Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beautiful Autumn Day

It is very beautiful today and when I walked around University of California, Berkeley campus, a few frames caught my attention and I want to share with you:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Berkeley Art Center's Annual Members Showcase -

Berkeley Art Center's Annual Members Showcase has a theme this year - RED.

The official website says: "An annual tradition, Berkeley Art Center’s members showcase includes work in all media from its artist-level members, presented salon-style. Featuring myriad points of view and levels of accomplishment, this exhibition celebrates the diversity and vibrancy of our cultural community. This year’s theme, “RED”, is inspired in part by a recent comment from artist Tom Marioni during a presentation at Berkeley Art Center. Be creative with your interpretation of this theme, in the spirit in which it was intended!"

The exhibit on be viewed from December 12, 2009 – January 24, 2010.

Opening Reception: Saturday, December 12, 3-6pm

I will exhibit my oil painting: Grail. I do believe that it is red enough:

Berkeley Art Center is located at:
1275 Walnut Street
Berkeley, CA, 94709
(510) 644-6893 phone
(510) 644-0343 fax
info [at]

Gallery Hours:
12–5 p.m., Wednesday – Sunday
Closed on all major holidays

Preparations for Holiday Season Exhibit

Last night I participated the preparation meeting at City Art Gallery, San Francisco. The holiday season exhibit at City Art Gallery generally attracts many gift seekers, due to the eclectic collections it offers from many local artists.

During this economic challenging time, the members were doing our best to present a large selection of "affordable art" to broad audience.

I will exhibit a few charcoal drawings in December - January. If there is space, I might show a small oil painting as well.

The opening will be a hearty and boisterous event. Come and have fun and meet the cool local artist - Opening December 4, Friday, 7-10 pm. See the official December - January postcard from City Art Gallery below for details:

Mythology Series on Synch Chaos (Webzine)

Over the years, I have created a series of paintings based on Western and Chinese myths and legends.

Synch Chaos, a cutural webzine just published a series of my paintings.

Below is the list of the work and the links to the images on my web site ( )

Oil on Canvas, 24″ x 30″, Completed in 2005
Minotaur, as I saw it, was a tragic figure, who was condemned and trapped by fate to his horrible condition and savageries. He welcomed his slayer Theseus, who was approaching fast in a galley. Holding Ariadne’s thread, which will help Theseus to leave his labyrinth, Minotaur pondered on his imminent death and anticipated his own relief with trepidation and anticipation. A large tear rolled down his face, monstrous and beautiful.

Oil on Canvas, 30″ x 40″, Completed in 2009
A more or less straightforward rendition of the metamorphosis of Daphne into a laurel tree. Hands and arms of Daphne and the golden torso of Apollo dominated the canvas. In the background, the killing of Daphne’s playmate Leukippos by the jealous Apollo and the chasing of Daphne were simultaneously portrayed, to complete the whole cycle of the story.

Oil on Canvas, 48″ x 24″, Completed in 2003
I put Sisyphus in the most hard to sustain position, to emphasis the difficulty and impossibility of his task and punishment.

Adam and Eve
Oil on Canvas, 30″ x 40″, Completed in 2008
Adam and Eve were portrayed as sad and resigned figures. Adam cast down his eyes, as if he was trying to avoid eye contact with viewers, or his judges, while Eve reached out to Adam tentatively with right hand, whilst shielding her guilty face with her left hand. A heavy, lead-colored cloud hanging directly above them, shaped like a giant question mark. It also functioned like Damocles’ sword, threatening to crush them both.

Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 48″, Completed in 2002
Virgin Mary, on learning her pregnancy by the holy spirit, wailed for herself and the fate of her unborn son Jesus. She howled in grief beyond console. Perhaps, she was grieving for the entirety of humanity - by then, she must have learned the burden on her shoulders.

