Six years on: Peng Chau revisited

Hong Kong skyline

ferry to peng chau

peng chau

 

After my trip to Japan was cancelled due to COVID19, I was stuck in Hong Kong for many months… and like many locals, I felt rather claustrophobic after spending days on end indoor. Luckily, unlike the U.K. and many Western countries, there was no lockdown in the city, hence it was still possible to roam around town – at your own risk.

When the covid cases dropped and the hot summer was over ( I found it hard to cope with Hong Kong’s humid summers), I was able to do more outdoor activities again. I decided to revisit Peng Chau after a six-year gap (see my earlier blog entry here), as I thoroughly enjoyed the island’s tranquil and unspoilt environment. Has the island changed over the last six years? Yes, certainly, but currently it is still less ‘developed’ than other islands such as Cheung Chau and Lamma Island.

 

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

 

One notable difference from my last visit was that there were considerable more visitors due to the global travel restrictions. Stuck within the small city, many lcoals are starting to appreciate nature and fresh air, and they are desperate to get out of the urban jungle – who can blame them? In the past, Peng Chau was probably the least visited Outlying Islands in Hong Kong as it is the smallest and the least commercial. However, the pandemic changed everything, and even Peng Chau has become a hot spot for local tourists.

When I visited six years ago, the island’s eateries were divided into two categories: big seafood restaurants or small cha cheng tengs. Western-style cafes were almost non-existent, let alone bars… now there are a few more cafes including a cosy Island Table Grocer Cafe (9 Peng Chau Wing Hing St) and a tiny Japanese tea room, Daruma Chaya (38 Wing On Street).

 

peng chau

peng chau daruma chaya

peng chau  peng chau

 

There was not much to see at the dilapidated Grade III listed former leather factory six years ago aside from a plaque commermorating the island’s once booming manufacturing industry. But over the past few years, a local resident, Sherry Lau, rented the 4000 square metres factory and began to convert it into an art hub filled with junk collected from the island. An alleyway off the Wing On Street would lead you to ‘My secret garden’, featuring some interesting junk art, street art murals, and an antique shop (also an Airbnb). It is very unusual to see junk yards like this in Hong Kong, and I am glad that Ms Lau took the initiative to transform the derelict space into something so unique. It seemed very popular with local tourists as it certainly was a selfie hotspot during my visit…

 

peng chau  peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

my secret garden

peng chau

peng chau  peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

‘My secret garden’/former leather factory

 

Since Peng Chau is a very small island (0.99 square kilometres to be exact), it is easy to walk around the island within a few hours. I went up to Finger Hill first, the tallest point of the island, but the view here is a bit disappointing, so don’t get your hopes up too high. Personally, I prefer walking along the Peng Yu Path, a coastal path where you would pass by many empty sandy beaches with Hong Kong’s skyline as the backdrop.

 

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau  peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

 

One significant change took place since my last visit and it is the new addition of residential developments on the island, notably the row of luxury residential houses overlooking the sea near the pier. I can’t say that I am surprised by this because property development is contantly taking place in Hong Kong. But I am wondering if the island will lose its charm as more (wealthy) outsiders move here. Will the island become another Discovery Bay, which is full of expats, upmarket restaurants and bars? Six years ago, I was charmed by the island’s unspoilt, low-key and calm environment, but I wonder if this is under threat now – I sincerely hope not.

 

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

 

When I headed back to Central at around 5pm, the waiting area at the pier was completely packed and social distancing was all out of the window. And to my surprise, every seat of the ferry was taken despite the fact that this was a weekday afternoon… Not being able to travel meant that bored Hong Kongers are seeking out local sights to visit, and hiking has become one of the most popular activities during the pandemic. It would be fine if people respect nature and the environment, but many of them don’t, which is very frustrating. I think the pandemic has made many people realise the importance of nature in our lives, but outdoor ettiquette needs to be followed too.

I wonder how Peng Chau is going to evolve in the future, especially if more people are looking into moving out of urban areas after the pandemic. Perhpas its limited infrastructure is stopping people from moving here, I guess only time will tell.

