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East meets West in East; A group of 10 foreign artists presented our work in Shanghai

It's been some time since I've done any form of public exhibition. Over the last few years it's felt like some of the networks and cultural scenes have been much more quiet than they were pre-2020. Whereas in 2018 my art life got a big shot of adrenalin as people were encouraging me to exhibit and speak about what I was painting, those opportunities seemed much fewer and far-betweener. To be fair, due to a combination of personal and work life changes, id not been actively putting myself out there, but the groups and connections I'd once had seemed almost dormant.


A couple of weeks ago I was contacted about presenting at an event dedicated to foreign artists in China. Without hesitation I accepted and so it was on Saturday the 26th April i was able to show my stuff in public for the first time in a long time.


The event itself was super cool; we were hosted by a gallery called Proverse Italia which specialized in having traditional art forms (like an ink painting) augmented with AR apps, so they came to life as you viewed through an app on your phone. They're located in a creative district within Shanghai called M50, which is effectively like an urban art village, with galleries, studios and art materials stores. There were ten of us speaking, all hopelessly failing to stick to the 5 minute brief. There were artists from India, Costa Rica, the US, Serbia, Italy, Spain and Australia; each with very different styles and media, including digital interactive art, painting, photography and musical theatre.


I shared my painting development history (how my style developed) and the thought process that went into three of my paintings, and then talked about the recent switch to painting vintage watch dials, and the challenges that go with that. I took along my painting 'Do not paint on the wall' and a box full of the watches for people to look at and play with.


I'd forgotten the buzz of being able to talk about your work, meet other people who can challenge or inspire you, and the fear-induced adrenalin of having your personal creation put out in the open for people to love, hate or worse, politely ignore. It reminded me that when you're doing anything creative, it's never good to be in an Echo Chamber, there's an important social side to art where you need to keep connected to the art world; for feedback, insight and new ideas, as well as a reminder that for many people the art is about more than just the piece of work and it's technical or aesthetic merits; it also sparks conversation and connections, and you can hit on real meaning with complete strangers in a way that is incredibly powerful.


"Do not paint on the wall"

In this case it was also a cultural equalizer; 10 completely different perspectives, skills and media sharing their work and background with an equally diverse audience of local gallery owners, art agents, dealers, students and enthusiasts. It reminded me how Shanghai had jump-started my art career when i initially joined here because only in a place where you can get such diversity (like an international city of 30 million people) can you get such a cauldron of influences.


The box of painted watches I had on display

The scene definitely isn't back to the heights it was before but I'm hopeful that it's recovering and I can be part of it's resurgence and do much more of this kind of thing!


As a side story, I don't normally pay much attention to my clothing but I wanted to give off the look of an artist. I asked my wife to help me choose what to wear. I was thinking of going for some messed up jeans with some colorful pattern and maybe a crazy blazer. She urged me to go for a Sino-style kimono shirt/coat with some oversize billowy trousers that we bought from a store that sold stuff from independent Chinese fashion labels. I wasn't entirely confident it would work but had faith in her.

Literally the first person I met at the event said 'You must be one of the artists'. 'How do you know?' I said. 'Because you look like one'. She nailed it.

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