Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Oh Yeah BTW I Moved To China (Month 5)

Shanghai Painting Residency

Week 1

Oh painting, how I’ve missed you! 

I have not picked up a brush nor have I smelled the sweet scent of oil paint in almost half a year. The last few months of not painting have been difficult, especially since I have painted or sketched almost everyday for the past 14 years. But the “stepping back from the work” was needed. I needed to adjust to me new environment, a new job, new surroundings, a new language that I still can’t speak a fucking word of, and I needed to process new ideas. I was actually a bit frightened about coming here. I thought that somehow, the skills and techniques would be too rusty to produce anything relevant. Or worse yet, they had somehow been lost. How wrong I was! Once I open the paints, the mediums, and my brushes from back home (thanks mom & dad), as they say in Hip Hop, “It was on and crackin!” 
Within the first 5 minutes of sketching and mixing colors, it all came into focus, “THIS IS WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY LIFE.”
Hello old friends.
That's my fellow studio mate Lorraine. She's from Australia and is great company.
Getting busy!

I will write more about the new work and will included more pictures as the work develops.

Can I get this 90% done in 3 weeks?
Smaller one to the right.
Detail #1.
Detail #2.
My working area.

In addition to the studio space graciously provided by the Pantocrator Gallery, the surrounding area is a hub of creativity. "M50" is a contemporary art district in ShanghaiChina, that houses a thriving community of more than a hundred artists whose studios are open to the public. It is often compared with New York's SoHo and Beijing's 798 Art Zone. The art quarter has become a popular cultural attraction for local and international visitors alike, and was named among the "Top ten things to do in Shanghai" by Time Magazine. Best part is, I’m staying in an apartment right across the street!

Surprise Mom, I only brought 3 pairs of shoes!

A true artist's living room!
Dining space and kitchen area.
Home cooked meals? Check!
M50, right across the street.

But there has been a bump in the road, a glitch in the matrix if you will. About two weeks prior to my arrival, my lower back said “fuck you” and snapped out of alignment. 

I wish I had a cool story to go along with the injury. Something like, "I'm a sexual dynamo that puts his whole body into it" or " I saw an old lady trapped under a Volkswagen Beetle and I just had to help, and that's how my back went out" type of story. Something that would be good for the Jeff Musser autobiography. 

But all I did was get out of bed, walk to the bathroom and felt this old, familiar shooting pain on my left side. It’s an old injury from about 7 years ago, and I know how to remedy the issue, but the problem has been trying to translate that to someone who doesn’t speak English. Here is another fun facet, Chiropractic care is not fully recognized here in China. When I went to the hospital with a Chinese friend to translate, they had no idea what “re-adjusting the spine” meant. Being a country where you don’t speak the language is difficult enough. Being in excruciating pain and not being able to express what you need or find relief is level of frustration I have never experienced before. I knew I could find massage therapy and acupuncture in Foshan, which I did, and I helped to temporarily relieve the pain, but I knew I would have to wait until I arrived in Shanghai.

Luckily I found Dr. Alan Z H Deng! He and his staff have been helpful beyond words. They have provided me with massage therapy, acupuncture, and the best chiropractic care I have ever experienced. My old chiropractor, bless his heart, did a decent job, but nothing like what I've experienced here.

Getting lost on the way to the office...
But at least the weather was nice.

You know it's a fancy office when there is a large horse in the reception area!
So damn good tea.
Real orchids.

If you are ever in Shanghai in need of chiropractic or holistic, head to toe treatment, go to this guy!

Dr. Alan ZH Deng

OWNS Club Shanghai
12 Hengshan Rd. B1
Xuhui District
Shanghai 200031, China 

Week 2

This week as been a lot like last week, in that all I have done has revolved around painting. Wake up, eat, shower, go to the gallery, paint, lunch, watch a movie, paint, visit Dr. Alan, paint, and sleep.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I have also switched back to my default setting of wake up in the afternoon, and then paint until the sun comes up. But I love it. I really want to explore Shanghai, but I have so much work to do before the opening, I just can’t do it. I’ll save it until the last week I’m here. Until then, enjoy these progress shots and pics of our Gallery Cat :}

Keeping it classy with my cut off shorts.
My other studio mate, Ilaria Villagrassa. 
Her working area.
Some pen & ink drawings by Lorraine Heller-Nicolas.
High On Fire! Perfect painting music!
I should have painted smaller. But I JUST HAD to make a statement.
The small one.
Our gallery cat :)

