Tag Archives: arts

reflective thinking

At the beginning, when I’ve picked up the topic of “How is to be a contemporary jeweller in/from China” for my final year research I thought that I’ll have an overdose of contemporary jewellery. I thought that galleries, schools, and artists were probably a lot hidden in the middle empire! I thought that a huge country like China would obviously got a lot of people working into the field of “contemporary jewellery”. Well, actually not really!

China is the most populated country in the world, but quite far behind western countries (however much smaller) when is time to talk about contemporary art in a wide way. When I say contemporary art, I’m talking about reflective thinking, philosophic and artistic approach. There is a difference between mastering skills and making things by questioning the world arround us and ourself in order to create something with a meaning, a message behind.

During a conversation with my friend Patricia, from Hong Kong, she told me that: “Chinese people are reserved. It’s difficult for them to think in a conceptual way and to have a critical thinking. Contemporary art is not something really appreciate, you have to follow many rules and to stay in a right way. (eg: Ai Weiwei) . Nowadays, philosophy thinking is not something usual in art, Chinese likes pretty things with values, financial and social values!  Chinese are hard workers, they appreciate skills based work but most of them don’t understand what an artistic and philosophic approach is. Now things are changing a bit, people want to open their mind”.

So,  I’m not saying there is nothing, but in proportion of the population and the size of the country, contemporary art is something not widespread. During my research, I found out that new jewellers from China spent few years abroad to learn not at the first place skills, but learn to think! Creative and reflective thinking. Contemporary jewellery department in Chinese art schools are new ; and because being chinese involved that you’ve got a really strong history and cultural identity (even if teachers nowadays are trying to push new students to think by their own), it’s still difficult to going away from all the traditions. Also because some schools abroad China are well knowing internationally, Chinese jeweller students want to move away from the past to face new cultures and new ideas! Which I think, is good, even if students are not many staying in Chinese art schools (probably one of the reason why contemporary jewellery is starting slowly). Most of the time, once the students are abroad, they stay in the new country. That is because during your studies you start making contacts, connections, links with the people arround you. Your new country is now your working and social network! (And this is for all the foreign students, not only Chinese). So, it’s mush easier to start your own business in the country where you’ve been developing “a name”, knows as a contemporary jeweller. I think the number of jewellers working in China will not only pair with the number of schools and their reputation but also the international reputation of foreign schools (such as Birmingham). Also because Chinese have been stuck with the same art traditions since centuries and centuries, new artists want to go ahead in order to  create new things. I think mixing culture, traveling, is always a good way to bring new ideas into your mind.

About galleries; well, the few I found (hardly found with a lot of help I should say) are not properly in China! The first in China (not Hong Kong or Taiwan) has open 4 month ago and runs by a Swedish woman! To be honest, I was surprised, a bit disappointed and glad by that. I thought galleries will be many and that will be helpful for me to find new artists on their website. And I also thought it will be an interesting way for myself to make contact and connection for my future. This is for the disappointing point. At the opposite, I was glad to see a western person running a gallery specialised in contemporary jewellery in China. Which means there is a big potential for European people to share and build something over there! This fact show us actually, how contemporary jewellery is new! Except Ubi Gallery in Beijing and Twocities in Shanghai, the two others, Hammer gallery,  and Ame gallery (I’ll post an article later about Ame Gallery) are in Hong Kong!

I’ve also been confronted with the difference between China, Republic of China and People’s Republic of China. I’ve been asking arround me a simple basic explanation, and , it seems to be hard to obtain. Chinese from China told me that Taiwan is Chinese. Taiwanese told me they are not Chinese, and Hong Konger told me that it’s an intricate topic, not easy to understand especially for a foreigner who have no clue about asian politics like me! So, to be sure I’m not offending anybody, I’m talking about People’s Republic of China, not only China. Which means I’m including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Both of the two islands are nowadays connected strongly with China (without talking about politics), but many differences remain between them.

