The earliest example of woodblock printing on paper appeared in China in the mid seventh century. These pictures in my ‘China in the Abstract’ series are simply an extension of that invention but using modern techniques. The photographs in this collection are my own interpretation of China’s architecture, peoples and culture. China is home to fifty six ethnic groups each with their own language and customs and this project is my first attempt in what I hope is an on going relationship with the country, its cultures and beliefs.
I have been a commercial photographer in the United Kingdom for forty years, working on many commercial and corporate projects for a variety of clients. I have a studio in Manchester which has also become a home at times and place to experiment and create. ‘China in the Abstract’ is a personal project that seeks to create beautiful and inspiring images but also to search for a deeper meaning to existence and mans integral part in nature. The pictures try to look outside of the world and see things in a different way. This is my personal journey of discovery into both art and life.
The first image I created was The Dragon: a legendary creature from Chinese folklore. The original images I took were vibrant colourful abstracts but offered the viewer very little in the way of a story, they were just nice images and no more. As I began to edit them and move them around changing their relationship to each other I saw the dragon appearing from beyond my computer screen with all it’s potent and auspicious powers. It changed the picture into something much more dynamic and interesting and much more about my real thoughts on China although, inevitably, from my very limited western perspective. The dragon picture gave me direction to the project and a basis to further explore my images.
As I produced more work for the project, I could see another world appearing creating both war and paradise and inhabited by my idea of the immortals. The world struggling between opposing forces, embracing both Yin and Yang. Opposites produce and compliment each other and the pictures seemed to capture that point in time in a frozen moment when you could see the dynamic interplay of opposites. The work is on going and will develop and change as time and life move forward,I hope this work called ‘China in the Abstract’ does justice to the country of China and brings its own reward and inspiration to people who view it.
Early in my life, I became fascinated by a Chinese carved screen that my grandparents owned. The screen had different stories on its four upright panels, each portrayed through intricate and exquisite carvings. It began my interest in China and Chinese art. The screen has followed me throughout my life. Both in good times and in bad it has always given me great pleasure, both in its craftsmanship and it’s stories of an ancient and immortal world.
As I progressed with the work, I saw many things within the pictures that flowed from that underlying force of nature that I so desperately wanted to capture as part of the project. Being at the pivotal point between two opposing images created a unity that seemed to bring peace and tranquility to some of the pictures, whereas others were more stark and dangerous in their representations. The idea came to mind that as you follow your nature you produce consequences both good and bad but both should be accepted as part of the bigger picture.
The four images accompanying each picture are also my own work, taken along my journey across China, they have given me the ideas and inspiration for ‘China in the Abstract’. What started as a photographic record of my journey slowly changed, developing as I studied the pictures and saw new ways of looking at them. I wanted to produce something that had artistic merit but also conveyed the idea of a journey of discovery both from my own personal point of view and that of my journey across China.
I have struggled with the images for ‘China in the Abstract’ and at times left them alone to lie dormant for a while. Often you know the kind of picture you want to create but you can’t find a way to achieve it. Some images can suddenly appear as if from nowhere and often with very little effort, whereas others can be laboured and time consuming and never really hit the mark. I have come back to particular images time and time again, constantly adapting and changing them before I felt they had developed, maturing into something more creative, spiritual and inspirational. Often a face appeared from within the bark of a tree or on a wall that seemed to speak out and provide life to the image.
Perhaps I had the idea that being open to the world and particularly my journey across China would produce something that would be different and unique from my previous style of photography. My style is quite simple, precise and colourful on the one hand but can venture into the obscure, violent and dark on the other side. Often we approach our lives with an expectation that things have to behave in a certain way or we will have difficulty relating to them. I hope I saw China as the uncarved block, a blank canvas that was open to my own thoughts and interpretation. I have tried to see things in a different way that is not necessarily correct.