On our drive from Zhujiang New Town to Nansha, we passed through green farmland and quiet villages together with giant factories, and high rises. 40 minutes later, we eventually stopped in front of a shady greenway by a babbling stream.
As we looked around, we found him, smiling and waving at the end of a narrow alley. “Welcome to my studio,” he said.
Justin's studio in Nansha
He is Justin Ole Fischer, an Australian artist who is currently living in Nansha. He came to China in 2004, first living in Fuzhou and Shenzhen. “For me, Nansha is a more suitable place.” This is where he has lived for 12 years.
Reported by Jasmine Yin, Rebecca Tao
Edited by Wing Zhang, Simon Haywood
Painting Guangzhou with the world’s largest color set
Walking into Justin’s studio, we saw countless works of art leaning against walls and lying on shelves. Although the light was dim, the bold colors in his paintings instantly captured our attention. Green kangaroos, blue fishes, orange birds and brown emus indicate his obsession for colour and nature.
“I inherited my love for color from my mother who is also an artist. But it was in Guangzhou that I found the world’s largest color set,” Justin said excitingly, pointing to a shelf where he keeps a wide range of pigments, “one of my friends owns a leading brand. She invited me to paint her bags and introduced me to this amazing color set—women’s nail polish!”
Picking up a large bottle of glitter pink, Justin said, “a small bottle of nail polish may cost you 100 yuan, but this just cost me 30 yuan. I found these beautiful colours in a factory along Guangzhou’s Metro Line 2.”
He said he knows the city even better than some of his local friends. He loves wandering around, observing people, architecture, details and the changes that are taking place. “When I first came here, I got on the buses at weekends, going from one end to another and then coming back, just looking at the city.”
If you look into the detail, you can find hints of Guangzhou and Nansha in Justin’s painting. Litchis, fishermen’s hats and Qilou (Guangzhou’s arcade shop-houses), are all presented in a range of exotic colors.
“I paint animals, sea creatures and lots of things because I like the environment. (Previously) there wasn’t so much concern for the environment. But things are changing. And it’s good,” he said, “for example, I live here in nature. Nansha is a beautiful area. I can see stars three or four nights every week.”
From an artist to a curator
In Justin’s eyes, Guangzhou is the place where he discovered his dream. Although Justin started painting when he was very young, it was not until he met Wu Shaoning, Chief Curator of Art Canton, that he began to realize he likes art very much and has the ability to help other artists.
An unfinished art work in Justin’s studio containing litchi and other Chinese elements.
“Mr. Wu has a friend in Beijing who is one of China’s top artists. He helped me organize my first big exhibition,” he said, “from that point on, I found my passion and the unique style in my paintings. I thought that maybe I could learn about the curating process.”
Justin decided to stay in Guangzhou because his art business had taken off and he has more chance to exhibit his artworks here and other cities in China. “Compared to my home, Australia, Guangzhou has a much larger population, which means a larger market for artists.”
In fact, Guangzhou’s art market has been experiencing rapid development recently. More than 20 art exhibitions were held in the city during the month of March only. According to the Art Market Monitor, Artron, Guangzhou has the fourth highest transaction volume in China’s art auction market, behind Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
“Guangzhou is the best and cheapest place for artists to buy art materials. It also has lots of art schools,” said Justin, “but something is still missing because it doesn’t have so many art events to build up an art community.” This is why he joined the Art Canton.
Art Canton was an art project established in 2010, aiming to provide a platform for artists to approach a broader range of art buyers. Now it has become the most influential art expo for both traditional art and contemporary art in South China.
Justin said he has been very busy lately because he is now a curator helping Wu Shaoning to organize exhibitions.
“I got to know many foreign artists because of Art Canton. I’m also building up my Linkedin network. Now I’m connected to almost ten thousand people including artists, professors, government officials and staff from the world’s major art institutions.”
Justin and his paintings
Justin believes his network can help local artists connect with the global market.
“Because of my connections and Art Canton, I can act as a bridge and allow Guangdong and countries which are interested in Guangdong open up to each other, boosting exchange between artists.”
Building Guangdong’s art community and connecting it with the world is what Justin is starting to get involved in. He suggested that the government could cooperate with companies and hold more large-scale international competitions for contemporary art, so that the city can attract more buyers and patrons.
“I know China has pushed forward the Belt and Road Initiative and I think art is an important part of it. Now that there are many Chinese modern artists in Shenzhen and other cities, Chinese art can also go out along the Belt and Road, not just to make a living for artists but also to spread Chinese culture and illustrate its development,” said Justin.
他就是Justin Ole Fischer，一名定居在广州南沙的澳洲画家。他2004年来到中国，去过深圳，也去过福州，而最终选择了南沙，这一住便是12年。Justin说：“南沙更适合我！”