Jingwei Filling Up the Sea
Oil on Canvas, 24″ x 36″, Completed in 2008
Jingwei, in Chinese mythology, perished at a young age in the East Sea. After her death she chose to assume the shape of a bird in order to exact revenge upon the sea by bringing stones and small twigs from the mountains nearby over the sea in an effort to fill it up. Jingwei even has a short dialogue with the sea where the sea scoffs her, claiming that she wouldn’t be able to fill it up even in a million years, whereupon she claims that she will then proceed to take ten million years, even one hundred million years, whatever it takes to fill up the sea so that others would not have to perish as she did.
Again, I grouped a few events together to contain the cycle of the story in one canvas. The predominant feature is a sad fish with large tear. Here, the struggle is between elements and human activity and I tried to give sympathy to both.

Nüwa Creating Humans

Oil on Canvas
30″ x 40″
Completed in 2007
Nüwa is a goddess in ancient Chinese mythology best known for creating mankind and repairing the wall of heaven. This painting is the tribute to my heritage. What can be more fitting then credit a female god as the creator of humans? The sad twist in this canvas is that the humans she created resembled, unfortunately, robots. No creation would be perfect.

Nüwa Patching Up the Sky
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 30″
Completed in 2006
Two powerful gods quarreled and caused the collapse of the pillar which supported the sky and rain powered down to drown the living creatures on earth. This is the independent corroboration of the deluge in the Bible. Nüwa cut off the legs of a giant tortoise and used them to supplant the fallen pillar, alleviating the situation and sealing the broken sky using stones of seven different colors, but she was unable to fully correct the tilted sky. This explains the phenomenon that sun, moon, and stars move towards the northwest, and that rivers in China flow southeast into the Pacific Ocean. She also melted five-colored boulders to seal off the cracks of the sky. Other versions of the story describe Nüwa going up to heaven and filling the gap with her body (half human half serpent) and thus stopping the flood. The image I put forth was an earth-toned large woman, floating against cobalt blue boulders and running water in between, struggling to maintain her balance, in order to finish her Herculean (or shall we say, Nüwaian) job.

Matthew Felix Sun

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sonette an Orpheus

I just finished re-reading Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus) by Rainer Maria Rilke and am in a trance. I have just started a painting on the subject of Orpheus - I cannot tell if reading Rilke triggered the project or the project propelled my reading.

Out of the fifty-five poems, the one really impressed into my mind is the last one (No. 26) of Part I:

Du aber, Göttlicher, du, bis zuletzt noch Ertöner,
da ihn der Schwarm der verschmähten Mänaden befiel,
hast ihr Geschrei übertönt mit Ordnung, du Schöner,
aus den Zerstörenden stieg dein erbauendes Spiel.

Keine war da, daß sie Haupt dir und Leier zerstör.
Wie sie auch rangen und rasten, und alle die scharfen
Steine, die sie nach deinem Herzen warfen,
wurden zu Sanftem an dir und begabt mit Gehör.

Schließlich zerschlugen sie dich, von der Rache gehetzt,
während dein Klang noch in Löwen und Felsen verweilte
und in den Bäumen und Vögeln. Dort singst du noch jetzt.

O du verlorener Gott! Du unendliche Spur!
Nur weil dich reißend zuletzt die Feindschaft verteilte,
sind wir die Hörenden jetzt und ein Mund der Natur.

An online English translation is available:
But you, divine, to the last resonating
when swarms of scorned maenads were bent on your murder,
you drowned out their shouting with beautiful order,
from out the destroyers rose uplifting playing.

No one there damaged your head or your lyre,
however they rushed you or rested apart;
and all the sharp rocks they threw at your heart
grew soft when they touched you and able to hear.

In the end they dismembered you, driven by vengeance,
but your sound yet lingered in cliffs and lions,
in forests and birds. Even now, you still sing there.

Oh desolate god! You unending trail out!
Only since blind hatred strew you about
are we now hearers and a mouth for nature.

This project will be the continuation of my Mythology Series.

Below is a quick sketch I made in Cafe Milano, Berkeley and the painting in the very beginning stage.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur by Quinn Dombrowski

Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur is a project by Quinn Dombrowski documenting graffiti in public study areas in the Regenstein Library, the main library at the University of Chicago. Started in summer 2007, the collection contains over 700 pieces of graffiti. All photographs are free to reuse and remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license – in fact, there’s a RegRemix contest going on through December 20th. There is link to the full collection of the intriguing graffiti.

