There is nothing in this world like a full night's rest. Last night was my best slumber in the recent past. In the morning I woke up with a start at the familiar screeching of my alarm. Once silenced, the alarm was immediately replaced with the singsong of the birds who I'm convinced have formed a small zoo outside the corner of my room. I welcomed their melody (and sometimes dissonance) over the early morning sirens and horns of London.
After tearing myself away from bed I was instantly excited by the thought of today's adventures: Painting, 798 Art District and a trip to the Silk Market for "research." I quickly dressed, made a bowl of porridge (some things never change) and studied the map to find my destinations. Laetitia came into my studio to ask how I got on the night before and if I'd slept well. I briefly recapped the previous evenings events which impressed her that I didn't go to sleep as soon as possible. I then told her about the day's agenda, which she smiled at knowing I was being a bit ambitious (again things never change) and suggested that I do one or the other. I chose the "research" that happens to take place at one of the world's largest markets :)
She grabbed a few reference books to show me which trains to catch. Truthfully, after taking the trains last night with Ian and travelling on the tube daily in London, I figured Beijing's subway couldn't be that difficult to navigate. Especially since all of the signs are written in both Mandarin and Pinying (the phonetical spelling of Mandarin words using the Latin alphabet).
After a bit I was out the door and immediately stopped by the heat. It felt a bit difficult to breathe. Once a few minutes passed my Alabama heritage kicked in and my lungs adjusted. In an attempt to adapt to my surroundings as quickly as possible I pulled out my umbrella (like the locals) as I walked down the street to fend off the abusive sun. I probably just looked ridiculous.
The gallery is only 10 minutes away from the subway which passed quickly. After the 30 minute commute on the train to Yong' anli subway stop I entered into the Silk Market. What a market.
I love markets, I love everything about them. The items, the people watching, the bartering the smells of food, dust and something questionable. I thrive in the hustle and bustle and the more claustrophobic the better. Three weeks ago I returned to Istanbul with three close friends. Their requests: Cultural tours, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque. My request, the Grand Bazaar- I could be lost in the maze of markets for hours and be perfectly content.
But this market, the Silk Market, was one of the 21st century: six stories of air conditioned, fluorescent lit stores rather than stalls- stores without listed prices. I let myself get lost for a few hours until I ran out of RMB (gifts for other people of course).
On the way back to the gallery I watched this boy who was maybe in his late-teens, sitting on the train. There was nothing particularly striking about him other than his easy demeanor. I wondered about his story, his family, where he was going/ where is he returning from. Though I knew none of these facts or pieces of his life for some reason I was desperate to study him. I was desperate to memorize the subtleties of his features to capture that ease of his eyes and to recreate them on canvas. As soon as I returned to my studio I began working on the piece below.