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A Uruguayan artist in Beijing


11:02, July 26, 2013

Just a few months ago, Laura Olivera gave up her position as a digital art teacher at an art club in Uruguay's capital Montevideo, where she also worked in graphic design, digital illustration and photography, and set out for China. She's been in Beijing since September last year. She has been studying Chinese, calligraphy and a traditional Chinese musical instrument, the erhu. She held her exhibition, China Postcard, in Beijing's Cervantes Institute.

Her love affair with China began by chance some five years ago when she was teaching at Uraguay's Catholic University. At the time, the university was bearing witness to the fast development of trade and business ties between China and Uruguay, and had decided to start Chinese courses. They asked Olivera to design a poster to attract young students to the new classes.

"It was just a simple poster, but the process of thinking about it sparked a great interest in me," she recalled. So, convinced by her own artwork, Olivera began to learn Chinese, starting an intimate relationship with the Chinese language that led to a trip to several Chinese cities in 2011. Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guilin, Hangzhou, Suzhou; it was a whistle stop tour, but the memory and photos she collected became the materials for her China Digital Art Exhibition held in Montevideo later that year, which exposed many Uruguayans to knowledge and images about a country on the far side of the world.

"In recent years, graphic design, visual broadcasting and advertising design have been growing closer, and I weave them together," said Olivera. The word is that Olivera is a leading figure in the development of digital artwork, and China has been a muse for her work in this medium.

"When creating an illustration about China, many aspects should be considered," she said. "China is both an ultra-modern and ultra-traditional country. You need to travel across it, as there are great differences among regions: from high-rise buildings in Shanghai to tranquil streets in Guilin where time has stood still."

On arrival in Beijing last September, having been sponsored by the Chinese Embassy to Uruguay to study at Beijing Foreign Studies University in recognition of her contribution to promoting Chinese culture, Olivera – like many new Chinese language students in the country – couldn't understand a word. But she wasn't discouraged. Instead of sitting lonely and isolated in her dorm, she took to exploring the city to discover the people who lived there.

By chance she got to know Mr. Cheng, who went to a park every day where he practiced calligraphy on the ground with a huge writing brush. "The idea is interesting," she said. "Unlike digital art, this kind of art creation doesn't demand lengthy consideration, and exists only fleetingly."

As well as learning about this form of instant creation, Olivera has also got to know traditional musical instruments like the erhu and the pipa. "Mr. Cheng is a member of a band that practices every Sunday. He encouraged me to listen and I met a teacher who is teaching me the erhu." Olivera plans to bring the erhu back to her hometown. She still has a lot to understand about China, but from her experiences here she believes that China has much that countries like Uruguay could learn from. "It is enviable to see the elderly spending time like this, in a very active way. You see them playing musical instruments, dancing, singing and playing cards in the streets or parks. In Uruguay, the elderly just stay home watching TV."

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:YeXin、Chen Lidan)

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