A HUNDRED students and staff at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) have been rendered in water colour by a visiting Chinese professor.

Forty of the paintings are being exhibited at the Bournemouth campus before being displayed in China.

Swimming Upstream: Cultures of Watercolour consists of the work of Professor Lei Yongbin, visiting from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chong Qing, China.

Vice-chancellor Stuart Bartholomew was among those who sat for a portrait.

“These are portraits executed in a single sitting which is usually of two to three hours’ duration,” he said.

“It’s exceptionally demanding to do a portrait of any sort but to execute it in water colour is quite unusual.”

He said watercolours were particularly difficult to do. “It’s a very, very demanding medium which means any errors cannot be corrected,” he said.

“It’s become seen as something which was part of the pleasure artists’ scene. Not so in China, where it’s seen as a critical medium for Chinese artists.”

Professor Lei has been in residence at AUB for the past year as part of an initiative to connect local academics and students with Chinese arts institutions. The aim is to position Bournemouth as a destination for Chinese students.

Prof Lei’s time at the university finishes this summer and his work will then be exhibited at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute.

Prof Lei said: “Because my English isn’t very good, I wanted to find a way to be able to communicate with the community here at AUB. My speciality is in watercolours and these portraits show how I look at the people that I have met at the University, who are all from different parts of the world.

“It is a special thing to do, to stare at someone for two hours. It’s a very intense observation. It’s not often that you have the opportunity to observe someone for so long. We don’t even do this to the people that we love most.”

He added: “I look forward to bringing these portraits back to China. These are not just portraits, these paintings hold the characters of the people I have painted.”

Swimming Upstream runs until July 1 at The CRAB Drawing Studio on the AUB campus.