In 2011, we decided to brave the May Day Holiday crowds that would descend upon Beijing, my old stomping ground in the 90s, just to feel for ourselves, first hand, what it would be like to be two of millions of sightseers in the city on a public holiday.
And NO, we never dared to ‘join the crowd’ – anywhere in China – on public holidays. So this was a first for us.
As it had been a decade since our last leisurely visit to the city, we were in search of walks down memory lane while embracing the new. Needless to say, we enjoyed the trip, visiting with good friends. Thereafter, I summed up my mixed emotions in the best way I know how – with my art.
Right in the midst of the kaleidoscope of colours, patterns and textures, is a sketch of a girl in a Chinese outfit, looking serene in sepia tones with golden hues. It was done in a moment of distraction (during a meeting, when inspiration struck), in the mid-90s in Beijing.
Surrounding her are contrasting details from the 2011 visit. While some hark back to traditional forms, the bright colours and ultra modernistic font of ‘Bei’ in ‘Beijing’ that I found in Sanlitun serve as the stark contrast in my search for what used to be.
An area that we used to hang out at on the weekends, people watching while sipping large, comforting cups of cappuccino, Sanlitun was the closest thing to the ‘sidewalk cafes of Paris’ back then. Many a fun and heart-warming tale can be retold from those early days. Now, it has caught up with the rapid modernization in the capital and while it may still appeal to some, I could not find its soul anymore.
The title in dark red represents all things Chinese, intentionally done in bold and large oriental-type font to hone in on the character of the Middle Kingdom. After pounding the pavements for a few days during the visit, it seemed only apt to allow a faint hint of the paved walkways in the main colours of the sidewalks to show through the grey background.
Beijing Revisited is about a girl, filled with fond memories of the 90s, in search of the old Beijing she used to know….only to be confronted with remnants of the past and the modernisation of today.
Till the next archival find…..