Biography of Collaborations - by Elsa Marley



I began collaborating as the prime focus of my work in 1987 when I met Chen Ke Liang, at his retrospective showing, the first year I lived in Shanghai. We became friends and began to work eventually on a painting collaboration, Inner Satellites that combined both Eastern and Western techniques. The collaboration was a success on a number of levels and sponsored by the Chinese Cultural Bureau and the Shanghai American Consulate, beginning to tour China in 1989 and America in 1991. The Chinese press called it an "art marriage" and creatively it was that close. After the 1991 tour we separated as art collaborators but have in the ensuing years remained close family friends on opposite sides of the Pacific.

That experience was a challenging high and I began to teach a small group of interested people the techniques we had learned working together. As everyone brings something different to the art of collaborating, the main people I have worked with each added their own fingerprint to the aesthetic cultural mix. Ring of Fire which began in 1992 and continues to the present is a collaboration which touches on the scholar-artist tradition. My collaborator, Julia Strauss, holds a doctorate in Chinese Studies and teaches at the University of London in England.

In the Summer of 1997 I began with Mitra Ghaffari, an international artist and teacher, two collaborations with a Central Asian theme. The first one was called Ballad of Horses, painted in the Fall. Tower of Babel was painted in early Spring/98 following a Winter trip we took together to China. Mitra brought to the collaboration an architectural perspective and Persian script laden with the art of gestural storytelling. Recently Ms. Ghaffari has blossomed out into a new collaboration with calligraphic and martial arts master Jiang Jin, who teaches calligraphy at the prestigious National Academy of Fine Art, Hangzhou, China. They recently completed a series of calligraphic works called Motion that is in keeping with the lineage and growth of our works together. In the summer of 1999 Mitra and I completed our third collaboration, Light Fusion, this time on canvas.

These five collaborations have a borderless, global message that brings together people of different cultural values. They offer a new depth of hybrid understanding which is unique to the processes of working closely together to create art.

Elsa Marley July/98

Copyright 1999 Elsa Marley. All rights reserved.

Although we believe that if we let go

we will end up with nothing,

life over and over again reveals

the opposite just as waves

lash at the shore .

The rocks suffer no damage

but are eroded into beautiful shapes.

Sogyal Rinpoche,

The Tibetan Book of Living And Dying.

Shanghai State Art Museum. First collaborative exhibition, January 1989. Elsa Marley and Chen Ke Liang.

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latest update: 12 Feb 00