Multiple Adaptations: from Poem to Poem, from Poem to Visual Art
(Chinese-Netherlands Art and Poetry Exchange Project)
The project consists of an art exhibition based on poetry and accompanied by poetry readings. The participants are six Chinese artists working with the TCG Nordica, a Kunming art center with strong ties to Scandinavia and six Amsterdam artist/printmakers from the Amsterdams Grafisch Atelier (AGA).
The initiative came from Ursula Neubauer, a longtime member of AGA, who had visited Nordica in November 2012 and met there its artistic director Luo Fei. She found the quality of the Kunming artists and the broad spectrum of activities at the art center very impressive. Nordica, located in an old factory building, radiates a strong communal spirit. It shares the riches of culture with a wide range of visitors via exhibitions, cinema, poetry readings, theater, dance, and a café. AGA is an excellent counterpart to Nordica, for it is vibrant and innovative, with two living/working spaces for artists-in-residence which attract many international artists and interns to work there.
Ursula Neubauer’s prime motivation to organize this long-term project is curiosity about a distant culture, belief in joint projects that expand one’s horizon, and challenge to work in a larger context. She shares these motivations with all the participants, especially Luo Fei, artist, curator and artistic director of Nordica.
The concept of the project was worked out in a joint effort of both sides. The basic idea is that each individual artist correlates a translated poem from the other country with his or her art work. The readers, viewers, and listeners will thus be presented with a multidimensional and performative exhibition: The poems will be printed or written on long banners, as integral part of the exhibition. At the opening of the exhibition they will be recited in Chinese, English, and possibly Dutch. Discussions on poetry and adaptations/ translations could be included in the event. The AGA artists have followed the suggestion of Luo Fei to focus their work on poems by Yu Jian, a well-recognized poet and documentary filmmaker from Kunming, whose works have been translated into many languages. The Dutch artists will present large innovative prints on paper or fabric. The Kunming artists are free in their choice of medium with the exclusion of three dimensional works. They chose their poems from the volume ‘Moderne Nederlandse Poëzie’ translated into Chinese by M.van Crevel.
The project will be presented in Amsterdam and Kunming.
Initiator: Ursula Neubauer (AGA in Amsterdam)
Organizer: Luo Fei (TCG Nordica in Kunming)
Dutch Artists: Angelique van Wesemael, Christina Hallström, Herma Deenen, Masha Trebukova, Naan Rijks, Ursula Neubauer
Chinese Artists: Chang Xiong, Chen Fanyuan, He Libin, Ning Zhi, Su Jiaxi , Su Yabi
Project Execution Team in Kunming: Adam Zhang, Cornelia Newman (SW), Liang Yidan, River He
Graphic Design: Adam Zhang
Co-organized by TCG Nordica Culture Center and Het Amsterdam Grafisch Atelier
Project Sponsor: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Exhibition Opening Time: 12:00—20:30, Sundays Close, April 24th to May 31st 2015
Venue: TCG Nordica Culture Center, Chuangku, Xiba Lu 101 (Longle Lu 60), Kunming city
Bus: No. 4, 62, 93, 106, 120, 184乙线, Ankang Lu Bus Station, walk along on Yongle Lu for 300 meters.
