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Boredom and inspiration

Fragments from an artist’s mind

 

Contemporary artist Guo Hongwei’s fridge is full of Chinese yam. I assumed he had a taste for it. It turns out he is mushing them into paste to use on canvas. Art over hunger.

Just a short titbit today, snatches of a conversation I had with Hongwei when I visited his studio a short ride from Beijing’s 798 art district. It’s a large space with high windows and a dusty musk. Various surfaces are covered in sketches, photographs, cuttings, pressed leaves, dead butterflies, scissors, protractors, cups of tea, rolls of loo paper, an old sewing machine and a basketball.

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Finding my Way

Revelations from a Taoist mystic

 

The Taoist priest looked at me askance and guessed correctly that I was British.

I was in his temple three days before the Chinese new year, following an artist I was writing about who was there to light incense and drop money into the collection box for good luck in the year ahead. The red-faced deity guarding the box stroked his metre-long beard and accepted the bribe.

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The art of guanxi

Or how to get a visa, Sichuan style – by Tom Sampson

 

I first set foot in Xichang, in southern Sichuan, to teach English in spring 2009. Xichang is the capital city of the Yi minority group, surrounded by rugged mountains and with blue skies all year round. I felt like a real explorer. There wasn’t anything in particular that I wanted to learn or take away from the place – but that was out of my hands. After my time there, I am now a highly qualified back scratcher, trained in the dark arts of creating and maintaining guanxi.

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The Good Earth

Pearl Buck, a country wedding, and how to cook pig guts

 

This spring festival, I read Pearl Buck’s 1931 novel The Good Earth in the perfect location – the farmlands of Anhui, where the book is set. (Read my LARB co-blogger Maura Cunningham’s take on the book here.)

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The spring migration

Two panoramas from spring festival travels

 

Two landscapes, courtesy of the iPhone's "panorama" function.

One is a stretching maize field in Anhui province, among China's poorest and most historic rural settings. To the left, one of the many graves that pepper the land, mounds of earth around which the newly budding crops circle respectfully. Straight ahead, almost too low to be visible, a hamlet of brick houses and dirty courtyards filled with waddling ducks and barking dogs.

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