Beijing Time

October 2008, Beijing.

This was a joint exhibition with the talented Song Yang, a young Chinese illustrator and painter. The exhibition was held in the middle of Beijing’s Dashanzi Art District. A lot of people came through, most were mystified as to why my paintings “looked so miserable,” especially the portraits. It wasn’t intentional, people look quite miserable when their face muscles relax. All the paintings and drawings are on this site, in the ‘China’ section.

John Harrison and Yang Song

Beijing Time

John Harrison

John Harrison was born in London in 1954. He went to art school at the age of 16. After graduating from Camberwell School of Art in 1974, he worked as a designer and painter in England. John moved to Russia in 1986. He has been living and working in Beijing and Moscow since 1995. Painting has always been the core part of his life.

John has held exhibitions in London and Moscow.

John lives in the old city area of Beijing, sharing a Hutong with native Beijingers. In rapidly expanding Beijing, the quiet yard where he lives is a special kind of cityscape. Choosing to live in the area is partly due to his experience of studying in Beijing in the 80’s. Here he can still catch a glimpse of the past; whilst it lasts. The old Beijing is not a tourist reserve or a symbol of modern art for him. John simply brings the faces of Beijingers’ onto the canvas. Through these works, we see individuals’ confusion and pressure brought about by a society undergoing tremendous changes. Clearly this is caused by value and lifestyle changes rather than economic factors alone. Beijing is far more than a beautiful city going international, people and their stories are what John interested in. Happy Day, July 4th(American Independence Day) shows an normal scene in the new Beijing: a construction site on a sunny day, several passers-by. The quietness of Teacher He and Her Husband reflects a more personal experience of this time of changes.

As Roger Fry said after a period when he had been promoting modern art: “Painting has always been, and will always be an important artistic medium.” Using traditional painting techniques, John’s art has emotional power.  

Yang Song

Yang Song was born in 1981, in Urumqi. He graduated from Tianjin Polytechnic University of Art & Design in 2004.

He is a unique young artist. He started doing charcoal drawings and oil paintings very early. He soon made his art teacher proud. However, in his heart, Yang Song always wanted to be a cartoonist. At the age of 16, he had already started a cartoon studio and been published. By the time he graduated from university, he had published several cartoon books both in and outside of China, including the cartoon versions of Shuo Wang’s Dong Wu Xiong Meng, Yan Hai’s Yu Guan Yin , Ke Xu’s Qi Jian and the original The Penguin Sitting Across the River. He is one of China’s most promising cartoonists. 

Yang Song didn’t only created the modern cartoon image ‘bad girl’, he presents his experience of city using painting, design and music. He focuses on a great variety of different people in Beijing, recording their stories and thoughts. For Yang Song, the city is a place where people come to realize their dreams. There are all kinds of opportunities and traps, different people face different situations. He is equally as concerned about a stranger trying to earn his bread and butter by operating an elevator, as he is with a Beijing pub singer striving to express her feelings. He believes that it is these people’s dreams and destinies that form the city of Beijing. 

Yang Song’s painting combines reality, images, cartoons and popular elements, they are illustrative yet emotional. 

The lives of individuals in a restless city are presented through the works of two artists with absolutely different experiences and backgrounds.

Categorised as Blog

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *