The city as muse

By Hu Bei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-19 17:48:01

Juan Antonio Baños' portrait of Qi Baishi. Photos: Courtesy of Miguel de Cervantes Library

Juan Antonio Baños' portrait of Qi Baishi. Photos: Courtesy of Miguel de Cervantes Library

Contemporary Spanish artist Juan Antonio Baños has been living in Shanghai for the past three years. He told the Global Times that his favorite activity is to go for a walk along the Bund every night after dinner.

"I was addicted to those neon lamps beaconed above the Huangpu River all night long," he said. "From a distance, they all become numerous round luminous points in my eyes, distributing energy constantly. They not only illuminate the past of the city, but also light up the future."

Baños' latest paintings are included in a group exhibition of contemporary Latin artists being held in the first floor exhibition hall at the Miguel de Cervantes Library at the Spanish Consulate on Anfu Road.

With this series entitled The Light Being, Baños takes traditional Chinese imagery and embellishes it with neon flashes of pop art.

For example, onto a portrait of Qi Baishi, the great master of traditional Chinese painting, Baños has added two rough lines protruding from Qi's beard. The lines are capped with round luminous points which look like two light bulbs.

"I know the status of Qi in China is just like Picasso in my country," Baños said, "and I believe that his energy and influence should be infinite and sustainable, not only in the past, but also at the time we are in and the future. So I added neon lamps to his portrait, which as I mentioned, are a symbol of energy."

Baños told us that another inspiration he drew from walking along the Bund is the striking contrast between the buildings on the two sides of the Huangpu River. "One side is the row of international architecture built in old Shanghai, and the other side is groups of contemporary buildings in modern Shanghai. When you are standing in the middle, you can strongly feel the sense of history and time travel."

"In my works, there is always the combination of past and present, having the expressions of both tradition and avant-garde, both realistic and abstract," Baños said.

Also on display at the Miguel de Cervantes Library are works by Chilean artist María Paz Contreras. Born in Santiago, she has been living and studying abstract painting in New York since 2006.

A subway-inspired painting by Chilean artist María Paz Contreras

A subway-inspired painting by Chilean artist María Paz Contreras

The paintings are a series of works that Contreras created based on her daily observations of the walls in New York's subway.

"Probably no one cares about the walls outside the carriage, even though they look at them every day when they take the subway," Contreras said. "However, probably because of my identity as an artist, when I paid attention to them one day, I believed I had made a fabulous discovery. Because having been mottled by damp and crumbling with age, those walls demonstrate various colors with free but very sublime combinations, which are just like abstract paintings."

When this series of works was exhibited in New York, Contreras told us that it was inconceivable for the local visitors to imagine that her inspiration came from the metro they take every day.

Magdalena Rosell, the culture manager of the Miguel de Cervantes Library in Shanghai and the curator of the exhibition said, "In Contreras' eyes, the underground world of the subway in New York is just like a huge dome, which covers a faithful reflection of the city, a deep and very unique metaphor about people who are living in the city."

Date: Until December 31, 10 am to 7 pm

Venue: Miguel de Cervantes Library


Address: 198-208 Anfu Road


Admission: Free

Call 5467-0098 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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