3 birds 三只鸟
50cms (W) x 60cms (H)
Oil on Panel
I was asked at a recent exhibition whether I saw myself as moving away from doing more 'realism' to more abstract as that is what a lot of artists tend to do as they mature. Now I know that there are day old suckling goats that are more mature than I, but I thought that it was a reasonably interesting answer when I replied that I was actually interested in doing something similar to photography for a while. Not photo-realism (where the effort is in making something almost unmistakeable for a photograph) but the act in photography of capturing a moment. I live in the middle of a fast moving, cosmopolitan city that is changing all the time. Old, double storey neighborhoods are routinely closed down and replaced by new (usually tall) buildings as the city modernises. While undoubtedly there are lots of benefits to this change, there are a few things that are lost and I wanted to capture in a series of pictures like this one, which is a composite of things i've seen as I walk around the city peering into the alleyways (lanes) that shoot off the main roads.
The first was a sense of intimacy. It's very common to see people drying clothes outside, brushing teeth in the street, even very occasionally showering. Some people wash dishes, food and clothes outside, even bringing little stoves or chairs and tables to eat. Many people bring seats outside and just chat or exercise outside. The three women here are just doing normal stuff in the middle of their lives. A quick conversation in passing, washing. Nothing fake or glamorous about it at all. I wanted to continue a theme of not painting the more familiar aspects of shanghai.
The second was a sense of clutter, claustrophobia or disorientation. When you catch a glimpse down one of these streets, where there might be hundreds of people living in the community, you can often see a mass of bicycles, buckets, chairs, plants littered down the path, while above you and on the walls are wires, pipes, clothes, birdcages, makeshift sinks, bamboo scaffolding etc. as decades of close community living has shaped the space.
At some point places like this won't exist any more and while i have hundreds of photos of these little nooks of Shanghai, I thought that painting form would give me a chance to capture it in a different way.
As an aside, i completed most of this while in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in early 2020. I ran a simple online poll among my social media friends asking if they'd want to see the people wearing masks or not as a tribute to the time we were going through. The overwhelming majority said that they preferred to think of a time when we did not need to routinely wear masks. So, I went with the popular vote and kept it without COVID-19 precautions.