Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Award for a Drawing

In the era of social media and instant gratifications, it is often very lonely and despairing to be an artist or a writer.  Solitude, dedication, monkish life yet often yields no rewards.  Occasionally, a sort of recognition is like a shot in the arm and can propel an artist to renown his resolution.

Yesterday, I received such encouragement, or a kick, from the online art community/arbiter, - my recent colored ink drawing, was awarded its 5th 2012 Showcase Award.


Ink Drawing Night City 3 _ 8387 - 500
Ink Drawing Night City 3
Ink on Paper
Completed in 2012

So far, I have been recognized three times by this panel - two for my oil paintings (see image below).  Drawing really is a byproduct of my endeavor but it is gratifying to know that even so, my drawings do have some merits.


Now, I must work harder.

Related posts on Art · 文化 · Kunst:
- "Diptych - Dawn" Won Another Award

- Editor's Choice Award for "The Song of Orpheus" - Artist Portfolio Magazine
- Editor's Award on Artist Portfolio Magazine, Published by My Art Contest
- One More Award from ArtSlant Showcase Competition
- Honorable Mentioned in A Juried Competition

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kitchen, Restaurant and Food Court in Shenyang, China

Before I visited China in May, I learned to make bagels, hoping to treat my parents with the authentic Jewish American food.  Alas, they don't have oven in their flat, so I had to learn to make pancakes with the cookbooks they had and below images are the documentation of my efforts:

Making Pancakes in Shenyang, China _ 0314
Step 1

Making Pancakes in Shenyang, China _ 0315 Making Pancakes in Shenyang, China _ 0316
Steps 2-3

Making Pancakes in Shenyang, China _ 0318
Step 4

Pancakes, Shenyang, China _ 9133
Another kind of pancake

My mom and I also teamed up to make several loaves of bread of different varieties, with her breadmaker.  I had never made bread before and it was fun, even though it was cheating.  The taste of the bread was not bad, but it definitely could not compete with artisan breads we have in San Francisco Bay Area.

Homemade Bread, Shenyang, China _ 0029

Homemade Bread, Shenyang, China _ 8933

Homemade Bread, Shenyang, China _ 0031

Naturally, we'd have some meals out but I found the food in Chinese restaurant intolerably greasy so I often opt for like stuff like porridge or steam buns.  Below is a pumpkin porridge I had in a food court and it was quick tasty:

Porridge from a Foot Court, Shenyang, China _ 9294

On another occasion, I sat in a food court inside a department store, and watched the cook making hand stretched noodles.  It was quite fun:

The department store was usually packed but the day we were there, it was usually quiet and light with diners and shoppers.  Strange.

Food Court in Department Store, Shenyang, China _ 9293

Food Court in Department Store, Shenyang, China _ 0087
Shop Sign: Donkey Biscuits

Food Court in Department Store, Shenyang, China _ 0088

Below two pictures show the other part of the store and its exterior:

Department Store, Shenyang, China _ _ 0085

Department Store, Shenyang, China _ _ 0111

The food court inside that department store looked nicer and cleaner, while the one inside a huge park was not inviting and I declined to eat there with my family and cousin:

Foot Court in a Park _ 0651

We also went to restaurants - decent, clean and reasonably priced.  Nothing special to report, except for the tanks in the ordering room by the entrance, where diners could point at the seafood they want and the servers would fish it out, be it shrimp, fish, crab, or frog.  Quite unpleasant, so I include only this relatively serene image:

Seafood Restaurant - Shenyang, China _ 0102

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Tate Modern Gallery in London

The transformation from a former power plant to a one of the flashest galleries in the world, Tate Modern Gallery, along with d'Orsay in Paris, set forth an example of how to re-juvenile a blighted institution and a neighborhood.

The vast space was well utilized to showcase many huge sculptures and installations.  However, the works intrigued me most are paintings - one was Image of the Fish God (1956) by Alan Davie (born 1920) and the other one was Large Black Landscape (1946) by Jean Dubuffet (1901‑1985).

