A little breakthrough
(Written by Ella)
Yesterday I felt like I had a little breakthrough, like a small part of the Dalian mystery unfolded itself, giving me new energy, hope and expectations of understanding the structures of the art world in Dalian. All the experiences combined together feel like little pieces of a puzzle which are slowly presenting themselves. Some puzzle pieces are straightforward by visiting museums, interviewing representatives and experiencing the running exhibitions. Some pieces are hidden during formal and informal dinner conversations with museum directors, curators, artists, professors and their friends. Other pieces present themselves by exploring the many different faces of the city and by careful observation. And others are plain surprises like we had yesterday during our visit to the College of Art and Architecture at Dalian University of Technology.
Mr. Cheng Liang from the Zhongshan Art Museum arranged a meeting for us with Mr. Zhang Bin and Mr. Ye Hongtu, both professors at the University. They gave us a private tour of the campus and the various Art and Architecture departments: Ceramics Studio, Modern Art Studio, Laboratory of Digital Art, Light & Color Art, Visual Art, Digital Photography and Paper Art and the exhibition space where the students showcase their final works. It was amazing to get a glimpse of the various works from the new generation of Chinese artists and the way the different departments function. We also met Chen Yain who is currently working at the University after studying in Germany for a few years. This was a perfect chance to practice our German☺ She told us more about the ceramics department and offered Marlies to come and work there during her residence which is a great opportunity. At the Laboratory of Paper Art, Marlies and I received a page of a book made by students with illustrations from famous Chinese mysteries and tales; a gift we will cherish forever! We are also very happy with the art books given to us by Mr. Zhang Bin and Mr. Ye Hongtu! Mr. Zhang Bin, whom we’ve met on our first day in Dalian, is also an important key figure in supporting young artists as the Director of the Research institute of contemporary art , Chairman of the Dalian Young Artists association and the President of Dalian Youth experimental art institute. He and Mr. Ye Hongtu are also the artists of the well known Art Education Group. With this group they make challenging and rebellious exhibitions, encouraging the public to get involved in interdisciplinary discussions and reflections. We finished our visit to the University of Technology with a delicious lunch and loads of inspiration.
Today I had the chance to conduct an in depth interview with Mr. Cheng Liang, curator of the Zhongshan Art Museum, with Vivian as our translator. During this interview I was able to gather valuable information about the museum, its vision and ambition, the relationship with the exchange program with Enschede and the museum’s place in the art world, not only in Dalian, but whole China. After the interview Mr. Cheng Liang gave Marlies and me a book about his own work as an artist (he has an amazing office which is also his studio) and books from 2 editions of the exhibition On the Road. This is an annual exhibition and collaboration between Zhongshan Art Museum and Guan Shanyue Art Museum giving young artists the opportunity to show their work in both museums. Another gift for which we are very grateful! And for which by now we need an extra suitcase to bring home☺ This interview gave me even more energy for piecing together all the information together, which is so far looking promising and colorful.
This week we have 3 different exhibition openings planned: one is by the Australian guest artists at the Dalian Art Museum, the second opening is by a local artist in a private gallery and our first official opening of the new Watercolor works exhibition in the Zhongshan museum itself. And we will hopefully get the chance to visit the studio of Tom (Wang Dazhuo) who has been called the new Van Gogh by the Australians☺.
I suppose that the breakthrough I felt yesterday and still feel today, is connected to a realization that my initial idea about doing art and culture research in Dalian is not as straightforward as I thought it would be. The reality is actually far more challenging and more rewarding. Because of the language barrier and my own pre-conceived ideas about how things (should) work, I am learning to let go. I am letting the mystery slowly unravel itself, while opening up to experiencing this amazing culture and the dynamics of its tradition, people and art.