The book is a fascinating collection of graffiti and the cross-culture references are both amazing and amusing. It is beautifully produced and a fun read, yet a seriously scholarly book. I am proud to have contributed a little bit to this wonderful project when Quinn asked me to help with translation of some of the Chinese graffiti.

According to book's official website, "Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur: Confessions of the University of Chicago (ISBN 978-0-557-17205-4) is a selection of the best of the 700+ pieces of graffiti from the Regenstein Library collected between 2007 and October 2009. Support the project (and help Quinn pay off the publishing costs) by picking up a copy of the book, or a t-shirt/coffee mug/etc. from the store.

Book copies purchased from this site will be signed, and will come with a Go to Italy, be a cobbler button. If you’re in Chicago and want to pick up a copy and pay with cash, e-mail Quinn at quinn – at – to arrange something.

Congratulations, Quinn!

Career advice
Originally uploaded by quinn.anya

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Piece of Culinary Art

My colleague Carol made a beautiful and tasty carrot cake to celebrate one of our colleague Roland's birthday.

What a lovely piece of art!

Van Gogh Museum - Van Gogh's Letters

A vastly interesting exhibition in Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam made me wish that I were there.

"Van Gogh’s letters - The artist speaks" is on display from 9 October 2009 through 3 January 2010. His letters will take center stage in the exhibition. More than 120 original letters will be on show alongside the works that Van Gogh was writing about. These important documents have seldom or never been shown to the public due to their extreme fragility and sensitivity to light.

The most interesting aspect of the exhibit to me is his letter sketches. According to the official website, "Van Gogh's correspondence has a special bearing on his art because of the sketches of his own work that he included in his letters. These sketches served no artistic purpose but were made with the sole intention of showing Theo and his other correspondents what the paintings or drawings he was working on or had completed actually looked like. Visitors will be able to view a large number of letter sketches and enjoy the unique opportunity of being able to compare them with the paintings and drawings on which they are based."

Perhaps I shall start to write my journal more often. My friend artist Katja Leibenath does it wonderfully. If you are curious, you can see a sample of hers on her blog.

Casualty of the Economy - Berkeley Art Museum's new building by Toyo Ito

It was reported today by San Francisco Chronicle that UC Berkeley is scaling back the design for the new Berkeley Art Museum downtown building, designed by Toyo Ito. The main culprit is the economic downturn.

How sad.

Toyo Ito hopes that the design will materialize in some way in other museums, while Cal hopes to work on the building on the designated spot and convert it into the new museum, to replace the much beloved seismically unsound old building.

It hurts a lot.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A New Work - "Heralds"

I was intrigued and inspired by William Kentridge's exhibit at SF MOMA by the interplay of spaces and planes. I started a work with vertical and horizontal plans intersecting each other, with the vertical one rather wavering like curtain. Yet, the simple approach seemed to simplistic to me in the end. I tried to incorporate another intriguing element of Kentridges, by bringing in a outlined shadowing bird (as in his stage design for Die Zauberflöte). But it didn't quite work. Finally, one day, I had a vision of a large shadowy horse galloping in front of my vertical plane. Quickly, I was able to introduce a horse and a raven into the work and it was finished at one last thrust.

The horse and raven also vaguely reflect the messengers in the Norse mythology. Therefore, I named the painting "Heralds".

Live Drawing at Department of Art Practice, UC Berkeley

Once a while, I went to Department of Art Practice for the live drawing session. For all the Friday evening or Saturday morning sessions, a nude model poses ten 2-minutes poses, then four 5-minutes, two 10-minutes and the rest of the time would be divided into 20-minutes sessions.

It is a great opportunity to practice one's craft and learn from others by peering over the shoulders, or sometimes, just standing behind the gracious fellow artists.

Below are a few sketches and drawings I made in one session in the early fall 2009.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wall and Wall

It is 9 November, 2009 in Berlin now. Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell:

Today, the Great Wall still stands firm:

What a painful reminder it is to those who struggled and are struggling behind the bamboo curtain!

Jane Campion's Movie "Bright Star" and John Keats

I just saw Jane Campion's movie Bright Star about "the three-year romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats' untimely death at age 25" (quoted from The movie was romantic yet devoid of sentimentality. The performances were hard to forget.

