As a treat I spent my last Beijing weekend at The Opposite House.
With its blocky exterior and colorful façade it sits comfortably within the new development of Sanlitan Village. At Sanlitan Lu lies a symbiotic dichotomy; a divide and link between this new retail hub (with its bars, clubs and luxury brand delights) and the Embassy compounds with barbed wire, breeze block fortifications, uniformed guards and 60’s architecture. The Opposite House has been embraced by young and old with much of the patronage coming from across the divide. It is the place to be any night of the week. Its bars and restaurants are exceptional in feel and fair.
The Opposite House was one of Japanese Architect, Kengo Kuma’s maiden projects. It is worth noting that the office also completed the master plan for Sanlitan Village. From outside-in The Opposite House is not screaming ‘look at me’. It is reposed. The pleasure and joy are in essential qualities and design principles that form a coherent ‘parti’; the intersection of volumes, the natural materials expressed; visible circulation (the ‘hotel corridor’ turned inside-out with room access lining a central courtyard-like volume); the feeling of outside-in; the filtering of light, view and privacy through a considered syntax of surfaces, screens, constructions and patterns.
Sanlitan Village Beyond
Central Atrium with exhibition of Chen Wenling’s ‘Time Without Changes’ work, presented by Red Gate Gallery
It felt surprisingly very Chinese but through the frame of discrete Japanese hands and sensibilities. The name of the hotel itself and spatial quality reference the traditional courtyard house where guests are received. The finer details, such as the external facade pattern or the medicine cabinet drawers within the reception reference traditional Chinese motifs, lattice screens and furniture.
Having stayed in my fair share of ‘design hotels’ throughout the trip it was a relief to be here. The spaces were uncluttered and considered; there weren’t an array of designer chairs, lights or accessories littering the reception or the guest rooms. This ‘space’ meant that often one’s mind was free to wander and reflect on the experiences from the day while also be tuned to the moment unfolding in the present. This calm was something that I really enjoyed.
- Indesign Magazine #47 Out Now!
- Indesign Magazine: Evolve p28 -29
- “Up, Up and Away”
“Aurecon – a world-class engineering, management and specialist technical servicing group – recently commissioned Brisbane designer Christina Waterson to design an inspirational wall work for their reception area. The resulting work is Taking Flight, a vivid red flock of folded aluminium. “ ‘Aurecon’ means golden thought,” says Waterson. “In the work, I aimed to capture a ‘golden’ or precious moment evoking a sense of action and growth, similar to birds alighting from a forest or the flourish of blooms in spring.” Many tests with paper were undertaken before the extreme folds of the piece were decided on. Waterson has recently returned from a trip to Japan, China and Turkey, where she was conducting research into the “origins and space within the ancient patterns of these cultures” as part of a Winston Churchill Fellowship.” (Text MK)
Thank you Mandi Keighran and Linda Cheng from Indesign for including my recent ‘Taking Flight’ commission for Aurecon in Indesign #47 and Jon Linkins once again for the beautiful photography!
- Selection 01
At the heart of Beijing lies China’s Imperial Palace (from the Ming to the Qing Dynasties), now known as the The Forbidden City; home to The Palace Museum. Of particular interest were the screens between courtyards; the layering of the various patterns and materials; colour, depth, and scale in light time and place. I spent many many days discovering new parts to the complex and its extensive collections.
Overwhelming… and only just a glimpse!!!!
- Selection 02
The Chinese ‘Horeur de vide’ or horror of emptiness plays a strong part in their use of pattern. Patterns are used to break up surfaces within Chinese architecture for structures, screens, tiling, and ceilings as well as in their craft; textiles, iron ware, pottery and furniture. The patterns evoke fortune and luck, dispelling negatives. The objects they appear on go towards making an auspicious environment in the everyday. The craftsman’s work is seen as incomplete or unfinished if areas are left void of line or color.
- Chinese Interior; Oil on Canvas by unknown Chinese Artist 19th Century Guangong Museum Collection
- Canton Gardens; Oil on Canvas by unknown Chinese Artist 19th Century Guandong Museum Collection
They employ ‘Diaper’ or repeated geometric shapes to ensure that surfaces are not left empty. Originally ‘Diaper’ was the term that described the use of pattern in small repeated geometric shapes. Only later did it evolve to describe a patterned white cotton or linen piece of fabric. ‘Diaper’ can be repeat patterns of squares, circles, crosshatching or lozenges (diamonds) and are arranged within rows and borders or employed as panels.