Week 3

Have you ever seen an art exhibition that changed your life? Maybe it changed your view of the world or caused you to think about your own work differently. Perhaps you thought "Wow! Why didn't I think of that?" That moment came to me when I saw "The Ninth Wave" by Cai Guo-Qian at the Shanghai Power Station Of Art. It was so brilliant, there will have to be another blog post just to cover this exhibition. I will also need more time to simply digest everything I saw. For now here are some highlights:

I knew it was going to be a good day when I saw a random guy on the subway wearing a Basquiat shirt.
This dog was really enjoying itself.
The banner outside the museum. 
This is what greets you as you walk in.
It's a real boat filled, overflowing really, with 99 stuffed animals. Not toy stuffed animals, actual stuffed animals.
This drawing was made with gunpowder and firecrackers!
This one as well.
This drawing is huge. But it's not even close to the largest one...
Yeah…All made with gunpowder.
Cai dug up THE ENTIRE FLOOR of this room and made into an art piece!
The old floor.
This is custom made porcelain with gunpowder instead of ink!
This was incredible!

Opening Reception

It was all going smooth, until the lights above my paintings went out 45 minutes before the doors were scheduled to open! But our neighbor Mr. Liu managed to adjust the lights so my work looked decent. The reception itself was sparsely attended and to the best of my knowledge, no serious buyers were showed up, but I had a good time nonetheless. 

Pre show set up.

A few days after  the show, Ilaria and her husband Roberto made us REAL Italian food!
The highlight was the wine Roberto brought all the way from Italy!
It was delicious!

Week 4

Shandong Art Biennial
For those of you that don’t know, I am representing America in the 2014 Shandong Art Biennial! The english version of the website doesn't explain a lot about the show, but feel free to check it out. 

A few days before I arrived, curators from the show stopped by the gallery in Shanghai, in search of artists from outside China. The gallery director Laura didn’t have real life samples of my work, so she showed them screen captures on her computer.

Chinese Curator: These are paintings?
Laura: Si (She’s Spanish)
Chinese Curator: Oil on canvas?
Laura: Yes. Jeff is American. He’s very good.
Chinese Curator: Wow! Ok, he’s in.

And that was it! But because the opening for the show was scheduled August 28th, original work wasn’t an option. So the solution was high quality giclees on canvas.  

It’s not the most ideal, but it’s a good introduction, and again I am representing America in an international show!

The city of Jinan in Shandong id about 4.5 hours away by high spread train.
I've been waiting to get my Chinese name. I guess it's Seffrey.
Shandong bound!
At the hotel for the artist reception.
Nice area behind the hotel.
Dinner reception.
The welcome speech. All in Chinese of course.
Sea cucumber!
Dinner is served.
So after dinner there was a live event for all the traditional Chinese painters in the show. They were given tables, ink, paper, lots of cherries tomatoes, and told to just go for it! It was quite incredible to watch and I felt very honored to have witnessed it. 

Add caption

They even asked me to give it a go. It came out horrible but the cherry tomatoes were delicious! And somewhere is Beijing, there is a T.V. Station with footage of me talking about my experience at the Biennial :) 

Gangnam Style!

I’m not a fan of K-Pop not have I ever had the desire to attend a K-Pop concert. But my studio mate Lorriane was and is a  HUGE POP K-FAN!

K-Pop Super Group, 2ne1.

She knows the individual members of various groups (both male and female),  knows there backstories, knows whom is dating who, who acts in Korean dramas, who left such and such and record label because of contract conflicts etc. So when she mentioned that some of Korea’s biggest pop stars would be performing in Shanghai, and would I be interested in attending, I thought, “Sure. When will this opportunity present itself again? It will add another layer to my Shanghai experience.

Show is about to start!
We were almost at the top of Shanghai Stadium.
The girl in front of me.
2ne1 on stage.
CL from 2ne1.
I'm convinced she was winking at me!
There was also a boy band that performed called Big Bang. When the took the stage, every girl in the audience lost it! The screaming actually hurt my ears!

Not many dudes can pull of gold jackets.
Hello ladies, I am here for your souls...

The headliner for the show was PSY, the guy that most Westerners know as the "Gangnam Style" Guy. He's  a K-POP Icon and has been for some time and I was also surprised to know he's over 40 years old! After seeing him perform, I can understand why he's been on top for so long, the man puts on a hell of a show!

In Closing

One month in this city is not nearly enough time to properly explore. To truly get a feel for the art in this city, I would have to spend a great deal of time here. I accomplished more than I hoped for in 3 weeks, but to make a decent body of work, I would need at least half a year, maybe even more.

Not bad for only 3 weeks of work.

Perhaps I should move here when I’m finished in Foshan! Who knows, a lot can happen in a year.