Friday, July 29, 2011

Sleepy Cat

Steve Masover posted a blog (One Finger Typing) entry Are cats inherently optimistic? on the optimistic cat Snowboots.  She is a very affectionate and persistent cat.

As Steve said, she loves to sneak into comfortable bed, which she would love to commandeer. 

Cat _ 4000
"This is the bed I should have."

Cat _ 3996
"It feels so cozy."

However, occasionally, she would not mind sit on a chair by the table, even though her food would not be served there. She enjoyed was eye-level companionship.

Cat _ 4015

Recently, she has lost interest in the bed, and falls in love with a tall chair I newly installed for her which has become her favorite spot where she can sleep for hours:

Cat _ 4108
"Jumping made me tired."

Cat _ 4116
"Now I can sleep."

Finally, you can have a fuller picture of her:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beauty in Household Objects

Beauty exists in everywhere, even amongst the most mundane household objects, I can detect exquisite beauty such as the glasses and bowls on drying racks:




Related article: Daily Objects Became Art - "Laundered Clothes" Painting Completed

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Revolutionary Kitsch

The high speed rails in China have been in news often lately.  The newly opened Beijing-Shanghai line was the birth gift to the ruling Communist Party's 90th anniversary (July 1).  That anniversary was a big event and the Chinese officials at all levels competed to outdo each other to show their ardor.

庆祝中国共产党建党90周年“光辉的历程”经典美术作品展开幕式 - 山东省委宣传部、山东省文化厅、山东省文联主办,山东省美术馆 - Celebrate the 90th anniversary of founding of the Chinese Communist Party "glorious history" Classic Art Exhibition Opening - Shandong Provincial Party Committee Propaganda Department, Shand

According to People Daily, on June 30th, a titled "Glorious History" special exhibit, organized by Shandong Provincial Art Museum, sponsored by the Shandong Provincial Party Committee Propaganda Department, Shandong Provincial Department of Culture, and Literary Federation, opened to the public.  It boasted "more than 70 pieces of epic paintings, demonstrating the Chinese Communist Party's glorious history and great achievements, demonstrating the dazzling chapter of Shandong Fine Arts. These classic works of art by well-known Shandong artists, were collected from all over the country. These works have repeatedly appeared in the art albums and teaching materials, and their carefully conceptions, in-depth expression, detailed characterization, magnificent momentum , unique language, sincere feelings for the people left vivid and exciting historical chapters and have become moving spiritual power."

After the banal description, the newspaper then named those "well-known" Shandong artists, including Gao Quan, Zhang Hongxiang, Yang Songlin, Qin Dahu, Lu Zhang, Wang Yidong (oil paintings) and Liu Baochun, Shan Yinggui, Cai Yushui (Chinese paintings) and singled out several works for their "moving and educational strength":

《毛主席在连队建党》 高泉 - "Party Chairman Mao established Party in the company" by Gao Quan
"Party Chairman Mao established Party in the company" by Gao Quan

《节节胜利》 张洪祥 崔森林 - "Score one more victory" by Zhang Hongxiang and Cui Senlin
"Score one more victory" by Zhang Hongxiang and Cui Senlin

《小八路》 孙滋溪 - Little Eighth Army Soldier" by Sun Zixi
"Little Eighth Army Soldier" by Sun Zixi

 《周总理和水兵》 孙延政 - "Premier Zhou and the sailors" by Sun Yanzheng
"Premier Zhou and the sailors" by Sun Yanzheng

However, the staginess of these works betrayed the influence of Mao's infamous demand on artist -" literature and art are subordinate to politics".  These paintings are false and banal, despite if they were well-executed or not.

I call them revolutionary kitsch.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Aftermath of the Wenzhou Train Collision in China

According to ChinaSmack,

Domestic journalists are already used to receiving this kind of garbage/junk text messages

ChinaSmack - Collision Reaction

Translation of the text in the above photograph:
Propaganda notice: The Wenzhou train accident will be uniformly referred to as the “7.23 Yong-Wen Line Exceptionally Serious Railway Accident”.
The Wenzhou train accident from now on will be reported with “great love in the face of great disaster” as the main theme. Don’t question, don’t expand, don’t associate, and don’t repost [about the matter] on individual/personal microblogs! Appropriate service [charity/volunteer] information may be provided during television programs, but be careful of the atmosphere created by music selection!
China has spent measureless amount of resources to brush up its images.  But instead of trying to make the train attendants pretty, they really ought to solve real problems big and small.

