For this section of my online platform - I decided to collaborate with Yanan Hu, also known as Nancy, and the name I know her by. Nancy is my Chinese classmate at UAL Camberwell. We are both currently studying for our MA in painting. Nancy and I are similar in the way that we both use our art as self-therapy to work through our troubled childhood memories, but I didn't know that until we became better friends. In fact, it wasn't until a mutually respected tutor of ours suggested Nancy talk to me about the similarities between our work that we decided to take on this collaboration. However, Nancy and I were already friends before this project began, and we already had a shared appreciation for each other's work.
We were in the same painting group at the university, and allotted the same studio time. In the studio, we noticed each others paintings, and a friendship began. We began to discuss our ideas and exchanged feedback on each other's work, but a language barrier made it difficult at times. Nancy's English is limited and I speak no Chinese. She gave me some very helpful suggestions while I was working on my painting, "Bear King." I had always liked Nancy's paintings. I saw something honest in them, something real. They were cartoonish and even childlike, similar qualities I saw in my own work. I felt an instant connection with Nancy and her paintings. Like me, she faces her fears and works out her traumas through her art. I felt we were on a very similar journey of self-discovery and healing.
After the Christmas break - I decided to leave the studio at the university, and I secured my own studio in London Fields, Hackney, where I am today. I thought our time together was over, like a lot of the students at the university. I just thought I wouldn't see them again, because I was not going to the university anymore and classes were online, but Nancy found me on Instagram. Through Instagram our friendship and working relationship developed. We continued to give each other feedback by sending each other images of our current work. We did this through messenger on Instagram. We continued what we started at the university. However, we discovered on Instagram that we could actually communicate better. Nancy has a language translation app on her phone that allows us to understand each other much better than we could in person. This app has been a great help. We can talk freely about our work and the language barrier is not an issue.
I did suggest to Nancy, maybe recording a Teams meeting to further document the creative process, but she was uncomfortable with that idea. She felt her English was not strong enough for a video. I respected her decision. We believe we can communicate successfully enough through Instagram, so I will do my best to put in writing what is missed in video.
After agreeing to do the collaboration, Nancy and I met in the studio at the university. We already knew we had a similar way of thinking, so there was no real issues starting the collaboration. We felt comfortable with the idea of working together, and we were curious to what we would create. When I got to the university, Nancy still had the same workspace in the studio. She provided the paints and the canvas -all I brought was myself, and two green teas, one for me and one for Nancy. She asked me to begin. I had no problem starting, knowing I work fast and spontaneous. I went right for it, without thinking. I started painting three small canvases, the beginnings of our collaboration. As I was painting, Nancy waited patiently, working on her own work, and when she was ready, and I was finished, she began to methodically paint over what I had started. I noticed she painted much slower than me, and thought much more about what she painted. I gave her space to think and paint. I was finished with my part of the collaborative, laying down the bones of the painting. I felt I had done my part, we went to lunch, and when we came back - I knew I had to give Nancy the time and space to continue the collaboration. She had decided to continue and finish one of the paintings I started that day. She took it home and continued to work on it there, uninterrupted.
The collaborative painting is displayed at the top of this section. I was only really involved in the first stage, a little in the second, and none in the final stage. I am happy the way the collaboration turned out. The painting has the qualities that I was drawn to in the first place. There is an honesty in it, a determination to heal and find happiness. Although the painting is cartoon-like, the dark undertones are still there, but we are acknowledging them, and we are no longer afraid of our past. The volcano is flowing, and things are moving, and although there are bars on the entrance to the cave, we are still open, and the sky is blue. There are pine trees to protect us as we rest, heal, and grow strong. We are facing our fears, confronting our troubled childhood memories, and working through them. We are creating a new beginning.
Nancy and I would like to organise an exhibition in the coming months. We would approach individual galleries or rent a space and throw it ourselves.
Nancy plans to return to China this September, after graduation, so it doesn't look like there will be a collaborative show between us, unless it's in China, and that would be quite challenging. Perhaps she will return to London one day, and we could organise a collaborative exhibition, because I feel it could be very interesting..