Following an initial research visit in Autumn 2019, to the 1920s modernist factory town at Silver End and the 1930s Bata Estate in East Tilbury in Essex, Cui Jie has been researching digital archives and records. This process has inspired new paintings and works on paper which explore the social and political context behind these architectural projects. Through these works Jie connects these pioneering modernist developments, unique to Essex, with the history of the ‘Workers’ New Village – Caoyang Yicun in Shanghai which were first developed in the 1950s for artisan textile factory workers. Archival materials and information about these experimental modernist architectural initiatives will also be presented as part of the exhibition.
Working with Cui Jie will see FPG build on our internationally acclaimed programme of new and exciting contemporary art. Since 2016, Focal Point Gallery has led on the celebrated Radical ESSEX programme which is cited as one of the most influential historically driven place-making projects for a contemporary audience, and we are excited to forge a new international perspective on this programme through this project.
On Saturday 19 March there will be an online public conference, organised in collaboration with Becontree Forever, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and with the support of the Paul Mellon Centre. Bringing together a wide range of speakers, the conference will explore the concept of social modernism and worker villages in different parts of the world, exploring the connections but also noticeable differences in approach. It will also investigate the current relationships between the work environment and urban design.
This project is presented with the support of Antenna Space, Shanghai and the Paul Mellon Centre.