Scottish painter and printmaker Davie's Fish God (below) was a bold statement - it was both symmetrical unsymmetrical, and  simultaneously beautiful and ominous.  The imposing black block could be seen as a figure, and the white block on the left was some sort of monument or totemic symbol, and the diamond shape in middle stared at us like an all-seeing accusing eye.  Very mysterious and disturbing.

Image of the Fish God, 1956, Alan Davie (born 1920), Oil on Board, 1530 x 1219 mm

According to Tate Modern, Large Black Landscape (below) was the culminating work of a series of landscapes which Dubuffet executed in Paris between July and September 1946. 

Large Black Landscape, 1946, Jean Dubuffet (1901‑1985), Oil on Board, support: 1551 x 1186 mm frame: 1575 x 1210 x 57 mm

Despite the overwhelmingly dark shades on the board, my reaction to this painting was a quiet smile - it was very enchanting in its subtle and whimsical way.  The lovely pale sky, the flying object looking like a cross with four rounded ends, which also echoed the round sun sitting on the top of a mountain and the onion dome of a tall building.  Sliding my eye down, I found such correlations and echoes covered entire board and the beige colored lines, scraped and gouged, gave us the full gallery of daily life and fantasy.  Against the dark background, they glowed, and they were positive, comforting and was deceptively simple and beautiful.

I am not familiar with this French painter, sculptor, lithographer and writer.  Tate Modern informed the viewers that he
Moved to Paris in 1918 to study painting. Doubting the value of art and culture, stopped painting altogether 1924-33 and entered the wine trade. Made a second abortive attempt at painting 1933-7, also making masks and puppets. Began painting again in 1942 and had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie René Drouin, Paris, in 1944. Made paintings of Parisian street scenes, people in the Metro, jazz musicians, portraits of friends, etc., with humorous, ironic imagery executed in a grotesque style akin to naive graffiti...
 The more I learn, the less I know.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 48: My Favorite Paintings at Tate Britain, London
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 46: My Favorite Paintings in the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, London

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Getting Ready for Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum

Barry McGee Mural, New York City, 9 September 2010 _7611

In last few weeks, I returned to Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) several times, not for its exhibition, but for the preparation of the upcoming retrospective of Barry McGee, trained in San Francisco Art Institute in painting and printmaking, made name as a graffiti artist, whose work I first encountered in New York City - a wonderful pink cursive writing graffiti covering a large white wall.

Berkeley Art Museum assessed him with following paragraph:
“Throughout his career,” writes Alex Baker in the exhibition catalog, “Barry McGee has continued to surprise and contradict expectations.” Including rarely seen early etchings, letterpress printing trays and liquor bottles painted with his trademark cast of down-and-out urban characters, constellations of vibrant op-art painted panels, animatronic taggers, and an elaborate re-creation of a cacophonous street-corner bodega, along with many new projects, this first midcareer survey of the globally influential San Francisco–based artist showcases the astonishing range of McGee’s compassionate and vivacious work.
The exciting aspect of watching is enormous show coming into places, with mind-boggling amount of pieces, gave me a sense what he was striving at and what Herculean effort he and the presenters put in to stage the show. During those visits when the show was being put together, I couldn't help taking some pictures and I hope that BAM and Mr. McGee are not to be offended - I was just too carried away and too excited and wanted to let as many people know about the exhibit as possible.  It was quite a wild scene and I am often speechless and giddy, by his wit and and his inventiveness.

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8456

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8464

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8462

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8461

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8455

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8448

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8450

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8450 - details

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8449

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8452

Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum _ 8465

This exhibit is gearing up to be a monster hit and I am very looking forward to seeing this exhibit.  Thank you Berkeley Art Museum!

The show opens on Friday, 24 August.  Be there!

