Mile-high concrete walls and imposing metalwork meets the eye, as nomadic Swiss sculptor Not Vital invites us into his creative Beijing hideaway.
Not Vital’s atelier, in the heart of the city’s Caochangdi arts district, is itself a slick piece of architecture from young Japanese designer Mitsunori Sano. Walls of stainless steel foster a mirror effect in the central room and cleverly hide the living quarters behind. At the moment, the walls are strewn with large, white canvases, each depicting a single, blurred portrait in black, behind thick glass.
"Meeting Mitsu meant leaving a Hutong quarter next to the Forbidden City of Beijing by taxi to the suburban artist village of Caochangdi, which is very close to the airport in the northeast of the smoky megacity. There he practices and lives in a gallery building of Urs Meile. The red & brown brick buildings with grey concrete structures of Ai Weiwei in the neighborhood gained a thick layer of fine dust. Weiwei´s studio is just a stone's throw from Mitsu's home. The village offers plenty of fruit shops where people passionately prepare pineapples, slice mangos & cook bananas. That month in April 2018 Michel Comte, was in town for an artist residency too. Mitsu told us about the studio of Not Vital & offered a visit. Michel & I went to see that hidden studio with the invisible house. As with many of Not´s projects, it is a hideaway. The grey brick building sits in a backyard. That entrance gate you would simply pass without notice. Inside it opens a universe of itself, where you immediately forget the context, being in the middle of the chaotic, buzzing streets maze of Caochangdi. After a while, one realizes that a stainless steel cube covers a quarter of the studio, mirroring its surrounding. A tiny door opens to a five by two meter courtyard with plants, koi in a pond, cast cow shit & sunlight but no windows. One could feel that Mitsu knows every corner by heart, who built a house in a country where he did not speak the language. He spoke about a project executing seven days a week for seven months."