City Kaleidoscope - Solo Exhibition - Being 3 Gallery - Caochandi - Beijing
October 22nd - November 5th 2016

Artist Statement

I first visited the fascinating, bewildering city of Beijing in 2008 and was captivated, so the invitation to make work and exhibit as an artist inresidence at the Being3 Gallery, was irresistible.

The challenge to any artist when they first arrive in the city, is how do respond to the baffling kaleidoscope of sensory information that both assault and excite the senses.

Initially the work I started to make was a response to the extraordinary energy of the city and to its visual overload. The first paintings are detailed, multilayered, fragmented pieces, which hover somewhere between 2 and 3D. The insistent repetitions of the geometric forms that swarm across the surfaces create complex rhythms and tensions and become a map of the physical activity. The results play with the stability of the viewing experience, sometimes reversing the negative spaces and disrupting the saturated colour field, confusing the eye and tricking the brain.

The weeks I have spent in Beijing have presented me with days of blue-skied autumnal beauty, but also days of heavy pollution when the city is bathed in crepuscular gloom. I became interested in the quality of light on these days; especially when the sun’s rays struggled to break through the mists and at night when the air becomes a neon infused haze. The work began to respond to this visual phenomenon. A trip to the mountains near the Great Wall, north of Being, provided the inspiration for the installation ‘Stacks’. The fog of the city had stretched as far as the mountains, which were partially obscured by the mists creating stratum of hypnotic and unsettling beauty. The installation combines my memory of this experience with the industrial landscape of my immediate surroundings. Similarly ‘Breathlines’ is an attempt to capture the strange, shimmering, translucent light of the city’s pollution.

The time I have spent in the nearby neighbourhood of Caochangdi, with its bustling lanes, colour and energy, has culminated in the installation ‘Kunstformen der Yuanland’. This is continuation of a project I started two years ago in my lively, multicultural, neighbourhood in South London. I am interested in the ‘status’ of objects and the potential that art has to elevate the humble and lowly. I collected cheap, tacky objects that were made in china from local ‘Poundland’ shops (shops that sell an eclectic range of cheap products)and reassembled, photographed and projected in a black void, mimicking the heightened aesthetics of macro/microcosmic SEM (scanning electron microscope)photography. It seemed natural to continue the project during my stay here. Sourcing and collecting similar objects from the lanes near the studio has been a very productive way for me to engage with the local area and people. The final installation is a combination of images from both London and Beijing. The soundscape, by composer John Lunn, was created using recordings from both the London shops and the shops in Caochangdi.


SaraWillett

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