Thursday, February 14, 2008

Artistic Enclave

My guidebook highly recommended checking out 50 Moganshan Road, an area where artists are struggling to get noticed.

So in the mid-afternoon I tried to find it, near the Shanghai Railway Station.

However, there wasn't any direct way to get there, but it seemed too close to hail a cab so I thought I'd walk it.

It took me almost an hour to find this place, which is right by the side of the Wusong River which snakes through north Puxi.

When I finally found the area that had hardly any signage, it reminded me of Factory 798 in Beijing, but much more compact.

However, being Spring Festival, most of the galleries and studies were closed which was disappointing, but not completely.

One ceramic artist Wang Shuhui graduated from Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute, a place known for its fine porcelain. He has created a series of ceramic jiaozi or boiled dumplings that are decorated with intricate designs in mostly blue and white.

In his artist statement he explains his hometown in Shandong Province is known for its jiaozi and special events, like Spring Festival are marked by eating this northern food.

The Chinese, at holidays, kindly treat relatives and friends, always make jiaozi to eat. Especially on the lunar New Year's Day, after the whole family's paying a New Year call, they sit together in a circle, make jiaozi while chatting every happened [sic] things, often bring in the happy talk and laughter, has meaning of greatly the endless enjoyment. Therefore people often regard jiaozi as the symbol of propitious and happy reunion.

Xie Rong is a 37-year-old photographer based in Shanghai. He has done many portraits of the city changing, mostly of old houses demolished to make way for new developments.

This isn't a new theme, but he is trying to document what's happening. There is a sense of loss and fear of being forgotten in the black-and-white and colour photographs. Most of the pictures feature rubble in the foreground and gleaming new towers behind it.

He also shot a series of portraits of migrant workers, but their faces are slightly distorted; it's like he asked them to move their heads as he clicked the shutter. That's because he wants to show there are millions of these people in the country, but we don't stop to get to know them and their faces.

From the limited amount of art I saw in Shanghai, Xie and Wang seem like promising names to watch out for in the future.

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