Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Monet: The Early Years" at San Francisco Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum

The forever popular French impressionist painter Claude Monet made his somewhat unusual appearance in San Francisco Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum, in an exhibition titled Monet: The Early Years (February 25, 2017 through May 29, 2017), featuring his mostly engaging early paintings, some of them were already in the realm of later famed impressionism.

The first piece or pieces to greet the audience amazed us by the unusual shape of the wok(s). The ensemble had two framed pieces of different sizes, cut from the same and much larger painting. The square one on the right side, centering on two seated people at a picnic, was collected by Musée d'Orsay in Paris, titled 'Luncheon on the Grass, Central Panel' (1865–66), while the slender and tall panel on the left side, featuring back view of three people at the perimeter of the picnic, hailed from a private collection. What a fascinating family reunion. I also wondered where the "right" panel might be.

DSCN8536 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

The rest of the exhibition was organized in chronological order, well suited to demonstrate the development of Monet as an artist. Here, I will largely follow this arrangement, with some re-grouping according to subject matters.

In the first room, we saw some landscapes, and one can see their affinity to the works by early French greats such as Corot, and Courbet. These landscape were much weightier and earthier than his more celebrated later pieces.

DSCN8489 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
The Pointe de La Hève at Low Tide, 1865. Oil on canvas, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

DSCN8513 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion
 of Honor

Next were some winter scenes, a genre quite different from typical impressionism works closely associated with often colorful domains under joyous and sunshine. However, even in winter, the shifting lights were clearly a main contributing factor to the sense of drama, though somewhat subdued.

DSCN8491 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
A Cart on the Snowy Road at Honfleur (1865), Musée d’Orsay

DSCN8496 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

DSCN8497 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor - The Magpie
The Magpie (1869), Musée d’Orsay

There were some paintings depicting scenes in cities, painted while Monet visited the Netherlands and UK, and those works had similar characteristics of his early landscapes.

DSCN8520 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

But, some of the brushstrokes Monet employed had become noticeably looser and more fluid.

DSCN8522 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion
 of Honor
Hyde Park, 1871, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

DSCN8532 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

DSCN8519 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
The Pont Neuf in Paris (1871), Dallas Museum of Art

With water, Monet had his most solid footing, and the results were dynamic and engrossing. Immersed in a room full of such paintings, one felt the strong need to hold breath, in case the splashing water entered one's lungs.

DSCN8502 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

DSCN8499 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
The Green Wave. (1886) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

DSCN8500 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

DSCN8503 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

One of my favorite pieces in this show was the "Fishing Boat" below, which was rich in texture and subtle in tonal variances, and almost reached the state of abstract, which caused its rejection by an exhibiting salon, yet a virtue in the later era.

DSCN8501 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor - Fishing Boats
Fishing Boats

Monet's water scenes with people was always very interesting, especially the way he portrayed the slight melancholy, and the endlessly shifting patterns of water. His ability to depict still or slightly rippled water bodies was astounding, despite the fact that such way of painting had inevitably lost its novelty.

DSCN8509 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

DSCN8515 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt (1868)

DSCN8517 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion
 of Honor

DSCN8511 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor - On the Beach at Trouville
On the Beach in Trouville

DSCN8512 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

Monet didn't frequently paint people as pure portraits — most of his people were immersed in outdoor or indoor settings, and became part of the fabrics — a few such pure portraits from his early period were included in the show, and I was very taken in by a portrait of Camille Monet, who stood in snow, in her bright red shawl, turned her upper torso slightly, and timidly or inquisitively peered into the closed French door. An intriguing scene, worthy of Chekhov or Ibsen.

DSCN8490 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
The Red Kerchief: Portrait of Camille Monet (ca. 1868-1873), Cleveland Museum of Art 

DSCN8492 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
The Cradle—Camille with the Artist’s Son Jean (1867, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC)

DSCN8493 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
Jean Monet Sleeping (1867–1868, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen)

DSCN8524 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion
 of Honor

There were also some still life paintings in the exhibit, probably as answers to friendly challenges lobbed from some accomplished painters. Or rainy day consolations for the sun-obsessed Monet.

DSCN8506 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor

DSCN8533 _ Monet - The Early Years, Legion of Honor
Still Life with Melon (1872, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon)


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

My Featured Painting "Arabesque"

The medium or media we choose to convey our deepest feelings and expressions, etc., however competent, can never fully convey the whole complicated concepts our brain formed mysteriously, thus the endless striving to meet the challenge, to do a better job still in the next given opportunity, thus the hunger to develop and grow as an artist, be it visual, musical compositional or a writing kind.

It also occurs often enough that one form of artistic creation, spurs on the re-interpretation with another media of either the whole story or a fleeting moment, not necessarily to prove a better job can be done; rather, to add another dimension to the engaging concept while hoping to complement the original.

I have been stimulated, on multiple occasions, by novels I read, sometimes the whole atmosphere of the book, such as Blindness by José Saramago, or sometimes, just a specific passage which may not even be pivotal in the whole scheme, such as my newly completed oil painting, Arabesque, inspired by a passage from The Known World by Edward P. Jones: "... looked over at the open chiffarobe [sic], whose door was broken and so would never close properly, looked at the black dress hanging there. It seemed to have its own life, so much life that it could have come down and walked over and placed itself over her body. Fastened itself."

Arabesque / 阿拉伯風 / Arabeske, Oil on Canvas, 28" x 22", Completed in 2013
Arabesque / 阿拉伯風 / Arabeske
Oil on Canvas
28" x 22"
Completed in 2013

I actually was quite stirred by the passage and the image just flooded into my mind. Incidentally, this painting also fell into a painting scheme of mine - I have been working on a series of "White Dresses", which I saw as both liberated and restricted, at once individual and impersonal, simultaneously beautiful and sinister. Now it started the companion series "Black Dress".


