Today was probably one of the most productive days so far. To maximize my time here I've decided to continue with my strategy of splitting the day between art and site seeing. Today was no exception. It began early with a 7:30 wake up to leave the studio at 8 to head to the Great Wall of China. Daisy organized transportation with the one of the Red Gate Gallery's staff to drive us. The area of the wall we went to was apparently one of the quietest which excited all of us. As we drove through the countryside it surprised me how Mediterranean the landscape appeared and how clear the skies were. It reminded me of the Italian countryside with quaint houses tucked away from the road and beautiful trees everywhere. It's easy to see how this landscape has inspired Chinese artists for thousands of years. We arrived to the section of the wall we'd tour an hour and a half after departure. Mr. Zheng, our driver, told us to meet him after 2 hours. I naively thought that was too little time but he knew better. We skirted around a confused looking pair of other tourists and grabbed our admission and lift tickets. Apparently some brave souls opt out of the lift (looks like a ski lift) to the top of the mountain before walking/climbing on the wall. We knew our limits.
As the lift slowly climbed higher and higher the view became more and more impressive and you noticed the wall snaking toward the horizon along the peaks of the rolling hills. It was then that I realized how beautiful of a day it was. There wasn't a cloud (of precipitation or pollution) in sight and the sky was Carolina blue.
When we reached the top and walked up the stairs to the "starting point" the view was breathtaking. The lush mountains highlighted with the stone wall looked like something of fairytales. No matter how many times you see it in pictures, no picture can communicated the expansive nature of this structure and the vastness of the landscape. The mountains seemed to climb one another reaching upwards.
I think Megan and I were in a state of disbelief (Daisy has come a few times now).
We set off in the direction of the stairs to the highest point. Apparently it is the highest point along the entire wall. What I didn't ever think about before walking/climbing along the wall is that since if follows the contour of the mountain top it is quite a work out climbing and descending the stairs along the wall that compensates the peaks and troughs of the mountain range. Slowly we made our way to the base of the staircase that reaches the highest point. With approximately 500 stairs we started our mission, stopping along the way (only to admire the views of course).
By the time we began our way back towards the lift the sun was high and the temperature started to peak. It was perfectly timed as we met back up with Mr. Zheng and headed back to the galleries.
Feeling energized by our trip I began to work on the portrait of Zhanglin below. I met her the night before during our Mexican themed dinner. She is an artist who lives and works in the compound. She gave us a tour of her studio and explained how wonderful it is to devote yourself fully to your artwork. It is a bit strange to see such large paintings created by someone of her tiny stature. She creates these caricature oil painting portraits of herself as a child. They look more like paintings of dolls than portraits. There is something about her that is a bit childlike. In many ways she reminded me of Siiri who I met in Estonia. I asked if it were ok for me to do her portrait. A bit taken by my question she giggled covering her mouth with her tiny hand before nodding in agreement.
After working on the portrait into the evening Laetitia came into my studio to ask if I wanted to attend an artist performance by Matthieu Ha at Jiali Gallery. I immediately accepted, excited to see a local performance exhibition. The performance started at 7:30pm in central Beijing so Mike and I headed off with enough time to figure out exactly how to get there. We arrived to the quaint gallery a bit after the performance began . There were a good number of people as we manoeuvred our way into the space to find a seat. The performance was quirky and fun as Ha played the accordion and he obviously enjoyed performing for the live audience. After playing a series of songs he ended and the room filled with applause and cheers- the atmosphere was lighthearted and fun reflecting Ha's performance.