Expo drew millions of visitors. This was the first time a developing country has hosted Expo, and in a nation where most people are still not able to travel abroad, it was an opportunity for them to experience sights and sounds from a diversity of cultures. The iconic 'Seed Cathedral' proved to be one of Expo's top attractions, welcoming an average of 45,000 visitors each day. People queued for up to 6 hours in stifling heat, yet when they finally entered the pavilion the expressions of wonder on their faces were magical to see.
Helen Couchman (born England) was raised on a Welsh hill farm. In 1991 she moved to London, where she completed a BA in Fine Art at Sir John Cass College in 1996, and an MA in Critical Fine Art Practice at St Martin’s School of art in 1998. Couchman has exhibited widely, both in the United Kingdom and internationally, frequently producing new bodies of work during residencies, which have also resulted in participating in group and solo exhibitions. Couchman published her first book, WORKERS 工人, in June 2008. This substantial project took the form of a large series of portraits of the men and women who laboured to build the central stadium and other key buildings within the Olympic Village constructed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Couchman’s second book, Mrs West’s Hats, was published in November 2009. This work consists of sixty self-portraits made by the artist in 1997, its title referring to Couchman’s maternal grandmother, whose splendidly eccentric collection of hats Couchman models in the photographs. Made up to look like a young woman of the 1940s and ’50s, the piece touches on many themes including representation and self-portraiture, fashion, identity and historical or generational transmission. In the Autumn of 2009 Couchman has produced a new work, a photographic series titled Untitled (Collecting and Dropping). Within a series of 245 tightly composed photographs we see a large Chinese fan, supported by the artist and obscuring her naked body. As we follow the implied narrative the figure behind the fan is seen to progressively decorate the front of the object with a range of complex insignia, at the same time letting (or helping?) this fragile picture, shield or screen deteriorate considerably. Excerpts from this work were presented in There and Everywhere, a group show held at Transition Gallery, London, in November. Helen Couchman continues to live and work in London and Beijing.