited a very strange theme park (whose name I’ve forgotten) full of examples of architecture from all over China. The house that took my fancy was called Fujian House: a reconstruction of the traditional architecture of the region, complete with elaborate brickwork, cool inner courtyards, dining room and beautiful snail antenna shaped roof details.

IMG_5469I know my great grandparents came from Fujian, so I started to imagine that I was visiting them, and that we were about to have some tea together. As I paced the courtyards I started to believe that they were just in the adjacent rooms.

IMG_1560So I made a book called Fujian House. The inner courtyard is replicated inside the book, so when you pull the book apart to form a central square, you can look around the courtyard. The brickwork is on the outside walls. When you half open the book there is a pregnant cat, lying on the ground, just relaxing.IMG_1574

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The book will be on display as part of the East London Printmakers Maker Library, launch event this Friday 1 April 2016, 6-9 pm.

More details here

https://www.facebook.com/events/1672251663046870/

Friday 1 April 6-9 pm.
East London Printmakers
19 Warburton Road, London, E8 3RT

Please come!

The Chinese section of the BBC got in touch after the new Sheep Coin from The Royal Mint was released on the 1st September, and invited me to visit. What a wonderful day out!

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I saw the stage where they present breakfast TV and the weather cubicles, and many people looking very serious, typing away at hubs of information. Apparently there used to be 43 different languages spoken in the BBC, now cut back to 30. Upstairs was the radio channels which were very funky and with a great view. Of course I had to pretend to be a rock star for a minute or two before we got to work…

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Jacky (Chuanzi Xing) interviewed me about the commission, asking me how my printmaking interest first started, and whether being a mix of Chinese British has influenced me in any way. She was very cool, calm and professional with perfect English, so it was easy to chat to her. You can read her interview here (it’s in Chinese but google translate gives you an idea of what we talked about). There is also a link to my description of the sheep personality here (sounding very serious even though I’m making it up!)

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The Royal Mint had couriered a gold-plated solid-silver coin over to the BBC for the interview, but of course, being a lump of metal arriving in the National Headquarters of information meant that it was a potential bomb threat, and had to undergo extensive tests before it made it inside!

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It was worth the wait, and the gold contrasted nicely with the reflection of the BBC’s red upholstery, which picked out the detail in the landscape well.

IMG_6166_eI’d brought along a coin from the Year of the Horse with me, so we put them side by side to compare. They looked pretty handsome in their cases, and I began to see the fun behind collecting.

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Looking forward to the next coin now: the Year of the Monkey. Should be lots of fun!

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Photo courtesy of Chuanzi Xing, BBC

To read the interviews please see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/zhongwen/simp/uk/2014/09/140906_iv_sheep_coin_designer.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukchina/simp/uk_life/2014/09/140904_life_sheep_coin_wuongen_ho.shtml

And to see the CCTV (China Central TV) video and interview please see here

http://english.cntv.cn/2014/09/01/VIDE1409573879279610.shtml

http://english.cntv.cn/2014/09/01/VIDE1409573879279610.shtml#.VAZD60P2J1A.facebook

And finally the BBC Radio Oxford Malcolm Boyden show interviewed me on Tuesday 2/9/14 at 2:20- 2:25 (two hours and 20 mins into the programme) about sheep related things…

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China Love 01

The show in the Portland Chinese garden is in collaboration with Ian Boyden, a fantastic artist who has lived in China but currently based in the enchanted forest on the Oregon Coast. We met all of three days before our show was due to be installed, and immediately started to bounce ideas off each other to see if we could make something coherent from the whole project. Luckily there were a few good ideas which seemed to mirror each other.

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China Love 02

We’ve got two videos which coincidentally reflect each other. I have one of my spinning head, Lucid Mask, a self portrait which contains all the positive memories that I wanted to reinforce. In a dream-like way it rotates slowly at first, then gradually faster and faster.  Within the scenes there are a quite a few memories of my travels to China in 2009.

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Lucid Gorge, video still from Lucid Mask animation

Ian Boyden’s video is called Fish Immortal, also a self portrait, but this time a solid concrete cast of his head. This he that he put in a carp pond in Suzhou and filled the open mouth with fish food daily. The video shows the fish greedily kissing him all over, tinged with the limpid green waters and surrounded by elegantly rustling fins.

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Copyright Ian Boyden, Fish Immortal

So next to his video we thought it was apt to put all of my fishes, lined up as if freshly captured from the lake. My print, A Fishy Affair, makes a comical commentary on fish-human relationships. Well I guess we only need to think about mermaids to know that is has all been done before.

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China Love 04

In the past I have made a fantasy narrative love story about a man and a non-human woman who inhabit a strange garden space. She sacrifices her non-human identity to explore a relationship with him, and then tragedy strikes. So this series, which includes the China Love prints and the Love Knot series have been included in the show.

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China Love 03

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Love Knot 01

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Love Knot 03

Finally, I set myself a small challenge to carve in the garden once daily for eight days in July to see what would happen. The result was eight new prints (or four double spread prints), The Lansu Garden series which is a long narrative linocut about a garden space with little figures all leaping around, hidden in the bamboo shadows, playing in the lake, dangling off the pagodas, and trying to scale the walls. At the back door there are the north American maple trees to signify the transition between China and USA.

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To see these for real, please come to our presentation on Sunday 11th August at 3pm at the Portland Chinese Garden, Oregon

In all the excitement of making books I forgot to mention that I will be visiting China for the 3rd Qijiang International Print show, to be held in Chongqing 23-28th November. I will be going with lots of lovely artists including some of my heroes, and I am looking forward to our mini symposium and chance to meet many printmakers from all over the world and China itself.

We have confirmed attendance from David Barker, Nicholas Brown, Karen Butler, Wayne Crothers, Jon Goebel, Heather Huston, Guy Langevin,  Yili Li, Kang Ning, Marica Rizzato, Annika Romeyn, Ema Shin, and Francisco Souto.  I hope to put some pictures here soon!

Have a look at the website http://chinaprintfestival.weebly.com for more information.

Actually the picture above is not from Chongqing, a megapolis of 28 million people which has just incorporated Qijiang into its district, but from a cute little village near Dali in Southwestern China that I visited the last time I went in 2009.