Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Beijing

Our final dispatch from Beijing is from Amina Kerimova MFA 2017. 

I’ve been lucky to have visited many places around the globe in my life. Asia happens to be one of my favorites. Compared to Hong Kong, where I once lived for a couple of months, it quickly became apparent how different and unique a city like Beijing truly was. Despite the fact that China is densely populated and one encounters a lot of noise, pollution, navigation troubles and other problems, I still fell in love with the country as my time there kept passing by. There was calmness and a homey feeling that had been absent in Hong Kong. 

When I was awarded the residency, I decided to distance myself from any preconceptions or assumptions about visiting a city like Beijing. I was just excited to work as an artist in a completely new city and open my life to an adventure. I've been advised by last year’s Chinese artists in residence not to make any plans for the prospective work that I was about to create, because plans tend to change in a context as different as Beijing. So I started my residency with an open mind filled with excitement for something new.

(Beijing landscapes)

 During my first week I tried to get to know the real Beijing - no tourist attractions, just get to know it from inside out and discover beauty in everything. The greyness of pollution can be depressing, but as an artist you can fall in love with greys. As a result, Beijing landscapes became animated in color to me. Having found my subject and inspiration I dove into work - I wanted to meet the expectations of the Academy that had given me this unique chance to be in Beijing. Plus, I could exhibit my art at a Beijing gallery!

(My first memory based landscapes, work in progress)

During my first year of school, I used to photograph unusual compositions that I found fascinating and create landscapes and cityscapes from them. The pieces were often visually abstract, but on closer inspection one would realize they've been crafted from real-life instead of imagination.  In China, I have decided not to use photographs but my memories and imagination whilst continuing to focus on landscape, architecture, space, sky and light. This was a new step for me and the approach definitely took more time. There was quite a number of times that I would sit in the studio for hours just staring at my work, ruminating about what to do next. My mind was clogged up with thousands of ideas of how to best project my impressions of the city.  

  (My Beijing inspired art)

I came up with the idea that you don’t need anything obvious to express your feelings and love for a place. All that’s needed is the right mood and the right colors on the canvas. That's why I chose to use Chinese spoons to express landscape. The “spoons” were gigantic - 2 x 3 meters! A work this big was an experiment in itself. Knowing that the art materials in Beijing are way cheaper than in NYC, I decided to buy beautiful heavy linen which costs $100 compared to $800 or even more in NYC. I knew for fact that I would never be able to finish the work in China or have the chance to transport the linen back to NYC without damage. But I decided I didn’t care and started my spoons anyway. I still remember how physically exhausting it was to paint such large scale! The day after I started I was so sore I couldn’t walk! 

(Exploring Beijing)

CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts) was undoubtedly a large and beautiful academy — a home to varieties of buildings and a museum. However, the building was under continuous construction during the summer, and as a consequence we had a huge fan blowing nothing but hot air in our studio, making it impossible to stay there.  Oh well, at least the paint dried faster! 

After the CAFA and New York Academy of Art exhibition in DAYUNTANG MUSEUM at the end of the month, we all had a huge dinner, at with which we reminisced about the month that we had spent in Beijing. The month of living and breathing and talking about art 24 hours a day was coming to an end.  I started to feel sad about it coming to a close.  Beijing was my muse, a perfect place for me to depict the juxtaposition of nature and manmade structures.  There is no doubt that residing in Beijing has influenced my artistic life immensely. Even though I have never completed any artist residency before, I know for sure this one will be unforgettable and incomparable to any future residencies I hope to accomplish. I will have an endless trove of memories from my trip to China. Asia will always be my source of inspiration and I am already looking forward to creating more China inspired art.  


(last free days in Beijing)

My gratitude towards Academy for offering me the privilege to undertake this endeavor in endless. And of course to my sweet Academy friends - Tania, Isaac, Pedro and everyone I met in Beijing. Thank you so much for being so loving and supportive!  

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