The premise for my two months on residency was to consider Beijing as a ‘city built in layers of time’. Since 1990 an estimated 40% of the downtown has been re-modeled. The new Beijing consists of some of the world’s most innovative and expensive modern architecture. In stark contrast, the city is also home to some of China’s most extraordinary historical places, such as the Forbidden City. It is also criss-crossed with hutongs; ancient alleyways that bustle with daily life, and small villages where inhabitants still live in third-world conditions.
The two months of uninterrupted studio time in Beijing gave me the opportunity to experiment with new ideas, without the pressure of producing final works. My methodology was to concentrate on the intermediate process between the photographs I take on the street, and my painting process. I explored collage (using my own photos) and mono-printing as a way to develop my compositions.
I experimented with juxtaposing place and non-place using minimal imagery. The sitting or squatting figure is “old style Asian” (place/pause), compared to marching business people, cranes across the skyline, and the new skyscrapers that dominate the central city (non-place/movement). The ripped posters and peeling paint textures that caught my eye in the village influenced some of the compositions.
In terms of materials, I used ‘Titan Green Pale’ to capture the colour of the smoggy sky, and experimented with Golden’s range of ‘Open Acrylics’ which are slow drying. I enjoyed being able to create soft blends and wet on wet paint.
The linen I brought in Beijing had a coarse weave and combined with the washy fluid acrylics created the distressed look I was aiming to achieve.