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