 

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

papaya  plant peng chau

peng chau

peng chau

Peng Chau’s tree, plants and flowers

 

 

Kerala Folklore Museum in Kochi

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum  kerala folklore museum

 

When I was doing my research on Kochi before my trip, I wasn’t too bothered about visiting the main attractions, but one museum was written on my to-go list. If you are interested in architecture, ethnology, history, folk arts and crafts, then don’t forgo the Kerala Folklore Museum.

Upon arrival, you are likely to be intrigued by the museum’s striking traditional architecture, which comprises the reconstruction of around 25 traditional, heritage buildings dismantled from different parts of Kerala. This huge architectural installation is based on 3 architectural schools of Kerala namely Malabar architecture, Cochin & Travancore architectural schools. The whole wooded structure was completed with the help of 62 traditional carpenters over a period of 7.5 years.

 

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum  kerala folklore museum

 

It is hard to believe that the 3-storey building houses an impressive private collection of only one art dealer, George J Thaliath (1961-2018). For 35 years, Thaliath traveled around the Indian sub continent to study traditional Indian art. During this period, he also started his collection, which eventually accumulated to over 5000 artifacts spanning 10 centuries and primarily from Kerala. The vast collection includes furniture, stone, wood and bronze sculptures, ancient terracotta, Stone Age objects, pottery, jewellery, paintings, textiles, oil lamps, swords, musical instruments, tribal and folk art, wood works, utensils, masks and puppets etc.

Opened in 2009, Thaliath and his wife created this treasure trove aiming to preserve the rich heritage and traditions of South Indian culture. It also includes a theatre, antique and textiles shops and cafe. The museum attracted much public attention when architecture-lover, Prince Charles and Camilla paid a visit in 2013.

 

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum  kerala folklore museum

 

As I wandered around the museum, I was quite overwhelmed (positively) by the array of the artifacts and craftsmanship. There was so much to see here, and it was hard to absorb everything in one visit. I didn’t feel like I was inside a museum, it felt more like a massive antique/vintage shop, which made me feel at ease.

 

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum  kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum  kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum  kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

 

Since this museum is located in Ernakulam and not near other tourist attractions, it is best to order a taxi/uber to get here. However, it is really worth the time and effort as you are unlikely to find a museum like this elsewhere in Kerala.

 

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

kerala folklore museum

 

 

Forgotten Masterpieces: Indian Painting for the East India Company

forgotten masters  forgotten masters

 

Even though I am a regular art exhibition-goer in London, I often miss many excellent but less publicised exhibitions in town. Luckily, I did manage to see the rare and wonderful “Forgotten Masterpieces: Indian Painting for the East India Company” at The Wallace Collection before my travels to Asia.

Guest curated by renowned writer and historian William Dalrymple, the exhibition is the first in the UK to showcase 100 artworks by Indian master painters commissioned by East India Company officials –ranging from botanists and surgeons, through to diplomats, artists, governors and judges, and their wives – in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (1770 to 1840). These Indian artists include Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das, Shaikh Mohammad Amir of Karriah, Sita Ram and Ghulam Ali Khan, who were all uncredited for their intricate artworks. Until now.

The exhibition explores the four main centres of what has traditionally been described as ‘Company School’ painting: Calcutta and Lucknow, where provincial Mughal painters from Murshidabad, Patna and Faizabad were employed; Madras and Tanjore, where artists from the South Indian traditions received patronage; and Delhi, where Imperial Mughal artists created some of the finest works of this period. India’s natural world appeared to be a popular subject for the British officials at the time.

 

forgotten masters

forgotten masters  forgotten masters

 

After I started to do botianical illustrations as a hobby in recent years, I became very interested in botanical art. Hence I was immediately drawn to all the bold and meticulous botanical paintings of Indian flora at the exhibition. There is a timelessness feel to these paintings, and you could easily see them being transferred to wallpaper or fabric and sold at House of Hackney to trendy East Londoners.

 

forgotten masters

forgotten masters  forgotten masters

 

The fauna paintings are equally interesting. I particularly liked the study of “Great Indian Fruit Bat” (around 1777-82) by a well-known Indian artist Bhawani Das, who was trained in Mughal miniature painting and commissioned by Sir Elijah Impey, Chief Justice of Bengal (1774–1782), and his wife, Lady Mary, to make extensive natural history studies at their estate in Calcutta. I have never liked bats, but the paintings are so intriguing that I found it hard to move away from them.

