Gareth Wood, a British artist known as Fuller, has drawn a map of Beijing as a work of art. Based on the layout of the roads and streets, the details he has included reflect his understanding and experience of the city rather than its geographical reality. Fuller’s art begins with the question “What makes a place?” To answer it, he dedicates perhaps months to exploring it on foot, wandering through every street and noting down his experiences. “I discover systems and gather countless stories. There is romance, tragedy and comedy. Desires, secrets and facts”. These he weaves into his drawings, which, if you look closely, you will see are more a narrative than a geographical depiction of a place.
For example, his drawing of London, which he calls “a love letter to the city”, relates the changing structures that took place in the city between 2005 and 2015, and while based on London’s landmarks, is more a revelation of the artist’s personal relationship with the places.
In an equally ambitious project, currently exhibited in Art Beijing, is his map of the Chinese capital, which took Fuller months to walk around, covering more than 1300 kilometres to record his observations. Less personal than his map of London, the drawing of Beijing includes details that describe events taking place in the city, for example, his awareness that it is attempting to become a technological hub, and the constant allusions to China’s global project “One Belt, One Road”, which plans to link the country with 60 others around the world through the construction of infrastructure and transportation and energy systems. This project is most obviously referenced at the centre of his drawing of the Forbidden City with its depiction of a high-speed train and a container ship.
Stimulated by his love affair with the city, which began in 2014, he started work on Beijing a year ago when he circumnavigated the city around the 6th Ring Road. He then started making forays into the centre to record the geographic layout of the city while researching topics that shape the past, present and future Beijing, an example of which is a network of traditional canals that he portrays flowing with binary code, symbolising data being shared in a smart city.
Measuring 1.2 x 1.5 metres, and with a version printed in gold, the print of Beijing will certainly give viewers hours of fascination.