Berkeley Art Museum gave us further information on its press release:
McGee, who trained professionally in painting and printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute, began sharing his work in the 1980s, not in a museum or gallery setting but on the streets of San Francisco, where he developed his skills as a graffiti artist, often using the tag name “Twist.” McGee’s use of this and other monikers—such as Ray and Lydia Fong—as well as his frequent collaborations can make it difficult to precisely situate the artist’s unique authorship. Using a visual vocabulary drawn from graffiti, comics, hobo art, and sign painting, McGee celebrates his Mission District neighborhood while at the same time calling attention to the harmful effects of capitalism, gentrification, and corporate control of public space. His often-humorous paintings, drawings, and prints—all wrought with extraordinary skill—push the boundaries of art: his work can seem refreshingly informal in the gallery but surprisingly elegant on the street.

McGee has long viewed the city itself as a living space for art and activism, but his more recent work has brought the urban condition into the space of the gallery. Increasingly, his installation environments express the anarchic vitality of the inner-city street, incorporating overturned cars and trucks, and often spill beyond the frame of the gallery or museum.

Barry McGee is organized by Director Lawrence Rinder, with Assistant Curator Dena Beard. Barry McGee is made possible by lead support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and presenting sponsor Citizens of Humanity. Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Ratio 3, Cheim and Read, the East Bay Fund for Artists at the East Bay Community Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Prism, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, and Cinelli. Additional support is provided by Rena Bransten, Gallery Paule Anglim, Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt, Suzanne Geiss, Nion McEvoy, and the BAM/PFA Trustees.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Legitimate Rape" in US, "Temporary Rape" in China

A firestorm was raging when Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for senate in Missouri, said in an interview released this weekend that he did not support abortion for rape victims because:
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
By speaking out, he revealed the hidden disdain to women in many of his fellow Republicans, including the Vice President candidate, the congressman Paul Ryan, who, together with Akin, had sponsored bills to make abortion illegal, including the cases of rape and incest.

It sounded so bad that many prominent Republicans chastised him and demanded him to quit from his senate run.  Yet, what he did was only breaking the Republican's unspoken "don't ask, don't tell" rule.  They would rather to make the abortion illegal in the sly, quietly, without talking about it and without attracting any attention.  Akin was bad because he told people that the emperor wore no clothes.

Well, Republicans are generally outraged and embarrassed, as they should be.  However, they could be consoled somewhat if they had been paying attention to the world stories.

It seems that the great rivalry between China and US is extending to the territories of misogyny and stupidity, when people in power in both countries trying to parse the subtle definition of rape.  Recently, there were rape cases reported in China, but the accused rapists, often officials of certain ranks, got off the hook with bizarre excuses - such as, the accused wore condoms, therefore, it should be called rape; or the accused was excused of committing only "temporary rape" without lasting harm.

One murky ground is statutory rape.  Was it legitimate?  Would Akin, Ryan or Romney give us an answer?

As in China, if the offender is an official, then, the statutory rape could be explained away as sleeping with under-aged prostitutes.  This happened!  And it was not even a statutory rape.  It happened was several young school girls were raped by school official but the official was only slapped on his wrist for "sleeping with under-aged prostitutes".

The assault and insult on women did not stop there.

Tang Hui, a mother of underage rape victim, is interviewed by Xinhua reporter after being released from a labor camp in Yongzhou City, central China's Hunan Province, Aug. 10, 2012.

Chinese official news agency Xinhua reported on 11 August 2012 that:
The petitioning mother of a rape victim began her journey home on Saturday after being released from a labor camp in central China's Hunan province, saying she will continue her pursuit of justice.

Tang Hui, who was sent to the camp after campaigning for harsher punishments for those who were found guilty of raping and prostituting her then 11-year-old daughter, bowed in gratitude before a group of reporters.

"I will express your love to my daughter," Tang said before boarding a coach with her husband in the city of Changsha. "She was very happy to hear about my release."

Tang Hui was sent to the Reeducation Through Labor* Center in the city of Yongzhou on Aug. 2 to serve an 18-month sentence for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society" after she petitioned for justice in front of local government buildings.

The news of her detainment quickly set off a firestorm of public criticism. Tang was released on Friday, as the center said her daughter, now 17 years old, is still a minor and requires the mother's care.
Such outrageous could happen here too, if Republican extremists like Akin and Ryan had their way.  Is it really hard to imagine that a young girl, being raped and impregnated and sorted an "illegal" abortion and was imprisoned and punished thus?

