The artist residences at the Base.
At the invitation of the Chinese government, I spent June as an artist-in-residence at the Guanlan Original Printmaking Base in Guanlan, China. The Base is located in the metro Shenzhen area, less than 2 hours from downtown Hong Kong. The Printmaking Base is devoted to printmaking and artists have the opportunity to create editions in screenprinting, etching, lithography, offset lithography and relief. The artists are able to create the images and technicians do most of the processing and editioning. Quite a luxury, but one that requires some adjustment for those of us who normally do our own processing and printing, adapting images and colors as one works.
Technicians printing my print.
Artists were provided with individual houses in 300 year old Hakka houses. Luckily, these had been modernized with plumbing, electricity and AC in the bedrooms. Some of the houses still had the old grinding stones and stone cooking stoves in them; several had beautiful paintings on the outside as well. Unfortunately much of the painting had disappeared due to the elements. The residences were a short walk from the main print studio. It was generally a pleasant, but extremely humid , walk past fields of flowers, vegetables and fruit. Mulitple times during every day, I walked past a lily pond with an abundance of pink and yellow blooms but in the evening I loved to linger and listen to the the frogs practice their “call and response.” The area had been preserved to resemble what it might have been decades ago when it was a small village but, in reality, the city surrounded it.
While at the Printmaking Base, I completed two prints. Each utilized motifs I had used before– clouds, water (Hokusai’s wave), a Buddhist mandala representing the heavens, and a map of the constellations. I wanted each to have an Asian, if not specifically Chinese feel, in recognition of the place these were created.
“Seeking Equilibrium,” screenprint
“Seeking Equilibrium” relates directly to my recent installation “Searching for the Center,” utilizing the mandala, map of the constellation and similar colors. The title refers to seeking a balance in life in a spiritual and physical sense in spite of what are often turbulent circumstances.
The second print, “Dreaming in Guanlan,” changed significantly from my original conception. The colors became more muted in response to the rain, buildings and greenery surrounding me. The overwhelming clouds reference the belief of ancient Chinese cosmology that the sky is a force of destiny that determines everything that happens on earth. The print really reflects what was a “pause” in my regular life, although it does not represent me in particular. Rather, it is a reflection on the suspension of reality that dreams provide while destiny, or life forces, continue to surround and influence us.
“Dreaming in Guanlan,” screenprint
Studio with work in progress.