Tel: 0871-64114692, 64114691
SECTION ONE: 20:00, Fri, April 24th 2015
Opening Reception and Experimental Poetry Reading Performance on Yu Jian’s Poems
Key Words: Poetry, Exhibition, Yu Jian, Performance Art, Crossover Practice
Curator: Luo Fei
Honored Guest Poet: Yu Jian
Performance Artists/The Readers:
Herma Deenen (NL)
Alibaba’s Brother and Zhang Ziyun (Wild Dog Fang Fang + Go Surfing Village head! + Zhang Ziyun)
Nine Pit Group (Jiang Minghui, Wu Ruomu, Yang Xiongsheng, Dong Xueying, Sang Tian, Ye Qilin)
He Libin + NEW EXPRESSION Studio of Yunnan Arts University (Zhao Weijia, Wang Minjiao, Wang Yulin, Liu Xiaodong, Li Binhong, Teng Ruiyan, Huang Chaoyu, Yang Ruiling) + Chen Jincheng
Language: Chinese, English, Dutch
SECTION TWO: 20:00, Sat, April 25th 2015
“From Poetry to Music” Live Concert
Key Words: Poetry, Concert, Choir, Tranströmer, Shakespeare, Su Shi
Poems from Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden), William Shakespeare (England), Emily Dickinson (US), Su Shi (Song Dynasty, China), Zhang Ruoxu (Tang Dynasty, China) and more…
Musicians: Cornelia Newman (Sweden), Johan Newman (Sweden), Lisa Eriksson (Sweden), Stephanie MacMullin (Sweden), Michael Peng (US), Jin Xiaoyun (China), Zhang Yu (China), Zheng Weijia (China), TCG Nordica Open Choir (China)
Ticket: 40RMB(In Advance), 50RMB(In Door)
Language: Chinese, English, Swedish, German
Ticket Booking: Sending message to TCG Nordica’s WeChat “tcgnordica” or Call: 0871-64114692, 64114691
SECTION THREE: 14:00, Sun, April 26th 2015
Theme: Reading a Talented Woman Zhang Ailing
Key Words: Zhang Ailing, Book Club, Life, Fan of the republic of China
The Guest Speaker: Song Fengying (Professor of Chinese literature of Kunming Collage)
Guzheng Player: Sophia
Related Events: Exhibition Guidance, Appreciation of Chinese Ethnic Music, Dance, Poetry Reading
Require advance booking: Through TCG Nordica’s WeChat, phone call. Or sending SMS to 13008688624
Everyday Poetic Conception: The Memory Zone of Su Yabi
Curator: Luo Fei
Artist: Su Yabi
Art Review: Liao Wen
Artistic Support: Sun Guojuan
Opening Reception: 8pm, Nov 8th 2014
Exhibition Duration: Nov 8th to Dec 3rd 2014
TCG Nordica Gallery, Chuangku, xibalu 101, Kunming
Host by TCG Nordica
Co-sponsor: Fine Art Academy of Dali Collage
The Poetic World of Everyday Life – The Memory Zone of Su Yabi
by Liao Wen
In the summer of 2002, I went to Dali to avoid summer hotness. Guojuan Sun, an artist in Kunming, advised me to visit a girl named Su Yabi , whose paintings are very special. Judging from my common sense, a place named “Xiaguan” must be a natural vital water and land communication line, however when I finally arrived at Xiaguan of Dali after spending several hours on a long-distance bus, I hardly connected the scene in front of me with my former imagination.
In my memory, Xiaguan in those years was just a small town full of a large stretch of messy simple buildings, which appeared extraordinarily higgledy-piggledy scattered in the bright and beautiful Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake.Su Yabi showed me around the small town which she lived in; I habitually mobilized all my senses to feel this new place. With my special curiosity and observation, I often can see something that is invisible to others, but the small town left me was nothing but lack of aesthetic characters. Nothing was eye-catching for me.
At that time, she was a recent college graduate, and was sharing a building of a battery plant with a few young artists to draw in. The building was almost empty with a few crooked cement pillars. The white lime walls peeled off and scattered here and there. Water even lingered in the hollow parts of the uneven cement ground. The security window welded up in scrap metal materials ruthlessly cut the blue sky and white clouds into pieces. Paintings by these young artists were placed against the wall, all in dim colors and without clear dividing lines
To my surprise, this crushed aesthetic system and embarrassing scene looks extraordinarily superb in her paintings. She touched and described the daily things like wardrobes, beds, light bulbs, locks, dresses, scarves, umbrellas, combs, brushes, slippers, brooches from a unique perspective, and also the iron railing through the security window, the pipe, the high tension line, television tower, building, automobile, faucet and other things that were visible from inside to outside, the underwear, tooth mug, thermos, clocks, chairs that could be seen from the outside. They were scattering desultorily in the picture and even the modeling, proportion, color, and position seemed less reasonable (Some were almost floating in the air), but as a whole they were completely enveloped in a fine, soft, simple atmosphere. The tone of her paintings she selected was like faded old photos. Occasionally she also abstemiously used gray monochrome color, which resembled colored old photos. Her style of painting was fuzzy, plane, and carefree, as if she casually touched the petty objects in her memory, letting her feeling flow like mist. It was in mediocre and trivial everyday that she endowed them with a poetic world. She named these works as ‘Everyday Memory’, she said: “I have been recording the moments of my life and the scenes I experienced in a visual way to restore the relaxation and simplicity of their own in limited colors to draw in the canvas”.
