My new home-cooked dish – noodle soup with smoked tofu and dried fungus has kept me energized as I battled away with new work and the Beijing climate over November.
Beijing studio portrait - Kate Jordahl.
My exhibition opening here in Beijing was attended by 80 people on a very cold sleety evening and thankfully ended up a rather busy night. Speeches were spoken, lots of looking occurred then off to a lovely dinner party at a local artists studio, finally a few drinks of rum to ward off the cold. Today I look out the window at the messy sky. It is zero Celsius and misty. The artificial ‘scholar stones’ being created across the path look like ancient bits of weathered boulders but they are fake. Just like all the luxury items for sale in the many markets and the counterfeit 100 RMB notes spat out to me from a Chinese banks ATM machine.
This massive rocky republic can look like a giant bumbling child that crudely mimics things in order to learn new skills and “do business” Large, hungry to change and hesitant to take the stage globally make this nation confusing. The possibility of stumbling is real and if this enormous nation falls awkwardly that will be very painful for all involved. On the other hand modern China is constructed from a highly developed culture that spans over 5,000 years so the scholars are certainly here but what will one fifth of our planet do with its potential? To where shall this mass of people be led? On the huge publicity posters in the nearby new-ish Caochangdi Art zone it states; in Chinese and English - Art, harmony, joy, justice, abundance and peace. That’s all good and certainly a positive slogan list but can China actually achieve all its desires?
The latent power within this land is too big for me to forecast anything and guessing where China will expend its mammoth energy is very far beyond my comprehension!
I stroll about the National China art Museum looking at the old traditional ink painters like Lin Fengmien, Qi Baishi and Ya Ming. Their work calms my woes. Visitors arrived and left over the past month - Mr John Batten from Hong Kong and the photographers Kate and Geir Jordahl along with Oliver Klink blew into Beijing to explore, eat, drink, watch, wonder and take a few pictures as well.
One last trip out from Beijing to see the interesting city of QingZhou in Shandong. A pointy train took me there zooming along at over 300 km per hour in a very modern Chinese style. Once there I investigated a gallery and a future art residency possibility as well as strolling around the ancient Ming Village of Jingtang. It was a cold but sunny day with hawthorn berry tea, pig’s ears and cabbage salad and a massive assortment of local farmers foods for lunch with a charming government official, his wife, my curator Yue Sung and others…
I leave the capital city with the boring dry cough that is common here, the “Beijing bark”. Also accompanying me is a pile of art, my stomach is full of dumplings, my head full with five spiced memories and a lot of wondering spins about in my head. I jump on another plane as I recall this phrase below. A “chinglish” label I found on my egg noodles packet describing perfectly how I feel as I pack my bags and say farewell to China–
‘Good quality nutsitiue and delicious feeling of metsopolis of happiness!’
Anyone in Beijing? If so please visit my exhibition. Opens 10th November.
I am in Seoul, South Korea where there is a abundance of spicy pickled vegetables, ginseng and plenty of very good design. The art to be found here is also big and strong ranging from ancient scrolls and carved calligraphy on rocks to cyber-punk-robotic-funk
Beside numerous artworks I have watched tree surgeons or rather tree manicurists delicately snipping away at unpleasing leaves and buds on conifers underneath massive pulsing public TV screens where the latest K-Pop star wobbles about with rather childish blissful aggression, seducing pubescent youth with either puppy love songs or puppy angst.
Around the N-Seoul Tower overlooking the city lovers come to watch their city of 10 million do it’s thing. Millions of metal locks are attached to the fences to mark out each couple commitments while below in the restaurants and bars diners and drinkers also show their strong commitments to food and drink. I think I like South Korea.
The mono cultured land of the Republic of South Korea lives next door to a very strange place called North Korea. A visit to the DMZ area displayed to me a constant intense military standoff lasting six decades along a 240 km. long border. It’s a serious no-mans land that has by default turned into an eco-zone of sorts as no man has lived there for some time. This is an eerie severe place that should not exit but it does. I bought blueberry wine as I listened to heavy gunfire training in the military camp over the hill.
The autumn colors are gorgeous in the mountains and that is where I escaped to. I search for mist, fresh air and inspiration up the historically important and shamanistic seasoned Mt Taebaeksan. (1567m) I soon dive back into the Beijing studio and into another form of haze. Chemical laden clouds. I shall hold my breath for as long as possible.
