Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Shanghai Trip!

During the summer of 2010 I was contacted by Liverpool Vision, they really liked the mosaic sculpture that I had made. It was commissioned by Liverpool City council and Wild in Art. It is a large exterior mosaic sculpture, based on the theme of the architecture, and is the shape of the Lambanana. They decided to take it to China, to be displayed at the Liverpool Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai. The Expo runs from May to the end of October. The photo below shows it before it was shipped off to the other side of the world.

The design of the Lambanana was inspired by themes of Liverpool architecture. I tried to incorporate lots of architectural detail, rather than well know building shapes. The mosaic artwork after having its place as a 'cultural artifact' in the pavilion's display, will then make it's journey back to Liverpool, to join a 'flock' of 8 specially commissioned lambananas that will be on permanent display outside of Lime street station.

I was very lucky, and was accepted onto a Market visit business trip (for my business Debbie Ryan Mosaics) to Shanghai, with UK Trade & Investment The UKTI is a government organisation that supports companies in the UK, doing business internationally, and overseas enterprises seeking to set up or expand in the UK. It's role is to help companies realise their international business potential, through knowledge transfer, and on-going partnership support.

During my trip I looked at developing commercial opportunities for my artistic practise, with interest towards generating artwork commissions for my mosaics. Also, I was able to research galleries in a well known area in Shanghai, which is a growing arts district called 50 Moganshan Road, or M50.

During my visit, I researched the possibility of developing a cultural exchange project with Artists and galleries from Liverpool and Shanghai, after all, the cities are twinned. Watch this place for the future outcomes. The blog here is to show afew snippets of my visit.

After the rush of getting things together, I managed to get some business cards made. It was really interesting seeing how your name and wording was translated. The pre-visit briefing for the trip by UKTI was really helpful giving lots of useful guides and tips on cultural variation for business etiquette etc for the visit.

The flight was around 8-10 hours long, I arrived in Pudong Airport around 8am (12 at night on my body clock) I decided to take the Maglev train from the airport into the city. Here's a piccy of the speed it goes at. Its only around 10 minutes the journey, but it certainly reaches some impressive speeds!

Some impressive architecture that was near where I was staying. The first day was the hardest adjusting to the time difference. As I didn't get to sleep on the flight on the way over (was too excited!) I made myself stay awake and took a wander, taking in all the sights through sleepy eyes, staying out till my well earned early night at 9pm.

Refreshed, the next morning this is one of the sights encountered on a ferry trip to the Expo. Shanghai reminded me of my hometown Liverpool to some degree, the trip along the Pudong river was beautiful. New towers alongside traditional riverboats.

After the lovely ferry trip to the Expo site, I found the Liverpool Pavilion. The UBP pavilion building (pictured above) housed it. This was the Urban best practise area, on the Pudong side. Liverpool shared the space alongside cities such as Venice. It was really interesting to see how cities presented their displays. Really impressive was a video at Montreal's space, I can only describe it as a cinematic cubed mountain scape that fluctuated shape with the film.

It was fantastic seeing the Liverpool Pavilion, and made me feel quite proud. The intro film was really fun, with a really funny scouse presenter fluent in mandarin! The 3D film was really impressive, and made me quite homesick, only afew days into my trip.I had gone on my own, and hadn't met up with the UKTI group before then. I vowed when I go back I will certainly learn more than 5 mandarin words!

I was really happy when I attended the UKTI event hosted at the Liverpool pavilion in the evening, to be in a room of people I could chat to, and be understood. Its something you often take for granted. I'd been really looking forward to seeing my Lambanana sculpture at the Liverpool Pavilion, alas though, the Liverpool Vision team told me it would be alittle while. Unfortunately, there had been a hold up, and customs had decided to retain the Lambanana for further inspection, I suppose they do look alittle odd! So, my plans had changed, I had plenty to see, and lots of galleries were to be visited whilst I waited for customs to release the lambanana.

Highlights of the city were many, some of my favourites: Shanghai Museum, Ju Juan Garden, Shanghai Art Museum - there was a fantastic photography exhibition of a place called Changshu (I hope to get there another time, along with the beautiful landscapes of Guilin in southern China).

Getting around the city was quite different to Liverpool, from day one the differences are quite apparent. Queueing up for the ticket machine you need to be quick, a blink of an eye, and someones jumped in front, people are eager to get to places, a faster pace of living, if youre in the way, there may be pushing & elbows. Crossing green pedestrian lights? Green means go right? Yes, and so do the drivers, its quite surreal, seeing cars drive straight though the crossings. I think Darwin would approve, survival of the fittest and all that. After a day, you get used to it, and almost enjoy the newer faster pace.

Heres a lovely scene of the Pudong skyline seen from the bund at night, rather amazing to think how new it is! 

World Expo

As the lambanana was still not on site, I went on a visit around the Expo with some of the North west UKTI International Trade team (Clive, Philomena and Jessica) along with the other visiting companies on the market visit. The day was  fantastic, we were taken on a VIP tour around the UK Pavilion, and met with the team based there. I really was impressed with the UK pavilion, and liked the concept surrounding the piece.

The pavilion was presented like a gift, the space around it being like wrapping paper, the space around the piece, also acted like a park, once people got in, it was nice to sit, reflect, and take in the surroundings. So in a way, the idea of a space or park was the gift, to the people of the Expo. The piece itself, had thousands of perspex poles, it had an interior too....

There were thousands of these rods encaptulated inside, they were collected from Kew gardens collection, and represent all the species of plants around the world. The space was also rather dark and cool, a complete contrast to the bright heat outside.