Afterwards, she began to weave the day-to-day objects she used to draw repeatedly for many years with a fine flexible metal wire, turning plane brushwork into three-dimensional knit. Knit is the most familiar way to women, for their daily life is closely-related with it; they weave clothes with thread, articles for daily use with bamboo, and love with emotions. Weaving for women is not only a kind of making method, but a way of life. Despite the objects she made with metal wire appeared blank and dazzling as if they were emptied out, the vaguely-outlined objects woven with shiny and burnished metal wires one by one that are tangible and visible are closely-knitted with daily life. I guess these images combining virtual and actual characters are more close to her memory, and weaving is like a spiritual practice, just as she said: “many of my memory can be retrieved”, which are closest to her state of mind.
Actually, whether painting or weaving, for Su Yabi , the relationship between mood and feeling is the same. And some of her works blending with both skills are more exquisite and rich visually and sensuously.
A wave of warmth swept through my heart whenever I enjoyed her works. In a time full of chaotic information and farraginous values, she still keeps a poetic state of mind and curiosity about the most mediocre town and the ordinary daily life. There must be a supernormal beautiful mind filled with fragrance and emotion.
In September 2014 in Songzhuang, Beijing
A Sense of Poetry Emerging in the Everyday
By Luo Fei
In the eyes of many people, art seems to be “useless,” however, as for me, the reason why I hold that art is “useful”, is that the artists open a new window for us, enabling us to see the extraordinary from the ordinary, to see the reality hided in the little trivial daily experiences which is namely the poetic reality. These artworks filled with poetic realities tend to remind people to slow down to reflect the surroundings, and then to give feedback to the heart, then the inner turbulent can be expressed through the specific form such as art.
Spiritual expression is the common concern of some local artists. Through description of the mind and inquiry, the artists transformed from craftsman to the soul watchmen. Su Yabi from Dali is such an artist. She graduated from Yunnan Arts University in 1998, majored in oil painting. Since the university times , she has been fascinated by the everyday things in the room, such as the hairbrushes used dust removals, pins, wardrobes, combs, dresses, dressers and other household items. She, in the form of painting and knitting iron wire, endowed these everyday objects with personal emotion and mind, and wove layers of poetic reality.
As far as I m concerned, the poetic feeling in her painting is a mild sense of drift. The daily things in her pictures show kind of weightless feeling. They impress people with the images slowly drifting and then rising in the air. The dresses seem to be in wonderland, the scarf flood like the tide, the sharpest head of the pins are always reluctant to hide. These items run away from the drawers and closets, which seems to get rid of the restrictions of established order and center to seek more freedom. All these are carried out in a gentle way, even in the form of memory to describe the state of their disobedience. Because in the pictures we always encounter the same items closely related to the deepest memory of the artiest. They struggle for freedom from the institutionalized space lack of imagination. This kind of “fleeing from the reality” is not only a way to show disobedience but also a kind of drifting.
That’s the reason why I said these items are in possession with mind and become the symbols of the states of being. In her art, I saw that people as a being to present the poetic feeling and resist meaningless existence, that human as a being of pursuing freedom and fighting against the fate, that man as a being that go beyond the material world and disobey alienation. At this level, the art, in a seemingly useless way, impacted us to the greatest extent, that is, it ensures man as spiritual being, and by which arouse the same sympathy and strike a responsive chord among people.
Just need to slow down, gaze for a minute, and listen to the heart with her. Then you will feel a sense of poetry emerging in the everyday.
Her Poetic World and Passionate Mind: An Interview With Su Yabi
By Luo Fei, the Curator of TCG Nordica Gallery
Date: in the morning of July 5, 2014
Location: Dali Experimental Primary School
Luo: Could you please make a brief introduction about your art experience?
Su: I graduated from the Affiliated High School of Yunnan Arts University in 1994 and from the No. 2 Oil Painting Studio of the Department of Arts in Yunnan Arts University in 1998. When I was a student, I began to pay close attention to everyday objects around me in my painting and recently I stared to involve other materials in my works. Actually, these everyday objects in different stages are not the same for me in my heart.
