Train to Epping Forest
Featured Artist: Ma Jiayue
1 November 2023
A Line of Trees, 2022, Liquid Pencil on Paper, 15 x 30cm
Epping Forest lies to the northeast of London, a pristine expanse I've had the privilege of visiting four times throughout the changing seasons. Within its boundaries, one encounters majestic deciduous trees, open meadows, babbling streams, and serene lakes. The forest exudes a perennially moist atmosphere, with lush and bountiful flora adorning its depths during the summer, rendering it a verdant oasis. As one delves deeper, the forest takes on an enigmatic allure. In winter, a blanket of fallen leaves covers the forest floor, revealing the crisp brilliance of a clear sky.
Natural landscapes in various climatic zones often evoke distinct emotions. The perpetually mist-laden air, caressing the shores of this island nation, has bestowed upon England its gentle and enchanting natural beauty. Think of overcast days by the seaside with sprawling grasslands, quaint towns alongside tranquil rivers, and the woodlands where elusive deer roam freely.
Expansive meadows, serpentine waterways, and placid lakes, Epping Forest unveils its secrets with ease. My maiden voyage here, a pilgrimage of sketching and contemplation, unfolded as a southward odyssey, an entire morning's journey through an aqueous labyrinth of marshlands and mirror-like ponds. These elements now reside as cherished relics in the sanctuary of my memory, accompanied by the thoughts that danced amid the whispering leaves of the forest.
- Jiayue Ma
Crows, 2022, Liquid Pencil on Paper, 15 x 21cm
Tree on the Cliff, 20 x 18cm, Three Withered Woods Before Waters, 20 x 17cm, Lake and Tree, 30 x 21cm (2022, Liquid Pencil on Paper)
Bed Between Three Trees, 20 x 17cm, Tree on the Isle, 20 x 18cm, Bed in the Woods, 20 x 16cm, Bed and Tree Before Curtain, 20 x 20cm, Trees and Field, 30 x 28cm, Bed, Tree, Curtain and Flame, 18 x 18cm (2022, Liquid Pencil on Paper)
Bonsai, 2022, Liquid Pencil on Paper, 20 x 19cm
Duvet 2022, Liquid Pencil on Paper, 20 x 18cm
Images: ©Ma Jiayue, courtesy of the artist
Jiayue has been focusing on pencil drawing for several years. Meanwhile, his works range over film, installation, and illustration.
Jiayue began to study drawing in 2014. From 2019 to 2020, he made a series of drawings titled Lightness and Weight, in which a strong sense of nostalgia can be found. In 2021, his interactive installation Printing Poems was exhibited in the China Academy of Art. The poems printed in the project were from his published poetry collection. In the same year, a derivative work named Is it okay to go back to Eden? was shown in Seeyoo Space in Hangzhou. At the end of 2021, an exhibition of his previous drawings was held in Restart Plan Space in Hangzhou.
Between 2021 and 2022, Jiayue shifted to a more conceptual practice. Please Mind the Gap, a series of drawings questioning perception, was presented separately in The Dundas Street Gallery in Edinburgh and Espacio Gallery in London. Meanwhile, his moving images started to investigate intimacy and human nature. Lamppost, a short video inspired by a sudden subtlety in daily life, was shown in a collective exhibition at Wilson Road Lecture Theatre.
From 2022 onwards, liquid pencils became his usual material. This water-based technique, touching on the spirit of Chinese traditional painting, allows him to dive freely into the broad echoes and reflections of the landscape. Along with this practice, Jiayue has been continuously contemplating the problem of purity and purification, which gradually became his main concern.