I must confess that I don't know much about John Keats and his work. I browsed a little bit his poetry and like this one very much:

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

My Spirit is too weak — mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
Yet 'tis a gentle luxury to weep
That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
Fresh for the opening of the morning's eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old time — with a billowy main —
A sun — a shadow of a magnitude.

"Like a sick eagle looking at the sky." Perhaps, a painting or a drawing will come out of this?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Robert Welsh's Chinatown Series of Photography in the Griffin Museum, Boston

San Francisco Photography Robert Welsh, a native of the Boston area, has created a large portfolio of amazing photographs of daily life, particularly from around Chinatown in San Francisco, and from China, where he has traveled. The life he presents is strange, mundane, messy, stylish, tranquil, pulsating, melancholic, joyful, opaque, mysterious or transparent in turn. One often feels that one understands the surface, then something else casts a question on it. He didn't look for exotic artifacts, though. What Welsh presents is the full spectrum of life, a story. Everything has a story to tell, according to him. Even the rustic bathtub, peeling door and discarded button, and empty MacDonald's French fry box. He sees beauty in everything. His senses and treatments of details and colors are amazing.

An exhibit of images from his open-ended series of San Francisco's Chinatown, Chinatown: Metaphor and Memory, is featured in the Atelier Gallery of the Griffin Museum November 12 though January 10, 2010. The exhibit is courtesy of Tepper Takayama Fine Arts, Boston. An opening reception with the artist will be held on November 12, at 7 p.m. It is open to all. A members-only talk at which Welsh will discuss the exhibit is at 6:15 p.m.

According to the Museum brochure and website, "Robert Welsh has a sensibility for the day-to-day lives of people of modest means trying to make ends meet. This makes him able to discover and communicate the beauty, grace, and dignity of those he photographs.

"The Chinatown portrayed in his photographs is permeated by memories from his childhood in Brighton, MA, and is a metaphor for the immigrant experience, despite variation in geographic or ethnic origins. It also recognizes and records the elements of Chinatown, San Francisco, and his wife's Chinese and Chinese-American family, which echo his Irish-American roots. Preeminent are thrift, simplicity, loyalty, continuity, and family ties.

"'We are honored that Robert Welsh has returned home to exhibit Chinatown: Metaphor and Memory where he was shaped in his youth by the streets of Boston,' says Paula Tognarelli, executive director of the Griffin Museum of Photography. 'Welsh's work eloquently contemplates the ancient Chinese traditions placed against a modern day backdrop.'

"Welsh is essentially a self-taught professional photographer and master of black-and-white and color printing. He also has worked as a photojournalist, but his images - such as those featured in a New York Times travel section article on San Francisco - transcend the purely documentary."

The Griffin Museum of Photography is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 am - 5 pm; Friday 11 am - 4 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, noon - 4 pm. The Museum is closed on Monday. Admission is $5 for adults; $2 for seniors. Members and children under 12 are admitted free. Admission is free to all every Thursday. For more information, call 781-729-1158.

Congratulations, Robert!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Katja Leibenath at Hang Art Gallery, San Francisco

My colleague Katja Leibenath will participate a group show as featured artist at Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco. Exhibition Dates: November 1-15, Opening Reception: First Thursday, November 5, 6-8pm.

According to Hang Art's website, "Upon moving to San Francisco from Duesseldorf, Germany, Katja Leibenath began compiling a detailed photographic diary of her surroundings; her paintings are often based on these studies. As reflections of her daily life and regional explorations, they are responses to her new environment and create a sense of place while allowing her to investigate the edges of this new-found civilization.

While exploring and photographing the environs, Leibenath noticed that the essence of California ― the abundance of its spectacular sights ― was easily lost under a haze of familiarity. In response, her paintings look for the noteworthy in the everyday, and beauty in the seemingly mundane; she is in love with every aspect of this region."

I am mostly impressed by the Harperesque atmosphere of her work which cast a haunting spell. The conflict between light and dark underneath the tranquility of the surface made her work unforgettable.

Her new series presented at Hang Art can be viewed also online.