Archive: commission

Art.Zip magazine, Issue 5. 2012, including ‘Special Feature, Helen Couchman’

20th October, 2012

As a lone traveller, the English artist Helen Couchman arrived in Beijing via Moscow on the Trans-Mongolian railway in 2006. She arrived into a city that was as familiar to her as it was foreign. Taking a small flat near Gulou, she has since made Beijing her home, making work in her flat and using studios around Beijing and in the UK as needs must. In the spirit of the flaneur, Couchman finds herself walking through Beijing at night, lost in the city that found her. Couchman sent us the following photographic essay from Beijing, arranged “as I would pin images up on my studio wall as I work; to serve as references for my drawings and printmaking.” 

Special edition with guest Editors: Dr. Trish Lyons and Monica Chung

Art.Zip Issue 5 also features: Song Dong, Geoff Dyer, Issac Julien, Margarita Gluzberg amongst others. ART.ZIP is the first bilingual contemporary art magazine dedicated to bringing together the world of art in the UK and China. 

page 90

page 91 (UCCA, 798, Beijing, poster feat. ‘Self portrait with long life earrings‘)

page 92

page 93

page 94

page 95

page 96

page 97

page 98

page 99

For the magazine page spreads see here

Art Zip listing RCA library. With Dr Trish Lyons and Helen Couchman

As the first non-Chinese guest editor of the bi-lingual contemporary art magazine Art Zip Lyons compiled and commissioned a selection of texts, interviews and reviews focusing on the theme of translation. The issue was designed to physically and conceptually hinge around a Chinese caligrapic translation of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘Chinese Curios’, highlighting cultural differences through the context of graphic layout and bi-lingual texts.
As well as overseeing the overall layout of the issue, Lyons guided the translation of‘Chinese Curios’ an essay by Geoff Dyer and an interview with Song Dong. She commissioned the cover art work and a photo essay on Beijing nightlife by Helen Couchman. In addition to her editorial work, Lyons commissioned a special edition fold out print by the artist Margarita Gluzberg and wrote an accompanying essay, ‘Her Dark Materials’. In this essay, Lyons unpacks the artist’s term of the ‘consumystic’, a hybrid concept that conflates, desire, consumption and the mystical. Exploring the dynamic and material processes that drive Gluzberg’s practice, Lyons draws together literary characters to communicate the dynamics at work in Gluzberg’s photographs.
25,000 copies of the special edition of Art Zip were distributed throughout museums in China including Today Art Museum, National Museum of China, National Museum of China, Beijing, Inside-Out Art Museum, Sichuan Art Museum, Tianjin Art Museum, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Guangdong Museum of Arts, Shanghai Doulun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai Zhengda Museum and Minsheng Art Museum. The issue is held in the library collections of the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Academy of Art and Design, Tsinghua University, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, China Academy of Fine Art, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and Luxun Academy of Fine Arts.

Portrait – Lutz Engelke

20th May, 2010

Portrait - Lutz Engelke, Triad Design

Lutz Engelke, founder of Triad commissioned for Die Zeit, 20th May 2010.

Berlin based company Triad won the commission from the Shanghai World Expo 2010 committee to design one of the three themed pavilions at Expo, ‘Urban Planet.’

Article by Frank Sieren.

Commission – China Articles for ARTQUEST

10th January, 2010

Commissioned in late 2009 by Artquest for their Artroute – China pages. Published January 2010. www.artquest.org.uk/artroute/asia/china

 

‘There have been many key moments in my experience of living in China, mostly born from small observations of things around me that have taught me something about Chinese culture and usually myself. I suggest that these incidentals are what make living and working in China especially enjoyable…’ Artroute: Asia: China: Being an artist in China: Moving to China

‘With the recent boom the price commanded by Chinese artist works and the subsequent injection of investment, the 798 Art District can no longer claim the ‘gritty artist colony’ title but it still has much of that energy. Naturally as the district is “tidied up” and the rents go up so the artists slowly move on…’ Artroute: Asia: China: Building Networks

‘Guanxi (being friends with the right people) is a big deal when trying to get things done in China but it will certainly not solve all your employment problems. Knowing the right people through networking may well help but at the end of the day you will need a combination of qualifications, being prepared in the right place at the right time and a good introduction to get work in China…’ Artroute: Asia: China: Money: Finding work

‘Should you be unfortunate enough to be taken sick, time spent in an international hospital will tot up very quickly! Of course there are local hospitals, which may charge you less but these will bring other complications specifically if you don’t speak Mandarin…’ Artroute: Asia: China: Being an artist in China: Visas

 

Helen Couchman was born in England and studied in London graduating with an M.A. in 1998. She has a fascination for travel and has worked abroad when possible, – in Armenia, USA and Cyprus. Arriving in Beijing on the Trans-Mongolian train she was immediately taken with Beijing due to a long held interest in the country and particular in places that are changing fast…’ Artroute: Asia: China: About the China guide

Climate change commission for Al Jazeera

9th December, 2009

Photographic commission  for article:

China’s creeping sands published to coincide with the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.
Al Jazeera, 9th December 2009

 

A river used to flow at the site where Yan Hongmei stands with her daughter.

She remembers it well; 20 years ago, the river carried clear cold water and her father caught fish there big enough to eat.

