Wellington artist captures bustling Beijing

9 September 2015

Visitors to Toi Pōneke Gallery will be transported to the chaotic atmosphere of China’s capital this October with the exhibition Breathing in Beijing 呼吸北京.

Painting 1 of 2 Small Village by Bevan Shaw, 2015

1 of 2 Village by Bevan Shaw, 2015


The painting and video installation was created by artist Bevan Shaw following his residency at Red Gate earlier this year.

With support from the Asia New Zealand Foundation, family and friends, Bevan was able to live and work in Feijiacun Village (费家村) on the outskirts of Beijing for 3 months. During this time, he was able to focus solely on his artwork in a fresh environment, with an inspiring city on his doorstep. It gave him the freedom to approach his work in new ways, learning traditional Chinese painting and trying a new medium (acrylics).

“Living in Beijing, a city of 22.5 million, was simply astounding. The energy of the people was palpable and the speed of construction astonishing,” says Bevan. “I arrived at the end of the Chinese New Year to winter coal fires and fireworks, then spring dust storms and greenery transformed the city. Days before I left the summer rains came and with it temperatures of up to 40°C.”

Bevan took sound recordings and photographs in these ever changing environments. Back in the studio, he explored the process of change over time, which formed the basis for a new body of work. In the exhibition, visitors will be able to see how the paintings were made and hear real sounds from the scenes depicted.

Bevan recreates the clash of old and new in this bustling, fast-paced city with a layered approach to perspective painting, carefully rendering architectural and natural features and over-painting them with abstract patterns inspired by the spaces he has researched. 

“It was a life-changing experience for me and my work. The people were friendly, kind and curious about life outside China. I met a lot of fellow artists and locals and made some great friends.”

Bevan Shaw has previously exhibited at 30 Upstairs and Toi Pōneke Gallery in Wellington, and Satellite Gallery in Auckland. His New Zealand residencies have included 30 Upstairs in Wellington and New Zealand Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa.

Breathing In Beijing 呼吸北京, opens at 5.30pm Friday 2 October at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 Abel Smith Street and runs until 24 October.