I’ve spent the last two weeks cleaning for the YMCA which has been surprisingly enjoyable and I think has helped a lot with my ‘recovery’ from having to leave Xiamen. I’m feeling a bit more normal now. I miss it incredibly but before I sometimes even found it hard to talk about it and I feel a bit more grounded now. I’m no less determined to go back though. A few things have happened since I’ve been back, rating fairly low and also medium on the excitement scale.
I have done a couple of quilling Crafternoons at the Victoria Gallery and Museum and I have some more workshops coming up at the Lady Lever Gallery. I am also doing a ‘Sketching in the Palm House’ workshop in Sefton Park Palm House and it sold out, so we booked in another and that sold out too, straight away, which is great but means I had better do a good job. All this expectation! I’m not going to become an artist who just teaches all the time, but I also think that a bit of teaching can be very valuable in helping you settle your thoughts on art and recap your basic knowledge and skills.
I have also been working on my layered work again with some technical success, but not much artistic success at the moment, rather learning what does not work as opposed to what does. When I say layered work, I am talking about the work I did with Perspex for the You Are Here commission (blog post further down). In face I now have some really good photographs of the boxes I made, which were taken by a photographer called Peter Mallet, who has found a way of photographing them without getting a reflection on the glass.
Also, I sold a painting (always exciting), another artist who works with Landscape called Jenny Drinkwater contacted me about putting in a proposal for a group show and we are meeting today (I’ll tell you more if we are successful) and I have been invited to exhibit in Iceland, which is actually incredibly exciting news, not just medium exciting, but actually this happened quite a few weeks ago but I didn’t want to mention it until it was confirmed. It’s an exhibition called ‘Rolling Snowball’ organised by CEAC and a partner organisation in Iceland who also run a residency, which I’d love to apply for at some point.
On a completely different note, I want to go back to a China topic that I mentioned in a previous post and said I’d tell you more about but didn’t. I’d like it to feature in some work I do in the future, but I’ve at present got an overload of material and not enough time to use it all. These are some photographs that I took when I visited Gulangyu. It’s an island very close to Xiamen island, so close in fact that one way to get there is to just swim. Saves having to queue for the ferry with the hundreds of Chinese tourists who go there every day. It’s an incredibly popular tourist destination for the Chinese, encouraged by the popularity of Xiamen as a holiday destination also. It is now less popular with western tourists, which I find amusing, considering our previous determination to occupy the island and the resulting impact in terms of architecture.
It’s probably easier to give you some info about the place from Wikipedia:
Gulangyu is an island off the coast of Amoy/Xiamen city, Fujian province in southern China, about 2 km2 (0.77 sq mi) in area. It is home to about 20,000 people and is a domestic tourist destination. The only vehicles permitted are small electric buggies and electric government service vehicles.
Visitors can reach it by ferry from Amoy Island. Local residents are allowed to use a shorter 5 minute ferry to/from Heping Ferry Terminal. Tourists and non-locals must now take a longer 20 minute ferry ride from Dongdu International Terminal, as of October 20, 2014 with a fare increase from 8RMB to 35RMB. This has been in order to reduce tourist numbers accessing the island in an effort to conserve it.
Gulangyu Island is renowned for its beaches and winding lanes and its varied architecture. The island is on China’s list of National Scenic Spots and also ranks at the top of the list of the ten most-scenic areas in the province.
For a time, Gulangyu Island had the peculiarity of having constituted the only international settlement on Chinese soil apart from the more celebrated International Settlement at Shanghai.
Soon after Amoy/ Xiamen became a treaty port resulting from China’s loss in the First Opium War and the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, foreign residents on the island established an informal organization that became formally organized several decades later when its Land Regulations were approved by the government of China in May 1902. Eventually 13 countries, including Great Britain, France and Japan, were to enjoy extraterritorial privileges there and take part in the Kulangsu Municipal Council that administered the Settlement. As with the Shanghai International Settlement, the British played a predominant role in the administration and Sikh policemen from British India were charged with the policing of the Settlement. The consulates, churches, hospitals, schools, police statin.
Gulangyu is unique in China as a “traffic-free island”. It is connected to the main island of Amoy only by ferry.
Neither cars nor bicycles are allowed, thus providing an alternative to the frenetic Amoy Island across the river, although the recent introduction of electric tourist buggies may be damaging the island’s charm. Freight is pulled on wheeled wooden carts up the often steep lanes by strong teams of men.
Gulangyu made me think a lot about the British attempts to colonise China, about the effect that this had on China and the subsequent effects in terms of the opium wars, communism and generally the way the Chinese government now behaves. Ineke told me a few interesting stories about Gulangyu. I think there are still conversations going on about what to do with it. The beautiful historic European architecture is not being preserved in the way that it would if westerners owned the island, but they don’t and should they have even been there in the first place? Many of the buildings occupied by Chinese families are crumbling with overgrown gardens as the owners cannot afford their upkeep or at least do not treat it as a priority. It reminded me of the National Trust property ‘Calke Abbey’ which, instead of being restored, was preserved in the state it was in when given it the Nation Trust. A lovely idea that tells us something else about history, other than what the building would have looked like when it was at its peak. I think I prefer Gulangyu the way it is and even more so with its native occupants regaining control and subsequently letting it go a bit out of control. I like the way that the Gulangyu saga continues. If this was England we’d have sorted it out and tidied it up by now. China keeps you on your toes.