* Reeducation Through Labor, a form of extra-judicial punishment in China, and a convenient tool for the administrators to maintain order and control. Sometimes, such punishment is more severe than the penal code required.  Wikipedia described it this way:
Re-education through labor (RTL) (simplified Chinese: 劳动教养; traditional Chinese: 勞動教養; pinyin: láodòng jiàoyǎng), abbreviated (simplified Chinese: 劳教; traditional Chinese: 勞教; pinyin: láojiào) is a system of administrative detentions in the People's Republic of China which is generally used to detain persons for minor crimes such as petty theft, prostitution, and trafficking illegal drugs, as well as religious or political dissidents such as unregistered Christians or Falun Gong adherents. Sentences typically span one to three years, with the possibility of an additional one-year extension. Re-education through labor sentences are issued as a form of administrative punishment by police, rather than through the judicial system. While incarcerated, detainees are often subject to some form of political education. Torture, sometimes resulting in death, has also been reported in labor camps. The re-education through labor system has been in place since 1957 and was subjected to minor reforms by the Chinese government in 2007. Estimates on the number of RTL detainees on any given year ranges from 190,000 to 2 million. China Daily in 2007 estimated that there were a total of 310 re-education centers in China at that time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Favorite Paintings in the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, London

London's museum and galleries are astonishingly rich, way beyond the most prominent the British Museum and the National Gallery.  The somewhat lesser known gallery, the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, London, had a rich collections of Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and 20th Century works, many of them iconic.

My favorite paintings there were seminal ones - one was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-2, by Edouard Manet, and was dated as 1882; and the other one was a striking triptych by Peter Paul Rubens, The Visitation (left panel), The Descent from the Cross (center panel), and The Presentation in the Temple (right panel).  The former one was intimate and still and the other public and dramatic. 

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-2, Edouard Manet, The Courtauld Gallery, London - 500
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-2, Manet, Edouard, Date 1882

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-2, Edouard Manet, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Amongst the artists often grouped together as Impressionists, I am very partial to Manet.  I appreciate him very much because he was not merely chasing a certain detached natural effects, rather, he dived deep into human psyche and that meant much more for me.  I also love the way he handled dark colors, particularly that of black, which was a true color under his brushes, instead of devoid of color in a minor hands.  His characters, elegant, lovely, but often a bit detached and melancholic, a forerunner of Edward Hopper.

In this lovely painting, in the Folies-Bergère, Paris's first music hall, had a notorious reputation as a place for men to pick up prostitutes.  One could see that the barmaid, resigned herself to the scrutinizing gazes from patrons, who we could see on the large mirror behind the pensive barmaid.  Manet also presented the back of her, through some optical trickery, and the customer she was serving.  She slim figure, tightly laced up, presented her like one of the wine bottles being offered to the patrons.  She was there, but also far away.  That absence drew us in, so did the impossible relationship between she and the mirror reflecting her back.  It perhaps was not scientifically accurate, but it gained much more through such "imperfection".

Triptych, 1611-1613, Oil on panel, Peter Paul Rubens
The Visitation (left panel), Height: 83.2 cm; Width: 30.3 cm
The Descent from the Cross (center panel), Height: 115.2 cm; Width: 76.2 cm
The Presentation in the Temple (right panel), Oil on panel Height: 83 cm; Width: 30.4 cm

The triptych above by Rubens was startlingly spectacular and emotionally charged, verged on hysteria.  The paintings were resolutely catholic and was saved from being vulgar and sentimental by the master's somber coloration and the restrain from the side panels, particularly the Visitation, which was almost charming, if one overlooked the looming storm in the background and the scarlet robe Mary wore. 

