Shangri-La artist community, Bei Gao, Beijing.
The Sacred Way at the Ming Tombs, Changping.
In July 2003 I was invited to be artist-in-residence at The Red Gate Gallery Bei Gao studio in Beijing, China. It almost didn't happen due to the SARS epidemic in the Spring, but luckily the World Health Organisation lifted its travel warning the week before I caught my plane (by the end of the residency SARS had been completely eradicated from China).
The Bei Gao studio is self-contained and air-conditioned, a combined studio and living space, situated about ten miles from the city centre. I had to pay my own air fare and accommodation costs but I applied for and received an Arts Council award which covered all my living costs whilst in China. Artists are well looked after on the residency scheme, by the director of The Red Gate Gallery, Brian Wallace, with invites to exhibitions, introductions to artists and a fully stocked fridge on arrival!
The studio apartment is part of the Shangri-La artist community, in a converted pickle factory, where artists of all nationalities live and work in a very supportive environment. One of the driving forces is the sculptor Li Gang (who also founded the Pickled Art Centre gallery in the complex) and I was extremely grateful that during my stay Li Gang was very helpful in my efforts to obtain materials, tools and make contact with local artists.
The residency appealed to me as an opportunity for me to study the wealth of historical stone, bronze and clay work in Beijing as well as checking out the contemporary art scene. High points were the incredible stone animals on the Sacred Way at the Ming Tombs, very powerful sculptures, and the amazing detailing and sculptural properties of the bronze vessels in the Palace museum.
Beijing is not pretty but the people are very welcoming and friendly and there is much there to inspire artists of all types.
I worked on two pieces of sculpture during the residency, 'coronavirus proteinase modification' and 'stone flask'. Since returning to Manchester I have also created a poster design derived from my drawings from Beijing entitled 'coughs and sneezes spread not spread diseases?', which was exhibited in the Big Draw exhibition at Bankley Studios in October 2003.
The web address for the Red Gate Gallery is www.redgategallery.com
The web address for the Pickled Art Centre is www.pickleart.com