Train Attendants Practicing Smiling
Train Attendants Practicing Smiling

Train Attendants Practicing Giving Directions
Train Attendants Practicing Giving Directions

Nanjing Railroad Station 12 July 2011_2
Newly built Nanjing Railroad Station after a storm

Nanjing Railroad Station 12 July 2011_1
Newly built Nanjing Railroad Station after a storm

But the aftermath is not promising. It seems that after the immediate sacking of some officials, Chinese authorities went back on the same tactics as reported by ChinaSmack.  Many appalling things happened after the collision.  Rescue efforts prematurely ended; trains were dismantled and even buried before real evidence collection could possibly have taken place.  Now, turning tragedy into comedy is in order again.  We can only hope the tragedy in this magnitude won't happen again:

We only wish the tragedy in the

Collision caught by video camera

Monday, July 25, 2011

Waterfall in Berkeley

Last week, I saw a lovely little waterfall on University of California, Berkeley campus.  Quite enchanting.





Sunday, July 24, 2011

Behind The Glitters - China Behind "Harmonious" Facade

People have been marveling at the Chinese miracles for a couple decades now and it is undeniable that China has made stride in improving its economy and living standards. For foreigners who visit the most developed coastal cities, China has come of age indeed.

Yet, the glitters that have dazzled people for so long, blinded many observers so much that they could not see behind.

Finally, it seems the reckoning days are coming fast.

The most ambitious projects after the Three Gorges Dam is the new high speed train networks. The most recent addition to the networks is bullet train between Beijing and Shanghai, the equivalent of Washington D.C. and New York City, respectively.  However, a week or so after its opening on June 30th, within four days, there were four breakdowns along the line and passengers were trapped for hours in completely sealed cars without air conditioning.  They should have considered themselves lucky, comparing to another breakdown due to lightening, again, with lethal consequences.

When one fast train lost power, "due to lightening strike", and was disabled on the track, it was hit by another high speed train on 23 July.  So far, death toll has risen to 35 and there are 192 injured.

The pictures are gruesome and also poignant.  The name of one of the train was called Harmony, in correspondence to the drive to build harmonious society, alas, through repression and suppressing dissent.  Now the veneer of the harmony has been torn apart brutally.

Train Wreck in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province - Train Label 'Harmony' 1

Photo source - People Daily

After the first round of the high speed train breakdowns, Chinese officials demanded people's lenience on their judgments of the high speed train systems.  Can they continue to receive people's indulgences?

The high speed train systems were built as an effort of a new Great Leap Forward.  Some senior railroad engineers claimed that some of the roads were being constructed while surveying and designing.  The railroad minister had lost his job early this year due to graft.  One has to wonder the quality of these great leaping efforts.  There are many design issues as well.  The global positioning technique can be used on buses and why not on high speed trains?  The automation system to prevent such collision was supposed to be in place. Why did it fail?  The collision occurred only 10 minutes to 25 minutes after the first train lost power, according to some reports.  Whey would that be long enough to prevent such tragedy?  Another incomprehensible aspect of these trains is that the windows of the trains could not be opened, even when the rescue team tried with heavy hammers.  Whoever approved such design should shoulder blames as well.  People daily also had boasted that Chinese railroad system had successfully trained rookie drivers within 10 tens, despite the requirement of three months training specified by German experts. 

These problems are not confined to a corrupt ministry.  In last couple weeks, two highway bridges collapsed out of blue on the same day with casualties in China.  A demolition of nearby building caused a collapse of a high rise in Harbin.  It is just reported that a bridge under construction collapsed in Hefei, Anhui Province:

Photo source - People Daily

Or the collapse of highrise being built in Shanghai (2009):

Shanghai June 27 2009

According to many, shoddy constructions were the cause of many children's death in the big earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008.  Yet, the people who got jailed were people who tried to discover the truth and record the malpractices in the construction, contractor and the government officials, including the internationally renown artist Ai Weiwei.

China has avoided a financial disaster with its vast governmental spending but if the money well-spent is a mystery to many.  GDP is the only thing the officials are being measured and development driven GDP became the surest bet.  Better still, a piece of land can be developed again and again.  Therefore the repeated land grabs with tragic endings when people tried to immolate themselves in order to save their dwellings.

All these are behind the glitters they put forth in series of big events - Olympic in Beijing, World Expo in Shanghai and many big and small events sold to locals as international events which attracted few but profit seekers.

The bigger tragedy will come still if Chinese government continue to try to achieve harmony through repression.  The reckless development craze and local debts will engulf a large portion of the huge wealth China has accumulated in fast pace.  When the over-heated housing market tumble, a severer reckoning day will render the society anything bu harmonious.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norway and Other Scandinavian Countries

The tragedy in Norway happened last Friday was a very shocking and sad event.  It is almost unfathomable to think that a tragedy of such magnitude would have taken place in Norway, or any peaceful and distant Scandinavian countries.