One difference is the internet. Nowadays in China you still can’t access to social networks. And nowadays, facebook and twitter are really useful to share instantly everything. Many jewellers and galleries create a facebook and a twitter account to stay connected with their “fans”, followers, customers, and people from the same field as well. The lack of such sharing platforms are also responsible of the slowness of the contemporary jewellery development. In a wide country like China, social networks would be a good way to share faster and to promote new designers! It’s a reason why Hong Kong and Taiwan are different from China. Internet in the two islands is not  censored. Western people can access to website over there and Hong Konger and Taiwanese can also see through internet what happening on the other side of the globe. I think, today, being on the web is one of the key to stay in people’s mind and also to stay aware of everything. Especially in the art/fashion field.

Another difference: Honk Kong used to be English during a  long time. And Taiwan used to be Japanese. The fact that they were owned by different countries give to the citizen a different way to think. Mainly for Hong Kong. Often described as the “East meets West”, Hong Kong has been  influenced a lot by the british culture, and Hong Konger are now very tempted by Western luxury goods. Many luxury brands such Cartier, Vuitton, Dior, etc, found a way to attract new customers in Asia! Because Hong Kong used to belong to the United Kingdom and got that “double culture”, it’s easier now to make relations and contacts over there, than anywhere else in China!

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Ubi Gallery

Lets talk about the other link sent by Anja Eichler the other day: Ubi gallery.

The place is located in the oldest part of Beijing, in south of Tiananmen: Dashilar. Dashilar is an attractive area for people who are interested in antics items and old chinese fashion brands. It’s also a place well frequented by the tourists, almost all the building are preserved from their origine. Charged of history, Dashilar has been during the last 600 years the most famous commercial street in Beijing.  The Ubi gallery is now situated in a  19th century Hutong, that place hasn’t been used during several years. After renovation, the old building welcoming since september the first gallery in China (if I’m not including Hong Kong) specialised in contemporary jewellery!

Yes, “the first gallery for contemporary jewellery in China”! Even my friend Patricia (from Hong Kong) was surprised when I told her! She knew that contemporary jewellery wasn’t famous as it is in Europe, but not that “new”! No needs to wonder why with all the time spent on internet, I didn’t found any other galleries (except in Hong Kong, and Taiwan)! Well, that is not the only surprise have got. The place is not run by a Chinese or an Asian, Machtelt Schelling is from the Netherlands! Here we are: a European person bringing her art and contemporary jewellery culture and knowledges in China. What a great idea! I love when people share and mixe cultures and experiences! Contemporary jewellery in China has just been introduced in art schools few years ago, it’s something new, the basis of this field in China are building right now, by artists/jewellers! It’s the right time to come with fresh ideas and new concepts in one of the most ancient culture in the world! Machtelt found here a great way to be part of the contemporary art in China! She has also her own contemporary jewellery brand: Finch Jewellery. She works mainly with precious metals and gems in order to create creative fine jewellery.
The first phrase of the description of the gallery reflects exactly what people  do when they are traveling, when they are sharing, the name “Ubi” is based on it:

Ubi means ‘where’, it refers to moving and arriving. It is about asking questions. The gallery offers a platform to those great designers and artists who through their work keep us curious.”

I see a platform as something which always moves, things are here only for a moment, then new things arrive… A platform is a place for discoveries, meetings, sharing…  Ubi gallery does not features only Chinese or Europeans artists, but international (I’m quite pleased to see two French girls featured in the gallery!)! A way to promote new Chinese jewellers, and also to show what happen on the other side of the globe! All the artists of Ubi gallery have in their background studied and exhibited in many different countries! China, Taiwan, USA, Italy, Australia, France, UK, Japan… It shows how today contemporary jewellery is: multicultural! A word came to my mind to describe it: Melting pot! I think art nowadays has to travel! Artists have to travel! Art today is made through the world discoveries, a mix of languages, cultures, religions, landscapes, human behaviours…. During centuries, each society and civilisations has built its history! Now we have to experience it and to share and spread!

The Ubi collection is wide! Unique art objects, jewels/sculptures, contemporary fine jewellery, but also a small collection of ceramics! The techniques and the materials used by the jewellers are various: rubber, gold, silver, gems, ceramic, paper, fabrics, concrete, steel, everyday life objects… Really different works are exhibited into the renovated Hutong.

