China’s Contemporary art scene has been flourishing amidst a swathe of rapid change on a grand scale. We will explore, through the art work of Helen Couchman, how artists are expressing this change, what subjects they take on and how this is received in China today. Helen’s work in the huge city of Beijing seeks to know what change means to its inhabitants, but also to ‘touch’ what it looks like. Her recent work explored around the perimeter of a new development, in the hutong lanes near Gulou, the city’s historic Drum and Bell Tower Square, on the edges of what has now been permanently removed. This photographic and performative series seeks the texture and the vistas of the hutongs that have undergone this process of destruction. Couchman explores what she can see of the land – literally the earth and fabric of the city. It has a performative angle: process, construction, dirt, proximity and distance are all evident in these images. Prior to this, she made portraits of worker’s constructing the 2008 Olympic Games as a subject for her first book, ‘WORKERS 工人 (gong ren)’. Couchman photographed building the vast bird’s nest stadium and swimming pool through 143 portraits that each show a single worker standing in front of these incredible structures, looking calmly, confidently and directly into Couchman’s lens.
Join us for a discussion about Couchman’s work and the way artists in China are exploring and expressing change and continuity. How are the themes artist’s in China take on meaningful to a Chinese and international audience and what perspective does an outsider bring to a depiction of change in China?
We invite Helen Couchman, Artist to discuss.
Artist Helen Couchman worked in Beijing on her hutong project from 2011, and prior to that had moved to live in Beijing in early 2006, soon after she published her first book, ‘WORKERS 工人’, (June 2008). Portraits from the series have been exhibited in London (2008), Hong Kong (2008) and Beijing (2012). Couchman’s work has been shown in in Cyprus (2003), Vermont (2005), China (2006) and Taiwan (2016). Her solo exhibitions also include ‘Mrs. West’s Hats’, Yerevan, Armenia (2004) ‘Gift’, Beijing (2006) and ‘There was no single reason for me to be there at first’, London (1999). Most recently she has exhibited ‘Epoch, Beijing 2006 – 2012’ (2017) a retrospective exhibition of her China work at CFCCA, the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art in Manchester. www.helencouchman.com