#024 - Sigrid Calon

#024 - Sigrid Calon


Destination: Shanghai, China
Date: 23 - 30 May, 2016

About the print:
± 50 x 70 cm 
Colours: 3 colour silkscreen print
50 prints, signed and numbered by the artist
(frame not included)

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A little word by Sigrid Calon


“I was very curious about China, this enormous country and its completely different culture. Before leaving I didn't have any concrete expectations, but rather a lot of curious questions. What does it mean to move around in a city with so many people? Is there still something left of the old culture and traditions in a city that has 'exploded' in the past twenty years, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down?

The grandeur of Shanghai is undeniable. The never-ending skyline, the huge amount of buildings filled with apartments for all of the people in the city. There is a lot of everything. There are countless photo opportunities at every corner, but I mostly found the beauty in the details and the situations in the older and poorer neighborhoods. Strange and special materials, forms and colors in abundance. Above all what stood out to me were all the strong contrasts, rich/poor, old/new, east/west, industrial/craftsmanship, order/chaos.

I feel a kinship between the Chinese signs and the abstract visual language I have created in my own work. Inspired by the tradition of Chinese calligraphy, I have for the first time added hand drawn elements into this print. The multitude and repetition of the elements refer back to the endless blocks of buildings stretching far beyond the horizon. The gradient in the back is referring to the grey skies, colored either by fog or pollution, I couldn't quite tell. The colors, with my own twist, are some of the most important and used colors in Shanghai.”



Travel diary

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

After arrival at the airport in the early morning I took a taxi straight to the airbnb address. Afer that I went straight to explore the neighbourhood. I’m staying in the Frech Concessions / Xuhui District. A lot of electrical scooters (and cars), so it is remarkably quiet actually. Bought a ticket for the Metro, a 3 day ticket is only 45 C-yuan, about 6 euro’s.

First thing that I’ve noticed, a city of extreme contrasts!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

By coincidence, the museum for Arts & Crafts is only a few blocks away from my place. The name of the museum got me curious and I decided to start the day here. The museum looked almost European, with a spacious and luscious green garden. I had my hopes and expectations up, but figured out quickly that the idea of a museum or the tradition of the museum is somewhat different from my own.

A lot of faded glory, with only a handful of special works concerning old craftsmanship. Knowing the country’s decades of traditions and historical works it was a disappointment that the museum only showed works from the 60′s and up. Fortunately a few (elderly) craftsmen were at work in the museum showcasing their techniques. I talked shortly with a lady who swiftly and precisely cut patterns into paper. She had been practising this particular craft for the last 40 years. Now she mostly made book markers and other souvenirs for the gift shop…


After my visit to the museum I strolled more through my charming neighbourhood. This time the fresh market captured my attention. I had a lot of fun taking photos of the stalls where the vendors were only partly visible. Either with bright and colourful aprons, a telephone in their hand, or a cigarette. I also love the way they are dressing some of their fruits!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting scheduled with Swatch- Shanghai. Last year I had the honour to design two watches for Swatch, so as soon as they heard that I was coming to Shanghai they got very excited and asked me if I wanted to pass by the office. They invited a bunch of Chinese press and Swatch collectors to do a meet and greet with myself. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get more local insights into the city of Shanghai.

Shanghai is growing at an enormous rate. On the skyline photos you can see China’s latest and highest skyscraper of a whopping 632 meters high! I was told that only 20 years ago there was next to nothing on this piece of land across the river. Hard to imagine!


Friday, May 27, 2016

My third day in Shanghai started out grey and with a slight drizzle, which unfortunately stayed hanging over the city all day long. I’m getting the impression that it rains a lot here, because everybody is well prepared.

The plan for today is to visit People’s Park and the People’s Square, along with a bit of Nanjing Road. Close to the subway stop Shaanxi Rd. I bumped into the latest, most exclusive, and hyper modern IAPM. An exquisite fashion mall with only the most exclusive of the exclusive. (bling bling).


After my visit to IAPM I get back to the regular life of Shanghai. To escape the rain I randomly pop into stores along my way. Fuzhou Road has a good amount of book stores where you can easily lose track of time. The shops with art supplies are a feast for the eye as well.