Here articles about the Dashilar quarter: Dashila(b), Dashilar street

(all the photos are from the Ubi gallery website)

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Twocities Gallery

In the last post I told you how pleased I was by reading nice emails and by “meeting” people on internet. Anja Eichler gave me two galleries’ links. Twocities Gallery and Ubi Gallery.

Twocities gallery situated in Shanghai, is specialised in contemporary three-dimensional art. Mainly glass, ceramic, lacquer, wood and metal work are exhibited.The gallery is own by Shannon Guo. After a Master of Art and a Master of Fine Art (in jewellery and ceramic) at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA, she’s now the curator of the Twocities Gallery. She’s also  the Head of Jewellery and Metals Studio, College of Fine Arts at Shanghai University.

The last 24th of March, Twocities has featured the Studio 115 (unfortunately I haven’t found any website or blog). A jewellery and metalsmithing studio within the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University. Studio 115 is one of few studios representing China’s most advanced stage in jewellery & metals.
(Sorry,some images doesn’t have any title, it was quite hard to find informations or photos of the Studio115 or of the exhibition)

I have also found a very interesting interview of Shannon Guo on an Italian jewellery blog, where she’s talking about contemporary jewellery in China nowadays. If you want to read it, it’s here: “Che si dice in Cina?” (don’t be affraid, the interview is in English!)

To be honest I’m a bit desapointed, Studio115 seems to be an important place for contemporary  jewellery, but there is no information or photo on the internet! If anybody has more informations about it, I’ll be happy to hear more!

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The Hammer Gallery / Hong Kong

During the week my friend Patricia, who’s from Hong Kong gave me the link of a gallery specialised in contemporary jewellery. The Hammer gallery. The place featured a lot of jewellers, not only from Hong Kong but also from Europe! I like that kind of art place mixing different nationalities! Again, it’s a great way to share between cultures and ideas!  Have a look at some of the Hong Konger designers exhibited in the gallery:

I haven’t found all the websites for each artist, but some of the photos are linked to their blog/website.

If you are in Hong Kong during the month, you must go at the current exhibition featured two artists/jewellers, one from Korea and the  other from Japan! I wish I could travel as fast and often as I want!

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paper landscapes

I have always seen traditional Chinese art as something really peaceful and relaxing. Maybe there is something related to the bouddhist religion, meditation? And I have always thought traditional Chinese art would be great to learn in our western busy and individualist culture as a way to be in harmony with ourself first but also with nature, people, different religions and cultures…Something in order to  have a better understood of the world around us. Well I say Chinese, but I could say Asian art. I’m not a religious person at all. I have no clue about what is yoga or relaxation, but I still thinking there is something quite therapeutic by making,doing art especially with old traditional Asian art.

When I first saw two years ago the work of Li-Chu Wu, it’s exactly what I’ve felt: relaxed, appeased. Contemplating the delicate paper layers, which reminds me landscapes and nature. The kind of maps with all the different lines to show the reliefs of the earth. Her work seems to be the final piece of a long repeating process: drawing all the different layers shape, cutting them and putting them together.

I was really surprised when I’ve read her artist’s statment on her website last week and discover that she’s taking inspiration in landscapes and nature!  Thereby, making a relation between the material and its origines. Li-Chu Wu uses the computering and laser cutter technologies to make all the paper layers. Again, the paper cutting art is on of the old famous traditional Chinese art! She’s another artist mixing new and old, contemporary and traditions! Her work is something between jewellery and sculpture : wearable objects. The opening shapes reveals other coloured stratums, it gives me that impression the object/sculpture is flourishing, blossoming: living! The intricate layers made with colourful quality paper give to the structured jewel a very attractive and beautiful appearance!

Li-chu Wu is from Tapei in Taiwan where she’ve been diplomed in metalsmithing and jewellery design at the Fu Jen Catholic University. She’s now based in Birmingham where she’s been graduated in 2010 with a MA in jewellery and related products (yes another artist from BIAD!). If you google her name, you’ll see her work is now worldwilde exhibited!

Here, her well presented website: Li-Chu Wu and her blog: Li-Chu Wu paper jewellery

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