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Fish-eye lens on Chinese culture
By Zhang Kun (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-01 14:49

A European couple's art project about fish "with cultural connotations" has blossomed into a stunning new photo exhibition at the Elisabeth De Brabant Art Center.

Fish-eye lens on Chinese culture

"Some of the beautiful tails of the gold fish remind me of Chinese calligraphy, especially with such free and beautiful strokes," said gallery director De Brabant.

"Others are like dancing movements, with the fins and tails standing in for the dancer's dress. Even the translucent tip of a fin can seem like the fine gossamer of haute couture fabric. The faintest minutiae can transform the images from figurative ones to something more abstract," she added.

The fish are often silhouetted, shadowed or cut out of a frame to add an edgy feel to the 20 photographs taken by Angola-born Lidia Serpa and her Beijing-born French boyfriend Tristan Chapius.

Fish-eye lens on Chinese culture

"We moved to Shanghai a few years ago and we wanted to do an art project about China, but we didn't want to simply take pictures of the people and the scenery. We wanted to do something with cultural connotations," said Chapius.

"When one of us shoots the picture, the other must hold the lights," he added. "It's efficient working this way, and we don't bother to separate who took this or that picture."

Chapius was born in Beijing in 1983, where he grew up as a rare blond. After studying law in Paris he was drawn back to photography and China. He spent his early 20s in Beijing, making a photographic record of the rapidly changing cityscape before returning again to Paris to study photography.

Born in Angola to a Spanish singer and Portuguese businessman, Lidia Serpa has always lived a bohemian and artistic lifestyle. At 18, she traveled to Paris and entered the underground scene of artists and musicians, later moving into fresco restoration, beaux-arts, scenography, new media art and fashion design.

The couple met in Paris in 2004 and immediately decided to move to China and settle in Shanghai.

Fish-eye lens on Chinese culture

They kept five fishes at home during their latest project, which also includes video art and a sculpture of a goldfish's tail. The video highlights the vivid changes that different fabrics - worn by a model - undergo when submerged in water.

Until June 27; 10 am - 6 pm (Tuesday to Friday), 12 pm - 5 pm (Weekends)

Elisabeth de Brabant Art Center

299 Fuxing Road W.

Tel: 6466-7428