9 Paintings and 3 Installations Completed in 2013 (part 1 of 2)



Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com

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- My Featured Painting "Cascades"

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

Last May, I took a day trip to Manchurian city Dandong, the large border Chinese city next to North Korea.

I entertained myself during the short train ride from my home city Shenyang, when the scenery got dull, by observing the speed of the train, which had reached 244 km/hr (152 mi/hr).

DSCN2528 - High Speed Train in Dandong, Liaoning, China

DSCN2521 - Train to Dandong, 244km:hr

Dandong was the entry point of the Chinese "Volunteer" Army and military materials pouring into the battlefields of Korean War in 1950s. The bridge connecting Dandong and North Korea was bombed during the war and it remained damaged, as a relic of the war, stood next to a later bridge, which channeled legal or illegal imported and exported goods between China and North Korea. The image of destruction had made a strong impression on me, and I even made a painting of those parallel bridges, titled "Bombed Bridge, III".

Bombed Bridge, III / 炸斷的橋樑之三 / Bombardierten Brücke, III
Bombed Bridge, Oil on Canvas, 24"x36", 2007

It should be noticed that the damage to the old bridge was limited to the North Korea's side only, while the rest remained intact inside Chinese territory. At the right vantage point, one could see both bridges stood side by side over Yalu River.

DSCN2550 - Bridges over Yalu River

DSCN2657 - Bridges over Yalu River



I took a little river cruise along the river, so as to take a quick survey of the border region of North Korea, Sinuiju.

DSCN2713 - Cruise boat on Yalu River

DSCN2732 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2744 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2757 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2562 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2563 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China



Looking back at Dandong, which though in the economic depressed rust belt Northeast China, comparing to the slow-paced North Korea, looked like a thriving metropolis:

DSCN2780 - Border city Dandong, China

DSCN2781 - Border city Dandong, China

DSCN2758 - Border city Dandong, China



It seemed so arbitrary that one could be born in a "wrong region", or at a "wrong time". Or both. And for the unlucky ones, hope simple didn't exist.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Featured Painting "Cascades"

Inspired by the lush fall colors in the valleys, and rushing cascades in the mountains of Yosemite, which I recently visited, I made a gouache painting, titled Cascade, trying to capture the spirits and impression of the marvel, instead of literal shapes and shades.

Cascades / 瀑布 / Kaskaden  

Cascade
Gouache on Paper 12”x8”
Completed in 2017

A simple and heart-warming souvenir.


Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tomb Treasure Exhibition at San Francisco Asian Art Museum


IMG_1352 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, in collaboration with Nanjin Museum in China, just opened a breathtaking exhibition, "Tomb Treasures, New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty" (February 17 - May 28, 2017), with the majority of the artifacts from Dayushan Jiandu Royal Tomb (excavated in 2011) and Xuzhou Chu Royal Tomb (excavated in 1995).

According to the Museum,
One of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world, China’s Han dynasty achieved profound cultural and artistic influence, technological advancements and military might. Two thousand years later, discoveries of royal tombs allow us to glimpse these extraordinary accomplishments firsthand.
IMG_1349 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

One of the most impressive artifacts on display was a rare percussion instrument - a group of bronze bells of various sizes on a rack in formation, each bell has a different pitch, like a ancient keyboard. Music and ceremony played very important roles in ancient China and this Bell Group perhaps was almost as important a symbol as a scepter of the state.

IMG_1339 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1154 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1153 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

For indisputable symbols of royal status and state power, the exhibition presented some ceremonial and war weaponry, along with armor and warrior status made of wood, recalling bronze horses by Deborah Butterfield, in the shape of driftwood.

IMG_1343 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1162 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1187 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1336 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1157 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

There were other objects symbolizing the royal status and power of those tomb owners, such as some powerful and graceful bronze tigers with gold and silver inlays, and other noble beasts adorning different daily objects.

IMG_1322 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1166 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1327 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Another important aspect of court life was cooking, which, besides providing  indispensable daily subsistence, was as important as music in ritual ceremonies. The daily or ritual cooking utensils were abundant in these tomb discoveries, and they impressed with their imposing bulk and delicate details.

IMG_1164 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1142 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1141 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1159 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum  IMG_1283 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum
IMG_1312 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1331 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum
IMG_1275 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1274 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1308 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Courtly entertainment was represented by graceful dancer figurines and tiny jester statues, along with some stylized and humorous figure and animal statues.

IMG_1329 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1169 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1172 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1321 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1156 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Echos of graceful shapes and movements of those court dancers could be seen on some wonderfully shaped lamps, including the joint-armed, heart-shaped one, whose unique design rendered it smokeless.

IMG_1144 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1140 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1278 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

More personal objects in the exhibition were metal mirror, jade accessories, and precious metal clasps, etc. Elegant and delicate.

IMG_1205 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1249 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1247 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1238 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1301 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1158 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1289 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Finally, there were impressive objects from homes for the living and for the dead.

IMG_1234 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1267 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1263 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1197 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1201 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1202 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

A pair of terracotta figurines, whose wooden arms had rotten away, were startlingly creepy and memorable. Time had changed by Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) and artificial, instead of human sacrifices were to be entombed. A marked progression of society and culture.

IMG_1265 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

The most memorable objects of this exhibition were a huge marble tomb and a death shroud made of jade plates wired together with gold threads. Muted and low-key, yet most extravagant.

IMG_1245 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1220 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum



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