I landed in the middle of the night: straight from the hot blazing sun of an Australian summer into a freezing dry Chinese winter. Driving from the airport in the dark, I saw trees neatly planted in rows each side of the road. It felt weird. As the sun came up, it was the light, the dull golden light that was different. Perhaps it was just pollution?
My destination on the 5th Ring Road at the edge of the city was surrounded by plantations of bare trees. The hedges and the shrubs were wrapped in a fake green fabric for winter protection. There was a Confucian order to the trees, not the random and wild antipodean bush that I was used to.
‘All things exist at once’ was how a Chinese artist explained to me the contradictions I experienced in Beijing. I felt like a character in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.
Vista, an exhibition of recent paintings by Irene Ferguson mixes references to the Chinese tradition of ‘eight views’ with Western traditions of en plein air and early colonial art. These landscapes are embellished with the fictional narratives of willow pattern dinnerware, popular culture, and a hint of absurdity like a ‘good’ Greek myth.
The exhibition includes work made in China and work completed by Ferguson upon her return to Melbourne, Australia, where she lives. Ferguson was artist in residence for three months at Red Gate, Beijing, China in 2019. This residency and exhibition were made possible by the generosity and encouragement of a large group of supporters through a crowdfunding campaign and all the people associated with the Red Gate residency.