But, slowly the sand began to encroach. At first it was just a little blown in by the wind.

But the wind grew into more frequent storms and the air became yellow with sand. People wrapped scarves around their faces to guard against it.

The Gobi desert was infringing on Huailai, the area where Yan lives, and the trees lost their strength to fight it.

It rained less and less. “And when it rained, it caused a storm flood,” says 28-year-old Yan.

Living off the sand

Yan recalls how, when she was a child, her family grew maize that dried in the sun behind their house and how, like many other families in the area, they bred small, sturdy Mongolian horses. But only a few thin goats now survive and the family has little money.

Yan’s home is not in a remote part of China – it is just 80km from Beijing and 30km from the Great Wall.

Any aircraft leaving Beijing bound for Europe flies over the village. But if Yan were to see that view from an aeroplane, she would be frightened by the size of the Gobi desert in relation to the short distance between her home and Beijing.

Heading west from Beijing by plane, for almost two hours one sees only barren earth and sand – interrupted by small villages along dirt tracks.

Green conifer forests only come into view as the aeroplane nears Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

Yan’s family now make their living from the desert by renting out the nearby sand dunes to film crews and tourists from Beijing.

Yan is the cashier, while her husband helps the film crews with their technical equipment. They do not have any competition in the area yet and manage to make a decent living.

But they are unsure what will happen if the desert encroaches even further and know that they cannot halt the sand.

“Film crews hardly need so many sand dunes,” says her husband, Zhang Rongfei.

Planting green walls

When Zhu Rongji, the then prime minister, took office in 1998, he travelled to the drought-hit areas of northern China. Alarmed by what he saw there, he planned a belt of thousands of trees – a green wall against the sand.

A protective ring of trees were also planted in the area where Yan lives. “The farmers are satisfied,” says Yan. “But you can’t plant trees like this everywhere,” Zhang adds.

climate, sand , china

Yan Hongmei worries about how the desert will impact her daughter’s life [Helen Couchman]

Some experts agree with Zhang’s assessment of the situation.

“In some regions the development is under control,” says Wu Wei, a scientist with the department of environmental sciences at Peking University, “but overall it has worsened.”

About 20 per cent of China’s surface is experiencing desertification and driving back the desert costs the country $12m a year.

A Chinese team of scientists from Nanjing have calculated that the desert in northern China has expanded three-fold from 137,000 square kilometres in 1950 to 385,700 square kilometres today.

Scientist Wang Xunming of the renowned Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) believes that during the second half of this century the arid and semi-arid areas in northern China will turn into sand dunes or at the least very arid steppes.

“The survival of the people is under threat,” says Wang, who is convinced that this situation has not been caused by cultivation, but by global climate change.

Liu Tuo, the head of the Office for Prevention and Control of Desertification, says that the encroaching sand is a “serious threat to the people living in this area” and that it harms biodiversity.

“About 15 per cent of the species in this habitat are on the brink of extinction,” he says.

Economic miracle threatened

In China, alarm bells begin to ring furiously when the country’s economic miracle comes under threat.

That is why Wang Tao, the head of the Institute for Environmental Protection at CASS, has calculated the damage of the drought in the ten northern Chinese provinces.

In 2005 alone it was close to $74m. That is equal to half of this year’s trade surplus.

The Middle Kingdom, with its 1.3 billion people, is facing huge costs as a result of climate change; this explains why the government may feel more pressure than smaller countries to respond to the global phenomenon.

Professor Adil Najam of Boston University says he has “big hopes for China”.

As the director of the Pardee Centre for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, Najam was the lead author of the third and fourth assessments for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with other scientists and Al Gore, the former US vice-president.

Najam says China will go its own way “but ultimately it will do the right thing because it knows it is in its own interests”.

Villager Yan has a more down-to-earth approach. “The problem is so huge that even our government is hardly in the position to address it,” she says.

Poverty

Yan’s relatives from the barren mountainous province of Gansu in the northwest are even worse off. They do not get even half of China’s average rainfall.

“They are earning less and less,” says Yan. They live off just $120 a year, while Yan and her husband earn five times as much.

Even the Chinese government considers people with an annual income of less than $150 to be very poor and, in Gansu province alone, 4.4 million people earn less than this.

Yu Qingtai, the Chinese special representative for climate change negotiations, likes to place a transparency showing the poorest regions of China over a map of the regions most affected by climate change. They are literally congruent.

Yan is glad that she is able to lead a better life than her relatives. But she wonders how her daughter will live when the air is once again full of sand.

She says: “My daughter will have to move to the city. We will stay behind alone – in the dust.”

 

Frank Sieren is a bestselling author who has been living in Beijing for 15 years and is regarded as one of the leading German China experts.

His brother Andreas is a specialist in international relations and development aid. He worked for many years for the United Nations in Asia and Africa.

Shenzhen factory photographs for Die Zeit

27th August, 2009
untitled

Click to enlarge

in print
Die Zeit, 27th August 2009 No. 36. Page 20. Read here by Frank Sieren

Liu Yaping
Liu Yaping at work, Shan Ping City, Dongguan, Southern China

Factory owner K K Wong
Factory owner, K K Wong, Shan Ping City, Dongguan, Southern China

Portrait – Sheng Qi

26th October, 2007

Sheng Qi
Chinese artist Sheng Qi with banned painting for The Age newspaper