Reflection on Eastern Poesia, Beijing Trip
Wenlu "Lulu" Bao, Deputy Curator of Eastern Poesia in Beijin
Coming from the eastern cultural background, I sometimes feel a bit out of focus in regards to my artistic career and experiences. To explain this situation, there is a famous ancient Chinese poem “不识庐山真面目，只缘身在此山中”, meaning “I cannot tell the true appearance of the mountains, because I am in the mountains.” With my limited language skills, I am not able to deliver the full beauty of the Chinese syntax. And this is the gap for me, the language. This is also one of the reasons I decided to come to the United States: to further my studies in English and arts. I want to see and understand our culture from a different angle.
During the trip to Beijing for Monique Rollins’ exhibition: Eastern Poesia, I was honored to work as the deputy curator. I see my role as a communicator, a recorder, an observer, and a designer. Combining all the roles, my personal take away from this wonderful trip is that the world is sometimes incredibly large; the other times super small. I use the word, “large” because I have worked with so many people from all walks of life and heard their stories; and I say “small” because it was Monique’s artworks, the exhibition, and relevant events that bound us together with all personalities and contrasts; the artworks linked everyone’s personal emotions and experiences.
To share a story at the exhibition reception: when I was interpreting, I heard voices from very different individuals. I heard the senior art master generation mentioning how joyful they think Monique’s paintings are; and how they have struggled through the years of learning about abstract and modern arts when they were young; and I heard a young art student linking the color of the artworks to his graphic design knowledge of color scheme and design history; I also heard a Chinese female artist connecting these paintings to her years in Paris learning about art and materials. I was deeply confused at that moment. The big question in front of me was: are we talking about the same topics? Right after the brainstorming- like discussion, I suddenly realized that it was so amazing to include so many different ideas and inspiration in the room where the artworks were on display. We were all appreciating the same works of art, but reflecting our own living experiences and stories. The paintings, not only told Monique’s stories, feelings, inspiration, but also were bridges to the memories to each viewer. There are no right or wrong answers of feelings and understandings. Beforehand, I was too obsessed in my search for the perfect answer, which was limiting me.
To keep my mind open and keep focused on art is one of the most important gleanings from the exhibition, especially when all of this was happening in Beijing, China, my motherland. The conversations during the trip have expanded my mind, knowledge, and reflections towards Monique’s art. I think that’s why I always felt refreshed during the designing of the catalogues and invitations for the Eastern Poesia exhibitions throughout the year. Steadfastly working with the paintings gave me a detailed view on Monique’s use of color, textures, compositions, which allowed me to get “in the mountains”; then carefully listening to the other viewers, put me one step back from the canvases to review the works as a cultural phenomenon.
Another valuable fruit I gained from the trip is that the courage and desire of expressing is equally as powerful as the patience and interest in observing. There was a chance when the artist, Monique Rollins and curator Kathrine Page, talked about art and the exhibition in our rental car. I shared a bit about my point of view. As a young person, particularly a designer from Chinese culture, Monique’s work showed me a new side of Eastern aesthetics. To embrace colors and shapes, and experiment with the lines and white spaces, these are very Chinese ways to me, but she did it in a contemporary art language. I was surprised to hear that my ideas mattered that much to the artist and our curator. Nevertheless, it was my expression of appreciation of ZHAO Gang, the established, famous Chinese contemporary artist, that provided me with an opportunity to talk with him about his art in person. In addition, he gave me a catalogue of his works as a gift. These unexpected gifts affirmed my confidence to speak out. I shall not under-estimate the strength of my own voice, and also the voice coming from the younger generation.
Thank you Monique Rollins, Kathrine Page, Prof. Hsingyuang Tsao, Willie Yao, the staff at the US Embassy Beijing American Center, all the media colleagues who supported us, all the guests at the panel discussion and reception, and all the artists and art friends we met during the trip. Together we made this happen. Also, thanks to my dear friends and family for your kindness to me as always.