Kin­dred spir­its

Artists from Ire­land and China find par­al­lels in their lives and art in a se­ries of ex­hi­bi­tions. Belle Tay­lor fol­lows the

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

An ex­hi­bi­tion bring­ing to­gether artists from Ire­land and China not only sparks a dy­namic vis­ual con­ver­sa­tion but also demon­strates the global bond be­tween artists. Con­ver­gence is one of sev­eral ex­hi­bi­tions be­ing staged in China as part of the Ir­ish Wave project, which in turn is part of the Ir­ish Fes­ti­val that comes to Bei­jing and Shang­hai everyMarch. The ex­hi­bi­tion was opened by Ir­ish Am­bas­sador Paul Ka­vanagh in Bei­jing on March 11 and was at­tended by a del­e­ga­tion from He­fei in An­hui prov­ince— the city is twinned with Belfast in North­ern Ire­land.

At first glance, Ire­land andChina could not seem more dif­fer­ent — the Euro­pean na­tion has a pop­u­la­tion of fewer than 5 mil­lion and is barely the size of a Chi­nese prov­ince. But the par­tic­i­pat­ing artists say that, cul­tur­ally, the two na­tions share much com­mon ground.

“I think there is a lot in terms of fam­ily ori­en­ta­tion, in terms of philo­soph­i­cal struc­ture of how we live,” says head cu­ra­tor and artist Fion Gun­n­fromIre­land.“TheChi­ne­se­and Ir­ish do share quite a bit… I feel very at home (in China). I feel quite well in­te­grated with­howthings work.”

Some of the ideas in Con­ver­gence could have been born in ei­ther na­tion. In­ter­nal Com­pass, an ab­stract paint­ing by Ir­ish artist DeirdreWalsh, was in­spired by the ur­ban­iza­tion of Dublin, the artist de­scrib­ing it as a “mod­ernist idyll im­pos­ing it­self on a tra­di­tional city”, a con­cept that could eas­ily have been ap­plied to any of China’s rapidly evolv­ing cities.

Gunn’s piece Bei­jing Poem, a multimedia work ex­plor­ing the con­flict be­tween ma­te­rial wealth and spir­i­tual val­ues, was in­spired by her trips to China.

“When I come to China I am al­ways riv­eted by the mul­ti­lay­ered way the city is put to­gether,” says Gunn. “You’ve got of­ten in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful things side by side with hor­ren­dous mon­strosi­ties, and you have the old and the new and de­struc­tion go­ing on. But at the same time you have in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing con­struc­tion go­ing on.”

For Bei­jing Poem, Gunn re­searched con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese poets and used their work, in English and Chi­nese, on a piece which re­sem­bles a fold-out­Chi­nese screen, dec­o­rated with sketch­ing and­col­lage. Mo­tifs ofChi­ne­se­money and ar­chi­tec­ture are dom­i­nant.

Chi­nese artist Luo Ying’s piece Chi­nese Fans evokes the rich his­tory of the Chi­nese craft of fan dec­o­ra­tion, but she uses dig­i­tal lines to cre­ate the work.

“Chi­nese paint­ing needs a new lan­guage,” Luo says of her use of com­put­ers. She says the dig­i­tal line rep­re­sents sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, but by us­ing it to draw tra­di­tional mo­tifs she draws jux­ta­po­si­tion be­tween the tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary. She says both Chi­nese and Ir­ish art is “look­ing for a new lan­guage”.

Co-cu­ra­tor and par­tic­i­pat­ing artist Sean Camp­bell from Belfast has two pieces in Con­ver­gence. Both play with color and form. Mem­o­ries of a Place I Have Never Seen is a slide pro­jec­tor view­ers can scroll through to see the ink blots pro­jected onto two can­vases of del­i­cate white land­scapes, a play of light and tex­ture. Camp­bell’s other work, All Per­sons Fic­ti­tious Dis­claimer ( X Scape VII and VIII) also fea­tures a raised white land­scape, but this one also in­cludes three-di­men­sional toy soldiers.

“(The pieces are) very­muchlook­ing back at my own past and the no­tion of play is very im­por­tant,” Camp­bell says.

Camp­bell has been in­volved in Ir­ish Wave ex­hi­bi­tions be­fore. “I think a lot of Ir­ish Wave is about cross-cul­tural ex­change. It’s also be­tween the north (North­ern Ire­land, which is part of the United King­dom) and the south of Ire­land as well as the East and theWest.”

He says he has found art-lovers in China en­thu­si­as­tic to view Ir­ish art and bring their own view­point to the work.

“Peo­ple­make theirown­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of what they are look­ing at so people may look atmy work and see some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent than I would see,” says Camp­bell, who says the ex­hi­bi­tion is a great way to pro­mote people-to-people ex­change be­tween Ire­land andChina. “We get to meet the artists, we get to talk to them. There will be six (Chi­nese) artists com­ing back to Belfast in Septem­ber this year. There is great ex­change in both di­rec­tions and that side of it is build­ing.” Con­tact the writer at bel­letay­lor@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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