We visited a variety of other pavilions each so unique, and on the recommendation of Jessica we all tried a traditional chinese hotpot for lunch. This was a new experience for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It involves getting an assortment of ingredients, and placing them in a metal cooking pot, with a boiling broth in it. Cooking lots of different things through the meal. Fantastic, I am certainly going to seek out the method in the north west.

Some of my favourite pavilions:

The Chile pavilion - fantastic architectual wood installations and carvings, nice malbec too!

The Nepal (beautiful woodcarving & metalwork - quite spiritual) and the Indian pavilion (wonderful spiral copperworked dome incorporating blooms of flowers)- go google them! Heres a photo from the Indian pavilion looking at the queue - this is a reoccuring theme at the Expo, well there is lots to see, with lots of people wanting to see it. This was something I admired during the visit, how the chinese people were eager, and open (without preconceptions) to learn about other cultures, and countries.

A small section of the interior display of the German pavilion - imagine a swinging mirrorball, with each mirrortile a digital screen! Visual technology of a futuristic kind was another reoccuring theme of the expo!

New Zealand Pavilion - had to my fav, lots of grass and wood carvings!

Saving the best till last, the China Pavilion - really cant explain how big this was..

Took some time off visiting the wonderful sights of the Expo and galleries, and took a day trip to Hangzhou. Was quite a drizzely day, was good nevertheless! Heres a photo of a boat trip I took to a nearby island.

After being in Shanghai for quite afew days, I visited one of my favourite places of the trip, this was Yu Yuan Garden, this was a display of contrasts, busy bustling streets, with lots of souvenir shops outside. And further into the temple was this quiet, landscaped setting that was so tranquill, I felt I was in another world, or had travelling back in time. The landscaping of the place, and the arrangement of buildings felt perfect, it felt as if every thing was in its ideal location in correlation with everything that surrounded it. There was a real sense of balance and harmony in the place.

After several days, with no lambanana release, and most of my research and meetings done.  I decided to book an overnight train to Beijing (cant recommend enough booking days in advance, and get your hostel/hotel to place the booking). It had always been a dream of mine to see the Great wall of China, and it was looking like real possibility.

Yes, a rather geeky photo of a train interior, and what of it, hee hee.  These are the soft sleeper train options, well good during a 12 hour overnight journey. Incidentally, on the way back the only option they had left was a standing ticket, so I paid the extra and took an evening  flight back to Shanghai, as I said, book in advance.


A fantastic contrast to the city life of Shanghai, the area I chose to stay in felt quite historical, and even on the train over I noticed a slower more relaxed pace. I had 2 days here, I got to visit quite afew sites, and  I booked my trip to the great wall, for the following day, heres some wanderings. 

The Forbidden city seen from Jingshan park, alittle hazy that day! The site was pretty epic in scale, and the Grand palace interesting, I tried to imagine how it used to look, it housed many emperors during its time.

Walked through the Temple of Heaven park, this seemed a vast ground, with familiarity to a British park.

Where else to try Peking duck, than in Beijing? It was an interesting task filling pancakes with chopsticks. The parcels at the top were a dish I absolutely loved! Dumplngs with pork mince and green onions, they are steamed, and pan fried on one side. Yummy!

This was the garden, that my room opened out to, a small but great hostel, good location right near the forbidden city, and the staff were so helpful! It was called Peking Youth Hostel. From here I did a trip to the wall, 5:30 am pickup by minibus!

View of the wall from the minibus. 

The 8km walk we did was Jinshanling to Simatai. It is called quite an "authentic" wall experience, with less touristy aspects, any experience with the Wall is authentic, but the views were breathtaking and the hike quite invigorating.

Didnt take many pics of myself during the trip, but here I am halfway through the hike.

The vast panaramic views were quite amazing, it is bizarre to see moutain ranges in the far distance, and realise you pass over them, as you walk your route along the wall. I couldnt believe it when I was told it was over 1000 miles, I have since found out it may be alot longer!

Last one of the wall! This photo gives you an idea of the steepness of the route. It was amazing to realise I had been lucky to walk along a man made structure seen from space. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip, and its memory will certainly linger for decades to come.

Back in Shanghai

After the great time in Beijing, I had a day left in Shanghai before my trip would come to a close, and I would have to head back to the UK (With BA strikes and Volcano ash at the forefront of my mind). I was so happy on the morning of my last day, when I received a  phonecall from the team at Liverpool Vision... the Lambanana had landed...it was in the building... so off I went to the Expo.To be reunited with  my mosaic sculpture that had begun this little adventure of mine.

Here it was infront of the skyline of Liverpool. The sculpture is quite popular with visitors, and alot of them get their photograph took with it. The mirrored circular design is from a window in Bluecoat the other circular panel is a pattern taken from a section of St. Georges hall's tiled floor. The stripey front leg, from the coloured pipes in Liverpool One. The top of the tail is a mosaic picture of the Albert Dock. The back leg is a basic interpretation of the glass stairwell at 16 Cook st. The front part is taken from a carving at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

Heres the other side to the lambanana, the back leg takes colouring  from the stained glass window in the Metropolitan cathedral. The front leg a pillar from St. Georges hall, with the Chinese archway from Liverpool's chinatown above it. The brickwork effect, and window on the back is taken from a picture of St. Lukes church. The tip of the tail has a feature of Lime street and St. Johns Tower on it, and the pattern on the back is a simplified version of art deco detail from the ventilation shaft facing the River Mersey.

Here I am rather happily posing with my lambanana mosaic sculpture! It has since been renamed several names by the visitors, in translation, it is often called bananansheep, its new name most popular is Archie : )

Thanks for reading this far and staying awake!

For more info on what I'm upto go to: www.debbieryan.co.uk

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Cheers, Debbie Ryan