There and Everywhere
Photo by Damian Griffiths
Helen Couchman is a British artist currently based in Beijing. Her most recent solo show was at Gallerie Perif in Beijing where she showed a series of woodblock prints. In 2008 her photo portraits of migrant workers building the Beijing Olympic buildings were published in a book, Workers (gong ren) another book - Mrs West's Hats was published in 2009 and is available here.
For There and Everywhere Couchman is showing three large scale prints from the series Untitled (Collecting and Dropping). The complete series is comprised of 245 photographic prints arranged in a strict narrative sequence. Couchman is seen in these works first of all adding a series of abstract shapes to the front of a large, initially pristine fan, going on to dissemble the object even as she decorates its surface. Positioned behind this ancient symbolic form, naked and ostensibly vulnerable, the artist deploys the device both as a surface on which to construct a composition, and as a kind of shield.
Untitled (Collecting and Dropping) like the fan around which the piece revolves, is an open work, touching upon a range of overlapping issues and ideas. It raises thoughts about the artist’s relation (as a citizen of the UK residing in China) to tourism, to observation and to being, in turn, herself observed. It also raises thoughts about the inevitably esoteric codes of a foreign culture in which one finds oneself still a stranger, an outsider, no matter how long one stays.