However, the distance is only a relative word.  It is not an isolated world and definitely not a remote place for the people who live there and nearby. 

I have always wanted to visit Scandinavian countries - Norway, Denmark and Sweden.  Someone would argue that Finland is part of the Scandinavia, as well as Iceland.  Though I know very little about Scandinavia; however, since I grew up in a cold region (not as cold, though), I felt an affinity to those stark lands.

To me, Denmark is famed for its favorite son Hans Christian Andersen, and Sweden is well known to me through its immense influence in Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) and IKEA, while Norway has its Henrik Ibsen, and incidentally whose play A Doll's House made Madame Mao a famous stage actress in 1930s' Shanghai.  And of course Edvard Munch.

However, its was the two novels I read recently gave me better picture of what Norway had experienced in recent history in broad stokes.  One was the recent novel Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester) by Per Petterson.  This sparse and extremely lyrical novel detailed through personal lenses of Norwegian's World War II past and its collective human psyche.  It was moving beyond description.  Another novel I just finished reading a couple weeks ago, was Growth of the Soil (1917) by Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun, who was praised as the soul of Norway.  This epic book detailed a family's coming into existence and its difficult but not unrewarding and consistent growing with the family farm on the Norwegian soil.  The style was very odd.  Biblical.  It was really like reading the Old Testaments.  By the end of the book, I gained more understanding of soil-toiling farmers, backbones and forefathers of many natures and the enormous strength and resilience of that wonderful nation.

Norway is wonderful and resilient.  We know.

Flag of Norway

Coat of Arms of Norway

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Got Blood?

It seems getting bloodier everyday.  After I posted a "Psycho" themed shower curtain, I saw a very interesting sticker in a café.  Got Blood?
Got Blood _ 4068

Do we blame on Robert Patterson?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Psycho" Shower Curtain

A short while ago, I visited a friend in San Francisco and I was amused by her shower curtain.  Graciously, she allowed me to take pictures in her bathroom and share with people.  Enjoy:



Monday, July 18, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

When I saw the silly title of a new movie on its poster, I laughed out loud - "Cowboys & Aliens".  One line of movie quote jumped out - "the aliens abused him...sexually" (online search helped me to locate the origin - "Independence Day"). Is this going to be an action movie like "Independence Day" or a homoerotica like "Brokeback Mountain"?  Or, even better, illegitimate child of these famed predecessors? And who is going to probe whom?

Cowboys and Aliens _ 4037

I don't believe that I will ever bother to find it out.  Perhaps the trailer below gives some clue?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ideas Alone Make Great Art?

I just read a New Yorker article about learning drawing (Life Studies) by art critic Adam Gopnik, who took instructions from an artist who is adherent to the classic way of drawing and painting.

Over time, the featured artist Jacob Collins had assembled a group of teachers and enthusiasts, all given over to the practice of classical drawing from life and plaster casts, and from that nucleus came this studio and the Grand Central Academy of Art. The best half-serious label Jacob could find for his approach was “traditional realist revivalism.”

According to Gopnik's description, Collins was apparently exasperated by the indifference if not ought right disdain leveled upon the classicists and their creations.

It is quite a curious thing to observe the contemporary art scene.  People go to art gallery openings expected to be entertained, in the same anticipation of attending an aerial acrobat or a ballet performance.  The modern artists were expected to create something knock you out with it sheer size, originality of materials or ideas.  As for the execution of the ideas, most curators and audiences seem don't care much.  After Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, any work deemed lack of theatricality were often overlooked.

The drive to be more in your face theatrical have rendered the art scenes centering on installations and conceptual art - some of them are very transcendent but time to time, they are often less than fully developed, shallow, and worse, kitschy.

Starting with the excellent ones.  I found the sunflower seeds installation in Tate Modern, London by Ai Weiwei exhilarating, and an installation I saw in De Young Museum, San Francisco, Anti-Mass, 2005, by Cornelia Parker (b 1956) poignant.  The latter one was a 3D explosion of suspended debris constructed of the burned remains of a Southern Black Baptist church destroyed by arsonists:

Then there are things less exalted though no less flashy.  I always found the concepts put forth by Yoko Ono interesting but they were interesting mostly as ideas, less so as art creations.  In a sense, she is more a performing artist or a propagandist than a visual artist.

This led me to the discussion of a highly successful duo - the Gao Brothers hailed from China, whose "Gao Brothers: Grandeur and Catharsis" was presented at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri in 2010-2011.  Kemper also presented them in 2010 .