Here I be in Beijing and what a rapidly changing mega-polis it is! This part of the world is not the best place to be when one is sick with the flu but I shall battle on. Last time I was here was in 2004 when the People’s Republic of China began waking up from a big slumber to rapidly present itself as a global player. Now this player is seriously getting into top form and might even change the rules of the global game. I eat dragon fruit and just watch what happens.
As I stroll about the neighborhood there seems to be always a reason to explode fireworks to celebrate some function or other. Originally designed to scare away evil demons with noise it now just scares away the few birds left in the city but it is a tradition and that dies very hard.
The excellent 24HR International Art residency studio located at Huantie Art City is huge and very workable space, somewhat away from the centre but it is a quiet zone teeming with art and artists in the nearby 798 Art sector. I am here to make art as well as exhibit some art with big thanks to Asialink. This project is supported by the Department of Culture and the Arts, WA and the Australia-China Council.
The scale of Beijing/China is so overwhelming that any topic you wish to talk about one must add a few extra zeros to the equation and hence the solution.
After spending time in Antarctica I understand large scale especially in a geographical manner but unlike the Icy continent China’s scale is really all about human population. Of course this massive amount of humanity has the potential to do many grand things and perhaps even well. What I see so far is just a frenzy, a mad rush to catch up to some nonsensical ravenous dream of owning two shiny cars, a big house and 4 tv sets plus the rest.
To pull a half a billion people out of peasantry and into middle class is one hell of a chore and it will sadly make a hell of a mess globally. A similar thing is happening in India and it looks like it is happening suddenly and recklessly. I am slightly shell shocked by it all.
There’s a lack of any long distance clear view as it is obscured by smog so dense that the sun is reduced to a slight fuzzy bronze-like smudge in a uniformly puce-grey colored sky. It seems that a messy rush into the future conceals any wise long-term views or planning. There is a very high aerosol optical density blanketing this land and the minds of many who inhabit it. (as can be found on many other lands as well) I do have hope that China and all other nations will wiggle out of the many problems facing us all on a global level as all I want is a nice clean view and a few dumplings each day whilst I am alive…. world peace could be excellent too.
As I wait for world peace I watch numerous young girls with fluffy animal ears attached to their heads promenade through the smog. Is this a desire to look like cute dolls or maybe they chase a notion of individuality? I am baffled but I did once consider wearing a large fake narwal tusk on my head after drinking far too much in Greenland.
On to Hong Kong for some art biz and to locate Carolina.
Before I crossed the equator one more time I went for a long stroll across the Dartmoor National Park to drop into a tiny place called Hexworthy, where once I washed many dishes and made ploughmans lunches by the hundreds. Black headed sheep and ponies scampered about the greeness and the little rocky Tors reminded me of Antarctic nunataks. I had one very pleasant British day up on the Moors.
Then I was airported about for two days on to Beijing via Melbourne so next update shall be from somewhere in China.
Sammy the Chinese dragon zipped into the Classic Roebuck pub for a fast beer while stomping and banging about Chinatown at Broome’s annual festival, I had a couple of drinks myself before I flew out.
I left the Japanese inspired Shinju Matsuri or Festival of Pearls to be involved with another festival. 14,084 kms away from Broome. To get to the Plymouth Marine City Festival took one car, three planes, two buses, 7 travelators (also known as - horizontal escalators, autowalks, travelators, moving walkways, movators or my favorite term horizontalator) then one more bus and finally a short walk took me to the Plymouth Art Centre in UK. I should have arrived by ship really but time was against me.
Over on another continent the 4th Antarctic Art and Culture International Festival was held. In the city of the Tango three of my short Antarctic films from Mawson station were screened at the Chancellery Auditorium in Buenos Aires. Sadly I wont make it back to Argentina until December long after that festival is over.
I stay at a cute British bed and breakfast hotel that offers the full English breakfast each morning and locates me in the historical sector of the town just down the hill from the Hoe where Sir Francis Drake played lawn bowls.
Here I set up a temporary studio to prepare for my exhibition. KNOT is a small show consisting of 36 small Antarctic KNOTS created at Mawson Station in 2009 and to these I add a very LONG KNOT which I began working on in my Broome studio a long way south of here. I shall also launch my book at the opening.
Each day I consume a pasty for my lunch crammed with meat, potato, and plenty of pepper, delicious treats that have cured my jetlag for a few days, actually I think I have had constant and chronic jetlag for many many years so no local snack will ever totally eradicate my unstill life. Soon back to Melbourne for a pit stop and then across the equator once again.
Eagles cruise above me in the thermals, geckos bark in the studio, possums thump about on the roof each night, fruit bats squawk with impatience as they wait for the mangoes to appear on the trees, insects buzz about and the heat slowly but surely rises. The sunsets over the Indian Ocean are grand to watch and everything is very lovely except for the things that are not.