- Vessel with Triangular Cloud Pattern; White Pottery Shard with Carved Design; Food Vessel with Distorted Dragon Design, Sword with Lozenge Pattern; Vessel with Interlaced Dragon Design openwork; Vessel with Striations; Food Vessel with Interlaced Dragon and Scale Design; Square Steamer all from the Shanghai Museum Collection
The pattern forms have ancient origins with links to early animal and nature worship by ancient tribes. A few examples include Cloud, Dragon, Wave and Thunder patterns. ‘Thunder-Patterns’ are repetitive and continuous and an example of the strong connection agricultural people had with life-giving rain. The symbol of thunder represented ‘the downpour that brought the heaven-sent gift of abundance’. The use of the ‘nipple’ too symbolizes the nourishing of man-kind.
Townsville one day Melbourne the next!
I hit the town on Friday 11.11.11 with my dearest oldest friend Rachel to enjoy the work of Eveline Tarunadjaj at No Vacancy Gallery, in Melbourne’s CBD. Eveline, an Illustrator, presented a new series of works with a child like innocence shadowed by a dark under current.
- They were meticulously hand drawn using black ink and small moments of colour and blush
L > R; The Beautiful Rachel with Eveline. Eveline was very modest and understated given the strength and depth of her work
The exhibition continues until Sunday, 20 November 2011 at No Vacancy Gallery 34-40 Jane Belle Lane, Melbourne. View Eveline’s beautiful works at lovexevol.com
I was in Townsville during the week installing artworks under arkhi-Creative for Prophecies a pumping all night music event, held at Townsville Show grounds on November 12. It was pretty hot and there was a lot to do. I worked with Vix, a Townsville based spray artist and his crew for arkhi-Creative to complete the installation.
Day 01: Vix and I chill out after a hard work afternoon
A series of weavings from my elemental series of works (first produced in 1996) were made for this event.
Michael and Adam; Townsville Showgrounds; Pappas and Adam; Setting Up; Vix Spraying; Weavings; Painting the Weavings; Adam Macks and I; Painted and Installed Weavings
Lots of work and lots of fun! A very special THANK YOU to Adam Macks from arkhi-Creative for bringing me into the mix.
When I visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, I found a motif of the bat (especially used within the sleeping chamber of the Emperor). I found this quite strange because recently there has grown a fear of fruit bats in Australia .
- The beautifully painted door to the Bed Chamber
- Detail: Bat Motif carrying various auspicious objects
Looking closer I found that the importance of some motifs and symbols in China originate from a Chinese play on words. There are many Chinese characters that phonetically sound the same as key aspirations or auspicious signs within Chinese belief.
Fuyi (or embracing wings) is the most common name for a Bat. The Chinese pronunciation for bat sounds like the word for happiness/good fortune – fu. Therefore when a bat appears in multiples, it signifies prosperity and good fortune. A design of five bats in particular stands for the Five Blessings; old age: wealth: love of virtue; and natural death.
Another example includes the Apple Blossom that denotes feminine beauty. The Chinese word for apple – ping sounds like the word for peace. Therefore giving apples is seen as giving peace; ‘Peace be with you.’ The Chinese character for gold-fish (jin yu) sounds like the word that means ‘abundance of gold.’ Note that the word yu also means jade. Therefore a bowl filled with goldfish (jin yu man tang) means ‘may gold and jade fill your house.’
Beautiful and insightful thank you to my Interpreter and Guide Hui Lin.
Red Gate Gallery: Watchtower in Dongbianmen
While in Beijing, I had the pleasure of meeting with Brian Wallace, founder and director of Red Gate Gallery. Having been in China since 1984 Brian founded the gallery in 1991. It is the first private contemporary art gallery established in China. Its main focus is to promote contemporary Chinese Artists and their works. Red Gate Gallery itself is housed within the 600-year-old Ming Dynasty Watchtower in Dongbianmen. It is an amazing venue; especially the central watch house void which is a dream location for installation artists.
Central Watchtower void
Central Watchtower void
When I met with Russell Moses, from the Beijing Centre he compared Japan broadly to a circle and China to a square. Interesting. Brian and I talked about China and Japan; we agreed in many ways trying to compare them is like attempting to put a square peg in a round hole. Many of the crossovers within early art and craft are related to patterns of culture, society, and life; harvesting similar food crops and materials for shelter, experiencing like seasons and sharing many of the same plants and animals.
I was very fortunate to meet Brian from Red Gate Gallery and Russell from the Beijing Centre and be given such important insights. On Brian’s recommendation I headed to the Opposite House, a boutique hotel in the new Sanlitun Road Chaoyang District, where Red Gate Gallery exhibits artwork within The Opposite House’s foyer.
Leaving Red Gate
Watchtower defensive wall