According to Kemper Museum,
China’s Gao Brothers—Gao Qiang and Gao Zhen—have collaborated on their artwork since 1985. Much of the Gao Brothers’ work has been colored by their family’s experiences during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–76). In 1968 the artists’ father was arrested as a counter revolutionary, and days later he died while in custody. The Gao Brothers’ works of art seek to understand China’s complicated history and a government that has moved from Communism to a form of State Capitalism controlled by the Communist Party. At times, the works are politically charged, but in the end the brothers seek to forgive and understand. Featuring large-scale sculpture, painting, and photography, this is the artists’ first museum exhibition in the United States.

Their recent effort including Mao's Guilt:

An exhibition program noted that "Mao's Guilt (2009) is the culmination of many years of the Gao Brother's attempts to make peace with their father's death during the Cultural Revolution... The sculpture allows for personal catharsis as the Gao Brothers have created a repentant Mao, expressing guilt for the millions of deaths for which he was responsible. As the artists told curator this may be their last image of Mao, as it encompasses their long process of working through the grief and anger associated with him. Surrounded by images of the Gao Family, this installation offers a very personal perspective on the Cultural Revolution and the human losses associated with the period."

Again, the concept was an interesting one -- though I cannot imagine a repentant Mao -- and it must be very controversial in China when Mao still commands some respect and even reverence but I found the caricatured image of Mao was less threatening than it should have been and would not carry the historical burden the subject demands, therefore, I think that the Gao Brothers have missed an opportunity to express something truly deep and profound.  I felt the same towards their sculptures "Miss Mao trying to poise herself at the top of Lenin's head" and "The Execution of Christ" below - by simply making fun of their grim subjects, they made the grime history/reality a cartoon and that rob the impact they ought to exert:

Their figurines of Mao et. al., simultaneously daring and pedantic, have become, unfortunately, political kitsch.  Sleek ones.  One can argue that this is intentional - that the worship of Mao itself is being parodied but then sometimes I felt it was the criticism was being parodied here.

I think more satisfying efforts can be found in works by South African artist William Kentridge and German artist Anselm Kiefer, both dealing with collective national traumas.

Die Meistersinger, 1982, Anselm Kiefer 1945-

Drawing by William Kentridge

Ideas by themselves, won't make great art.  Sometimes, voicing the idea alone, without a deliberate and well execution, the ideas could become parodies and even dangerously veer towards kitsch.

But a well-executed visual work need to have weighty substances to make their impact great.  Taking Jacob Collins for example.  Though I like his drawings and his nude paintings very much, I still would prefer to see more social context which he had chosen to stripe away.

Anna by Jacob Collins

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres's nudes were much more gratifying, despite its obvious decorative nature.  The oeuvres of the modern artist Collins couldn't stand, Édouard Manet, were also much more meaningful when provided appropriate specificities:

Grande Odalisque by Ingres   (image source: wikipedia)

Olympia by Manet  (image source: wikipedia)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Editor's Award on Artist Portfolio Magazine, Published by My Art Contest

My painting "The Song of Orpheus" won Editor's Choice Award in the COVER II WINNERS competition, sponsored by - second issue of Artist Portfolio Magazine has been published online and below is the online magazine hosted on ISSUU - if you have an ISSUU account, you can print and download the PDF. 

I also made a video of the magazine so as to save you the trouble of flipping through the pages:

My work, The Song of Orpheus, was published on Page 8:

Artist Portfolio Magazine - ISSUE2 Page 8


Related articles:
It's Official - Editors Choice Award Certificate
Editor's Choice Award for "The Song of Orpheus" - Artist Portfolio Magazine

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paper Sculpture and Cut Paper Art

By chance, I came across artworks by Calvin Nicholls, who specializes on paper sculptures, or paper relief, to be more accurate.  His works often showcase whimsical animal and are definitely one-of-a-kind:

This reminded me some kind of art creation I enjoyed as a kid - paper cuts (剪纸).  When we were a kids, we often flip a finished sample over, underneath a piece of wax paper, colored front facing-down and used pencil to stencil the pattern thoroughly.  Afterwards, we used a razor or box-cutter to cut along the detailed edges and once it was then, flip the wax paper over, we got the colorful cut paper like these:








Of course, the patterns we had were mostly with revolutionary themes and even with slogans thrown in, like the one below was a quotation of Mao:


I am happy to learn that people continue to work on this media, with modernistic take, such as Joe Bagley and Daniel Mar:

032120_723174071 by Joe Bagley
Joe Bagley

images by Daniel Mar
Daniel Mar

Papa, maman, le monde et moi, 2009 - Daniel Mar
Daniel Mar

It was a fun folksy art and if you try it, you will like it. Just watch out for the blades.