What have I done here the past weeks? Studio time, some beer at the Broome horse races, studio time, book launch, family and friends, back to studio and now the Shinju festival kicks off so I best celebrate this Multi-cultural Pearl festival as well as jump into the Ocean one more time before I fly to UK.
I am in studio mode now in far north western Australia. Broome-time as they say here…
Here I begin a project for the Plymouth Art Centre in UK but first I must remove my beard.
It was a busy time in Melbourne just as I expected. Carolina did well paddling through the rather frenetic social activities arranged each week and now she is back on the grape ranch over the other side of the Pacific. I continued to zoom about Melbourne with other chores and cheers to perform. Staying in the breezy but marvelous backyard chalet of Mel and Angus in the fine suburb of Richmond was great but my diet over those past weeks included a lot of Dutch herrings, ‘cuppa soup’ Chinese dumplings and cherry brandy. Probably not the best plan for my body.
My book seems to be liked by those who have discovered a copy so this is certainly pleasing after the massive amount of work it took to complete the beast. If anyone happens to be in in Broome late August...
Book launch and drinks @ Short St. Gallery. 7 Short St. Chinatown. Broome.
Thursday 23rd August. 6 – 8PM T. (08) 9192 2658 E. firstname.lastname@example.org
Artist Stephen Eastaugh was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1960 and, explicably, has two fathers. Both were sailors and – both – were either the cause or inspiration for Eastaugh’s self-diagnosed disease: an unremitting, uncontrollable and incurable need to travel.
In the guise of artist-as-raconteur, traveler-as-artist and lost-confused-and-fuzzy, Eastaugh’s Unstill Life explores three decades of travel and art on the road and was written at Mawson Base during the Antarctic winter of 2009 while undertaking his third stint on an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Division. He currently moves between Australia, Argentina and….elsewhere.
If you wish to buy a copy of my UNSTILL LIFE please contact me to place an order via my email -
Limited edition signed copies. $110 (including gst, postage extra)
Copies are also available at BLOCK PROJECTS GALLERY. www.blockprojects.com
Plants grow rapidly and richly all about us, nearby airplanes loudly take-off and loudly land, curlews and kookaburra make odd noises at dusk and the locals strum away on ukuleles. Midges annoyingly feast on Carolina’s skin and we busy ourselves with rainforest vegetation and art.
A F.N.Q TANKS cultural centre residency has planted us in a charming and rather large stilted house by a creek that has been known as a crocodile habitat as well as a hangout for other serpents both large and small. Carolina surprisingly discovered a two metre long python lounging on our veranda the other night. With a broom I suggested to the creature that he slither away back into the bush. The surrounding bush is dense and intriguing both wild in the swamplands as well as neatly ordered in the botanical gardens. I especially adore the massive bamboo groves and the infinite shades of green to be seen surrounding us. All considering Cairns seems like a pretty fine spot to be.
While here we attempt to eat as much seafood as we can to balance our meaty Argentinean diet. Crocodile baked in Mikeys pizza oven the other night was a very delicious seafood and I am not shy of cooking up in the wok a pile of locally caught “bugs.” (Thenus orientalis)
My exhibition here in Cairns consists of earlier paintings created elsewhere and two new pieces from Cairns. Aerial Root and the Mangal series. The new work is spawned from the sticky, muddy mangrove zones nearby and the thousands of swinging aerial roots dangling from great heights in the botanical gardens. Carolina also shows some older photographic work mixed with new Cairns images.
Hobart is “a different kettle of fish” as they say. A city I have known for many years on and off and one that I do like. At the Carnegie Gallery I presented An Awfully Beautiful Place. Curated by Fernando Do Campo this is a mixture of my Antarctic work from the past 9 trips over the past 10 years. After the hanging, a large opening, a few drinks, seeing old friends, a visit to the excellent MONA gallery and an artist talk it was time to see some Tassie wilderness.
On to Melbourne to my Weed Garden. This exhibition of work produced in Argentina forms my 19th solo show in my hometown of Melbourne. A big night was kicked off when Michael Wardell kindly opened this double function of art show and the launching of my travelogue book UNSTILL LIFE at Block Projects. (www.blockprojects.com)
I scuttled about the gallery trying to catch up with an array of people not seen for a while as I was simultaneously calculating, planning and praying to all the gods that I am able to get to Broome, Plymouth then to Beijing for a number of projects and back to Argentina by the start of this December. It can be done somehow I presume just not sure how at the moment......
