I’ve now been in Chongqing for just over a week. Much of this time has been spent settling in, sampling as much of the local food as I can manage to order (or point at) and wandering around the local area. I’ve also spent a couple of days at the new campus of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, which is about an hour’s drive from my apartment.

Today I went to a life drawing class with some second year students at the university. When I asked how long the model held each position for I was expecting there to be a few short poses with maybe one longer one lasting a maximum of an hour. When I was told that the pose lasted 16 hours I thought I had miss heard. I learnt that the students had spent three days on their drawing and that the model had stood, with breaks every hour, in the same position for the duration. There seems to be a strong focus on accuracy, projecting an image of what is before you onto the paper, and making small precise marks. This is very different to the much freer gestures that I was encouraged to develop as an undergraduate.

My project still feels like it is in the very early stages but I was given a studio to work in a couple of days ago, which is helping me to focus. I have begun work on a short film that I’m making by editing together footage that I’ve taken whilst attempting to walk in the shape of the letter ‘a’ in my apartment and in the local area. This follows on from the letter ‘a’ film I made earlier in the year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FVcLf_Oju4 and my interest in how we enact written forms on varying scales.

In the local area I kept hitting dead ends that made it incredibly difficult to follow the outline of the letter ‘a’ I had drawn on the map. The sense of movement is captured in the film and it reminds me a bit of Google Street View, which is censored in China. I am still trying to workout though how or if people will make the connection between the footage and the shape of the letter and how it will sit with other work more visibly linked to movement and gesture in writing.

In the inflight magazine on the way over I found a picture of some large Chinese paintbrushes hung up outside a Chinese painting/calligraphy shop. Walking around Chongqing I have been struck by the number of mops and brooms hanging up outside shops and on more or less every available wall. The similarities in their size, form, display and, in some ways, function to the Chinese brushes I saw in the image really interests me. I’m not sure where exactly this will lead, but I have begun photographing and sketching them.

Hopefully soon I will be able to organise the workshops I have begun planning to exchange ideas with Chinese artists or students about gestures in writing and drawing. I think this will really help me to move the work on and introduce new marks and gestures into my practice.


I arrived in Chongqing a few days ago. I’m staying in the arts district of the city. It’s lively with lots of galleries and studio complexes housed in old warehouse buildings, which from the perspective of a London based artist seem incredibly spacious. Many of the buildings are covered in colourful murals and there are food stalls, especially in the evening, where you can find anything that can be skewered, wrapped in a dumpling or immersed in a broth. On my second evening here my host took me out for the local speciality, hotpot, which was delicious and not as ridiculously spicy as I’d been led to believe. Everyone fills their bowls from a big pot of spicy broth with vegetables, noodles and, in this case, fish, which sits gently boiling on a gas ring at the centre of the table.

I told my host that I was interested in exploring drawing and writing in Chinese so he took me to see the studio of an artist who studied traditional Chinese painting, mainly ink work, and who often uses calligraphy. I was shown a work on a scroll made of a material somewhere between paper and fabric that mixed modern news stories with traditional handwritten calligraphy. The piece was five meters long and we had an interesting discussion about how it would be exhibited. I was told that many traditional Chinese scroll paintings were not made to be hung on the wall, but were stored rolled up and then rolled out for each individual viewing. This seemed like a more intimate and engaging viewing experience than encountering works hung on a gallery wall.

Last night I went to my first ‘piano party’ – a gathering in one of the studios with wine and someone playing piano – and today I’m planning to explore, take some photos and start work on my project.


I leave for China tomorrow and have nearly finished packing. Over the last few weeks I’ve been collecting books and a few other resources to take with me which I’m now trying to squash into my luggage. I have a Kindle but most of the books I’ve bought seem to be hard copies.

I thought I’d use my last blog post before I depart to share my reading list. Suggestions for further readings very welcome.

The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting and Why it Still Matters by Philip Hensher

I was really pleased to come across this book and hope it proves as relevant to my project as its title suggests.


On Being Alive by Tim Ingold

I’ve read this book or parts of it several times. There’s a fantastic chapter on the letter ‘a’ that discusses, amongst other things, the difference between the typed ‘a’ and the handwritten ‘a’.

Anthropologist Tim Ingold’s writing on the links between drawing, writing and walking are one of the main influences on my project. He traces the development of Chinese and English writing and demonstrates that they both have their origins in pictorial drawings. He discusses drawing not as a means to project an image onto a page but as a way of exploring or, as he describes it, wayfaring.

[…] the practice of drawing has very little or nothing to do with the projection of images and everything to do with wayfaring – with breaking a path through a terrain and leaving a trace, at once in the imagination and on the ground, in a manner very similar to what happens when one walks along in a world of earth and sky. (p178, OnBeing Alive, Ingold)


Lines by Tim Ingold

Another book by Tim Ingold, this time focussing on the line, something that I’ll be thinking about a lot throughout the project.


Point and Line to Plane by Kandinsky

I spent the best part of an hour in the library photocopying this essay by Kandinsky – might have been quicker and cheaper to buy it. You can get it online but it’s a very different translation to the one in the book and as Ingold references this version in On Being Alive I wanted to use it for the sake of consistancy.


Line and Fish by Kandinsky

Another essay, this time a much shorter one, discussed by Ingold in which Kandinsky explains why he prefers that line to the fish.

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

I loved Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost and if Wanderlust is anything like it I’m sure I will be equally as enamoured by it. The reason this book is on my reading list, a part from just wanting to read it, is that I’m looking at gesture and letters on different scales and trying in some way to think about Ingold’s link between drawing, writing and walking. As a starting point I’m planning to do some walks in Chongqing in the shape of letters – drawing a letter on a map as a way of designating my route and exploring the city.


Invisible Cities by William Weaver

I know very little about this book other than from online reviews. One review I came across suggested reading it on the plane as a way of imagining the city you will shortley be arriving in. I think I might try this.


I’m also taking two books that i’ve been rather unsuccessfully attempting to learn Chinese from, a Lonely Planet guide and some print outs from http://hanzismatter.blogspot.co.uk/ that I thought might be a good conversation starter.


During May 2013 I will be artist in residence at the 501 Art Space http://www.501xuspace.com/# in Chongqing. This is part of a year long project investigating the gestures we make with our bodies when drawing and writing in Chinese and English.

As my departure date nears – now less than two weeks away – along with sorting out visas, checking flights and buying sunscreen, I’m also setting up this blog, updating my website http://www.jayne-lloyd-artist.co.uk/ and planning my project for when I arrive.

I recently found out that my application to the Arts Council to fund the project had been successful. News that I greeted with great excitement and relief followed by the realisation that I needed to check exactly what I’d told them I was going to do and make sure that everything was in place.

The project includes my research trip to China, followed by workshops with schools and a Chinese language group in Manchester and an exhibition that combines the work I produce during the project with the work of participants in the workshops.

The other aim of the project is to set up correspondence with artists and other interested parties in the UK, through this blog or through email or Skype, whilst in China. The primary aim of this is to establish a dialogue about the project and gain critical feedback. However, I’m also happy to try and answer questions about the arts scene, the sites, the food (I’m told Chongqing has the spiciest hotpot in China) or anything else related to China’s fasted growing city http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/chongqi….

If you would like to find out more about the project please email me at [email protected] or post a comment on the blog.