Luo: What inspired you to draw these everyday objects?
Su: I was alone at the dormitory when I was in my university. The dormitory was particularly quiet, and many things scattered in the dormitory and windowsill. At that time, the view outside the window was not so charming, with not well-organized factory complexes and a big chimney, especially when the smog rolled up from it, a sense of melancholy devoured me, yet, it was poetic to me. I started to draw them in my sketchbook and Xuhui Mao, my teacher, caught a sight of it in his class. Then he carefully observed each page and asked some questions. He encouraged me a lot, driving me move on in the process of painting these objects.
Luo: Could you please share with me something about the brush in the picture?
Su: This long brush was used to make bed in my family when I was a child. As a scrubbing brush, it made beds smooth and tidy with just a gentle move. I thought its shape was unique and attractive, and full of magic, so I favored it at an early age.
Luo: How about the wardrobe with mirrored the scenery?
Su: While I was drawing the wardrobe, the indoor and outdoor scenes and objects were reflected in the mirror of the wardrobe, which formed a fancy vision.
Luo: Later, we see the tidal spindrift flowing out of the drawer in the wardrobe.
Su: It is just a visual change. Actually, it is a scarf, but looks like spindrift visually.
Luo: Yes, you portrayed it like tidal water pouring out, which filled with Magic Realism feeling. It recalled me the magic wardrobe in the movie “the Chronicles of Narnia” in which a world of myths exist.
Su: That is true; at that time, I was fascinated with this kind of painting. Therefore, I intended to make it look magic. I painted it in the end of 2012, which was regarded as the doomsday by a large number of people even if I did not believe it. In addition, some small earthquakes happened several times in Dali and some precaution trainings against earthquake were frequently organized at school, so some anxious mood and inclined houses were expressed in it. However, when I was portraying this scarf, I tried to avoid its real appearance as far as possible. I am glad you can sense its magical feeling.
Luo: Why the pin appears in many of your paintings?
Su: Well, it is a kind of visual needs.
Luo: These pins were open which are the only sharp-pointed ones in the pictures and can cause harm to a person if he is careless. Although the entire painting is very calm and very stable, there is always a sharp-pointed object inside. Is it a metaphor for your inner world?
Su: First, it is for the aesthetic account. If it is closed, it will not look like as beautiful as the open one. In addition, I prefer the low-key objects even if it’s sharp. It is peaceful as a whole, but also retains the unique character. Just like human being, keeping one’s personal individuality, the pointed parts, do matters.
Luo: What do you want to express through your paintings?
Su: I want to express myself by drawing, which has become a very important part of my life and has already accompanied me for many years.
Luo: Your paintings are filled with poetic feeling.
Su: That is what I focus on when selecting the items to describe.
Luo: How do you make them full of poetry?
Su: I don’t think it’s I who make them poetic, but they themselves are full of poetry. For example, the smoke rolling up from the chimney gone with the wind gently and slowly is poetic, so is the simple and delicate pin, whether it’s open or curved, it is elegant.
Luo: Some of your works are made of iron wire, when did you start this?
Su: One day in 2008, by chance, I saw some friends making jewelry with tiny and pliable metal wires at a friend’s place and I joined. It recalled me the bird-nest that my father made for me when I was a little girl. With some cotton bird eggs in, it once brought a sum of happiness for my childhood. I earnestly wish that I could make a basket in metal wire at that time but failed to make it as I wish, which frustrated me. That day in my friend’s place, I realized the key to this material. Its function is not only restricted in decoration and then I fall in love with it. There was no symbolic significance in the metal wires of my paintings. What intrigues me is the simple and flexible character of the wires. The thread is closely related with fragility, inability, fickleness in my world, but the metal wire is ductile, which can be hard or soft, straight or curved, adding the creativity of my works.
Sometimes I doubted myself for being too conservative to make a breakthrough whether in concepts or the materials. However, for me, it is too difficult to create or design something that is not related with my daily life. If I betray my heart, I will fell a sense of splitting up with the reality. In fact, even if I have been keeping painting everyday objects since 1997, I did made some adjustments and breakthrough in each stage with an overall look. Since the masters did so, I began to trust myself and be brave again.
Luo: What do you think of the detailed changes in your work over the years?
