At KIOSK TABAK, a small but dedicated gallery in Wollishofen, I was having an exhibition on the theme of Line&Point: Form und Widerspruch (shape and condition)
I was asked by Eva Schumacher and Sandra Kälin, the committed owners of Kiosk Tabak, to exhibit my latest work at their art-space. Together we developed the concept of Kiosk Tabak being used for a week to paint on-site – open to the public – and followed by the opening on the week-end.
I started out by using rolls of paper I had found, of various interesting sizes, colors and textures. Hanging the rolls next to each other, high up on the wall, I was able to work on two or more paintings simultaneously. I used Chinese Ink on white papers and white tempera on black. With the long-handled brushes (90cm) I was able to keep at a good distance and to give my hand the necessary amplification of the movements I required.
Thursday before the opening there was a talk with Olaf Knellessen, analyst and philosopher, who represented a society of intellectuals, called ENTRESOL : http://entresol.ch/. We had a very interesting conversation in the gallery, on associations to, among others, Derrida’s “Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins” in front of a commited audience.
The opening on Saturday was very successful and at times the small gallery was so full there was hardly room to move. Many friends of various periods in my life dropped by and the evening felt like a celebration.
Urs Steiner of NZZ, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wrote an article on the exhibition in his own very elegant way. It was a marvelous and supportive article and in the days following I received many compliments.
On Wednesday there was an artist-talk with the wonderful and well-known curator Dorothea Strauss. Again the gallery was well visited and there was an atmosphere of intensity but also intimacy. Dorothea provided me with the opportunity to lightly touch on the important moments in my career and on how decisive the China-experience had been for my work. Finally, the finissage was well attended too and I left Zürich after an intensive and fulfilling two weeks..
…happened in Feijiacun, Beijing, China, in October 2014.
It was born from a need to express myself quickly, to react spontaneously to the wealth of impressions I had encountered and the simple availability of paper and ink. I had only begun to look into the Chinese way of approaching the creation of a line and a point. And still, there is a visible influence, a tilting of the head and listening for a moment, before rushing off with the brush…
go to garystern.ch
Times flies by, maybe even more so in China than in Israel. It is more chaotic and there are still so many new facets to life here that I can keep on watching all day. I know this will go by, but meanwhile I just enjoy.
Beijing City is less homogenous than any other city I know. New and old, side by side, rich and poor. There must be many more like this, but Beijing is the only one I have stayed in for some time. The only drawback is that the best coffee we get is at home. There are cafes of course, just as there are tourists, upscale locations, boutique hotels and designer-clothes-outlets in some of the old Hutongs. But there is no culture of coffee, just as there seems to be hardly any culture of tea left. There is a culture of hot water. Which is great and we thoroughly got used to drinking hot water at all times.
There are many signs that the culture-revolution has taken a exorbitant toll. There seem to be traditions, but they are so mixed up with modern elements that they have become something new, rather than a perpetration of something old. As an example, there are the parks. Now imagine a park, like we also have them, just with Chinese architectural elements, with little lakes, many old trees, children’s playgrounds and stone-bridges. But every morning at dusk, every morning really, there are hundreds of people; old and young, gathering in these parks at shopping-mall terraces, any free spot and there they dance to waltz, do tai-ji, sword-dances, rehearsing Chinese opera, Chinese aerobics, folding-fan-dance, all kinds of weird movements in groups; short, it is a spectacle to behold!
Most people seem to go early in the morning, between 7-9, but one finds performers all day long. Nurit and I joined a Tai-Ji group and even had some private lessons with an old teacher. No English, but sign-language to help. Very special.
The big event this month was an invitation to Tianshu, a medium city in the province of Gansu, the poorhouse of China apparently.
A friend of Echo, our Chinese-teacher, invited us to attend a small conference on cultural exchange. So we became the ambassadors of western culture in a provincial town in central China. Two Israelis with European roots, talking about art and realizing that the concept of modern art, as we understand it does not yet exist in this place. Their art pertains to calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting, about both of which they are extremely proud.
We were invited to board and lodging by Feng, Echo’s friend, who is trying to establish herself and her company for cultural exchange projects. These projects get supported by the state, if the invitees can show some official documents that prove their abilities. Like a diploma or any officially signed paper.
The whole experience was very nice, people extremely friendly. Wherever we went, people wanted a photograph taken that shows the two of us, surrounded by the owner of the camera. From professor of art to street vendors, everywhere we went, people would end up asking for a photo. Especially Nurit was the center of attraction; with her stunning beauty and laughter and her shock of grey hair, she stood out in seconds.