 

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

 

Aside from the natural world, another highlight was the painstaking architectural drawings of India’s manmade wonders including the Taj Mahal. I felt like asking for a magnifying glass in order to study these drawings! These drawings were done by an unknown artist (possibly Sheikh Mohammed Latif), and each drawing showcases the detailed ornamental patterns and calligraphy on the facades of the buildings. I am not sure if such drawing techniques and craftsmanship still exists today – these works are immaculate and priceless.

 

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

 

The exhibition also displays masterpieces from the famous Fraser Album for the first time since the album was broken up and sold in the 1980s. Fraser Album is a collection of paintings documenting various aspects of Mughal life, made between 1815 and 1819, commissioned by a British Indian civil servant, William Fraser. The last court painter of the Mughal empire, Ghulam Ali Khan, was commissioned to illustrate Mughal life using traditional techniques but with English watercolours on English paper. This fusion style is known today as the Company School. 

 

forgotten masters

forgotten masters

 

Of course this exhibition is not just about art; the exhibition is fascinating because of its Anglo-Indian history and context. Through these works, we could get a glimpse of the last days of the Mughal Empire, and appreciate the last phase of Indian artistic genius before photography and the influence of western colonial art schools – ended an unbroken tradition of painting going back two thousand years. From the exhibition, we could see that the commissioned Indian artists not only responded to European influences, they also maintained their own artistic visions and styles, therefore these works are truly original and remarkable. Sadly, the vast array of ‘fusion’ works produced during this period were largely forgotten by the world, which is why this exhibition could be seen as a late tribute to the ingenious Indian masters from that period.

 

Emmanuelle Moureaux’s ‘Slices of Time’ exhibition at Now Gallery

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

I have been a fan of Tokyo-based French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux and her colour-driven architecture for some time. Since 1996, she has been living in Tokyo where she established Emmanuelle Moureaux architecture + design in 2003. I have never actually seen Moureaux‘s architecture and installations in real life, so I was really looking forward to seeing her first art/design exhibition “Slices of time” in London.

Moureaux invented the concept of shikiri, which literally means ‘dividing (creating) space with colours’. She uses colours as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, and her work ranges from art, design to architecture.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

Inspired by the location of the gallery, near the Greenwich Meridian, “Slices of Time expresses the past, the now and the future through 168,000 numbers cut out from paper. The cut-outs are hung in the gallery space, as a representation of the round earth floating. 100 layers of numbers in 100 shades of colours visualise the next 100 years to come (2020 to 2119), while 20 layers of numbers in white represent the past 20 years (2000 to 2019).

On the preview night, I headed to NOW Gallery on the Greenwich Peninsula, and a long queue had already formed outside of the gallery. At the door, we were assigned a timeslot and when it was our turn, we had to queue (again) outside of the exhibition area. We were allowed to walk around the installations for a short period before being hurried out to let the next group in.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

It was wonderful to see the striking installations from above and up close. I am also glad that the architect has chosen paper as her medium – the installation truly reveals the beauty and power of paper. I only wish that I was given more time to linger, but since I was going to be away for several months, this was the only opportunity for me to see the exhibition before leaving. And for those who don’t live in London, there are currently two other exhibitions being held in Taipei (“Forest of Numbers” ) and New York (“100 colors”) where visitors can be stimulated by vast array of colours.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux  Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

 

“Floating worlds: Japanese woodcuts” exhibition at Brighton Museum

brighton musuem

brighton musuem

 

I have visited exhibitions on Ukiyo-e (Japanese Woodblock prints) in Japan, France and London before, but never in Brighton. After reading some positive reviews on the “Floating Worlds: Japanese Woodcuts” exhibition at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, I decided to head to Brighton to see the exhibition before it ended.

Oddly enough, even though I have visited Brighton several times before, I have never been to the museum nor The Royal Pavilion. As I was approaching the museum located within the Royal Pavilion garden, I was immediately impressed by its architecture, which was built in a similar Indo-Saracenic style as the nearby Royal Pavilion.

