Antony Gormley, Vessel, 2012

Antony Gormley

Vessel, 2012

Cor-Ten steel, M16, countersunk steel screws

370 x 2200 x 480 cm


Antony Gormley, Vessel, 2012

Displayed right at the center of the hall of CENTQUATRE-PARIS in the 19th arrondissement, Vessel has caught the sight of every viewer who visits the exhibition “Follia Continua! 25 years of Galleria Continua”.  Designed by the famous British sculptor Antony Gormley, Vessel is made out of 39 interconnecting rectangular steel boxes.  The material Cor-Ten steel, trademarked weathering steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to eliminate the need for painting.  The use of this material allows the sculpture to form a stable rust-like appearance after exposed to the weather for several years.

Vessel takes on the form of a gigantic recumbent man, which at first glance, may appear to viewers as a non-aligned work by Donald Judd.  The series of box containers is an architectural structure of parts – the vessels that form a body.  Yet it is in turn presented in a seemingly haphazard way inside the architecture that is made for the scale of man.  Here the spatial definitions and purposes are blurred and unstable.  The idea mediates on the renaissance trope of the city in the form of a man by making a man made in the form of a city.  It provokes questions about the social and inspirational role of sculpture and its potential to provide direct bodily experience.

This falls into the usual practice of the artist who is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space.  Born in London in 1950, Gormley has developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos.  The artist continually tries to identify the space of art as a place of becoming in which new behaviors, thoughts and feelings can arise.

For the exhibition at Le CENTQUATRE-PARIS, 2015, Antony Gormley has written, “Take this work as the model of a building that invites you to look into its inner spaces.  I am excited to see Vessel exhibited in Paris, especially in the spaces of a former coffin factory where today, intelligent, lively bodies interact with each other.  Vessel will be the biggest body in there.  It has never been seen in a major city, so I hope that here in Paris, its mirroring of the cells of a dense urban environment will make sense.  Buildings in a city connect with and separate from one another.  You cannot inhabit this work but you can peer into it and see these connections and dead-ends modeled.”

The works of Antony Gormley naturally bring us to ponder on the anti-monumentalism (or Counter-monumentalism), a philosophy in art that denies the presence of any imposing, authoritative social force in public spaces.  It rejects the notion of a monument developed from an elitist point of view as an emblem of power, an opposition to monumentalism whereby authorities establish monuments in public spaces to symbolize themselves or their ideology, and influence the historical narrative of the place.  Artists explore the contemporary drive for creating memorials not of men on horses or mermaids in fountains, but for everyday people and tragedies.

By the same token, we could see that Antony Gormley explores the relation of the human body to space and moments in time through his sculptures, installations, and public artworks.  Over the last 25 years, Antony Gormley has revitalized the human image in sculpture through a radical investigation of the body as a place of memory and transformation, using his own body as subject, tool and material.  He used a cast of his own body as their starting point and for his large-scale, outdoor installations such as Angel of the North (1998) and Another Place (1997).  In Event Horizon (2007), which has been shown in London, Rotterdam, and New York, Gormley sited 31 body forms atop rooftops, riverbanks, and sidewalks within the dense urban environment.  In One & Other (2009), a project for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, he invited members of the public to create their own artwork on top of the plinth for one hour time slots over a period of 100 days.

Other sculptures in Paris at the moment

At the moment, his other two works the Big Spin (2014) and the Big Look (2014) are presented by the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Paris under the Hors les Murs programme of the FIAC 2015.  These works from his BIG series pursue his study of the body and space, whereby the artist questions the body as a site, and space and scale as the principle factors which condition our understanding of our environment. These sculptures disorient the spectator, provoking a process of self-observation.  Their presentation in the Tuileries gardens is a continuity of Antony Gormley’s practice in which each exhibition is considered a site of physical and psychological experimentation.

We would perceive the artist’s works as not in the normal sense of being a representation of the subject.  Rather he is trying to arouse the interest about what the nature of the space a human being inhabits is.  What he tried to show is the space where the body is, instead of what the body itself represents.


Antony Gormley, Big Spin, 2014 under the Hors les Murs programme of the FIAC 2015

Event Horizon in Hong Kong

The project, Event Horizon, is scheduled to be unveiled in Hong Kong on November 19 and will last until May 18, 2016.  Nevertheless, it has already proved provocative during the two years it’s taken to bring the statues to the city.  The statues were meant to have been displayed last year, but Hongkong Land pulled out as main sponsor after a J.P. Morgan employee jumped to his death from the roof of a Hongkong Land property in February 2014.  Some news reports quoted unnamed sources saying that J.P. Morgan was of the view that having Gormley’s life-size statues placed on rooftops would be too much of a reminder of that particular tragedy.

The idea of Event Horizon is to prompt Hong Kong people to pause amid their daily rush and to take a good look at the details of what’s around them.  It aims at actualising the art’s value – its ability to stimulate thoughts that were lost or thoughts that would otherwise not exist at all.  It is true that in a smartphone-obsessed city, the population in Hong Kong rarely takes a look at the details around themselves anymore.  In another sense, the project is also about how human will overcome extreme adversity.  It is very much about the place of individuals against forces that are faceless determiners of our lives.  The decision to display the statues in the central business district may not be to everyone’s taste, since the area smacks of exclusivity and may reinforce the link between art and the market.  That said, it is certainly a sound demonstration of the challenge of stereotypical views and unexamined values.

Official website of Event Horizon Hong Kong :


Follia Continua! 25 years of Galleria Continua


26th September to 22nd November 2015


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Marc Quinn : Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes (2015)

Marc Quinn

Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes (2015)

Stainless Steel

Sculptures, Variable dimensions


Four monumental sculptures by Marc Quinn, being two bodies of work entitled respectively Frozen Wave and Broken Sublime (2015), are presented in Somerset House’s historic Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court.

The four sculptures, namely Frozen Wave (The Conservation of Mass), Frozen Wave (The Conservation of Energy), Broken Sublime (The Invention of Tools), Broken Sublime (The Hunger), originate from the remnants of shells.  Created with stainless steel, the contrast between the unpolished and highly polished reflective surfaces adds to the works the aesthetic – elegant and minimal.  Their monumental scale works amidst the courtyard’s fountains underline the works’ connection to water.  All denote a conversation with the nature and the environment.

With primal and maritime sculptural shapes, the sculptures express the altered states of shell forms either by natural causes (like wave erosion) or by humans (by their consumption).  In the moment before they disappear and become sand, all conch shells end up in a similar form – an arch that looks like a wave, as though an unwitting self-portrait by nature. With titles referencing the science of fluid dynamics and rendered in different scales and cast in stainless steel or concrete, the result appears like a sculpture of a wave yet also something primordial and ambiguous, mined from the depths of time. They point to a magical material transformation: the crystallization of movement into form.

‘Somerset House is a kind of urban beach of the Thames. Built on land which articulates the transition between the urban strand and the water of the river, it is the littoral zone of the city.  By placing the cast stainless steel sculptures in the courtyard surrounded by the fountains, the water of the ocean which formed the sculptures’ shapes is linked to the tamed water of pipes, conduits and drains of the city’. (Marc Quinn, 2015)

This British sculptor and visual artist is perhaps not new to most.  He creates provocative sculptural portraits composed of organic materials.  He is better known for Alison Lapper Pregnant, a sculpture of a woman who was born without arms when she was heavily pregnant, which has been installed on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square.  If not, his ongoing series of “Blood Head” self portraits – Self, in which a cast of his head is made with over nine pints of his own frozen blood.  Quinn’s sculptures, paintings and drawings often deal with the distanced relationship we have with our bodies and with nature, highlighting how the conflict between the ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ has a grip on the contemporary psyche.  The artist uses an uncompromising array of materials, from ice and blood to glass, marble, spray paint and lead.  He also fabricates sculptures using more traditional media such as bronze, often depicting contorted bodies or people with unusual physical characteristics – amputees, or those who have undergone sex-change surgery.

Marc Quinn: Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes

Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, Somerset House, London

17th September to 21st October, 2015



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Fragonard in Love (Fragonard Amoureux) – an exhibition more than just “Erotic”

The Musée du Luxembourg seduces us once again with a new exhibition “Fragonard Amoureux”, an exhibition which revisits the works of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) who is considered one of the major figures in French painting during the 18th century or the last decades of the Ancien Régime.

Considered a painter of frivolities, Fragonard also excelled in the fields of historical, genre and landscape painting.  But he is most identified with the erotic genre and was popular with the courts of Louis XV and Louis XVI for his delicately pastel colored scenes of seduction, love and hedonism.   Fragonard often painted scenes of gallantry and debauchery, exploring in this manner the various aspects of sensuality and sentiment.

He left behind several exemplary masterpieces: L’Inspiration (a self-portrait), The Lock, Young Girl Reading, La chemise enlevée (The Shirt Removed), The Stolen Kiss and The Swing, to name just a few.  One of his chief works “Les progrès de l’amour dans le cœur d’une jeune fille,” was commissioned by Madame du Barry, Mistress of Louis XV for her chateau at Louveciennes.  Once being gallant, libertine, and concerned with new love ethics, his art had a great influence to the art scene in the half of the century to follow.

The exhibition is divided into different sections under the themes: “The Gallant Shepherd”, “The Loves of Gods”, “Rustic and Popular Eros”, “Fragonard, Illustrator of Libertine Tales”, “Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, A Libertinist Master”, “Fragonard and Licentious Imagery”, “Dangerous Reading”, “The Revival of the Fête Galante”, “Love Moralised”, “Heroic Passion” and “Romantic Allegory”.  All these together conveyed the theme of love and romance.

Erotic?  But what else?

A lot of comments of this exhibition revolve around the word “erotic”.  Without doubt, Fragonard’s scenes were pretty scandalous in his era, more or less pornographic.  Some of the content of his paintings and drawings remains shocking even in the society today.  The artist has once declared “I paint with my ass”. ( “je peindrais avec mon cul”)

But other than focusing on this “erotic” aspect, what else could we take away from this exhibition?

A lesson on the mythological love stories

Love is omnipresent in the works of Fragonard.  The exhibition offers a chance for us to revisit the questions of love during the development of time, from the “Grand Siècle” to the Regency.  The concept of gallantry represented one of the values of French identity in the 18th century.  Between 1740 and 1750, the mythological fables of Antiquity illustrated by François Boucher and his disciples became the symbol of a frivolous, even licentious, form of painting.  Since Regency (1715-1723), libertinism had triumphed among the elite by adopting the forms and civilized veneer of gallantry, while in actual fact being a hedonistic quest for carnal pleasure that was completely detached from romantic sentiment.  It was under this influence that Fragonard was trained.  The walk-through of this exhibition is indeed a good opportunity to get a grasp of the mythological love stories during these eras.

 A revisit of the fable of La Fontaine

People having studied the literature or culture of France would have certainly come across the fables of Jean de la Fontaine.  The 18th century represented the glory days of the illustrated books.  The publishing of La Fontaine’s Contes (Tales), which were considered one of the main sources of all libertine literature of the 18th century, was a real triumph at that time.  Fragonard studied the illustrations of the Contes at the end of his stay in Rome and during the 1760s, and has dedicated several series of drawings on this.  The largest album making up of fifty-seven pages and conserved at the Petit Palais is displayed in this exhibition.  What is more encouraging is that the album is accessible online at, under the section “Étudiants et chercheurs”.

From a different perspective, perhaps we can perceive the works of Fragonard as his frank expression of emotion, where courting lead to sensual encounters.  By going through section to section of the exhibition, our mind travel from the last flames of gallant love and the triumph of libertinism, to the blossoming of a more sincere, sensitive and already “romantic” version of love.

(The exhibition is held from 16th September 2015 – 24 January 2016 at Musée du Luxembourg)


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The 13e Biennale de Lyon (Lyon Biennial) – An Interpretation of Modern Life

The 13e Biennale de Lyon (Lyon Biennial) has begun on 10th September last week.  This year, it begins a new trilogy under the theme of “modern”; a theme that Thierry Raspail, artistic director of the Biennial, gave to Ralph Rugoff, guest curator for the 2015 edition.  60 artists from 28 countries have participated in the biennial and their works are mainly located in 3 venues namely MAC Lyon (Museum of Contemporary Art), La Sucrière, the Musée des Confluences.  The artists offer their personal vision of the contemporary world and invite the audiences to go into this contemporary world through their works.

A visual and auditory experience actualized by the installations in the space

The visual and auditory effects of the installations mingle together to yield a novel experience for the audiences.  The work Taut Eye Tau created by Alex Da Corte is a study of the color yellow undertaken through the exclusive use of its “opposite color” blue.  It consists of a decor that recalls both the Stanley Kubrick-style science-fiction and the subtle processes of Sol LeWitt-style abstraction.  Taut Eye Tau is a total environment: it includes pieces of furniture, a carpet, sand, neon tubes and a video projection whose soundtrack is also based on the color blue.  This single color of blue brings to mind the seas and the sky, absence and desire, the horizon and the immaterial.  It implies to us that what we see as real is instead usually not too complete.  A strong visual implication exists.

At the other side, the Glass Troll Cave (glass cabinet and flat screen) and Erysichthon (HD video) created by Jon Rafman provide a combined visual and auditory experience.  The digital technology and the new media hold the world at a distance.  In his installations, photographs and videos, Jon Rafman expresses a sense of melancholy and irony to our social tradition and virtual communities.


Glass Troll Cave (glass cabinet and flat screen) and Erysichthon (HD video) created by Jon Rafman

We cannot go round this point without mentioning the work of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, aura, 2015.  In his work aura, the drum head is struck by cherry stones, triggered by the electromagnetic aura given off by each owner of a cell phone who visits the Sucrière.  The sound produced by the fall of the cherry stones is thus random and variable.  This work gives a new interpretation to his previous work in 2013, in which water falls to strike a drum kit.

Conceptual artworks leave room for the imagination and participation of audiences

Perhaps what makes this year’s biennial interesting to the audiences is the room for their imagination and participation.

Pull over time created by Michel Blazy is a combination of technological objects like computers or cell phones, and manufactured objects like a branded sports shoe.  The artist grows things in them, as if in a vegetable patch.  Colored water runs down the walls all the time.  All the visual effects produced by the decay of these objects are an integral part of the work, and this goes against the belief that the finished products are impervious and resistant to change.

Nina Canell’s installation Mid-Sentence gives concrete expression to the lightness and intangibility of the everyday life.  Mid-Sentence consists of subterranean cable-cuts and compressed fiber-optic “sheaths” like conductors and transporters.  Arranged like relics, these cables evoke both the idea of dissolved geography and corrupted representations of language and body.


Nina Canell’s installation Mid-Sentence

Lai Chih-Sheng’s work Border provides a vivid example of conceptual of the space.  The artist displays waste materials from the construction on the floor, with a border/ platform suspended over a vast space.  The artist places the importance on the audience’s experience.  Visitors are invited to walk on the border.  They would find themselves on the visual border between the physical reality of the space where the work of art is deployed.

Modern life – the past, present and future

One may ask in what sense these works are related to the theme “The Modern Life”?

Perhaps the first thing to put in place about “modern life” is the “problems” nowadays, in the context of “everyday life” scenarios throughout different regions in the world.  “La vie moderne” includes works that take on some of the most perplexing and troubling issues of our moment — from the growing inequality of wealth in society and consumer culture to the questions around immigration, post-colonial relations and our changing relationship to the world around us and our relationship with each other.

The artists explore the contradictory and contingent nature of the modern, both on an aesthetic and philosophical level as well as in the area of social formations, subjectivity and technology.  They express their ways of seeing and thinking about the world around us.  Like in the work of Guan Xiao, he has created a video installation made of ten screens and surrounded by three sculptures.  The particular materials used come from various different periods and cultures, bringing together a time where the future and the past will overlap.  The video installation is a collage of found images from the internet collected by the artist over the course of several years.  The artist has staged her own vision of the world – one with overexposure to images that surround us.

Another point worth to notice is the relationship between the past, present and future.  “Modern” is shrouded in uncertainty, as is our relationship between past and present. To describe something as “modern” today imbues it with an aura of uncertainty — it suggests something haunted by various “modern” episodes in history while at the same time retaining something of its traditional sense.  We cannot mark a significant break with the past. We cannot escape from history.  Instead, our only choice is to work through and re-direct its legacies.  We would rather interpret modernity as an evolving process, which embrace the past and elongate to the future.

Emmanuelle Lainé brings to us similar intonation in her work « Il parait que le fond de l’être est en train de changer? ».  The artist used elements that she had made beforehand (flat screens molded in silicone) and others that she “arranged” on the spot (pieces of furniture, plants, packing cases…etc.) to set up a vast treasure hunt.  She kept adjusting and correcting the scene until she finally made a wide-view photograph of her creative process.  After the photograph was fixed to the wall, she then destructed and modified the scene.  Objects now become images, which then become objects again.  These narratives through time and dimensions reflect also a shuffle between the past and present – an echo with the underlying interpretation of modernity.

Along with this sense, we may believe perhaps the most truly contemporary art doesn’t present us with endless novelty, but with new ways of working through history.


The 13e Biennale de Lyon will last from 10th september 2015 to 3rd January 2016.

Official website of the 13e Biennale de Lyon (Lyon Biennial) :




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Retrouvez l’esthétique et la philosophie de la peinture traditionnelle chinoise – Les Quarte Gentlemen

L’exposition – Les Quatre Gentlemen

Les Quatre Gentlemen

Presque tous les chinois traditionnels savent ce que signifie « Les quatre gentilshommes ».  Cette expression « Les Quatre gentlemen » apparaissant  aussi sous le nom des « Quatre nobles plantes » correspond dans l’art chinois aux quatre plantes : l’orchidée, le bambou, le chrysanthème et la fleur de prunier.

L’analogie est issue d’une inscription du Manuel de peinture de ces quatre plantes, écrite pendant le règne de Wanli de la dynastie des Ming par le peintre lettré, Chen Jiru.  Le Manuel montre qu’on pourrait purger les impuretés de l’esprit pour atteindre un caractère noble en appréciant et apprenant les vertus des « Quatre gentlemen ».  Dans la culture chinoise des gens lettrés, la fleur de prunier qui fleurit en hiver symbolise les qualités fermes et inflexibles de Junzi : un gentleman ou un homme noble; l’orchidée qui pousse dans les vallées sereines, avec son arôme rafraîchissant, symbolise un caractère élégant au mépris de la vulgarité; le bambou vertical dressé vers les nuages ​​représentant  l’humilité; le chrysanthème qui subsiste en automne et résiste au givre manifeste la force de l’intégrité. Les calligraphes célèbres, les peintres et les écrivains, comme Tao Yuanming (365-427) et Su Shi (1037-1101), utilisent fréquemment le thème de la fleur de prunier, de l’orchidée, du bambou et du chrysanthème dans leurs peintures et leurs poèmes pour glorifier les intentions et les sentiments d’un gentilhomme.  L’expression compare les quatre plantes à l’homme de bien du confucianisme.  Elles sont le plus souvent représentées dans des lavis et appartiennent à la catégorie des « peintures de fleurs et oiseaux ».  C’est un thème favori des lettrés qui identifie les vertus confucéennes telles l’intégrité, la fidélité et la persévérance à ces quatre fleurs.  Dans l’art vernaculaire, les images des fêtes du Nouvel An chinois utilisent couramment « Les Quatre gentlemen » comme les symboles du bonheur.  Par exemple : « Les fleurs de prunier vous apportent le bonheur » et « Le bambou transmet la paix et le bien-être ».

Parmi « Les Quatre gentlemen », le bambou est apparu dans les peintures murales au cours de la dynastie des Tang, comme l’ont fait les peintres Wu Daozi (680-759) et Wang Wei (701-761).  Pendant les premières dynasties Song et Yuan, « Les Quatre gentlemen » ont été également admirés par les lettrés et les peintres – Wen Tong (1018 – 1079) était connu pour ses peintures à l’encre de bambou, le moine Zhongren (1051-1123) et Yang Buzhi (1097-1169) pour leurs peintures de fleurs de prunier.  À la fin de la dynastie des Song du Sud, Zheng Sixiao (1241 – 1318) a utilisé une orchidée déracinée pour illustrer la perte du pays en faveur d’une puissance étrangère.

Au début, « Les trois amis de l´hiver », également connus sous le nom « Les trois amis du froid », font référence aux trois plantes : le pin, le bambou et la fleur de prunier.  Cela représente la compagnie dans l’adversité.  L’orchidée est ajoutée plus tard pour faire l’ensemble « Les quatre amis ».  Les chrysanthèmes ont commencé à être représentés au cours de la période des Cinq Dynasties et des Song du Nord, bien que moins de peintres les utilisent comme objet de peinture par rapport au reste des trois autres plantes.  Jusqu’aux dynasties Ming et Qing, l’expression « Les Quatre gentlemen » est officiellement apparue dans les manuels de peinture et, est devenue une catégorie de peinture individuelle populaire.

La fleur de prunier – la loyauté inébranlable

La fleur de prunier est la première parmi les quatre gentlemen car elle fleurit au début de l’année. Elle ne succombe pas au givre durant sa floraison en hiver et apporte un arôme rafraîchissant et subtil annonçant l’approche du printemps.  Depuis l’antiquité, les peintres considèrent la fleur de prunier comme la représentation des qualités de l’homme idéal.  On admire le courage intrépide et inflexible de la fleur et la considère comme une incarnation de la noblesse et de l’intégrité.

Dans la dynastie des Tang, les fleurs de prunier étaient souvent représentées dans des lavis appartenant aussi à la catégorie des « peintures de fleurs et oiseaux » et « peintures de paysages ».  Jusqu’à la dynastie des Song du Nord, les « peintures de fleurs et oiseaux » ont prédominées et la fleur de prunier est devenue le sujet principal à apparaître seul dans les peintures.  Zhongren (1051-1123) et Yang Buzhi (1091-1169) étaient des artistes connus pour leurs peintures de fleurs de prunier.  Zhongren a planté des pruniers dans le monastère pour réaliser ses œuvres à l’encre en utilisant l’encre de différentes densités pour les pétales et l’approche « désossée » pour les branches.  Le successeur de Zhongren, Yang Buzhi, a inventé une façon de représenter les fleurs en peignant les pétales en lignes doubles et en utilisant des points pour manifester les étamines.  Les branches ont été exécutées en traits texturés secs avec une pointe de pinceau centrée.  Cette technique de peinture a été suivie par les peintres contemporains et de nombreuses œuvres ont hérité de ce style.

D’ailleurs, la fleur de prunier a été souvent utilisée comme un thème de poème.  L’écrivain Lu You des Song du Sud (1125 – 1210) a adoré les fleurs de prunier toute sa vie, et a produit plus d’une centaine de poèmes et de la prose prônant la fleur de prunier.  Rétrogradé en raison de sa position politique contre les princes de la dynastie Jin, Lu You avait utilisé la fleur de prunier comme une métaphore pour proclamer sa noble ambition et son intégrité morale.

L’orchidée – l’élégance éthérée

À l’état sauvage dans les vallées montagneuses, le long des rivières et dans les crevasses des falaises, l’orchidée se distingue de la banalité.  Ses feuilles minces avec de la verdure toute l’année et ses fleurs d’un arôme délicat expriment l’élégance.  Depuis les temps anciens, les peintres et les poètes admirent l’orchidée.  Confucius a dit que l’orchidée émettait son parfum pour les rois et l’a utilisée comme une métaphore de la voix d’un fonctionnaire vertueux qui est tombé en disgrâce, à tort ou à raison, dans la cour où il a été banni par l’empereur.  Il a aussi mis en valeur l’intégrité de l’orchidée en la comparant aux hommes nobles qui sont capables de cultiver la philosophie Dao et respecter leurs vertus même dans la difficulté ou la pauvreté.

Au cours de la fin de la dynastie des Song et du début du Yuan, les lettrés, les poètes et les peintres démontrent leur intégrité en prônant les orchidées comme le thème central de leurs œuvres. Zheng Sixiao (1241 -1318) a vécu une vie recluse à Suzhou après avoir été banni de la cour de dynastie des Song. Dans son œuvre célèbre d’orchidée à l’encre, l’artiste a peint une seule plante sans sol, sans racine pour signaler l’idée que « l’homme noble reste seul sans se mêler aux gens déshonorants » et pour signifier qu’il ne voulait pas être enraciné dans une terre gouvernée par la puissance étrangère.

Pour les contemporains, les techniques occidentales ont également eu une influence sur la peinture d’orchidée chinoise qui a été représentée par le dessin et l’aquarelle aboutissant à une fusion des styles chinois et occidentaux.

Le chrysanthème – la réclusion noble

Le chrysanthème fleurit en automne lorsque toutes les autres fleurs se fanent, montrant une caractéristique qui a été appréciée par les lettrés chinois à travers l’histoire. Le chrysanthème était décrit dans l’histoire comme étant : « le chrysanthème précieux; son semis pouvant être mangé, il a une valeur médicinale et peut être employé dans la fabrication des oreillers, et pourrait être utilisé pour brasser le vin ».

Tao Yuanming (365 – 427) est un écrivain chinois qui est considéré comme un des plus grands poètes inspirés par le taoïsme. Il chante, dans ses poèmes, la retraite à la campagne et le vin.  L’un de ses textes les plus connus est La Source des fleurs de pêcher, qui décrit un village loin du monde dans une vallée cachée.  Tao Yuanming est aussi l’auteur du Chant du retour, texte dans lequel il parle de son retour chez lui, à la campagne, après avoir quitté son métier de fonctionnaire.  Dans un de ses poèmes, il a écrit sur les chrysanthèmes. «…rassembler les chrysanthèmes par la clôture de l’Est, je regarde tranquillement les montagnes du sud ».  Tao lie souvent son caractère et son tempérament de réclusion aux nobles idéaux. Pour les successeurs, le chrysanthème est devenu un symbole de Tao Yuanming et a donc été souvent représenté dans les peintures.

Au 20e siècle, de nombreux peintres ont cherché à faire évoluer les formes artistiques.  À Shanghai, un groupe de peintres dirigé par Wu Changshuo (1844 – 1927) intègre les techniques, les structures de la calligraphie et de la gravure de sceaux dans la peinture.

Le bambou – l’humilité noble

Depuis l’antiquité, le bambou est le symbole de la vertu de l’intégrité, de la modestie et de la dignité.  Le bambou montre la force, la douceur, la loyauté et la justice.  Les lettrés chinois, au travers des genres différents, représentent le bambou dans leurs poèmes et peintures comme une référence au noble idéal d’humilité.

Dès la période des Six Dynasties, le bambou a déjà été fréquemment représenté dans les peintures. Les Sept Sages de la forêt de bambous, qui étaient mécontents de l’autorité à la cour, vivaient reclus dans une bambouseraie.  Ils lurent et écrivirent des poésies exprimant leur préoccupation pour le pays et leur impuissance face à ses problèmes.

Deux artistes maîtres de la dynastie des Song du Nord Wen Tong (1018 – 1079) et Su Shi (1037 – 1101) étaient d’ardents admirateurs du bambou.  Wen Tong est connu pour son talent à exécuter une peinture de bambous précise  et vivante, dès le premier jet, après avoir observé le sujet minutieusement en détail avant de commencer son ouvrage. Su Shi remplace l’encre noire avec le cinabre pour peindre le bambou; cela a exercé un impact énorme sur les peintres suivants.

Au cours de la dynastie des Yuan où la Chine était sous la gouvernance de l’empire mongol, la peinture du bambou est devenue populaire en raison de son implication dans sa résistance contre la domination mongole. Les artistes de la dynastie Yuan ont aussi intégré des éléments calligraphiques dans la peinture. Ce style a été suivi par les peintres contemporains de la dynastie Ming.


Plus de 70 œuvres de la collection du musée allant de la dynastie Ming à la période moderne ont été sélectionnées pour cette exposition. Elles sont représentées dans cinq catégories.

« Les Quatre gentlemen » ont longtemps été étroitement associés à la culture traditionnelle chinoise. Junzi est un aspect important de la philosophie chinoise représentant une personne d’un très haut niveau de moralité après celle d’un sage.  Aujourd’hui, les gens vivent une vie trépidante.  S’ils pouvaient respecter les vertus des « Quatre gentlemen » et influencer leurs contemporains avec de telles qualités de bienveillance, un monde meilleur pourrait être créé.

(Exposition jusqu’au 2 août 2015 à Hong Kong Museum of Art)


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A / AN “ “ – Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) Graduation Exhibition 2015

Having the chance to catch the last day (27th July 2015) of the exhibition A / AN “   – Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) Graduation Exhibition 2015 held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, I was completely amazed to see the enormous creativity and talent of the students.

I couldn’t help sharing in here my experience.  The exhibition was co-presented by The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) and The Hong Kong Art School.  There were total 36 graduating students participating in this exhibition.  The artworks reflect the dedication, personal ideology and unique concepts across the modalities of Painting, Photography and Sculpture.

Incompleteness and unlimited possibilities

On the first glance, the title A/AN “      “ appeared unexplainable and ambiguous.  Along the visit, I got to know more about its meaning.  The blank “      “ actually hinted at the notion of “incompleteness and unlimited possibilities” inherent in both the artworks and the emerging artists.  On one hand, it denoted the dilemma faced by most artists – When is a work of art finished?  Is it ever finished?  Does it need to be “complete”?  On the other hand, it allowed the viewers to have their own interpretations on the artworks.

From Left 1 & 2: The artist tried to capture the tiniest changes; slowest pace and the most fragile growth within the objects. Those traces left by time and life.  By using a set of layered images, she tried to reflect the ambience that she experienced.

From left 3: The 3 pieces are respectively My Wanchai, My Central and My Causeway Bay.  As an introvert observer, the artist recorded the conversations of passers-by on the street.  The work investigates the ‘urban tension’ between oneself and the surrounding and shows the alienation between people living in the community.

From left 4: The artist found a cross point and a connection between her grandmother, her mother and her when she discovered that her mother had also helped her grandmother to pick up useful stuffs from the junkyard to home in the past.

Unstrained imagination

Imagination is an intrinsic underlying element with which the viewers could interpret the artworks in a certain direction, or it could be towards no direction.  The “      “ was left blank in order to let the viewers fill in their own meanings.  There could be infinite possibilities, unstrained imagination or suggestions.  The exhibition enhances our self-awareness towards our surroundings.

Art is dead?

In the art history, the saying “art is dead” appeared at several critical turns in the artistic genres.  For instance, the emerge of abstraction which worked to counteract the figuration has ignited the debate on the criteria of aesthetics.  In the eighties Postmodernism era, the saying “painting is dead” was aroused when large numbers of artists turned their works to installation, video art etc.  In Hong Kong, it has been said for long that “art is dying” especially when we see that the industry is giving way to the urbanisation and commercial activities.  Nevertheless, when I looked into the creativity of these emerging artists, I was fueled with positivity.  Over three years, the graduating students’ enthusiasm in arts has been frequently confronted with the complicated hard work, and yet they have made it!  This exhibition is not the end but the starting point of another art journey ahead, for the students and the future art scene of Hong Kong.

(The exhibition was ended on 27th July 2015)


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Yoshitomo Nara: Life is Not Only One…with Art

What an extraordinary experience it is to visit Yoshitomo Nara’s “Life is Only One” exhibition – it feels like walking with this iconic artist a part of his unique journey of life! This first solo exhibition of Nara in Asia outside Japan is a well-crafted personal statement that certainly touches your heart with his absolute sincerity.

An Air of Melancholy

Divided into five sections namely “Memories of Tomorrow”, “Where We are Today”, “Sounds of Life; Sounds of Today”, “Talking to the Past; Talking to Today” and “Life is Not Only One”, the exhibition showcases a rich selection of Nara’s oeuvre in the past two decades through oil paintings, colour-penciled drawings, sculptures, installation and photography. As I entered the gallery, I was immediately overwhelmed by a number of large-scale paintings of Nara’s trademark childlike characters. Manga cartoons as they seem, these works did not make me feel uplifting but an air of discontent, anger, melancholy and despair. Nara is well known for depicting human and animal figures in their most simple and concise forms with pastel colours to express deep and thought-provoking ideas. Big-headed girl and puppy are his signature characters that honestly represent himself to interpret life through his works. Utilizing different materials such as cardboards, envelopes, wood and cotton, Nara reveals intimate moments of an artist freely working through his ideas without setting boundaries for himself and his audience. Honesty and liberalism are probably the precious qualities that make Nara’s works shine on the international stage, and both influential and inspirational to many.

Past vs Today
As I walked further down the gallery, music was getting louder and a series of photo works appeared in front of me either on the wall or in the form of a video slideshow. Titled as “Talking to the Past; Talking to Today”, this section presents Nara’s photo works in the past 10 years taken mainly in Afghanistan and Sakhalin, an island north of Hokkaido in Japan. These photos introduced to me images of children, scenery, towns and animals around the world. Backed by some melodic Japanese songs, these heartwarming images brought about a sense of serendipity, pleasure and comfort. It is worth noting that the journey to Sakhalin is Nara’s personal journey for his grandfather who once lived on this remote land. By capturing the landscape that his grandfather had seen, these photos reflected how the past continues to be important to his current journey as an artist.

Embraced by Harmony
Echoing to the main theme, the exhibition ended with “Life is Not Only One”. It features an installation called “Fountain of Life” in the centre, a gigantic teacup with a never-ending flow of tears streaming down from the innocent child-like heads stacked in it. Together with the miniatures of Nara’s famous giant puppy scattered in the chamber and an “Angel” painting on the wall, a source of endless vitality and hope surrounds the teacup. Contrary to the rather negative complain-ish atmosphere at the beginning of the exhibition, I was embraced with harmony and positive energy here. Traveling through the journey from “Life is Only One” to “Life is Not Only One”, I can’t help to ponder: “Does Nara want to remind us to keep a positive mindset while experiencing the impermanence of life?”.

Fountain of Life

Fountain of Life (Photo: Yoshitomo Nara)




The Functions of Art
British philosopher Alain de Botton stated in his book “Art as Therapy” that art has seven functions: Remembering, Hope, Sorrow, Rebalancing, Self-Understanding, Growth and Appreciation. I am thrilled to realize that I have experienced all these functions (to different extents) after visiting Nara’s exhibition and they are still resonating in my head. By infusing in his works his transient life experience and interpretation of life, Nara not only expresses his own feelings and ideas, but also inspires his audience to interpret their lives with their own imaginations and experiences. Firmly believing the value of art lies in its positive impact to the society and individuals, I have no doubt Nara’s works have succeeded in delivering their values to his followers around the world!

(Photo: Asia Society)

(Photo: Asia Society)

What does Art Mean to You?
Exhibition aside, the visionary presenter Asia Society has organised a wide range of engagement activities to encourage audience to actively participate in exploring Nara’s world. They include film screenings, workshops, seminars, design competition, sale of limited edition merchandise, etc. I was lucky to have the chance to watch a documentary “Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara” after visiting the exhibition. It recorded Nara’s innovative “A to Z” project – building a fictitious town in his hometown Hirosaki – from conception to fruition. In this project, Nara collaborated with enthusiastic people around the world which gradually transformed him from a “solo” and isolated artist to become a more cheerful and sociable person. This documentary brought me into Nara’s life which made me better understand Nara as a person and his process of art creation. Most importantly, it allowed me to witness how art makes a positive impact to one’s life, should it be the impact from artist to his audience through his works, or from artist towards his own life through the art making process. It bears testimony to the power of art to transform and liberate. Indeed, life is never only one with art! Let us continue to discover ourselves, share sorrow, find hope, growth, appreciation and many more through our own artistic experience!

Interview of Yoshitomo Nara: “I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of life” (Video source from South China Morning Post)

Christine Kan


奈良美智「無常人生」- 以藝術改變生命


Photo: The Wall Street Journal




Sounds of Life; Sounds of Today (Photo: South China Morning Post)

Sounds of Life; Sounds of Today (Photo: South China Morning Post)


展覽後半部份展出奈良攝影、彫塑及裝置作品。以「今昔對話」為題的攝影作品主要來自其阿富汗及日本以北庫頁島的旅程。拍攝對象以當地小孩、動物、風景及小村落為主,處處流露溫馨、恬靜、愉快的氣氛,令人感覺舒服溫暖。其中庫頁島之旅更是奈良尋找爺爺生活足跡的旅程,作品標緻着「過去」對奈良現在的藝術創作之路有重要的影響。而最後的「無盡生命」部分則在房間中央放置了一枚以玻璃纖維造成,名為Fountain of Life的巨型茶杯裝置,杯中放置了數個叠高了的可愛小孩頭像,他們全部合上眼睛卻有眼淚不斷緩緩落下,形成噴泉。房內四周放置多個奈良著名的小狗造像迷你版,一邊牆上掛了一幅名為「天使」的畫作。作品整體喻意生命儘管脆弱,但在上蒼眷顧下,生命之泉是生生不息的,令人充滿盼望。觀眾在這裏感受到的和諧、正面氣氛與展覽前半部的控訴、卑觀氣氛有着強烈的對比。由無常人生走到無盡生命,奈良是要提醒我們要抱積極的態度去面對無常的人生嗎?

Fountain of Life (Photo: South China Morning Post)

Puppy (Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club)


英國哲學家 Alain de Botton 在其著作「Art as Therapy」中分析藝術具有七個功能:回憶、希望、哀傷、重整平衡、了解自我、成長及欣賞。筆者很高興能在奈良此次個展中體驗到以上種種,感受頗深。奈良以其個人經驗及對生命的看法作為藝術創作題材,表達自我之餘,亦引領觀眾思考人生,從而產生共鳴及反思。他的作品並没有給予觀眾既定的答案,好讓觀眾以各自的想像力及個人經歷思考其作品的意義。筆者認為藝術的價值,往往反映在其對社會及個人所發揮的正面影響。奈良的作品在這方面可説是成功的,至少對很多世界各地的奈良美智追隨者而言,他的作品的確能輕易地做到這一點。

(Photo: Facebook of Yoshitomo Nara)


展覽以外,主辦單位亞洲協會還安排了一系列周邊活動包括電影播放、工作坊、座談會、設計比賽、限量紀念品售賣等,讓不同年齡的觀眾能積極參與探索奈良的世界。筆者慶幸欣賞了一套有關奈良的紀錄片「Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara」,影片紀錄了奈良「A to Z 」計劃的發展過程。由奈良與拍檔開始構思,到越來越多人一起參與完成計劃,在奈良的家鄉岩前搭建了一個名為 A to Z 的村莊,村莊內每處皆放置奈良各式各樣的作品,十分別出心裁。影片除紀錄了整個計劃的發展過程外,亦展示了奈良本是一個喜歡單獨創作、不擅交際的藝術家,在推展計劃的過程中,因接觸了一羣熱情投入的工作人員,期間被他們感染、感動而變得開朗活潑。這套影片讓筆者走進奈良的生活,立體地認識展覽作品的創作者是一個怎樣的人,從而加深對其作品的了解。但更重要是它見證了藝術如何積極地影響生命,不僅是藝術家以作品改變觀眾的生命,藝術家同時亦在創作中改變自己的生命。藝術的非凡力量確是令人動容的!

Photo: Asia Society


Interview of Yoshitomo Nara: “I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of life” (Video source from South China Morning Post)

Christine Kan



Japonism, Japonism, Japonism…

It is the word to describe my existing mental status.  If not the tsunami at Tōhoku in Japan, I would have already studied in Japan.  The school registration was all ready and suddenly came the outbreak of the crisis.  If I were not given the chance to go to France for the language course, I would have already taken the offer for a Master’s study in Buddhism in Hong Kong.  Life is amazing.  Everything starts from a point and end on the same, like a circle.  Things intermingled and then after going miles’ way you find yourself doing what you should have done at the very first instant.  Today, I start to do my research in Japanese Zen paintings.  Zen, in fact is originated from the Buddhism in China.

But Japonism does not really mean my passion to the culture of Japan.  The term Japonism refers to the late 19th century European craze for Japanese art, fashion and aesthetics.  In art, it refers notably to fans, screens, lacquers, bronzes, silks, porcelains and ukiyo-e woodblock prints – which arrived in huge quantities from Japan, following the decision taken in 1854 by the Tokugawa Shogunate to open up its seaports to international trade with the West.  The ukiyo-e has the advantage of cheap mass-production, making them universally accessible.

“Japonism” exerted a vigorous influence in France (Japonisme in French), especially among painters of the impressionism, by bringing to the artists the new ideas in terms of composition, color, and design.  The European artists made reference to the distinctive Japanese imagery from ukiyo-e and grafted them into their own works.  Examples are the cherry blossoms, lanterns, kimonos, and temples.

Ukiyo-e helped reshaping the techniques and the aesthetic expression of western art.   It typically features prominent outlines (rooted in the Japanese reverence for calligraphy), and areas of flat and vibrant color.  Shadows are generally omitted.  This influence was obvious in the colors and compositions of Édouard Vuillard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and above all Vincent van Gogh.

Hiroshige and Van Gogh

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 – 1858) was one of the most famous Japanese ukiyo-e artists, considered the last great master of that tradition.  Best known for his landscapes, Hiroshige has greatly influenced French Impressionists such as Monet and Vincent Van Gogh.  For instance, the Flowering Plum Tree (1887) from Japonaiserie of Van Gogh and his Bridge in the rain (1887) were inspired respectively by the works of The Plum Garden in Kameido (1857) and the Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake (1857) of Hiroshige.

The Exhibition: Fiber Futures in Paris

At the height of this Japonism, I went to La Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris and discovered a very interesting exhibition: Fiber Futures.

The works of 30 Japanese artists fascinated my eyes with their metamorphosis of textiles in this exhibition.  The exhibition had already taken place in New York, San Francisco, Helsinki, and Madrid.

Fiber art emerged in the 1960s.  In Japan, it is acting as a framework through which artists are able to re-examine their ancestral traditions through a contemporary angle.  Indeed, the country has a rich history of dyeing and weaving, techniques which are re-appropriated by Japanese contemporary artists nowadays.

We can find in the exhibition the intermingling of art, craftsmanship, and design.  These contemporary Japanese artists transformed fabrics into sculptures, pictures, emulations of nature by using materials ranging from silk, cotton, recycled cocoons, antique paper scraps, jute, hemp, stainless-steel wire and synthetic fiber.  They transform, bend, divide and reuse the fiber.  The creation of Machiko Agano is one of the most impressive works for me.  The artist presented an artificial forests cut out from mirror card and suspended from the ceiling.  The work infuses in the space with the reflections resulted from the sunshine at the exterior.  The idea of ecology is transmitted through this work.

La Maison de la Culture du Japon at Paris

At the end of the exhibition, we can ask for the posters of the previous, current or coming exhibitions for free.  There is also a small bookstore selling Japanese decorations and books.  This House of Japanese Culture also organize workshops like making and tasting of Japanese noodles – Sobas, sake tasting, Japanese tea history and tasting, etc.  Conferences on cultural topics and courses in Japanese are also available in the House.

(Exhibition of Fiber Futures is open from 6 May to 11 July 2015)


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The flood of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot takes over Palais de Tokyo

Acquaalta of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

After waiting for a month, the new summer exhibition at Palais de Tokyo is officially opened to public today.  Being a fan of this “Palais” of contemporary art, I can’t wait but rushing all my way to explore the new stuffs there.

What has bombarded me in the first place is the Acquaalta of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, which is set at the entrance level of the museum.  Acquaalta refers to the exceptional tide peaks that occur periodically in the northern Adriatic Sea. The peaks reach their maximum in the Venetian Lagoon and cause partial flooding of Venice.  The artist is representing France in carrying out his project rêvolutions at the French Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale (9 May – 22 November 2015) in which he transformed the venue into an oneiric and organic island.  I did not get a chance to the Biennale due to the painstaking exams.  It is almost a luxury for me to be able to find the artist’s work Acquaalta here.

The artist creates a lakeside landscape which leads visitors into an experience – tactile, visual and auditory.  Their perception of the space is changed through the journey under the techniques that intermingle music, movement and images.  This journey, in which everyone’s movements take on great importance, takes the audience into an imaginary experience – a journey of their own psyche.  At the end of the journey, we find a zombiedrone, a technique by which the participants’ images are encrypted, leaving only the moving parts to appear on the screen.

The mastering of space, reflection and transformation of images, and the audio effects all work together to give us a new sensory experience.  We may also find this work loaded with poetry in making reference to the myth of Narcissus gazing at his own reflection

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot was born in 1961 in Nice and currently lives and works in Sète. This artist, trained as a musician and composer, has created works by drawing on the rhythms of daily life to produce sound in unexpected ways.  He was the first French prize-winner of the International Studio Program (PS1) in New York, from 1998–99.

Playing around the materiality – Patrick Neu

The summer exhibition is more than just Acquaalta.  Patrick Neu, an artist who works with materials not often found in the art world: bees’wings, lampblack on glass, eggshells, wax, etc., invites us to get into his dialogue with the materials.

His watercolor series Iris put in front of us both the vanity of the blossoming flowers and their fragility.  The period of blossoming of irises never lasts long, at most fifteen days per year.  However, it is already sufficient for Patrick Neu to capture the vanity of this blossom of the flowers.  The artist uses his precise pencil line, outlining the sinuous and delicate flowers on a velvety white paper, followed with a watercolor coating.   Without over-saturated with colors, the natural colors of these flowers together with their vivid forms make them stand out with an unparalleled finesse in a perfectly neutral background.  The artist has carefully chosen the medium to mark his presentation in a natural context – fragile, frameless, simply pinned the delicate painted flowers to the paper.  Under his work, the life cycle and the ephemeral nature of objects give way to a visual poetry.

Patrick Neu was born in 1963, lives and works in Alsace.

More works of the other artists to be explored

Tianzhuo Chen, Jesper Just, Shelly Nadashi, Isabelle Cornaro etc.

(The exhibition is open from 24 June to 13 September 2015 at Palais de Tokyo in Paris)


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