Our first stop was the Hero Pen Factory, where there is a sizable cluster of artists with studios. We were greeted by Qiu Anxiong and his wife outside his studio. I've known Qiu Laoshi for many years but this was my first time visiting his studio (he's been here for a year and a half). There weren't many new works in his studio as his time in the past couple of years has been taken up with Museum of Unknown activities and exhibitions. Museum is a loose group of artists and related practitioners (musicians, designers, etc.) that organize unorthodox exhibitions in and outside museums. Qiu Laoshi was hoping to bring a show last shown at the Arrow Factory in Beijing to Shanghai. The idea was to set up a lending library of artworks. None of the artworks exhibited would be on sale but anyone can borrow pieces if you leave a personal item behind. We still spent some time in Qiu Laoshi's studio, despite the lack of new works, as none of the others had seen his 2006 video, "New Book of the Mountains & Seas", which he played for us. I've seen it numerous times and it still hasn't lost it impact.
We went next door to Zhang Fei's studio, who was working on new sculptures that were intriguing but I would need to see the final result before I can form a solid opinion on them. I do like his technique for creating the solid structure of the pieces. He took colored paper, soaked them, and then crushed them together so they become a substantial mass. We then went to Liao Fei's studio, where we were greeted enthusiastically by his adorable little dog. He was working on several new pieces, including a series where he was investigating light. He paints the same scene at different times of the day, each canvas getting progressively darker. He also had others works that remined me of Mo Yan's work. He currently has work up at MoCA at the +Follow show.
The artists then invited us to join them for lunch at the factory canteen. Their studios are located in a working factory and there are still workers in the complex and the canteen is still up and running. The last time I ate at a canteen was in Beijing in 1986. You go up to a window with your own bowl and utensils, order from the selection of food they have and pay with tickets, not cash (Liao Fei was kind enough to supply us with tickets). The food was good, just simple home-style cooking, but as usual, I ordered too much! There is a large trench sink outside where you can wash your bowls and discard leftover food (we guessed this is then fed to pigs).
We then joined Hangfeng in another building where his studio was. Hangfeng has been away for three months so there wasn't much to see in his studio but we did stop by Maya Kramer and Wu Ding's studio. It was my first time seeing Maya's studio (which she shares with her boyfriend artist Jin Shan) and I was pleasantly surprised. Previous works that she has shown at OV Gallery and Aike Gallery didn't do much for me so it was a treat to see these new works that she's preparing for a solo show in New York this fall. She had molded a feather out of charcoal (beautiful!) and tie dyed traditional xuan paper. Very cool. Wu Ding likewise did not have a lot up but we sat with him for a while because he kept pouring us tea. We had a nice discussion about tea and how he prefers pu'er (which we were drinking) over tie guan yin (which is Daniel's favorite) because tie guan yin has become so popular that the quality has gone down considerably. The more you know...
We then rushed over to Taopu proper to visit MadeIn Studio, where Alexia had two young artists waiting for us. Before we met them, we got a sneak peak of MadeIn's new work for ArtBasel Hong Kong in May. I was sworn to secrecy so I can't say much and won't post any images. I will say that I gasped when I saw the work and it made me VERY excited, giddy almost, to see the final product. Elsewhere in the studio were canvases with thick white oil paint applied with baker's icing bag. They looked delicious. Here is a close up view of a pink and purple version that is currently up at ShanghArt's H-Space:
Next up was Xia Yunfei, a VERY young artist (born 1989!) who's still learning and exploring. He showed us some performance pieces which were amateurish and naïve but he himself admitted that he is experimenting and figuring out what works for him. His paintings and drawings on the other hand were wonderful. They were dark, primal works that reminded me a bit of Anselm Kiefer. Xia Yunfei himself is quite genial and chipper, very unlike his paintings. Unfortunately I don't have any images on hand, as he was presenting them on Powerpoint, but I think he has a bright future. Our last stop was Ding Li's studio. He's part of the TOF collective and he organizes many exhibitions with them. He's much more established than the young artists we met throughout the day so he might not be ideal for the project (we want to stick with young, unknown artists) but it was still interesting to see the man behind many projects that I'm familiar with.
Daniel and I have plans to see more studios but not before we firm our plans and have a clearer objective for our project. I met with Lorenz from ShanghArt Gallery to bounce some ideas off him and he gave some very good advise that I will be following. Sorry I can't be more explicit in what those ideas are but once I have a concrete proposal, Ill be sure to share with everyone.