Saw Chimerica, an amazing new play by Lucy Kirkwood. It is a powerful exploration of two cultures – China and America.
We are taken back to the student protests of 1989 in Tiananmen Square and follow the search of an American photographer, who took the iconic shot of the student standing with his shopping bags in front of the tank, as he tries to discover the identity of  ‘tank man’.

The fate still remains unknown of the unarmed man who blocked a column of tanks as they moved along Chang’an Avenue towards Tiananmen Square.

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The script is very tight, funny and moving, playing out  a touching relationship between the photographer and his Chinese contact as they question their roles in history.

There are questions about cultural identity and personal responsibility.

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Who is a hero and how can one voice rage against the machine.  I found it a little scary to contemplate the future in this context as China is such a hard country to relate to and it’s influence is spreading quietly across the world.

In China there seems little compassion for the individual.

Yet obviously there are individuals who raise their voices, people we can relate to in their desire for justice, for free speech and for clean air.

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica explores the courage required to step outside the control of the state and the security of a job.

It also makes us wonder about the dramatic changes to the landscape, the explosion of consumerism and urbanisation and the sources of energy to power this explosion in growth.

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The ideas behind Chimerica can be found at  http://headlong.co.uk/work/chimerica/explore/

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I have always loved the work of Antii Laitinen since being introduced to his work by Nettie Horn Gallery.

I went to listen to him at the ICA in conversation with Elizabeth Neilson, Director of Zabludowicz Collection, and Harri Laakso, a co-curator of the Finnish Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale.

He undertakes extraordinary feats of endurance to make his art such as building his own island from bags of sand, only to have it swept away by a storm and then starting again.

Antii Laitinen 'It's my Island'

Antii Laitinen
‘It’s my Island’

In his talk  he stressed that he uses nature as his material and his studio space and what he is exploring is the nature of human existence. He questions the value of effort which stems from his native Finnish culture and its Lutheran attitude to the benefits of hard labour. In ‘Sweat work’ he constructed a human sized hamster wheel and ran until he was dripping in sweat, he then removed his clothes and laid down onto photographic paper.

Antii Laitinen 'Sweat Work'

Antii Laitinen
‘Sweat Work’

The photographs were then hung on the wall where the image of his body slowly faded and disappeared.

Antii Laitinen 'Sweat work'

Antii Laitinen ‘Sweat work’

Each of his pieces has required physical exertion in often futile exercises. Originally training as a photographer he moved into performative work which he then documents himself through photography.

He likes to be in control. He prefers if possible to perform all the hard labour himself.

There was an interesting discussion on the reaction of different cultures to his sawing up of a tree into many pieces and then trying to fix it back together again like a puzzle. In Finland where there are vast forests and there is a pragmatic relationship to a tree and he had no problem getting any number of trees to chop down. In Vienna he caused an outcry at the stupidity of his endeavour. In Bristol he had real trouble getting a tree at all, and the tree he was finally given was a very small tree, barely a tree at all, weak and diseased. What is it that makes it hard for us to chop down a tree. The shortage of trees or the love of the old, a national instinct to preserve maybe.
What was it that mobilised the nation into protest recently – the threat to the forests. We might never visit them – but it’s good to know they are there. Our cultural history is tied up in the forests not as a source of fuel and income but as a refuge, as a source of myths and legends.

Antii Laitinen

Antii Laitinen

For the project “FOREST SQUARE”, new work made for the Venice Biennale 2013, Laitinen chopped down a ten meters square section of forest and sorted the entire found material such as the soil, moss, wood, pines, etc into various categories. He then reorganized the forest according to different colours – the composition referring to the pure abstraction and utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order from the De Stijl movement.

Antii Laitinen 'Forest Square'

Antii Laitinen ‘Forest Square’

I am still working on the collagraphs  ‘return of the forest’ and still not entirely happy with the way it is going.

I have been painting trees with sublimation inks to print onto organza which I will then cut onto the iceberg collagraphs I have made.

The thing about sublimation inks is you can’t quite tell what colour they will print until you put them in the heat press.

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I was upset to find out that London Printworks Trust had closed in February.

It is so sad that such a great resource is lost. I did think it bad though that as a paying member I hadn’t been told it was closing, I guess as they were in financial difficulties they weren’t going to refund memberships.

Now I have to find another large heat press to use.

The Ochre Print Studio Summer Exhibition had lots of good feedback. Shame I had to miss the Private View this year.

Susan Eyre 'Yellow Sky'

Susan Eyre ‘Yellow Sky’

‘Yellow Sky’ is about looking for refuge and reliance on a controlled environment to survive

Susan Eyre 'Graft i'

Susan Eyre ‘Graft i’

‘Graft I’ explores ideas about the changing landscape, the urban and the cultivated space, the hybrid landscapes and the empty inbetween spaces where imagination can flourish if nothing else.

Lots to see from other members and guest artists. It’s a good opportunity to bring the community at Ochre together.
Tom Hammick

Guest artists -Tom Hammick – woodcuts

Richenda Court's lino cut

Richenda Court’s lino cuts

Julie Hoyle

Julie Hoyle screen prints on wood

Lockwood Group

Lockwood Group artists with learning disabilities

Anna Hennings - artist in residence

Anna Hennings – artist in residence

Guest Artist - David Dragon - monoprints

Guest Artist – David Dragon – monoprints

 

Susan Eyre 'Subluna'

Susan Eyre ‘Subluna’

 

Sold ‘Subluna’ at Ochre and also some of my ‘Collected Thoughts’ sold at the Surrey Contemporary.
Always a strange mixed feeling of loss and pleasure.
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