This artwork is part of a continued examination of movement as it relates to time, experience, and the body. This... Read More
This artwork is part of a continued examination of movement as it relates to time, experience, and the body. This theme, which I have explored since 2006, is further informed by having lived and worked in multiple cities around the world including Shanghai, China. For a decade I was immersed in the deconstruction and reconstruction of China's largest city. This rapid transformation of the urban landscape created a feeling of living in time-lapse. Physical markers, such as old buildings, markets and neighborhoods, those things that helped us orientate ourselves in place and time, were reduced to rubble. Then, nearly instantly, they were replaced by large towers of concrete, glass, and metal. I often wondered the psychological effect that this experience had on local Shanghainese and long-term inhabitants of the city.
Yiqian was the first artist I met in Shanghai—back in 2009. She had a studio at the old 696 Weihai Lu artist compound. It was a cavernous, century-old complex of warehouses rumored to have once been an opium factory. Her studio was always filled up with artifacts and collections of books, pottery, and woven baskets. I watched her make handmade paper; she would put odd things in it like strands of her hair. She would also create prints from dead fish she found from the wet market. Her artwork is quietly subversive, delicately defiant—crafted with appreciation towards traditional methods and the natural world.
For five years, 696 was the soul of the rapidly evolving art scene in Shanghai. It was an oasis in a desert of urban redevelopment. In 2011, Yiqian and the 40+ other artists, galleries, and artist-run spaces, were kicked out. There is now a WeWork in its place. Yiqian’s new studio, a nearly exact recreation of the one in Weihai Lu, exists on the 21st floor of an apartment building on the city's Northside. Her studio was the last one I visited before relocating back to the U.S. in 2017. Photographic images that inspired her drawn portraits were taken on that day.