 

brighton musuem

brighton musuem

brighton musuem

 

Opened in 1873, the museum was one of the first purpose built museums in England. A major refurbishment costing £10 million took place in 2002, moving the entrance from Church Street to the Royal Pavilion garden, and its galleries redesigned with new interpretation.

The museum has a interesting collection of pottery, which was the collection of one of its founders. Henry Willett, a wealthy local brewer.  I was also surprised to see the 20th Century Art and design collection in the main gallery featuring artists and designers like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Eric Ravilious, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Grayson Perry etc.

 

brighton musuem  brighton musuem

brighton musuem

brighton musuem  brighton museum

brighton museum

brighton museum  brighton musuem

 

The ukiyo-e exhibition occupied two rooms upstairs, and it showcased woodblock prints from the Edo period (1615-1868), which are part of the museum’s collection. Guided by haiku poetry, the exhibition enabled visitors to learn more about lives in Edo ( Tokyo) through the exquisite prints.

The term ‘ukiyo-e’ literally means ‘pictures of the floating world’. The ‘floating world’ referred to the ‘pleasure quarters’ that were filled with teahouses, Kabuki theatres and licensed brothels in Japan’s cities during the Edo period. The hand-carved and hand-printed prints depict actors, courtesans and geisha, who became style icons of their day. I love the detailed patterns on the kimonos of the courtesans and geisha, which reveal the splendid craftsmanship of the period.

 

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Besides the ‘pleasure quarters’, the exhibition also explored the Hanakotoba, the Japanese language of flowers. Meanwhile, countryside and the transient seasons are common themes featured in ukiyo-e, alongside with Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji, which was illustrated either explicitly or implicitly in the background.

 

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Unlike the extremely crowded and overhyped Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum, I utterly enjoyed this low-key and wonderful exhibition. It is hard to appreciate an exhibition in a stressful environment (where people kept pushing, chatting and refusing to move), hence the quiet and spacious setting of this exhibition truly enabled visitors to appreciate the poetic quality of the prints. I only wish that the museum will showcase more of its ukiyo-e prints to the public in the future, because they are just too beautiful to be locked away.

 

brighton museum

Drawings by the visitors at the exhibition

 

“Olafur Eliasson: In real life” exhibition at Tate Mordern

Olafur Eliasson

Model room (2003), Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Einar Thorsteinn

 

Although I have seen Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson‘s works before, I was still hesitant to visit his “Olafur Eliasson: In real life” exhibition at Tate Modern fearing that it has been overhyped. Then when I went with a friend on one Friday evening, we both enjoyed the exhibition immensely – it was also more fun to go with a friend.

As soon as I stepped into the first room, I was immediately captivated by all the geometric origami architectural pieces behind the glass case. Since I completed a paper art course recenly, I found these pieces utterly fascinating. These preliminary and experimental models enabled the artist and his team to develop larger geometric installations that could be seen in the other rooms. Though seeing these models helped us to understand the concept and work process.

 

Olafur Eliasson   Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson   Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

 

Eliasson often creates works that aim to challenge viewers’ perception of reality. “Is Seeing Believing?” is the question that we sometimes ask ourselves, yet our past experiences are leading us to think otherwise, since we are constantly deceived by our brains. The truth is that most of us are able to grasp reality.

Eliasson’s most famous work ‘The Weather Project’ drew 2 million visitors to gather beneath his artificial sun installation in the Turbine Hall back in 2003. This ‘fake sun’ became the talk of town for a long time.

This time, an 11-metre-high waterfall constructed from scaffolding was installed on the terrace outside of the museum. According to Eliasson, the piece is meant to probe questions including: “Is nature constructed? Is nature real? Is it fake? Does nature exist?”

 

Olafur Eliasson

 

Since Eliasson spent much of his childhood in Iceland, nature and environmental issues play prominent roles in his works. In one of his earlier works Beauty (1993), for example, Eliasson wanted to recreate something he’d witnessed first-hand in Iceland. Visitors would enter a dark room and see mist coming out of a punctured hose pipe with light illuminated from a single light bulb. If you stand there long enough, you are likely to see a rainbow. Is this nature or manmade? It is up to you to decide.