The day is going by fast and I continue on my way to Nanjing Road. The city of contrasts makes itself visible again in the vivid colour contrasts between the neon and the grey fog hanging over the city by now.


The later it gets, the more mystique comes over the city. Because of the amount of lights and neon and the fog hanging over the city, it doesn’t really get dark dark. There is a beautiful shade hanging over the surrounding buildings, something which really comes to its right when you cross the street to People’s Park. In the serene quiet of the park you have a beautiful view over the illuminated buildings in the close distance.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

My plan for the day is to visit an old temple. I decided to walk a different route from my apartment to the metro, to see as much as possible. On this new route I have to cross a busy intersection, with a pedestrian bridge crossing the roads. This gives me a whole new sight on the city.

I’m really enjoying the sights of everybody on scooters and bikes dressed up in rain clothes, it looks so funny to me. Back on the subway it is completely evident how (also) the Chinese can’t live without their mobile phones anymore. Meanwhile I didn’t pay enough attention on the metro and I get off at the wrong stop, I’ve crossed the river and am now in West Shanghai or Pudong. I don’t feel like taking the metro back and am actually quite curious to the view from the water side. I’ve also heard you can take a ferry across. It turns out to be a lucky mistake as the views from the river are beautifully dramatic.


I’m still getting back to reality from the boat ride, but once I’m across I immediately get into a new and different world. ‘Poor’ Shanghai. A bigger contrast with the riches of other parts of the city is almost unimaginable.  It is old, small and decayed here, but very special at the same time. It’s a labyrinth of small streets, houses, wires, and families all across each other. I find it incredibly fascinating how much beauty I find here on the street. The details, the colours the shapes, and also the people capture my imagination. Unfortunately people don’t like to be photographed here, and communication is difficult.


Totally consumed by this new world, I completely forget to look for the old temple. Meanwhile I’ve also totally lost track of where I am. I keep walking in the hope of finding a sign or some kind of direction. Unfortunately to little luck. I try to ask and explain what I’m looking for and get directions, but again end up at a shopping mall. To be honest, I’m quite fed up with the huge amount of malls and stores.

Xintiandi, the neighbourhood I’m in now has a western European feel to it. Cosy French patisserie shops, terraces, an Italian ice cafe, and you can even find the Mona Lisa here apparently! Luckily I walk into a tourist-information of sorts. Hopefully they’ll be able to send me the right direction. I would really like to see that old temple today! I’m being sent a completely other direction yet again. On to the metro it is!

The Jing’ An Temple should be close to the subway stop, so I hope to bump into it without too much trouble. I cross the street, see a couple of trees and suspect it must be around here. Unfortunately I bump into yet another shopping mall. This time shaped like a sort of half arena. The surroundings are not making me hopeful to find the old temple, but when I turn around, it appears in all it’s glory!

Build in between the business and commerce the temple is an odd sight. I get a weird feeling and soon realize that I’ve arrived too late and the temple is already closed. I see one of the doors that is still slightly open and try to get a peek inside. After my little failed temple excursion I try to orientate myself and find out that I’m on the western part of the famous Nanjing Road. Maybe this is the most expensive part of the street? Here the luxury brands are not collected in a shopping mall, but they trump each other with their own spectacular buildings and façades. I’ve never heard of Parts (1961) before, but their façade was my favourite.  Although the Burberry façade isn’t too shabby either.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Unfortunately the weather still hasn’t cleared up. But I’m only here for a little bit longer, so I’m on my way outside again! (even though I wouldn’t mind staying in today). Apparently there is a flower, fish, bird and insect market, which sounds interesting so that will be my quest for the day. Of course I’m not able to find it right away, so I’m in need of a English speaking Chinese first. As soon as you find a Chinese who is able to speak English they are very helpful, which is a big help.

The market turns out to be a lot smaller than I thought, and as soon as I entered I had a weird felling about it. The deafening noise of the crickets was somewhat comical but it was bizarre to see them sitting in small tubes. I also don’t really know what people use them for? Big birds in small cages, and likewise with the fishes, turtles and kittens. With the worms I had less pity, but it did leave me itchy. I guess this was what I could have expected here. Most vendors look really bored, mostly I catch them eating or smoking and almost all of them are obsessively staring into their phones.


