(reblog from 2016 for archiving) Art of the State


First posted on TVG in China, 2016. I’m currently archiving old posts onto one blog.

Art galleries: institutions essential to the celebration of culture, ideas, art…and propaganda?

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statue representing the 56 nationalities considered minority groups in China

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I went to the Beijing national art gallery to check out an exhibition focussing on the varied minority groups of China for part of a museum project I’m working on. Naturally I got to see my fair share of artwork, but through the brushstrokes there was a clear message showing through.

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The exhibition, titled ‘National Exhibition of Fine Arts for Great Unity of Chinese Nation’ (中华民族大团结全国美术作品展) was concerned at its heart with expressing the view that each of the many groups of people in China are in unity with each other and in support of the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese museums like to have an almost essay-like structure. They have prefaces and conclusions as if there were only one way to interpret their contents and each section will act as an argument towards that final conclusion.

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In the art gallery’s foreword, you might spy upon an interesting phrase – The Chinese Dream (中国梦). I won’t go into it in much detail right now, as I’m likely to write fully about it in the future, but for now it should suffice to know the basics. The phrase became popular after Chairman Xi Jinping used it in a speech in 2013. It is associated with China’s current development goals of becoming a ‘moderately prosperous’ economy and rejuvenating the nation. It pops up around Beijing far too often.

This Chinese Dream is closely related to the exhibition, as are a number of Beijing’s museum exhibitions. Development is associated strongly with the Governments claim to power, and unity across the massive country – the exhibition’s focus- is essential to both.

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“Unity is power. People of all nationalities are making progress together with joint effort, destiny and objective on the way of fulfilling “China Dream””

Why then, are the ethnic groups of China important to development? One element is a group’s possible ability to slow the Chinese image of development. Despite such exhibitions painting a happy, united image of the country’s minority groups, there is unrest amongst some of them, especially where their traditional ways of life are threatened.  On the opposite side however, active support of minority group would surely result in smoother development.

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Territory also comes into question. Most westerners are for example aware there is controversy over Tibet and whether or not Tibetans are Chinese or not.  The region is a territory of China, but by depicting Tibetans as an essential group within China’s many minority groups, they lay claim to them. If Tibetans then, are ‘owned’ by China, so is their territory. The celebration of minority groups in part secures borders.

Those views are rather cynical, and there are more opinions that could be drawn. The people celebrated in the exhibition do live within the borders of China, and it is in the interests of a country to look after its people. One could view the exhibition as embracing its minority groups and their rich beautiful cultures. In exhibiting cultures, they can be preserved. China is changing so rapidly that much of the old will disappear. One could see such events as being an expression from the government, so as to say ‘we will respect and preserve all culture in China’.

The slow knocking down of Kashgar says otherwise, but never mind.

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Aside from the politics and intrigue of Chinese exhibition spaces, much of the exhibited artwork was beautiful and those pieces which weren’t beautiful were usually very interesting.

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The military trades education for education, teaching the only thing they know – national defence.

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Young Kazakh riders

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Tibetans somehow gaining huge harvests in barren places

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These last two depict multiple minority groups standing together in apparent unity, along side all things CCP.

 

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(reblog from 2016 for archiving) Art of the State


First posted on TVG in China, 2016. I’m currently archiving old posts onto one blog.

Art galleries: institutions essential to the celebration of culture, ideas, art…and propaganda?

IMG_4189

statue representing the 56 nationalities considered minority groups in China

IMG_4187

I went to the Beijing national art gallery to check out an exhibition focussing on the varied minority groups of China for part of a museum project I’m working on. Naturally I got to see my fair share of artwork, but through the brushstrokes there was a clear message showing through.

IMG_4191

The exhibition, titled ‘National Exhibition of Fine Arts for Great Unity of Chinese Nation’ (中华民族大团结全国美术作品展) was concerned at its heart with expressing the view that each of the many groups of people in China are in unity with each other and in support of the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese museums like to have an almost essay-like structure. They have prefaces and conclusions as if there were only one way to interpret their contents and each section will act as an argument towards that final conclusion.

IMG_4193

In the art gallery’s foreword, you might spy upon an interesting phrase – The Chinese Dream (中国梦). I won’t go into it in much detail right now, as I’m likely to write fully about it in the future, but for now it should suffice to know the basics. The phrase became popular after Chairman Xi Jinping used it in a speech in 2013. It is associated with China’s current development goals of becoming a ‘moderately prosperous’ economy and rejuvenating the nation. It pops up around Beijing far too often.

This Chinese Dream is closely related to the exhibition, as are a number of Beijing’s museum exhibitions. Development is associated strongly with the Governments claim to power, and unity across the massive country – the exhibition’s focus- is essential to both.

IMG_4194

“Unity is power. People of all nationalities are making progress together with joint effort, destiny and objective on the way of fulfilling “China Dream””

Why then, are the ethnic groups of China important to development? One element is a group’s possible ability to slow the Chinese image of development. Despite such exhibitions painting a happy, united image of the country’s minority groups, there is unrest amongst some of them, especially where their traditional ways of life are threatened.  On the opposite side however, active support of minority group would surely result in smoother development.

IMG_4222

Territory also comes into question. Most westerners are for example aware there is controversy over Tibet and whether or not Tibetans are Chinese or not.  The region is a territory of China, but by depicting Tibetans as an essential group within China’s many minority groups, they lay claim to them. If Tibetans then, are ‘owned’ by China, so is their territory. The celebration of minority groups in part secures borders.

Those views are rather cynical, and there are more opinions that could be drawn. The people celebrated in the exhibition do live within the borders of China, and it is in the interests of a country to look after its people. One could view the exhibition as embracing its minority groups and their rich beautiful cultures. In exhibiting cultures, they can be preserved. China is changing so rapidly that much of the old will disappear. One could see such events as being an expression from the government, so as to say ‘we will respect and preserve all culture in China’.

