While there are two other portfolios related to China – China 1983 and SPAR – Silk Peace Art Road works – this portfolio contains selected work from China that I have produced after my 6-weeks visit in autumn 2018.
My travels in China in October-November 2018 served two main purposes.
First, I had not been back since 1983 and I wanted to get a general sense of how China had changed. I knew the development had been immense – but this was so much more overwhelming than I had anticipated.
Secondly, I knew that my SPAR – Silk Peace Art Road – Installation would have to contain a lot of new images and not only those I had taken back in 1983. And it had to be ready and be dispatched by mid-April 2019 to be shown at the European Cultural Centre, at Palazzo Mora, as part of the Venice Biennale. No time to waste.
I decided to get around China without any fixed travel plan and avoid travel agencies. Just being a nomad, stop here and there where I felt there was something to explore with a camera – or, simply, where I liked the atmosphere.
I remember saying that to people who then told me that they did not think that a foreigner could do just like that. I insisted that I would try and stand in the same queues as the Chinese and experience China on foot in particular but also by train, taxis and a few planes. Just like most Chinese. I would not behave as a group tour tourist but explore on my own and in my own tempo.
It turned out to be very easy to travel around China. Apart from one long taxi queue in Shanghai due to heavy rain, I did not stand in a single queue in this land of 1,4 billion people.
I encountered no security or safety problems, no hassle, and I was not stopped by anyone in uniform although I took 6.000+ photos.
Instead, I was met with wonderful kindness everywhere, invited home to some people, invited out to magnificent restaurants by others. Some took interest in my SPAR project (I had brought a project description with me in Chinese); people took me to museums, galleries, silk factories, beautiful places, or around to old quarters of their city or to brand new high-tech science and research hubs such as in Shenzhen.
Artists gave me original calligraphic works that I fit into the installation, others helped me find shops with old books and artefacts that I wanted to explore but had never found without their help. Upon hearing about my installation, a young robot designer donated two brand new AI robots to it.
I also had the opportunity to visit, over two days, an old-type paper producing mill in the Anhui province – a visit I shall never forget because of the beauty of the place and the overwhelming hospitality of its owner.
So, producing SPAR already became an inter-cultural, win-win experience before the installation arrived in Venice.
My itinerary: Shanghai, Hangzhou, the Guiyang province with its fabulous landscapes, Chengdu, the Anhui province, Suzhou and back to Shanghai. Indeed quite intensive with millions of new – more or less enigmatic – impressions every day. A wonderful experience.
And I walked roughly 400 kilometres – 10 per day, my Nikon camera and iPhone glued to my hands – determined to get the most out of this my second trip to China…
And there will be more trips in years to come.
Below follows various types of my 2018 shots and collages. Some are quick snapshots of people and milieus, some street photography, some a bit more refined. I’m happy to share them as a photo travelogue – also without pretending that they are art (whatever that is).
I’ve always thought that visitors to a photographer’s homepage should see a little of the process. All photographers shoot many more photos than we put up for sale as the best. Why not also show some which give you, the visitor, a broader sense of what I saw? Further, each and everyone of them tells you something about China in 2018.
And if China keeps changing as much the next forty years as it has between 1983 and 2018, these shots will become images of history.
I have selected some which I believe have lasting art quality – which you only feel you know after having looked at them for quite a while. You’ll find those in my shop.
Should you wish to buy one of those on this page but do not find it in the shop, please contact me and we shall find a solution.
Click on each image to enlarge and to browse from one to the next, using the arrows.
And here something completely different – from a village in the Anhui Province, the poorest in China.
Remember that you may click on each image to enlarge and
to browse from one to the next, using the arrows.
I got the opportunity to be shown around at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. A very kind student took me around and it happened to be on a holiday so I had direct access to rooms and artworks without students. Click on each to enlarge.
And now to something else…
In Chengdu, I stumbled upon two students – one of them, btw, wanting to become a youth member of the Communist Party and that gave me an opportunity to learn a bit about the role of that party – completely different from Western parties.
I asked whether they thought they could help me find a second-hand bookshop; it turned out that concept was not so clear to them, although they were both good in English. After going here and there to shopping malls, antique shops etc., on of them – Sara – finally located a shop which she thought could be it.
Some 30-40 minutes later, we ended up in a courtyard with buildings full of apartments and not the most wealthy. I was felt sure that this was not it. But Sara found an entrance and a staircase…
I bought quite a lot – dairies, photo albums, art catalogues, schoolbooks, beautiful calligraphy books, novels, notebooks with photos and drawings, factory leaflets, party publications, etc. – all with a view to use in collages.
We could have spent much more time there, making discoveries. But it was late afternoon. But next time in Chengdu…
And you get tea everywhere, in all kinds of glasses…
Created in January 2020, updated April 16 – more to come