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Study of change


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POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two photographers comment on the old and the new through architectural images in “;The Architecture of Change: Exploring the Past Within the Present,”; on exhibit through July 17 at Hawaii Pacific University Art Gallery.

Professional photographer Hawkins Biggins presents an ongoing study of Honolulu's Chinatown, and art professor Scott Groeniger layers imagery from the ancient city of Taiyuan, China, and Beijing, which is continually being modernized, for his fine-art images.

“;I started the Chinatown series in 2004 and go there to shoot whenever I've got time,”; Biggins says. “;You can gather a sense of history through architecture ... yet there's always something new to see because things are always changing within a five-block radius.

“;I want to capture this area that's changing yet remaining the same.”;

Groeniger has been traveling between the United States and China for three years for work on a project with students of Taiyuan Normal University. The city is known among the Chinese as a cradle of its ancient civilization.

He has been photographing Taiyuan and Beijing outside the project as well.

“;After the Olympics, I thought of how Taiyuan is this ancient cradle of civilization. The city essentially supplies all the energy for coal-fired power plants, and it's literally drying up—it's running out of drinking water. So Taiyuan is being sucked dry while Beijing is being built up into an international powerhouse.

“;My images are a juxtaposition of a new international city emerging as an ancient civilization is dying. It's embedded in the metaphors.”;

Much of Groeniger's work also includes a background wall, a metaphor, he says, of something that can't be passed through—“;as in 'you've hit a wall'”;—that's either being torn down or built up.

“;Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference which is which in Beijing, because change is so rapid,”; he says.

Beijing is emerging as a gallery district, comprising decommissioned factory spaces that several New York galleries have occupied. “;It's an experimental place based on the Western model,”; Groeniger says.

Biggins attributes her “;creatively driven”; work to parental influence—both are artists. But she says she isn't much for picking up a brush.

“;I've never been good at painting. With photography I can capture what's there with the snap of a finger,”; she says. “;I love to work with composition, what I choose to put in the frame. I call what I do art because the camera does the work of capturing images my eye sees.”;

When “;Architecture of Change”; is over, Biggins' work moves from the HPU gallery to the Hawaii State Art Museum gift shop, where her photos will be for sale.

HPU Art Gallery is located at 45-045 Kamehameha Highway. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Call 236-5853.