Sunrise with Sea Monsters

A show of the Tate's collection of Turner paintings opened Friday, and Silvia and I went to check it out. The exhibition was brilliantly set up with full paintings side-by-side with studies, and smaller watercolors set up in vitrines. I've seen only a couple of Turners in person and they just explode. The layering and melty, washy paint is hard to render photographically, and as Turner ages his work takes on this hard to reproduce, abstract quality. Incredibly beautiful to look at, and I'll go with Ariel once he comes back from Europe.

A word about The National Gallery: it has to be the best place in Beijing for traveling shows and the worst place for permanent collections. With few exceptions, the work is pointless, tacky and Communist-friendly, like really 80s Chinese ink paintings of tigers hidden in bamboo, Chinese dignitaries shaking hands (these I slightly love) or minority children cavorting in some idyllic place. However, they've organized some great traveling exhibitions including a show of the history of American painting, a Goya show, a "recreation" of the Buddhist caves of western China, etc.


Positive things about living in Beijing
  • Springtime.
  • The Summer Palace.
  • Mandarin.
  • Visas are easy.
  • Kindness of Chinese people.
  • Emergence of a competent art scene.
  • New, shiny, fast-paced madness.
  • The best public transportation ever.
  • Cracking sunflower seeds and drinking green tea.
  • Greasy Cantonese food at one AM.
  • Things are cheap.
  • Wandering through the hutong.
  • Produce markets filled with exotic things.
  • Bootleg DVDs.

Negative things about living in Beijing
  • Pollution.
  • Endless waves of people.
  • Cutting in line.
  • Public spitting.
  • Really terrible clothing.
  • Destruction of beautiful, old hutong.
  • Dirtiness.
  • State of public toilets.
  • Oily, cheap, MSG-laden food
  • Missing familiar things.
  • Long winters.
  • Endless, drab apartment blocks.
  • Ignorance of the outside world.
  • Oh, and pollution. Pollution. Pollution.



I changed my blog title to 鱼香肉丝 (yu2 xiang1 rou4 si1), which means "fish flavored shredded meat." It's a popular dish here, coupled with the fact that "shredded meat," or "rou si," sounds awfully close to my name. My de facto nickname.



Silvia and I went to Cuandixia, a village a few hours outside of Beijing, completely accessible by public transportation. I had previously been two years ago and wanted to see what had changed. A bit of word-of-mouth must gotten around about the place, because it was much more tourist friendly with signs in English, a trendy tourist shop, an actual bathroom facility (previously it was ghastly concrete slabs with holes in between) and a local populace much more attuned to money spending outsiders.

Align CentreThe character 爨 (cuan4), featured in the center of this photograph, is an ancient character that basically no Chinese person is familiar with, save for the residents of the town. It's a namesake for the people of the village in that it is a completely rare character. It's original meaning is a verb to start a cooking fire.

Many of the Ming Dynasty era buildings have Cultural Revolution slogans painted on them. This reads in part 大学解放军(?)红(?)用毛主席(?) meaning "University student liberation army! (?)Red (guards?) use Mao Tse Dong thought!" I don't understand the whole phrase since it's mostly erased...

Silvia and her homemade cape.

A wonderful dinner of beef and potatoes, eggs stir fried with tomato and a kind of zucchini-like vegetable, duck sausages with walnuts, preserved wild vegetables, fried eggplant and homemade tofu with green peppers.

Me with my new beardless face overlooking the ancient, terraced mountains.

Silvy resting in our village room.

Me in a narrow walkway leading to the entrance of a home.

Big breakfast of "bao zi" filled with wild vegetables and pork, scallion pancakes, several cold vegetable dishes, hard boiled eggs and corn congee.


oil and acrylic on wood

This is another painting in a similar vein to "0.35," which was posted earlier. This is also from a supermarket ad. I painted the wood with a silver acrylic paint and overlayed it with oil. Also, I taped off the edge to create a border of unfinished wood.

These "8.3" and "0.35" paintings are related in that they feature incomplete information (numbers without a clear indication of meaning) and lack the Chinese text that was present in the actual ad, thus eliminating a narrative. This is the closest I've been getting to a more obvious, exploratory series.


Picture of me and Silvy this winter (taken by Ariel.)

Some updates.

It's finally getting warmer, but the trade off is the worst possible pollution. I have no idea where it's coming from but it's wicked. That, and all these wonderful cottony puffs of pollen from Beijing's numerous poplars create this. Rather more charming than pollution.

Other than the weather, I'm up to similar antics. I've been painting quite a lot more and enjoying my new bike, courtesy of my friend Guy. I've also been keeping up with exercise.

Mornings I've developed a routine of putting the cafecito on the stove and drinking juice I squeezed the previous morning. Raw oatmeal, unsweetened yogurt, walnuts and sliced fruit nearly every morning. Again routine.

I'm studying for the HSK (Chinese proficiency) test, which will be taken at some point within the next six months. Well, most likely near the tale end of six months.

Next weekend I plan on going with Silvia to a village outside of Beijing. I'd like to see something that somewhat resembles nature.

Ariel went to Europe for three weeks and I wish him an incredibly fun time.

What are you up to?