The slow knocking down of Kashgar says otherwise, but never mind.

IMG_4217

Aside from the politics and intrigue of Chinese exhibition spaces, much of the exhibited artwork was beautiful and those pieces which weren’t beautiful were usually very interesting.

IMG_4200IMG_4219IMG_4215IMG_4213IMG_4211IMG_4212IMG_4204

The military trades education for education, teaching the only thing they know – national defence.

IMG_4203IMG_4202IMG_4198

Young Kazakh riders

IMG_4196

Tibetans somehow gaining huge harvests in barren places

IMG_4197IMG_4224

These last two depict multiple minority groups standing together in apparent unity, along side all things CCP.

(reblog from 2015 for archiving) storms man-made and natural


first posted on TVG in China, 2015. I’m currently archiving old posts onto one blog.

I went back to Beijing’s art district, 798, knowing full well that there’s always something new to see there. This time I was much less concerned with artisan coffee (although tempted by it nonetheless!) and more with the little side street off the main path. After all, if you go off the comparatively beaten track of the main beaten track, there should be even more to find, right?

On the edges of the art district, graffiti has the prime spot.

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Further in, the hard brick walls transform into a much greener space, even if 798’s industrial past remains omnipresent.

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and some of the trees even become part art exhibit.

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I love how surreal some of the outdoor spaces are in 798. Surreal isn’t something I usually associate with China, but it’s out in full force in the narrow streets of this old factory complex.

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I find it really interesting how sections which still clearly keep their old industrial character have somehow lost their intimidating, grim edge. There’s almost something peaceful about it.

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and those spaces are certainly in strong contrast to the pristine exhibition spaces dotted within the complex.

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And yet, even those pristine spaces hold the mark of an industrial, and even a dark past. Those dusty red characters, 毛主席是我们心中的红太阳,  read “Chairman Mao is the red sun in our hearts”. This building used to deal with production of another kind.

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As you can probably see from the photos that this day was beautifully clear, with not a sign of bad weather to be seen. Beijing however can trick you, and as I walked back to the underground station to go home, everything changed. I’m sure you’ve heard of skies turning black before, but imagine if that actually happened, rather than just going a bit grey with lots of imposing clouds. The Beijing sky, in a matter of minutes, went from clear blue to impenetrable black.  I didn’t get a photo of this sky unfortunately as I joined the crowds running for cover – I had no idea if it was rain that was coming or a sandstorm, and I don’t like sandstorms very much.

It was rain, but rain that put the heaviest British rainfall to shame. I got stuck under some cover about halfway to the station and decided to wait. I don’t really have the equipment for low light photography, but I took a lot of shots and managed salvage some acceptable shots just to give an idea of the atmosphere.

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This was actually about a week ago, so I should have another blog on the way. Keep an eye out!

Welcome back – Still ( multi part poem pt1)


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Still.

You stand before me.

Again.

Welcome,

I beg you stay not long.

.

Still.

The trees move slowly.

Surround.

You’re here,

Your departure so long gone.

.

Still.

The trees encroach me.

They bend.

They reach;

The branches hands of thorns.

Still.

.

You stand before me.

.

Still.

.

.

A smile?

Twisted, devil’s spawn

Stillness darkness torn

Torn asunder maw

.

Hell.

Trees fall around me.

You rise

You fall

You stayed here not for long…

Gone.

.

.

.

Still.

.

Gone.

.

.

.

This is part one of a set of poems. The other ones aren’t written yet, but they are needed to make sense of this,

haven’t written a poem in over a year – felt like something different…

Thanks for stopping by.

Highland Prince-oil on canvas


 

Finally, i have finished my latest painting. It may have taken me far too long, but i put that down to it being my first large scale oil painting. As you can see from the previous post with it in, there haven’t been many changes but changing the shape of the island and finishing the foreground has made it so much better…in my eyes at least. From painting this, i can safely say that oils are much nicer to use and certainly more versatile than acrylics. Clouds in particular can be formed beautifully with oils, with the capability to make such a soft and blended finish yet also able to give a good hard line too.  From now on i doubt that I will be using acrylics for anything other than quick sketches. Oils are simply beautiful paints.

 

Please comment and if you like, feel free to join my Facebook page!

unfinished piece, but nearly there…


 

I’m currently spending most of my time working on this canvas, as it slowly drives me mad.  The only part that hasn’t changed since beginning work painting is the sky, which i was happy with first time. Everything else has been repainted too many times to re-colour, reshape, etc…and to be completely honest i can’t wait to be finished with it. This also isn’t the most recent stage-i left in frustration today before taking a photo, but so little work was done today that the changed would be hardly noticed anyway. When it’s finished i’ll take a photo with a better camera as the phone camera really doesn’t do justice to the piece. It may not be finished but it does look alot better in reality.

Oh and if anyone thinks they may have seen the scene before, look back to my poem ‘missing the highlands’. The Photo from the hill is of The sound of Seil, on the west coat of Scotland, where this painting is set too.

Oil Paints on Canvas.

The Raven


‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps my very favourite poem and as there is now a film that goes by the same name (even if it really doesn’t have much to do with the poem itself) i felt it would be a good idea to post this artwork i did a little while ago. I’m not an amazing artist, so i would say this is possibly my best painting.

And heres a little bit of the wonderful poem that inspired my painting…

“Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Also for anyone interested, heres a link to a musical version of ‘The Raven’, performed by the amazing band Omnia. Omnia-The Raven

And one final note for my regular followers (and anyone else who is interested) I now have a facebook page which runs along side the blog, so look to the side bar of the blog and click like on the Facebook box! Many thanks guys.