HKK, a gourmet Chinese restaurant based in East London, contacted me late last year to see if I would make them eight huge prints for their Chinese New Year celebrations. As I love a challenge, I said yes.
The storyline was about an Emperor who threw a birthday feast: here he is writing his invitations.
The ingredients for the feast were gathered from far and wide: here they are aiming at the hawk in the sky, while people (and an enormous chicken) look for fish in the river.
Chefs created new and beautiful dishes from the fruits of the land and sea.
The banquet hall was decorated with splendid finery: I imagined these strange silver flagons shaped like rooster heads.
The emperor arrived to the feast carried on a palanquin by four women (why not?) over a lavish staircase, inspired by the one that goes up to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.
The Emperor was offered wine from a jade goblet (modelled with oak leaves taken from the design on a Dutch lamppost from Amsterdam) with gold dragons as handles.
He joined his family and guests for a toast to health, happiness, abundance, peace and prosperity. The VIPs wore pearl necklaces and women had fresh flowers in their hair.
After the meal, they were entertained by acrobats and ribbon dancers, harp players and singers, roosters and jugglers.
These prints were designed in four days and carved in japanese vinyl (gomuban) over 11 days: a record time for me. I made use of the Royal Academy Schools’ library where I found lots of books on Qing dynasty clothing and customs, and admired paintings of ancient landscapes, throne-rooms and interiors. I was buoyed along at this crazy pace by adrenaline and the looming Christmas deadline for approval of the images.
Once approved, I scanned them and enlarged them to 133 x 76 cm each, and started phase two of the project: screenprinting them onto delicate shoji paper to hang in the restaurant interior. Luckily my studio, East London Printmakers, was quiet over the Christmas break, so I had enough space to work…!
This stack of paper took over 100 hours to print… done in only 6 days.
Finally some of the work was picked out with gold leaf. It’s not that obvious on a backlit image, but the gold shimmers in the light.
Here are some installation shots of the work in the restaurant HKK Shoreditch, London.
The work is up until 4 March (extended an extra three weeks!) 2017. Let me know if you go along!
http://hkklondon.com/ 88 Worship Street, Broadgate Quarter, London EC2A 2BE
http://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk 42 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR