Posts Tagged ‘art’

This is Art week in Hong Kong.  It is huge and it is really wonderful.  There is so much good art out there and I am happy to say, the La Rondine exhibition stands up to all of it, albeit a small show, in the confines of Gallery ZZHK in Wa Lane.

Shi Jindian at Angela Li Contemporary Art Gallery
Shi Jindian at Angela Li Contemporary Art Gallery

Monday night rocked off with a great exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Shi Jindian  in Hollywood Rd at Angela Li  Contemporary Gallery.  Shi Jindian is a lovely shy artist whose work probably reflects well his introverted nature.  With exquisite attention to detail he twists stainless steel wire around bicycles and a motor bike, before extracting them and leaving their outer wire shape.  Hanging on the wall is the remnants of an old door that he wired up and then burnt, the remains of charcoal trapped in the outer wire frame.  While I appreciated the work and craftsmanship of his sculptures, I was probably more taken with his paintings that were similar to his wire work through painstakingly etched biro into paint revealing beautiful abstract forms.  The works were subtle and haunting.

Basquiat at Gargosian Gallery, Pedder Building
Basquiat at Gargosian Gallery, Pedder Building

Tuesday night held the openings of the big galleries, the Gagosian, White Cube, Ben Brown, Hanart, and Pearl Lam.  We loved the Basquiat exhibition at Gagosian.  How lucky are we to see it.  There were huge crowds making their way up to the seventh floor exhibition in Pedder Building, but there was no alcohol so people didn’t stay to hang in their groups talking with their backs to the artwork and therefore obscuring the vision.  A clever move, because truly this was worth seeing. Basquiat is such an explorative artist.  The passion and volatility of his work, scratched and scribbled and stuck and slapped on any debris or available matter, made the work excitingly free, connected to the moment, unconcerned with outcome and anyone’s opinion.  Sad he died, a bit of a Jimmy Hendrix, lost in the alienation of drugs and fame, yet so much more to give – or does everything become a rehash – how many artists can re-invent themselves, once they’ve ‘made it’.

Basquiat at Gargosian Gallery, Pedder Building
Basquiat at Gargosian Gallery, Pedder Building
Vital at Ben Brown Gallery, Pedder Building
Vital at Ben Brown Gallery, Pedder Building

Ben Brown had two artists showing.  Sculptural landscapes by Swiss artist, Vital, and portraits by Frank Auerbach.  It was a good show.  The sculptural landscapes are marble images found in China. We often see these little marble images in the antique markets, as this is a recognized Chinese art form, the appreciation of a found piece of marble or stone that reflects the landscape.  They are like beautiful little pen and ink washes and Vital mounted his finds on the wall in strong plaster sculpted reliefs. The Frank Auerbach portraits are great.  They are rich in texture and honesty, and he is an artist who deserves to be recognized for his unrelenting dedication to his art and love for the human condition.  The paint is tough and dirty and the portraits are essential rather than revealing.

Frank Auerbach at Ben Brown Gallery, Pedder building
Frank Auerbach at Ben Brown Gallery, Pedder building
Alexander Calder at Ben Brown Gallery, Pedder building
Alexander Calder at Ben Brown Gallery, Pedder building

We also went to Hanart on the 4th Level of Pedder Building and saw the installation paintings by Qiu Zhijie.  They were a lovely exploration of Chinese landscape manifested in a contemporary context along with maps, historical and geographical.

I am afraid we didn’t get off much on Pearl Lam’s exhibition of ‘The Reality of Paint’ by Zhu Jinshi.  Big slabs of thick textural colour paint on canvas.  It felt contrived and without love for itself. hmmm.  But it is a beautiful space and we have seen some great shows here.

La Rondine Gallery POP UP at 3 Wa Lane Sheung Wan HK
La Rondine Gallery POP UP at 3 Wa Lane Sheung Wan HK

In the meantime, we are sitting in our exhibition and we meet a spaniard who collects African art and Chinese ceramics. A quietly passionate man, after an hour perusing our work, proclaimed our exhibition as the best he had seen in HK.  He said with sincerity that we were all ‘real’ artists not concerned with gimickry and slickness, but all of us were truly expressing our truths and he felt deeply moved by the show. He thanked us for giving so much.  Lovely!!  I wonder sometimes why any artist who chooses such a hard road in life would compromise their work to be ‘untrue’, to be fashionable, to care what anyone thinks, when what the world truly values is the artist’s freedom to create – and they pay a lot for it as seen in the Basel Art Fair in HK this year….

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The Catch

Blood red, dripping, over the canvas, through the net, into the royal blue black sea.  The boat incandescent against a golden, almost a dirty gold, luminous light.  ‘The Catch’, huge and slaughtered, in the depths of the sea.  The colours are exquisitely beautiful and the subject poignantly ‘triste’, sad.  It’s an amazing painting in its full expression, that yet holds a poetic beauty and is able to be felt on all levels.  It is hung in the centre of the gallery space, dividing two enormous paintings of such peace and tranquility it seems at odds that they can all be shown together.  These two painting are water pieces too, one of a river in spring and the other of a pond with lilly pads.  This is Michael’s calling card.  ‘Eclectic’.  It is the name of his exhibition and and is a reflection of Michael the artist; many varying elements coming together to make up the whole. His painting and his sculpture is brave and inventive, he always remains true to the freshness of his vision, never resting for long in a new discovery of language, moving always with his bright curious awareness of everything he sees.  In his painting, his work is energetic, with big slashing strokes, and colour is his strength.  I would say light interests him less than the importance of colour playing against one another.

His freshness is also in his sculpture and this ‘inconsistency’ has puzzled and infuriated many people over the years, as he has defied the rules of constancy and yet remained a completely dedicated artist. I have lived with Michael for 31 years and I can say, coming from my own experience that I have sometimes taken years to catch up and appreciate a new work.  His language is playful and joyful and quirky, so he is irreverent to style, material or representation.  It’s more important to him that he captures the essence of the life force itself and to him this energy is always moving, always growing, always changing. Saying this, it does not mean that Michael is not serious.  He is deeply idealistic and his sense of responsibility for life is precious to him, so he often notes in his work, the environment and its balance, challenging without fear the greed of industry.  Hence ‘The Catch‘ series and his factory series.

Water study
The animal who loves itself

Michael’s exhibition in Ponte a Serraglio at La Rondine Gallery, is a powerful representation of his work.    He wanted to express himself fully in this show, curated only by himself.  His painting, prints and drawings are bold and beautiful. His sculptures are an ‘eclectic’ mix, expressing his gentle meditative side, as with ‘The Animal who loves itself’ and ‘Portrait of a Bird’, but also his sense of fun, with his ’Portrait of the emotional artist’ and also his ‘Walking Man’, works that while being found objects, still are fully considered aesthetically.

La Rondine Gallery, Opening Night
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Venice, at the mouth of the Grand Canal

I walked down the street today, pensive in the soft autumn air, it was such beautiful light and I felt like I had forgotten to look at the hills and the trees for ages.  A friend of our’s died recently, a gentle, quiet and sincere man who had chosen excellence for all the things he had done in his life.  It really made me think about life and the speed of its passing. Its times like this, I feel urgent to do and be all that I want.

lions head, Venice

Recently we went to Venice and managed to get a half day in at the Venice Biennale.  What we saw, was terribly underwhelming.  I can’t believe the mediocrity of the people who curate this stuff.  It is supposed to be cutting edge but it has so many times been done to death.  Has no one a sense of history anymore.  In the 20’s, the time of deconstruction of art, really memorable stuff happened, like the Dada performance of a woman peeing on stage.  Cubism.  Fauvism. In the 60’s abstract expressionism, pop art.  But why is the ‘in’ thing still to deconstruct and not to recreate out of all the debris that happened.  Why, after nearly a century, are artists still trying to do the same thing and being held on art bureaucrat pedestals for doing it – no skill criteria needed, and certainly, god forbid, no soul, just a good soppy head explanation for it and a fantastic head for marketing.  Boring.  I remember in my student days, over thirty years ago, going to the Sydney Biennale and there was a similar stack of bricks on the floor then too.   I say this, and I want to say, I don’t care.  But I do. I care because art is an expression of humanity and art as is applauded today, says nothing about the greatness of our cultures and society.  In one hundred years are we going to wander around the great cities of the world to admire all the junk that has been made, or are there hidden gems, fresh and beautiful, still to emerge because for now they are out of fashion and still struggling to be heard and seen?  I am sorry, I took no photos of the Venice Biennale.

St Marcos Square, Venice

But Venice was beautiful as was evident to the millions of people tramping the streets and lining the Grand Canal.  People love greatness and will even queue for hours in the broiling sun to tour San Marco’s duomo and the Doges palace.  They’ll spend their last dollars sitting in restaurants on beautiful piazzas with romantic music being played to them, sipping on bellinis, because it all touches the soul.

Venice, workshop
Venice, small canal with gondola

And when it is real, it does touch the soul.  And it is in these times that  excellence makes sense.  That striving for the ultimate creation of your life is really important because it is something you can leave behind for civilisations to grow upon.  Then we can die.  We can die because we have made life grow.

carnival masks in Venice shop window
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Queuing to get onto the escalator

We’ve been in Hong Kong a month already.  Everyday walking with thousands of people, stepping into the continuous stream of people walking the subways, onto trains, up escalators, down escalators, onto minibuses, endless endless people, keeping rhythmic pace, shoulder to shoulder.  We have never done that before, been part of the workforce, everyday.  We resisted for ages, trying to find a time with less people in transit, but it seems the work day starts and ends at any hour of the day, or does leisure just merge into work, whatever, the system is chokkers all the time and it is seamless and perfect and continuously in flow.

Shona working in her studio at Yew Chung International school

The school has been great.  Yew Chung Secondary school in Kowloon Tong.  Its leaders are visionary and poetic in their endeavors to find their mission in Education and somehow we have slipped into a system that we never thought would fit us.  But here we are everyday doing our art work, undistracted by life, as the only thing to do when coming into the school is to do our art.  We each have a project of an artwork to beautify the school and to allow the older students to come and talk with us if they want to learn something from us or to advise them on their art.  Michael is starting a large mural in mosaic and I have started a ‘Harvest’ sculpture to be cast in bronze.  We also will do a lecture in a couple of weeks to interested students and parents on the inspiration of  art in life.  It sounds wonderful and is wonderful, yet every night, after a full day of intense concentration, of doing our artwork and being part of the huge energy of Hong Kong, finds us almost pathetically bleating and limp with exhaustion.   We love it.

Sai Kung waterfront

We are staying out in Sai Kung in the New Territories.  We were a little sorrowful at first, wanting to live in the mad mayhem of Mongkok or Kowloon or Jordon to get the true feel of Hong Kong, but now we are grateful for the space and to be in nature.  We are on the sea with its myriad of little hilly islands and sampans and fishing boats.  Sai Kung itself has a colourful waterfront, well touristed, with lots of fish restaurants featuring their catches in the big water tanks, awful really, (we are seriously vegetarian now), those poor old gropers, some of them 60 years or more old, stuck in tanks a little more than the size of their giant bodies waiting for the end to their misery. Last Saturday, we meandered through the old streets out the back of Sai Kung and found a bounty of interesting little hardware shops and massage places and small eateries that satisfied our yen for local life.  The waterfront was packed

60 year old Gropers - ready for the table... too wierd

with local people too, buying fish directly from the fishermen in the boats below the pier, and on the promenade, people with their weird dogs decorated in ridiculous tutus and strange hairdos were being showcased with all their pretty little tricks for an avid audience.  We have yet to discover the lovely beaches here and the great walks up into the hills surrounding the town and the boat trips out to the islands.  So far, we have been busy!  Hong Kong is very, very busy!  We are always doing something, meeting someone for lunch or dinner or an exhibition opening.  And everyone we have met is open and giving.  No one is threatened by the newcomer, everyone wants your name and your card in case you are the opportunity they are looking for.  Its an amazing place.  It feels like the place of new beginnings, where everything is a possibility and anything can happen.

Fish in the net


Every now and again, word comes to us from our friends in Bagni di Lucca that the whispers of spring are bringing glorious days and new growth and our hearts yearn for the colour and the richness of texture and age and art and eternal glorious vistas.  We miss it enormously sometimes, but how lucky are we to have such a life, to be here in all this abundant energy and yet to also have Italy, and to come from Australia, the epitome of freedom.  We have it all.

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