|Christina Hau (second from left) with Andre Cardinali (first from left), global ambassador of the Saint-Germaindes-Pres. [China Daily]|
At the end of May in Paris, the sun was fierce and dazzling. A "bamboo scaffold" stood in front of the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Cathedral, causing passers-by to stop and take a look. The Place Furstenberg (also known as "Valentine's Square"), which is a few steps away, is also different from usual. A street lamp was surrounded by a semi-translucent tile wall.
The two artworks — which feature elements inspired by Chengdu and oriental charm — have been created and presented by Zhao Mi and Chen Weicai, two leading artists from Sichuan province. Their goal of this trip was to participate in the 18th Parcours Saint-Germain in the heart of the city's Rive Gauche — or Left Bank - and help open a dialogue between the world and the motifs of traditional Chinese culture.
The story behind this cooperation derives from an international friendly cooperative relationship established between Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS) and Saint-Germain-des-Pres Committee. On the first anniversary of the formation of this partnership, they invited Sichuan artists to debut their art installations featuring traditional Chinese artistic elements at Parcours Saint-Germain.
Artist Zhao chose bamboo as the raw material for his installation.
"It may look like scaffolding from distance, but it is actually a waterfall built using the most representative element of Chengdu, the bamboo. We brought 700 bamboo poles from China," Zhao explains. The entire installation was set up after they arrived in Paris, he added.
Zhao's piece is called Grand Waterfall. In addition to the 700 bamboo poles, a curtain, and flowing water, the piece brings to life a striking traditional Chinese freestyle landscape painting right in front of the centuries-old Saint-Germain-des-Pres Cathedral. With his installation, Zhao Mi showcases the inclusiveness and evolution of Chengdu city by creating harmony between a western style and a traditional oriental culture.
Chen Weicai, another artist from Sichuan, built his work Palace using Chinese gray tile. Inspired by the architecture of the ancient town of Luodai in Chengdu, Chen creates a semi-private space fitting the context and layout of Place Furstenberg, Saint-Germain-des-Pres. It's a unique beauty crafted by letting the curved structure be surrounded by the trees around the plaza.
"The gray tiles are building materials that are unique to China. Therefore, when the installation is built in the Western architectural complex, it can create a sense of conflict," Chen explains, "in the meantime, the semi-transparency blends in with the surroundings."
Founded in 2000, Parcours Saint-Germain is an annual art event bringing contemporary art installations to a neighborhood of cultural heritage and modern charm, aiming to inspire thought and strengthen the relationship between the public and art. Under the theme "The Art of Shape", this year's event ran for 10 days and featured more than 30 artists from all over the world.
Red Panda, a sculpture created by renowned French contemporary artist Richard Orlinski, was also on display at Place Saint-Sulpice. Made of red resin, the sculpture stands three meters tall, stretches two-and-a-half meters wide, and weighs 200 kilograms, expressing the broad power and serene calmness of the panda. Specially made for Operation Panda last Christmas, and commissioned by Chengdu IFS, the popular installation symbolizes the friendship and values of this international partnership.
The Parcours Saint-Germain completely exposes the artwork to the public areas of the city. Anne-Dierre d'Albis, the founder of Parcours Saint-Germain says: "Our festival is aimed at the public rather than a certain class." The exhibits are distributed along the Parcours and in various corners of the street, including brand stores, plazas and restaurants. Sometimes, they even appear in mid-air. This spirit of inadvertent beauty is also a lifestyle encouraged by the Left Bank of Paris.
The French have been used to art installations on the streets everywhere, "but the small square in front of the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Cathedral was approved for the first time in 18 years to showcase art installations. It is an opportunity for us," says Christina Hau, general manager of operations, Wharf China Estates Limited. "Our purpose is simple," she says, "it is to promote the internationalization of Chengdu."
"Another reason why we insist on doing so, is that the current status of China's development is unique," she continues.
"Over the years, along with the booming second-tier cities, many newly-launched commercial real estate entities that are related to the new image of the city have become a priority for the government. This means that Chengdu does not really want to copy the Left Bank in Paris, but it does want greater international exposure. In order to achieve this goal, cultural exchange is an effective method," she says.
Zhao Mi does not oppose to commercial involvement. "Now Chinese artists are experiencing the initial stage of commercialization, while the government has also started to promote a large number of cultural and creative industries," he notes, "it shows that the space for the growth of artists and art institutions is getting bigger."
While building the art installation on the square, most of the people passing by, who were curious enough to ask him were mostly French. "There are a lot of Chinese in the area, but I have found that they barely lifted their heads. They all went straight to Louis Vuitton. This is not a criticism, it takes time," he laments. "It may not be this generation though."
The integration of art is an emerging business. Today's urban development has entered the age of urban aesthetics. However, at present, "Chinese people's sensitivity to art has not yet reached that level," Christina Hau adds, noting that this road still has a long way to go.
That journey will begin in earnest in September this year, when Chengdu IFS will host Parcours Chengdu, introducing the concept and spirit of Parcours Saint-Germain to the people of China. Following their maiden voyage to Paris, both Zhao Mi and Chen Weicai are pragmatic but hopeful, concluding: "the seed has been planted, but it takes time to bear fruit."
|Red Panda by Richard Orlinski [China Daily]|
(Source: China Daily)