A few storms tumbled down from the mountains, art was made, the grapes grew, work was performed, bbqs cooked, book work was done, wine drinking, more art, preparations for studios and shows elsewhere, another glass of wine and that was March all done and dusted. A few other things were contemplated during that month but they were all blown away with the local ‘Zonda’ winds. I flew back to Australia in mid April with a long list of things to do. My travelogue book is complete but the travels do not cease. Once again I flew over the Andes then across the Pacific Ocean. I looked out the window to see a glimpse of the Antarctic coast and I wondered if I would ever return to the Ice.
Melbourne was mad and good then quite suddenly I was in New York. A city where you can get anything you want which makes it sound like paradise but it is far from that place and a great deal more noisy but there is certainly plenty to like about this city.
It is probably possible to walk into a Vietnamese Buddhist kosher restaurant run by Ukrainians who breed chihuahuas, speak Spanish and have cousins in New Zealand. The entire city of NYC seems to be a massive experiment in cosmopolitan capitalism. For many decades this city has been a masala of business, stress and non-stop energy fuelled by a whole lot of money. Strong and seductive dreams can be found in the minds of many who live on this small island as they scurry about working and playing. In each square kilometer you will find 27,000 people somehow all living together. Quite amazing really!
Squirrels flittered about in the park where people twittered, texted and tickled one another from afar. I saw many Mexicans making sure the city worked well and high above in the penthouses multi-national 'Suits' worked in a very different manner for a very different wage.
I saw the famous space shuttle vehicle after its retirement party and I ate alot of blueberries with the hope of soaking up all the beer and sake I drank in the east Village. I saw old friends met some new ones and saw my sister perform off Broadway in a play called An early history of fire. Claire did and excellent job on stage!
I was soaked in jetlag, traffic and culture for 5 days as I attempted to make this short trip a holiday and I guess that I did manage to do that somehow.
After these frantic few days of New York New York I was back over the Pacific to Melbourne then after another flight I was in far north Queensland where things were a lot more pacified.
Xmas, New Years and summer all seemed rolled into one on the grape ranch. A few BBQs, a few bottles of malbec wine, a few visitors, Mexican lucha libre masks, the unstoppable Senor Coyote, some dancing, special cocktails were slurped along with the usual mixture of order and chaos all combined to consume the festive season.
This summer we lost two dogs Negro and Raphael Ricardo. Our sweet black dog was poisoned for some mysterious reason and the randy Raphael probably lost his life chasing females on heat. Sadly no more bones or foot massages for Negro and no more friendly bitches or armadillo hunting for Raphael.
In early January I was in the studio working on a group of both large and small mixed media paintings. I have also been extremely busy fine-tuning my travel book, to be completed this June.
A number of shows are planned in Australia over 2012 so it will be another rather mad year I fear. Roughly my calendar goes like this -
CAIRNS. 25th MAY
Carolina and I jump across the Pacific Ocean to plant ourselves at the TANKS ART CENTRE. This project in Northern Queensland will see us working independently on painting and photographic work in the Cairns Botanical gardens. We shall also be exhibiting separate bodies of work at TANKS.
HOBART. 7th JUNE
AN AWFULLY BEAUTIFUL PLACE- The Antarctic Art of Stephen Eastaugh will open at CARNEGIE gallery in Hobart. This small retrospective curated by Fernando Do Campo puts together a selection of my Antarctic works created over the past ten years.
MELBOURNE. 30th JUNE
THE WEED GARDEN opens at BLOCK PROJECTS. A solo show and my first at this gallery in Melbourne.
MELBOURNE. 30TH JUNE
AN UNSTILL-LIFE My travailogue/travelogue book that has been bubbling for three decades was put together over the winter of 2009 at Mawson station. I will finally launch this geographically promiscuous full color book in Melbourne.
My studio in Broome WA beckons me and with luck I shall return there in late July. My last productive stint there was back in September 2010. “Time flies” they say and then I plan to fly to China.
BEIJING. CHINA. OCTOBER –NOVEMBER
Over the months of October and November 2012 I shall relocate to Beijing where I have been granted a 24 HR-ART studio. Generous funding from Asialink means I am able to get to District 798 and be there for eight weeks in Huantei Art City. Working on new art, researching forms of Chinese landscape and devouring plenty of dumplings will certainly keep me very busy.
Now where am I? Once again back in Argentina after a sorrowful trip to Australia.
Gordon John Eastaugh. 15/6/1927 – 17/1/2012