Vibrant Street Art in Shanghai

“You have to look at it as a piece of artwork.” — Twist, on graffiti

In art, there’s nothing if not drama.  After I revealed my tale of art woe…  The great love, the loss that tore my heart to pieces, until I finally recaptured the flame.  The time came to move towards bigger waters.  Shanghai.

I ventured on a rainy Friday afternoon to 50 Moganshan Lu, or known as M50, to feast on more artwork.

If you’re unaware of M50, it use to be an industrial area along Suzhou Creek, in the downtown district of Jing’an.  As the millennium unfolded, several Chinese artists found the large factory spaces and cheap rent appealing.  Today, the quarter of M50 is flooded by international visitors and locals, and was named a must-see part of Shanghai to visit by Time Magazine.

However, before I got to explore the commercialized art of M50, my curious nature couldn’t help noticing a series of spray painted walls.  Some of these walls housing nothing more than junk, replete with junkyard chickens.

Droplets of rain didn’t deter me from walking for several yards back and forth capturing some inventive street art.

You wouldn’t think such a nondescript street would have this, but as usual, China continually surprises me.

The street:

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The chickens:

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By |April 25th, 2013 |Categories: Culture, Shanghai |23 Comments

Street Art in China: Wuxi

Art is a bloated bag of bullshit. Pregnant with pretention, popularity competitions and false muses.  I gave it up officially in 2003 after a 10 year run.  After I left my ex.

My long term ex is a fine art painter.  He subjected me to Jackson Pollock smeared floors, the dusty smell of dried, caked paint hardening a litter of brushes, and that nasty substance known as paint thinner — noxious if I left the windows shut all day.

Not to mention art shows.  Attended by anorexic, existential depressives.  And those whinging milky art fags — you know who you are.  There I was, planted in a throng of pomp with a frozen smile chiseling permanent grooves in my cheeks, being dictated by the circus.  These shenanigans paralyzed any chance to absorb the talent surrounding me.

I grew tired of gloss instead of realism.  That the art world wasn’t about the work, but how well one could write a proposal for grants, flatter a gallery owner or edge out another artist.

Then I grieved.  Clutched a wine bottle, threw the covers over my head because deep in my sarcastic, flippant guts, I love art.  Art moves me.  Makes my mind swirl with possibilities.  The whys.  The big ‘yes’ of the universe.

Here I am in China teaching, writing, going about my life.  And believe it or not, besides attending festivals and skipping through gardens, I also do mundane things.

The latest mundane thing was going to my Chinese bank.  China is still in the thrall of a building frenzy, so across the street from my bank is an empty lot, where a building was bulldozed some months back.  A concerte fence surrounds the property to show the illusion of productivity   WE ARE BUILDING HERE.  STAY AWAY.

I seem to withdraw money frequently because over time the wall changed.  Week by week, panels of street art magically appeared.

I became obsessed with the wall.  Waiting for the next, next, next.

Until, I burst.  My roly poly art belly broke water.  Giving in, I ran across the street one afternoon and stared.  At every single detail.

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By |April 10th, 2013 |Categories: Culture, Wuxi |26 Comments

Visions of Plum Blossoms in My China

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There’s a reason why gardens are protected in the land of the dragon.  Amid continuous perceptions of China, you know which ones I mean… The indiscriminate spitting, a toddler relieving himself on the street, e-bikes nearly colliding with bodies, bone splinters in meat — need I go on?

See, in a Chinese garden you rarely, if ever, encounter such harsh truisms.

Gardens are the no-fly zone.  They are pristine.  Watered.  Tended.  Trimmed.  Workers are on hand around the clock to clean up debris, rake leaves and fertilize.  Everything is flecked with gold and wine porters all oiled up in tight-fitting loincloths fill up your empty glass!  Er.. scratch that.  Heh.  I get my gardens mixed up sometimes.

Back to Chinese gardens.

Why are they so important to the culture?  As a Chinese proverb says: “If you want to be happy forever, make a garden.”

Gardens were constructed for emperors, merchants, scholars, artists and writers.  Even the common man, by escaping to a public garden.  They are meant to be discovered slowly, over time.

I use to tutor a Chinese man who longs to travel and wanted to improve his conversational English.  Once, he and I were walking by a canal flanked with landscaping.  He pointed out a willow tree, and beside that, was a plum blossom tree.  Then he pointed out another willow tree, with yet another plum blossom tree, until I finally noticed the pattern.  ”In China, gardens are always done this way.  A willow tree and a plum tree together.”

By |April 2nd, 2013 |Categories: Culture, Wuxi |17 Comments