Horizontal Crossings, Hanshan Art Museum, Suzhou - China

Contemporary embroidery art project 
International exchange project, 15- 30 April 2019 

Travel report of Pauline Nijenhuis

Exchanging knowledge and ideas, east meets west

Lala de Dios, the president of ETN (European Textile Network),  introduced me to Assadour Markarov, professor at the China Academy of Art (Fiber Art Department) in Hangzou, for the project Horizontal Crossings. Also Alice Kettle, textile artist and professor of Textile Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University UK. We were asked to create a 5 day workshop on contemporary embroidery for art students and professional embroidery artists.

We also took part in the exhibition and had a lot of lectures, interviews and presentations about our work at the Hanshan Art Museum. 

In my workshop in Hangzou I taught the participants to design a contemporary landscape combining paint and embroidery. There is a large tradition in embroidery in Suzhou. So in this project we tried to investigate to combine those two technics. The professional embroidery artists had less experience in painting. And the art students never embroidered. Luckely I could rely on a lot of experience in teaching.

I encouraged the students to think about what THEY wanted to tell in their work. How to express this theme. The students were very eager to learn and very curious.

I took the students along in my own working process. We made pictures from a moving subject, the tram in Suzhou. These pictures were the starting point. Techniques as frottage and grattage by Max Ernst gave them inspiration for textures in the painting part. And I also showed work from a few western artists  as Roy Lichtenstein, Rembrandt van Rijn and more. And told about western philosophers as Joke Hermsen and Roger Willemsen. The last phase of the working process after the painting is embroidering. There was room for artistic experiment. I wanted the students to discover their own contemporary interpretation of landscape by using similar techniques. And where I hoped for: all the works of all the students were different. They made their own unique designs in order to tell their own story. 

I will never forget this incredible journey. The hospitality of the SNDCC group of Suzhou. The great team of the Hanshan Art Museum. Our visits to the Suzhou University, the China Academy of Art, the beautiful art centre and library of Liangzhu and the Chinese Garden at Suzhou. Our culinary treatment during the whole stay.

The gentle, polite students eager to learn. Incredible respect for the embroidery skills in the area of Suzhou, especially the artists Zou Yingzi and Liang Xue Fang, their family (also embroidery ladies) and assistants. And the embroidery ladies of the Suzhou Weihong Textile & Embroidery Company. And all the visits I forgot.

And special thanks to Alice Kettle! I enjoyed working with you! 

I made many new friends and hope I will see them in the future again.

Pauline Nijenhuis June 20th 2019