Monday, May 30, 2016

In the supermarket across the street I found these special ‘snacks’, wrapped and packaged like candy. Because there is so much fresh produce at hands, I wonder who even buys these things? I wonder what it tastes like as well. I guess those are usual questions when visiting a different culture…

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On my last day in Shanghai I want to see a little bit more of the old culture of China, and I’m hoping to find in Qibao Ancient Town. One of the oldest (I read somewhere it is about a 1000 year old) town enclosed by water. It’s only a short 15 kilometers away from Shanghai city. Obviously it is very touristic, especially with a lot of Chinese tourists, because this is one of few remaining streets and buildings in this style left in Shanghai. And where ever there are tourists, there are shops and little restaurants. The Chinese love it!

Curiously it is not very busy inside the old buildings, even though the entrance is very affordable. Through showing dolls and other items they give a great impression of life back in the days. They have a Cotton Weaving Hall, an old Temple with Pagoda, a building filled with old crafts and the Cricket Hall. The Cricket Hall is filled explanations and stories about the Cricket insect. I thought they looked like the crickets from the market, but I am completely wrong. These crickets are not found in Shanghai any more because of the rapid building, but they used to be in favour for gambling. These crickets are quite the fighters apparently. Meanwhile new laws have banned these practices.

Immediately next to the old city there are new malls and condo’s arising as quickly as anywhere else in the city. In all this industrialisation and massive building projects I’m amazed by the sight of one man working his ass off with a shovel. Once again, a city of big contrasts.


I was wandering around Qibao Ancient Town, but was not entirely looking forward to passing the ‘old street’ a small and super busy street. I decided to take a parallel street to the old street and found the street to be filled with photo studios. In the Netherlands we have the same kind of photo studios in Volendam, where people can dress up in traditional Dutch Folklore. Here you can have your photo taken in beautiful traditional Chinese Folklore.


With the luxury brands doing very well at the Chinese upper-class, there are a lot of people who can’t afford these items but still want to have it. Enter the big Chinese fake market. Through all of Shanghai you can see shops, but there are two major FAKE-markets who only supply fake goods. One of these is very accessible at the metro stop Shanghai Sciene & Technology Museum. It is huge! Streets filled with ‘cheap shit’, but upon taking a closer look you see the same stuff everywhere, and most likely it’s all coming out of a handful of factory’s. Even though the temptation in buying something is big, it mainly made me a bit uncomfortable.

Earlier I talked with somebody about the Chinese culture, He mentioned that the Chinese don’t have a culture in which they want to create things, it is all about learning and copying from the ‘master’. They do this with crafts as well, such as paper cutting or wood cutting. They recreate what has already been created. Meanwhile the cultural heritage is slowly disappearing as well, which is a shame.

While on my way back to my apartment and while browsing through the last shop on my trip I found a beautiful book. The book is published by Urban Tribe, a Shanghai based initiative that wants to bring the special cultural heritage into the new century and give it a new platform. The book I found is about the painting of indigo textile by the Miao mothers and daughters, it is actually one of the most beautiful textile that I came across here. Unfortunately the book is all in Chinese so I will have to do with just looking at the photos.


On my last evening in Shanghai, I wanted to walk around some more, and by coincidence I walked into a park. Even though it was already dark, and a few of the gates had already closed, I managed to get myself inside. All of this peace and quietness and green was exactly what I needed after such a busy days, I really missed it. I didn’t see a lot of parks yet, and visiting a Botanical garden in the rain just didn’t sound that appealing, even though I would have loved to have seen it.

The park is an oasis. I had the pleasure of admiring a few tai-shi practitioners and a crowd of dancing eldery’s and beautiful lights. It was a shame it got dark so quickly, but what a great ending!


Bye Bye Shanghai. Impressive city of contrasts! Thank you for all this input. A big thanks to The Jaunt, you are an amazing initiative, to make this happen!