Triptych: The Visitation (left panel) and The Presentation in the Temple (right panel)

The crowning achievement of this triptych was the amazing grouping of the central characters - each had their very individual way of coping with the tragic event and the glistering twisted body of Jesus was powerful and godlike, even in its death agony.  Its weight, sliding down from the shroud, demonstrated vividly by the supporting John, whose back-bending body added intensity to the drama and his scarlet robe echoed that of Mary's in the Visitation.  Mary herself, mirrored herself in the Presentation almost in the same pose and same robe, though much softer and more worn, with much less brilliance in its color, a mother in deep sorrow, in contrast to the mother of the new born. 

Triptych: The Descent from the Cross (center panel)

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 47: My Favorite Paintings at Tate Modern Gallery in London
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 45: My Favorite Paintings at the Wallace Collection, London

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at the Wallace Collection, London

The Wallace Collection in London was a marvelous museum boasting many superb old master and impressive French 18th century paintings, plus decorative art and a world class armory.  Comparing to the British Museum or the National Gallery, both huge institutions in London, it was much smaller but the reward was just as great.

There were so many paintings to like there and I name these two as my favorites there: 1) The Laughing Cavalier by the Dutch painter Frans Hals (1582-1666) and 2) Voulez-vous triompher des Belles? by French artist Antoine Watteau (probably 1684 - 1721).

The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals, The Netherlands, 1624, Oil on canvas, Image size 83 x 67.3 cm,  Object size: 112.5 x 98 x 9 cm

This flamboyant portrait by Hals was remarkable for its candid depiction of a not wholly flattering character and the amazing ways the painter depicted the endless varieties of fabrics and laces this cavalier carried in his bulk.  It was in-your-face direct and you could not avoid his presence.  You could hear his roaring laughter, you could smell the tobacco in his finery, and the smell of beer in his breath.  You could not avoid a minor confrontation from him, if after his assessing of you as a worthy adversary or someone he could trample upon without repercussion.  His humorous mustache could not disguise his hot temper and his readiness to pounce.  A cavalier through and through.  A roguish and less-than-refined kind.

For refinement, one only need to move on to the paintings by the French Antoine Watteau, who ushered in the ornate, the less severe, more naturalistic, less formally classical Rococo style of paintings.  He was also credited with inventing the genre of fêtes galantes: scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, suffused with an air of theatricality.

His characters, always refined, always occupied an Arcadian landscape, otherworldly, elegant, including those actors and actresses in the costumes of Commedia dell'arte, whom, could be crude and crass if painted by other less quintessential French painter.  Watteau's world was often misty and mythical.  His characters, however real and naturalistically rendered, always occupied a world beyond our reach, and in our longing to join them, his works cast the spell over us and made us melancholic.  Thus, Watteau's works made great complement and contrast to those by Hals. 

Voulez-vous triompher des Belles?, Antoine Watteau, France, c. 1714-1717, Oil on oak panel, Image size 35.9 x 27 x 1.4 cm,  Object size: 35.9 x 25.9 x 0.4 cm, preserved parts of the original panel

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 46: My Favorite Paintings in the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, London
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 44: My Favorite Portraits at National Portrait Gallery, London

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fruit Shop and Market in Shenyang, China

When I visit other countries, including my home country, China, I love to see the markets, particularly fruit markets and shops, even just for a look.

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9786 Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9783

In May, when I visited my parents in Shenyang, China, I went to fruit market and shops several times and I was able to savor my favorite fruits there - mangosteens - which had similar structure like lychee though bigger and the shells thicker and harder and the their tastes were different.  Too bad I cannot find them in the US.

Mangosteens, Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9792

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9774

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9775

Another fantastic looking fruit was Pitaya, also known as Flaming Dragon Fruit, which looked like jumped out the paintings by Bosch.  Though the taste of it was not interesting - very bland and not juicy, with the texture like that of half-baked yam.

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9780
Flaming Dragon Fruit (Pitaya)

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9781

Even the usually ones looked somewhat different and definitely the presentations:

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9785

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9789

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9778 Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9784

However, going to the market in China, one had to be prepared to see some sights usual or downright unpleasant like below:

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9779

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9776

Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9790 Fruit Shop and Market, Shenyang, China, May 2012 _ 9787
Fruit stands next to messy clothes shop

Even so, it was still fun.

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012