Art Battle – Beijing

So we headed down to Yue Space, Beijing, this space is really nice, set in a courtyard, with old wooden beams and ceiling rafters, a record shop, videos on the shelves and toys for sale, at the back, interesting and eclectic, I like to see a business crossing boundaries and a trust of clientele, to appreciate and not abuse stuff.

We arrived early and the rehearsal music was a bit loud, so me an Ivy headed to a cafe on the other side of the courtyard, a bit of a cave, interesting, very long strip lights and factory industrial style interior, which is the fashion in many places these days, I like it, but not my favourite style to be honest.

As the clock ticked I saw people arriving at the venue entrance, conveniently viewable from the cafe and after half an hour, I felt the urge to head over and get in the groove, to see what’s what and find a spot to have a drink and wait for the show to start.

I was pretty nervous, though it wasn’t obvious, I walked about and chatted to my fellow competitors, we’d already met on Friday for a briefing. We were split in groups of 2, 6 artists for each, over 2 rounds, with a final 3rd for the 4 winners of the 2 rounds to compete.

I decided to try and focus on my nervous energy, the noisy atmosphere and the nervous energy of the artists around me, to get used to that, in preparation for my performance, we had 20minutes to paint, acrylic on canvas 2foot by 2foot, anything we chose.

I knew I’d be doing abstract, and the beginning is generally the same when I work with acrylic, to make an interesting mark, to follow my feeling about tool, colour and type of mark, and in this live performance situation the challenge was really to simply focus on that, to block out distracting thoughts and things around me and sense what I would do next, a real interesting challenge.

I’ve working in an art related performance setting previously, I used to do video projections for bands and club events, they were effects based live videos using photos, illustrations and video, the live element was the triggering of these different things and the live camera, which I often loved to use, so it was a matter of deciding what would go to the music flavour and would be interesting for the audience.

At the art battle on Sunday, my focus was on doing what I normally would do in painting, which is totally centred on me, with an awareness of art principles, colour, space, balance, shapes, etc, these really help me have some direction and consistency within the random chaos, sometimes before marks are made, other times afterwards.

Doing a fast painting without being able to let the paint dry does provide a challenge, my normal way of working would allow me time to work in layers, allowing each layer to dry, if need be, and to let time and observation help me to decide on the next step, I did find it good to be forced to work faster, maybe this is how I will work from now on, for a while anyway, to only allow myself a short time, say 30seconds or a cup of coffee, to observe a work, before continuing, it is definately helpful to switch things up regularly, adding change and spontaneous energy to art making.

I recently discovered Spitttoon a Beijing based collective making poetry, comics etc, I’m going to do some poetry reading on the 24th, that’s this Thursday, as I’m a sucker for nervous experiences this month, so will be interesting how my poetry goes down.

I didn’t win the battle but it was a personal victory, to put my self on public display is nerve wracking, as I’m sure many would agree, but is necessary in one way or another, at some point or other.

I am looking out for more live painting events, so looking forward to sharing when they come up, and please let me know if you hear of any coming up near you, especially in Beijing in the next few months, or in Cardiff, UK, from the middle of April.

I really like the fact that I can directly share my work, the whole process, not just the finished thing, it is so mush more than a still image, and is nice to turn up and do, to be exposed without having to spend on exhibiting and advertising an exhibition, I do really just like to do and it is nice to connect with people who’re interested in me doing, though for me it’s especially important to try and encourage other people to just do also, and to try and remove the fear and inhibitions we often have around being creative and making art.

I’m content with the final work, though if I’d had more time I think I would have used my fingers to add some soft smudging marks too, as at the moment I feel it is quite harsh and contrasty. I do find every work can be altered in some way, but maybe altering it would only make it temporally better and could even make it worse, depending on who and when we look at a work, it’s also good to let something be and use the experience to try the techniques next time.

I hope this was interesting and I’m looking forward to sharing more documentary, reporting style posts in the following months, I have quite a lot of interesting things to share about this trip in China.

Bye for now

Sam

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