Thursday, November 22, 2018
Some of you know I have been doing Chinese Brush Painting for many years – attending a continuing education course at Mohawk College every Saturday morning. Over the years it has become more of a social opportunity allowing me to paint with some really good friends. Our instructor is from Beizhen China and every year he goes home to visit his family and every few years he arranges for a group of his students to come with him to experience the art and beauty of his home country. This time there were only 3 students who were able to participate. 2018 was my third time travelling to this exotic country and was also the second time we went to display our art work.
After a very successful exhibition at the public gallery in 2016, the arts community in Beizhen invited us to come back for a joint exhibition in a beautiful private gallery we had visited that year. Through his private teaching in Oakville my instructor has made several connections back in China and word spread that we would be coming to exhibit our work. More invitations followed and we had to decide – do we do a second exhibit and if so which invitation would we accept. In the end we chose to accept the offer in Nantong as the location for the second exhibit.
The plan was to be in China for one month with each exhibit lasting just over a week. This would give us time to coordinate, set up and take down each show with time to travel in between. It is difficult to realize when you are only looking on a map how far apart these locations are so after flying into Shanghai it meant taking another 2 ½ hour flight north to Shenyang followed by a 2 hour car ride to reach our first destination – Beizhen.
The arts community met us with open arms. Helping us to get settled and arranging trips to various artist studios and local landmarks until the gallery was ready. Over 40 local artists participated in the joint exhibition and many lent a hand to help frame and hang our work for the exhibit which was opened with great fanfare and speeches by their vice mayor and other local government officials.
While the exhibition was open it gave us the opportunity to travel the area to see some amazing places – and to check out the city of Panjin where we had to turn down an invitation to exhibit this year. A week goes by very quickly and it was soon time to take down the show, roll up or work and move on to the next location – Nantong.
The trip from Beizhen to Nantong starts off with a 3 ½ hour ride south on the bullet train to Beijing (every trip to China has to include a few days in Beijing to walk the art street and collect supplies for future work). From Beijing it was an overnight train ride south to Nantong where we were met by our host who had been coordinating with a group of government officials to arrange the exhibition. Unfortunately the new gallery they had hoped to use for the show was still not completed so some quick negotiating while we were in Beizhen moved the show to the local campus of the Provincial College. Like Beizhen the show was opened with government officials and speeches as well as a wonderful demonstration by local artists for the art students in the college. This time however the exhibit was set up by our host who had arranged to have the work framed and hung by a local framing company which was a definite relief for us.
The teacher and I have learned a lot over the past two trips and had determined that 2 shows in one month is too much so there have been discussions about coordinating one large joint exhibition. Because we turned them down for this year the city officials in Panjin are already talking about when we come there for an exhibition so it looks like another trip may be in the near future. There is an amazing place in Panjin called the Guangsha Art Street – a plaza full of artists studios connected to the local Art Academy and gallery that is prepared to host our work. This time however I will have to stretch my artistic skills beyond my small intimate style of work and follow the lead of the Chinese artists who like to paint on very large pieces of rice paper. Who knows how 2019 will go.