Has Covid affected readers of my blog as it has me? Because many of us have more reflection time have you found yourselves remembering something which leads you on a nostalgic journey? Every time I walk by the Radcliffe Observatory it reminds me of my artist friend Weimin He and his 6 years as university artist in resident during the clearing of the largest area to come up for redevelopment in the centre of Oxford for over 100 years .
Reflecting made me realise the impact Weimin has had on my life of which he is not aware . He sees it the other way around. Tower of the Winds is the beautiful book which records his work including the rebuilding of the Weston Library In Acknowledgments he sites me immediately after the Vice Chancellor and the Bodleian Head Librarian. At the launch presentation there were numerous images of articles I had written about him.
Our first encounter was not long after he arrived in Oxford when he curated Everyone’s life is a Epic by Qu Leilei at the Ashmolean in 2005. That exhibition changed my life. I explain how in this short vid by the Meridian Society .
I got to know Weimin better when he curated China Prints a two part exhibition in the museum before the rebuild. Weimin sourced most of the exhibits and taught me a great deal about Chinese art . My review of it for The Oxford Times was my first ever feature to be translated into Mandarin and published in a beautiful book Poems and Paintings by Sanping Wu.
It wasn’t until Weimin became artist in resident at the Ashmolean in 2008 that I got to know Weimin’s work . He is an outstanding world renown Chinese print maker and has effectively brought together British and Chinese print makers . So what an honour it was that my poem ,inspired by the demolition of all the temporary buildings behind the Radcliffe Infirmary, inspired him to make this print.
That print was one of the 50 put on hoardings on the site and the display included 2 poems including one of mine.
The Castaway series consumed a lot of my time between January 2007 – Dec 2016 . My invention of the mythical island of Oxtopia led to me meeting 119 inspirational people. I had to castaway Weimin didn’t I? The editor made me the final castaway.
After the first 50 features the idea of a book was suggested and Weimin’s feature was in it but he also designed the cover. For Oxford Castaways 2 published in support of Vale House he made this sketch of me to use at the back.
Weimin has been present at so many events I have been involved in and made memorable sketches including Peggy Seeger at the KOA Fifties Fandango when Philip Hind made an amusing film of us.
I compered the launch of Ray and Caroline Foulk’s Stealing Dylan from Woodstock – a memoir of when Ray helped to define the sixties .
Students and teachers on the Diploma in Creative Writing crowd funded to publish Now You Know by our fellow student and talented poet Brian Nisbet. Brian was suffering from a terminal form of Parkinson’s . Brian was present in Ewert House to see us to celebrate him and his anthology and Weimin sketched him there with his admirers three months before he died.
He sketched me in the Oxford Literary Festival marquee when I talked about Brushstrokes in Time and at the launch of Sculpting the Elephant when he drew some of my family .
At an Asylum Welcome fundraiser organised by my friend Dai Richards he made this fabulous sketch of the Koro player.
I could add so many more special images and stories . I have watched his art change and develop. An exhibition by four Chinese artists including Weimin should have been on display now in The Glass Cube at Oxford Brookes University . Hopefully you will be able to see it next year.
My novels are about connecting and I hope this story of mine can inspire you to connect with someone outside of your immediate circle- you won’t regret it.