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Artists find beauty in ordinary life

THE variety of artwork is only matched by the interesting personalities behind them. Meet the funny guys behind "Birdhead" and the more contemplative Su Yingchun. Wang Jie has the lowdown.

Shanghainese artists Song Tao and Ji Wenyu are collectively known as "Birdhead" and perhaps there are no other artists in town who possess the free and wayward style of these two men.

Song and Ji take photographs of everything and everybody around, recording the ordinary moments of their life.

"Every year, we add about 10,000 pictures onto our computer," says Song, who is more talkative of the two. "Unlike other photographers, we sell our photos by the case. Because it would be meaningless with only several pieces."

Song and Ji have been good friends since childhood. They formed Birdhead when Ji returned to Shanghai after studying in Britain.

The duo chose the name because they thought it was funny and as a way to gain recognition faster.

"We wanted to do something for fun, and after a while, we started working together," Song says. "Ji actually started taking photos when he was in junior school at the age of 14, and I didn't until I was 20. The first camera I used was the one he lent to me before he went to Britain."

The pair really is having fun. They capture every possible image whether beautiful or ugly, and sometimes even photograph each other.

They add that it's not easy being an artist as it's sometimes hard to earn a living.

"We have to approach our gallery owner for financial help occasionally," Song says, flashing a witty smile. "Usually he stares at us silently for a few minutes and sighs, then asks how much we need. I knew after that we couldn't come to him for at least half a year."

With the firm support of their gallery, Birdhead carries on.

A recent project includes some well-known artists. They will use one painting printed on newsprint paper, glue it on a wall and use black spray-paint to create a frame.

Song says each piece is priced at 480 yuan (US$70) and that artwork by Ding Yi, Zhou Tiehai and Zhang Enli is available. Song and Ji also want to expand the project to include more artists from other parts of China and some from other countries.

"This project not only fascinates the artist but ordinary people as well," Song says.

Orders can be arranged online, but what if they are swamped with too many requests?

"That would be terrific, and if it happens we would train some workers to replace us," Song says. "The funny part in this project is that once we are able to make a big fortune from it, then it proves how damn successful it is."

The confident duo jokes that they are too shy to ask for money again from their gallery owner.

"But both he and we know that we will be very accomplished one day, it's just a problem of time," Song says.


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