The trip to and from Tianshu we did by train, “soft-bed”-class. A 16 hour trip in a cabin which seats four. On the way to T., we were alone in a compartment and it was very nice and comfortable. More so than my only train-experience with a sleeping car, 1st class! In the 90s.
Last night, as we drove home on the bicycle, we saw many people burning joss-paper in the streets. It looks like money, some of it is paper-folded to look like clothes or anything, a deceased could use in the afterworld. Ancestral worship. Mostly individual people draw an open circle with white chalk on the sidewalk, light some of the paper-sheets and burn them. An eerie sight, at some intersections there were many people doing this, around midnight, tending their little fires.
Tonight we saw Nurit’s screening of “The sun glows over the mountain” in a small gallery-bar-theatre, in a Hutong near the “Bell-tower”. it was very nice, cozy and there were some 20 people.
And very soon, alas, we will have to leave this special and exciting place and go back to our own world. I will be going to teach in Zürich and am looking forward to seeing Ilia, my daughter, and my friends. And on December 15, I will fly back to Tel Aviv and another chapter in life will begin.
SUSANNE and OLIVER have become good friends. We see them every weekend. They take us to markets and we share the same taste in places and people. Through Susanne, we met ECHO and she also introduced me to the head of the art-department at her school. Maybe there is a possibility of returning…
End of October, we left Feijiancun, the village where we had spent the first 4 weeks, to move to a city apartment in the heart of Beijing. It is much less personal here, as in every big city. But it also gives us some space to breathe, because Feijiancun was so intense. Here we use our bicycles to freely roam the city, with all its chaotic traffic, the Hutongs (old parts of the city, 1-story-houses and small alleys, lots of cheap shops and restaurants) and the avenues and buildings of modern Beijing. What a clash of contrasting sights! The Hutongs next to fantastic architecture. Poverty next to wealth. It is hard to describe, so I let the pictures speak.
I have met a few Chinese artists and maybe the is a possibility of working together on projects. There is Chenghua Tang, who’s work fascinated me from the start. His paintings and etchings seem to speak a similar language like my own. There is so much to see in this mega-city of 30 million people. It seems that there is a thriving artist-community that moves along the edge of acceptance by the regime on one side and contemporary frankness on the other side. An immense pool of artists – maybe, like soccer in some poor countries, art provides a means of escaping the hopelessness, if you are not successful in business?
Red Gate Gallery and Residencies are doing a wonderful job here. The studio and the apartment are both nice and they help as much as they can in setting up meetings with local artists. Brian, the founder and director of Red Gate, has been living in China for 30 years. Emma is responsible for the residencies. She is a young American who speaks Chinese almost fluently. We occasionally meet with other residents from all over the world, but are fundamentally more interested in meeting Chinese. This is more difficult than expected, since most people don’t speak English here and our Chinese is ridiculously poor.
If I had to describe the situation in Beijing, the way I see it, I would name it the “wild east”. There is an element of everything goes, of chaos, which is fascinating. I am sure for Beijingers, the reality is much different, but this is how I perceive it. The extremes are so close together here that you wonder how things work out. This week is the APAC conference. It seems that October is usually a nice month, with little pollution and fall-like weather. The weather is not unlike Switzerland’s. Due to the conference, the government banned production for certain factories before and during APAC. Therefore factories increased production just ahead of APAC and accordingly the weather / smog was much worse. We did not see the sun for days. It reminded me of “Hochnebel”. Gray tones all day long. Now, during the conference, suddenly the skies cleared and the weather is nice. Half the cars are not allowed to drive during this week. That makes a big difference, considering there must be millions of cars in this city. So the Chinese government actually influences the weather, to me quite a shocking notion. It illustrates the sheer numbers of people living here.
I made a decision: I cannot write something meaningful every day. There is too much going on here, too many impressions, too many tasks awaiting. I have to reduce to every couple of days. Structured by my impressions, rather than by date.
First, I want to mention ECHO, our new Chinese-teacher and new friend. She is lovely. Every time she comes to us, she brings presents. Not just anything, but really nice things and very personal. We met her through our Swiss friends, Susanne & Oliver. She has been to Switzerland, speaks English and some German. An excellent language-teacher; she taught us basics in Chinese in only four lessons and we actually manage to get around and understand in shops and in restaurants. At least things like: I want this …, how much does it cost? and actually understand the price and being able to bargain.
This is a big achievement! More than with Hebrew at the beginning, Chinese seems from another world. Not only does it sound like singing, the structure of the language is in a way very simple and at the same time very refined. And I will not start with the characters. They are beautiful and a world of their own. There are supposed to be around 6000. And each has an order of writing, like in our languages also, but they are much more complex. I will get a glimpse of this in calligraphy.
TODAY’S FINDINGS: listen…