City of the Future: 2013 SHU/CAFA Residency, Part 2

By Elliot Purse (MFA 2014) 

Another week in Shanghai and we’re finally beginning to get some traction under our feet! The rainy season in China is here, but we’re not letting that hold us back from getting down to business! 


The week began with us being chauffeured by our guide, and burgeoning friend, Wang Yi, to a gallery opening for one of the Shanghai University faculty, Wang Jieyin. The show centered on oil paintings referencing traditional Chinese ink painting. Most of the paintings were composed of thin veils of monochromatic black paint that at points almost looked like water color. 

The opening was much different than anything I have ever seen in the States. The artist, as well as a number of colleagues, stood at the front of the gallery and gave small speeches, which everyone applauded. Of course, I couldn’t be sure what anyone was saying, but the ceremony was definitely a nice contrast to the average madness of a Chelsea opening. 

On Tuesday, we finally got our canvases (or, should I say, beautifully economical linens...) delivered from the art warehouse! Most of us had been doing smaller works on paper while we waited for the stretchers to be built, but now each of us has a number of larger paintings going at once. We also found out that our show at the Shanghai University gallery will be opening June 25th, so time in the studio is pretty precious as we gear up to make an impressionable show.

After working through the week, morning into night, we capped our week off with a night out at a local cafe/pub for an “After Exams” (the university just finished its exam week) party. While there, I can honestly say I was totally beside myself.

The most interesting and magical part of Shanghai, to me, is the completely eclectic, international crossover that makes this city what it is. My experience of Shanghai thus far doesn’t seem to be of this time. Between the actual architecture and cultural cross-pollination, it seems like a city that has grown out of the future.  

And, somehow, this tiny pub off campus had managed to condense the experience into something uniquely tangible. Here I was, sitting in Shanghai, China, sharing a Chinese beer over conversation with young people from Turkey, Ireland, Hong Kong, Portugal, Michigan and a number of other places.

As we listened to the American and European house music that was pulsing over the speakers, I looked to my left and saw someone had scrawled The Beatles and Metallica on the wall (along with hoards of other things in hundreds of other languages). I looked to my right and another group was ordering a bottle of French wine and speaking yet another language I couldn’t quite recognize. And yet, all of this was taking place in a room not much larger than the Academy’s own 201 classroom.

But that seems to be the norm for Shanghai. Go anywhere and you’ll see and experience a staggering amount of things that are so vastly different and yet all too familiar. Personally, and as an artist, I don’t think I could ask for a better place to get the creative juices flowing! 

On May 25, four Academy students arrived in China to start a two-month residency in Shanghai and Beijing. James Adelman, Elliot Purse, Elizabeth Shupe and Zoe Sua-Kay (all members of the class of 2014) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.


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  2. Great post Elliot.

    Good to see your progress and your adventures in Shanghai.
    Since the canvas arrived it looks like you all have been pretty busy in the studio.

    Look forward to hearing about the show on June 25th.
    Send our best to Wang Yi, Mr. Xu and Dean Wang Dawei.