Written by Naomi Trego
Work or school has brought most of us to Xi’an but outside of that many in our community have found ways to follow their dreams. Here are five creative people who are pursuing their art here in Xi’an. I hope you’ll find their stories an encouragement to pursue your passion this new near.
1. What creative arts are you involved in?
2. What are you doing here in Xi’an?
3. How do you find balance?
4. Has living in Xi’an affected your art?
5. What are your hopes for the future?
Robin Miao Wang, China
1. My art ranges from editorial illustrations, fashion illustrations, food, portraits to travel journals. I practice Chinese painting and calligraphy, too.
2. I’m here in Xi’an to study traditional Chinese culture. I quit my job as an auditor several years ago. Since then I’ve spent some time travelling, teaching and doing illustration work for magazines, websites and companies.
3. There are times when I’m busy with work and have little time to make art, but I still find inspiration in
the world around me. Then there are times when I have much free time but I find myself without inspiration. If you have a busy lifestyle,
then sketching is a quick and easy way to incorporate creativity into your daily life.
4. Xi’an is certainly not the most happening place for creative arts. It’s much less exciting and creative than Beijing and Shanghai in many ways. But the historical features, the natural scenery and the traditional cultural atmosphere here have cultivated and nourished me as a person.
5. I will continue with my illustration work. One wish I have is to find the right master to follow to study Chinese traditional painting.
Recommendation: If you are interested in Chinese traditional painting, there are some fantastic artists here in Xi’an. One of them has been creating art on the mountain for 20 years. His studio/gallery is on Cui Hua Mountain, called Fan Zhou Gallery.
1. I am an artist/designer/illustrator.
2. I am currently working for a small graphic design company, mostly designing logos, brochures, business cards etc. I also paint murals in Near Wall bar. I have been in a couple of group art exhibitions here and continue to work on my own artwork. I also design mobile phone games although I have yet to get any of them programmed.
3. The majority of my time is spent being creative. There is no real distinction between life/work for me. I currently spend most of my day painting murals in the bar, but I do
also work from home on other projects. My studio apartment is TINY and when I am preparing for an exhibition the entire room becomes a bombsite of bits of card and stencils and canvases and for the last exhibition leaves and branches too. I had half a park in there….life gets quite chaotic for a few weeks.
4. I have always been interested in patterns including the nature patterns on blue and white Chinese porcelain which seems so ubiquitous to England that I often forget it is actually Chinese. Since moving to China a lot of my personal work explores the impact of pollution on wildlife. As a country girl I particularly noticed the lack of wild birds when I first moved here (no including songbirds in cages), although this year I have seen many more birds which makes me happy.
5. I never have a plan for the future.
Recommendation: I would like to recommend the underpasses on Nan Da Jie as a good source of art and design inspiration. They often have artwork and photographs by Chinese artist on display.
1. I’m a musician, a bassist specifically. I started in the States but have had the bulk of my modest music career here in China.
2. I’m a teacher.
3. It’s difficult to balance my work life and my creative pursuits. My job is 40 hours a week so my rehearsal and gig time is squeezed into my one or two free days per week.
4. Being a musician in China is a strange beast. Back home we had a fairly well-developed alternative community. In China, it’s hard to find the time and personnel for a band. We have a lot of foreign bassists in town, but few guitarists and drummers. We’re open to Chinese band members but the two sides rarely meet making those connections hard. It’s hard to know where to look sometimes and the language and culture barrier can be a huge factor.
There are less than a half dozen alternative music spaces that serve as live houses in the city. Aside from Vice Versa, the average Xi’an bar is woefully unequipped for anything besides a pair of guys playing Neil Diamond covers on acoustic guitars.
Because most of us foreigners have day jobs with inconvenient (and often conflicting) schedules, we don’t get the practice time to polish up and get bigger shows. That keeps us in separate bubbles.
There’s a huge vacuum in alternative music in Xi’an that is very easy to fill if you can find the outlet (and those outlets definitely exist). This void affords you the opportunity to be unpolished (and we were definitely unpolished), but to do things on your terms, blast out a 20-minute set and let your energy carry the rest. It’s intimate; it’s infectious. People respond to it even if they’re not a punk, or a hipster.
5. My hope is to foster a bigger, more inclusive music community. I want to scare more foreign musicians out of hiding. China is a great place to start a band if you have the time and desire. The spaces are there, waiting to be filled by passionate people making the art they want to make. I want more people to think of music as something they can make themselves, not as the domain of superstars in stadiums and giant theaters.
Recommendation: Those of us in the alternative community hope to bridge the gap between musicians of different cultures and build something greater than either side could ever build on their own. I dream of a day where we have a number of alternative bands, from both culture[s]. (Contact Tim through firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved.)
Jade & Nick, USA
1. Here in Xi’an Nick and I have together begun to build an Argentine Tango community. 4 nights a week we give classes and hold practicas all over the city. Other than Tango Nick is involved in visual arts, his passion is oil painting.
2. Nick and I both started in Xi’an teaching English. Through this job we have had the opportunity to share our arts. We have not only taught about the history and passion behind Tango, but actually our community formed out of our English training centers. This last spring we began giving Tango classes as social classes and our community spread from here. These days Nick is still teaching English and creating his own art,
I’m continuing my Chinese language study and we teach Tango together in the evenings.
3. When we first came to Xi’an we found there was no Tango community, we could only dance by ourselves at home. So when the opportunity came to build a community of our own we found any way possible to build it into our lives. We both work or study during the day and dance/teach Tango at night.
4. Tango is a very new thing in China, many people actually aren’t sure exactly what it is. Our Tango lives have changed drastically in Xi’an. We came from cities where we could dance Tango everyday several times a day, to a city that has little prior knowledge of the dance. So these days instead of simply dancing ourselves we are focusing on building up other dancers and creating a passionate community. For myself, due to having many female students, I’ve had to focus much more on learning the role of a leader instead of a follower.
5. Right now we are focusing on building this community in Xi’an. Our goal is for this city to be an international Tango destination. We hope that when we finally leave Xi’an in the future we will leave behind a self sustainable and passionate community. Having this opportunity to see people fall in love with Tango for the first time is a dream come true.
Recommendation: Though our focus in Xi’an is Tango, Nick and I love all forms of dance. Every Friday and Saturday night Xi’an’s Salsa and Bachata communities hold a dance party together at Mexico. It’s amazing to see Chinese communities fully embrace the freedom and creativity of social dancing. I highly recommend going and checking it out.
1. Painting/textile art
2. After four years of studying and working experience in the UK, I came back to China in the beginning of 2014. I have had different jobs in the past, some related to art and design, some completely not. I recently quit my job as a bar promoter to pursue what I am really passionate about—-art. Now besides being an artist I also design furniture and help people with home-decor ideas.
3. I don’t need to balance life and work. It’s been said that if you love what you do, you don’t need to work for the rest of your life! I have always been artistic and creative. To keep my creativity going, I am trying to travel as much as possible. All my art and designs are based on my life and travel experiences. I just came back from my trip to Nepal and totally fell in love with the country.
4. I been living in Xian for 8 years before I went to the UK. most of my close friends are here. It’s for sure that Xi’an means a lot to me and gave me lots of inspiration in the past and will still have influence in my future. I spent lots of time traveling in the past and will still do in the future. I am always on the go. But every time I come back to china I will be landing in XI’an ‘cause I spent most of the time of my life here and I love the city so much.
5. Keep traveling and keep putting my passion on the canvas.
Recommendation: Get up 7am and wonder around in a big local market. Seeing all the fresh fruit and veggies and meat, surrounded by real Xianese is the most artistic thing in Xi’an.