Class of 2020: ubiquitous workshops

enad.tsinghua.edu.cn , February 7, 2021

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When the pandemic broke out, I just completed my academic visit in Spain. The city of Wuhan was closed down the second day I returned to China. I had thought that "the pandemic should not be so serious as to prevent the start of school". But now the greatest concern of the graduating class was no longer "whether they could start school smoothly", but "whether they could graduate properly."

To complete their graduate creation and design, graduating students generally need a good workshop with complete facilities, which are prerequisites for accomplishing senior projects. We can hardly imagine that graduating students can have conditions for their creation at home. As a counselor, I have attempted to communicate with many graduating students about their state of creation, and are deeply impressed by some students busily engaged in their senior projects at home.  

Turning a study into a workshop with just one embroidery machine

Pan Xinyue of the Department of Arts & Crafts has turned her study at home into a temporary workshop. Her reading room full of books has become a mini embroidery workshop. The quiet and secluded study has ushered in its jubilant visitors, with colorful embroidery silk occupying and weaving the little world which used to house books.

Pan Xinyue has bought a home embroidery machine online. But as the machine was too small for large-size works, she could only fix her works in different areas of the tabouret, piecing together her work little by little. Pan Xinyue said, "As I haven't used any embroidery machine, I encounter many troubles learning to use it. In the very beginning, as I didn't know how to operate the machine, problems often occurred. So I could only consult the vendor online and then repaired the machine myself. Sometimes I felt as if I became a metalwork craftsman." Finally, Pan Xinyue learned how to deftly use the embroidery machine, able to successfully create works.  

Pan Xinyue's senior project is related to people. The relationships among people are fragile like threads, but when woven together, these threads can produce a tremendous tension that cannot be broken.  

With this idea in mind, she chose the method of embroidery as a way of presenting her senior project. She had planned to make a large installation work based on hollowed-out embroidery. However, in view of the limitations of her working environment, she timely changed her plan. She took her friends and family members as models of her projects. She said, "This work is made during the quarantine period with my thoughts about my classmates. In a sense, it also enables me to re-consider the inter-dependence among people and their vague relationships. I miss the life on campus and wish to take this opportunity to commemorate my four years in college as well as my friends."

Looking for childhood memories up and down the mountains

The senior project of Zhu Puqian of the Department of Sculpture was inspired by his childhood memories. He thought that the display space of contemporary artistic creation is no longer limited to the physical space of display, but also includes sites, audience, and historical factors, among others.

The construction of fields is closely related to the communication of ideas. The creation of landscape and selection of specific space of a work are necessary reflections for creation. Due to the special "isolation" caused by the pandemic, he could not return to the campus on time, but he was closer to his hometown as a result. Far away from the campus, he retrieved his childhood memories. During his stay at home, Zhu Puqian's childhood fantasies were magnified and called up from his brain. He recovered the small things he had discovered in nature when he was a child, and closely observing them, he built memories of a fantasy world in his brain. Cherishing this feeling, he used traditional materials like stones and wood and repeatedly honed them with the creative method of carving in an attempt to convey a simple and interesting aura.   

Zhu Puqian used materials available at his own home. He also collected stones and wood with his father from mountains. His collection work lasted from the end of winter to the start of spring. The mindset of Zhu Puqian seemed to become more and more lively just like the climate and the rhythm of the earth, as the mountains gradually turned colorful, coming back to life from the desolation and barrenness of winter.  

Transboundary cooperation of Fashion Design and Visual Communication

Ma Shaha of the Department of Textile and Fashion Design conducted her senior project by cooperating with Zhang Ruiqi of the Department of Visual Communication. While staying at home under the special environment and overall background of the pandemic, Ma Shasha came up with the idea of realizing her senior project by way of 3D modeling. As this idea coincides with that of her best friend Zhang Ruiqi, they made a video displaying a comprehensive effect combining scene construction and fashion design.   

Ma Shasha said, "The corselet, this form of women's costume, which symbolized the liberation of the body in name and was always taken as a symbol of women's sex appeal, has kidnapped European women for several centuries, bringing different degrees of pain to them both psychologically and physiologically. As a mainstream matter in the contemporary world, the network, while providing convenience, has also brought women more pressure from the virtual world." The senior project of Ma Shasha, with women as the targets of molding, was designed to express women's social pressure. The images of contemporary women were re-modeled by using the visual and structural elements of the corselet, expressing a state in which the women's body has absolute freedom while retaining sexual appeal.

At present, Ma Shasha is creating works by using the computer graphic technology while communicating with Zhang Ruiqi, constantly making attempts and breakthroughs in new fields, and working hard to perfectly present her senior project. It is learned that Ma Shasha is also engaged in the design and making of physical objects.    

Seamless combination of life and art  

"Phases of Landscape," the senior project of Chen Boxian in the Department of Painting, was also created at home. With his reflection on the spirit of landscape paintings in the recent two years, he explored the relationship between man and nature through his imagination of the landscape of the future urban ruins. Chen Boxian said, "This is a series that has been long brewed. I had prepared all the materials, but with the outbreak of the pandemic the original materials could not be used at home. So I had to adjust my plan." There are no professional or appropriate tools for traditional Chinese paintings at Chen Boxian's home. So he bought wood boards and iron sheets, sought help from his friends to make magnetic drawing boards, and purchased many painting materials online to make a temporary workshop at home.

Chen Boxian painted on a magnetic drawing board made by wood boards and iron sheets with water and ink materials such as soap water and ethyl alcohol

As he has never expressed the topics in painting, Chen Boxian encountered many problems in the use of materials. Guided by his supervisor Prof. Chen Hui, he conducted water and ink experiments by using articles of daily use at home such as ethyl alcohol and soap. The final work of the senior project conceived by Chen Boxian consists of five pieces of four-foot rice paper, which is 3.5m long in total. As the space at home could not hold the entire work, he put three pieces every time and drew the painting in rotation. Chen Boxian said, "I've drawn totally 25 pieces, from which five are selected for the graduation exhibition. Despite the many imperfections, this process is a very good exercise for myself."

The effect graphics of the water and ink experiments attempted by Chen Boxian using articles of daily life such as soap water and ethyl alcohol 

The effect graphics of the senior project created by Chen Boxian splicing five paintings 

With the rampant onset of the pandemic, we cannot study on campus and cannot communicate with our teachers and classmates face to face. But we see that our students are trying to address the difficulties in their practical creation through various changes and breakthroughs. We feel pleasantly surprised to see Pan Xinyue's reconstruction of the utility room and repair of his embroidery machine, Zhu Puqian's search for his childhood memories and refactoring of his childhood fantasies; or Ma Shasha's transformation of her creation conceptions and exploration of new fields; or Chen Boxian's adjustment of his creative plan and unlocking of his new skills. More students use their own way to create their senior project and design with the materials available at hand by brainstorming and mobilizing all their family members. While being forced to stay at home, they are still busy with their senior projects.

The world is constantly changing, but students find their own frequency amidst the unsettling noises outside, cope with them peacefully, always maintain their creative status and keep in mind their initial aspiration for art. Now as spring is in full bloom, we wish that our heart can bask in gentle breeze every day, and students can smoothly complete their senior projects and design to present a unique and profound exhibition of graduate works of the Tsinghua Academy of Arts & Design.