I went to Spain in the summer of 2009 – I had just left the army, and it was my first time travelling abroad.
An arts agent in Spain invited me. She had seen my works and liked them, so invited me to Bilbao, in northern Spain, to join some local art activities and to visit some exhibitions.
I went to Bilbao’s vast Guggenheim Museum. I was impressed by an exhibition of Chinese artist Cai Guo-qiang’s work, as well as by a retrospective of works by the Bulgarian environmental sculptor Christo.
One day, I found some time to sit on a little white bench on the street, watching Bilbao life go past. It was incredibly tranquil, surrounded by typical European houses and trees, their leaves falling down quietly around me.
I noticed the local people, walking at a relaxed pace. There was an old woman with her walking stick and her dog, a group of kids having fun on skateboards in a small plaza. From my bench, I could hear their laughter. It was like a scene from a fairytale.
Since that first trip, I have realised the importance of language.
When I came back to China, I spent more time listening to and practising my English. Now I travel two or three times every year: to exhibit my work, to see art exhibitions or just for the joy of travelling.
Shen Jingdong is a Beijing-based artist whose artworks were exhibited in the spring edition of the 2017 Asia Contemporary Art Show in Hong Kong. The 2018 spring edition takes place over 23-26 March.