Su: I have focused on painting everyday objects or everyday scenarios starting from 1996, in canvas and paper. I tried to use conventional materials, such as charcoal, pencil, propylene in the canvas. Painting for me should be free, and what matters is all of these can be placed in the same isomorphic level. In 1999, I began to draw on paper. The relaxing and unadorned style attracted me greatly. Moreover, it is closest to my everyday life. I have been looking for the simple and ordinary “everyday feeling” no matter in the canvas or paper. In 2008, I felt like seeing an old friend at the sight of the metal wire at my friend’s place because the line for me is the simplest and most essential expression way. Whether painting with lines or weaving in metal wires, what draws in me is the contradictory feature of being simple and feasible. I joined the Needlework with Wen Liao as the curator, initiating the creation of works blending drawing, knitting and embroidery.
Luo: You are one of the artists who took part in Nordica International Project very early, such as “Sugar and Salt” in 2003. Looking back this project, how do you evaluate this project? What is the effect on you?
Su: The participants not only included the artists but also litterateurs, scripter. People from different fields assembled, working together, which was fresh for all of us and deeply affected us. I still remembered clearly that a Swedish artist, whose work is designing with textile, knitted a non-objective figure in woolen yarn then immersed it into the sweet water. After a while, it became erect after taking out of the water. It was so magic and funny, which triggered my curiosity about everything, especially the materials.
Luo: Except that, you also took part in another project- Bridge in 2012, with 10 years’ span. Is there any changes compared with the former one?
Su: Yes, the most obvious one is that all the artists are female in the first time while there were some male artists joined for the second time. As for the manners of working and works, one is feminine while the other is rather masculine. Of course, I like both of them. Libin and you also attended in “Bridge” project with some male Swedish artists. The common character is all the Swedish artists of both projects, both male and female, are more independent and more active. In “Sugar and Salt”, the impact and collaboration between artists were emphasized, and communications were carried out in games or in the process of creativity. While in “Bridge” project, we worked more independently to keep individuality. In addition, they also provided us opportunities to collaborate jointly. We could pay visits to their studios in Sweden, which filled with freshness and strangeness.
Luo: Do you think is it important to distinguish female artists and male artists?
Su: I don’t think so. However, I feel obviously different. In first project, we did not have any detailed plans, so we advanced the project at will. However, in “Bridge” project, each person had to finish the tasks allocated high-efficiently. The division of labor was very clear and you have no time to waste. The differences might be related to the characteristics of the projects. In “Sugar and Salt” project, we got more surprises in the process of continual experiments, for the project spanned a long time, which granted us more time to try. Moreover, the field of Nordica was large enough for us to do more experiments.
Luo: How do you think of the feminist art?
Su: I think this is a manner.
Luo: Is it a strategy?
Su: It’s not a strategy but a way to experience, to see and to express. In 2002 Guojuan Sun told me all of the activities and artists in “Long March-A Dialogue with Judy Chicago in Lugu Lake” are related with feminist art. This was my first contact of feminist art activities. However, even now, the feminist arts still fail to get her due respect and understanding, for we often heard people describe the works of some female artists “too soft” “too feminine” or any other superficial vocabularies. The female artists were just regarded them as the setoffs of the male artists, rather as an independent and integrated individual. In addition, the concept of feminist art is too conceptual and often is misinterpreted, the characters such as ‘soft’ or ‘tedious’, ‘exquisite ‘are not the elusive to female artists. Some male artists also have these features in their works.
Luo: You often went to participate in some exhibitions held in other places, what do you think of Yunnan’s artist?
Su: They pay close attention to everything closely connected with their life. They respect for themselves, and do not ingratiate themselves with anyone. I really appreciate the artists in Yunnan Province. When I attended the exhibition in Beijing, I found their works special. They were not eye-catching and conspicuous at first sight, but they were full of sincerity with immersed love for life and warmth touched by the environments.
Luo: Is art to express one’s inner world?
Su: Everyone’s need for art is not equal. For me, art is to express myself, to record life, or to explore the artistic languages in different phases. It changes with my experiences. In addition, the other important factor is what I want to express in the bottom of my heart. As for the way how you express it, it is advised to go back to the construction of artistic language. If there is no support of the artistic languages, our minds and ideas will be unknown, even misinterpreted.