Last Tuesday evening, I was invited to speak and present as part of the ‘Expatriate Professional Women’s Society’ panel discussion event ‘Artists: How to make it happen for you in Shanghai’. My friend and colleague Eike Stratmann, Founder of the ‘Shanghai Detour’ art map (a resource by the way that is impossible to live without in Shanghai, one of the most useful things I’ve ever been given handed to me on my first day) invited me to take part and Rachel being Rachel said yes…you know I love sharing knowledge by now, right? It took place at ‘The Apartment’ on the expat bar-filled Yongfu Lu here in Shanghai. I try not to visit that street very often to avoid its over-Westernised chaos and stigma…but sometimes it just happens. The aim of the event was to provide the audience with more clarity about the emerging art scene in Shanghai and its possibilities for women foreign artists.
It was a very informal evening with a super relaxed and social atmosphere…quite a small crowd but that made it more intimate. This is definitely how these kind of events should be. I realised today that I’ve never spoken at an all women’s event before…a new experience that made me smile due to the traditionalist nature that comes with this type of group…pushing me slightly out of my usual circles…and a good experience none the less. The other panel members included (from right to left shown below) Susanne Junker, a German artist and founder of the ‘stage候台BACK’ gallery, Shanghai; Kathryn Gohmert, an American mixed media artist from the USA who I have met a few times; me and Lisa Juen, a jewellery artist/designer and founder of ProonK…who you all know is a very good friend of mine. We all knew each other either by association or as friends so we had a great dynamic discussion and energy between us when talking…or waffling and rambling in my case. The moderator was Stéfanie Vallee (shown on the far left), President of EPWS, who has been living in China since 2008 and is also a painter, amongst other things.
We spoke for just over an hour then with a Q&A session afterwards about our different international backgrounds and creative interests, our reasons for coming to Shanghai and why we’ve stayed, the positive and negative aspects of the contemporary art and design scene here, the struggle of being here in Shanghai which in turn fuels our creativity, our inspirations and influences from China and in general, the differences between Shanghai and other Chinese cities such as Beijing, the sense of family and community in the scene here, the openness and ability to communicate and share knowledge, our views on what we feel was a turning point in our practice and work that made us feel like we were “making it” (although I’m not very content with this phrasing), the power of online tools like blogs and social media, where and how to source art materials (Fuzhou Lu et al.), and our view on “fame”. Now this was the only thing I had an issue with…the slight implication that we were out to seek stardom. Certainly not something I would ever say…or that I want. For me, I just like to make things happen, projects happen, to fuel creativity in myself and others, to share knowledge and bring people together. If I get recognition on the way that is a complete bonus…and money, well, at the moment I survive and that’s fine…all I’d like to be is comfortable. People, health and happiness are more important. I hope that the audience were able to take something away with them…something of use…something to fuel their creativity. On with Monday and a week that has the potential to be revelatory and life-changing…I’ll keep you posted.