 

Olafur Eliasson

Beauty (1993)

 

In another room, visitors would be surrounded by a dense fog that changes colours as you blindly navigate yourself through it. Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger) was first presented at Copenhagen’s ARKEN Museum of Modern Art in 2010, and at this exhibition, it has been recreated in a 39-metre long corridor.

The artificial fog is actially made from non-toxic polls, a sweetener often used in food production, hence you can taste the sweetness at the back your throat when you inhale the fog. Not only you might feel disoriented, but all your senses would also be evoked in this space.

 

Olafur Eliasson Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger) (2010)  Olafur Eliasson Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger) (2010)

Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger), 2010

 

Another immersive installation Your uncertain shadow (colour) focuses on light and colour. Five coloured spotlights, directed at a white wall, are arranged in a line on the floor. These colours combine to illuminate the wall with a bright white light. When the visitor enters the space, her/his projected shadow, by blocking each coloured light from a slightly different angle, appears on the wall as an array of five differently coloured silhouettes. The deceptive and playful installation is probably the most ‘instagrammed’ at the exhibition.

 

Olafur Eliasson Your uncertain shadow (colour), 2010

Your uncertain shadow (colour), 2010

 

Beyond the interactive installations, there are also works that employed a more conventional method focusing on the effects of global warming and climate change. A series of photographs of Iceland’s glaciers taken by the artist in 1999 are hung alongside with photos taken 20 years on to illustrate the changes in the landscape that are happening now. They act as a stark reminder that global warming is not a hoax and needs to be addressed asap.

His other ongoing prject, Ice Watch (2014–) is a collaboration with the geologist Minik Rosing in which large blocks of glacial ice cast off from the Greenland ice sheet were installed in three locations, including outside of Tate Modern a year ago. The melting ice installation raises awareness of climate change by providing a direct and tangible experience of the reality.

 

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson   Olafur Eliasson

 

Like I mentioned earlier, many of his geometric origami models in the first room were later developed into larger installations, like ‘Your spiral view’ (2002), featuring a eight-metre-long tunnel constructed from steel plates that are assembled into two sets of spirals coiling in opposite directions. When visitors walk through it, they would find themselves within a kaleidoscope, in which the space they have just left is reflected fragmentarily together with the view out on the other side. It is another fun and disorientating installations at the exhibition.

 

Olafur Eliasson   Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson Your spiral view 2002

Olafur Eliasson Your spiral view 2002

Olafur Eliasson   Olafur Eliasson

 

Outside of the exhibition, visitors could also view his other projects, including Little Sun, developed with the Danish engineer Frederik Ottesen. Little Sun is a very efficient solar-powered LED lamp, aimed at children in Africa and other developing nations. Since the lamp’s debut in 2012, more than 200,000 have been distributed, over a third of them to regions in Africa with no electricity, the rest at venues like Tate Modern or Coachella.

 

Olafur Eliasson   Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson The structural evolution project 2001.

 

In my opinion, Olafur Eliasson is undoubtedly a persuasive and important artist of our generation. It is hard to put him into a box as he is also a designer, philanthropist and environmental activist. Even if you don’t consider his works as ‘art’, he does have the power to make the public engage and think about our environment, which hopefully will bring about positive changes to our planet.

 

 

The splendid Dale Chihuly exhibition at Kew Gardens

sapphire star dale Chilhuly

Sapphire Star, 2010

 

I am not sure why it took me so long to visit the ‘Chihuly – Reflections on nature‘ exhibition at Kew Gardens, but I finally managed to catch it a few days before it ended. It was not the best day to visit Kew, but the autumn foliage made up for the grey and drizzly weather.

I was glad that I made it because I thought it was was the best U.K. exhibition I saw this year. American artist Dale Chihuly‘s stunning nature-inspired glass sculptures did not look out of place at Kew, in fact, they undoubtedly enhanced the gardens in many ways.

 

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Chihuly at Kew

 

With a map in hand, I wandered around the gardens in search for his 32 sculptures installed at 12 different locations. Aside from the Rotunda Chandelier at the V & A entrance, I don’t recall seeing a lot of Dale Chilhuly‘s works in the U.K., so this exhibition was a fascinating opportunity to see an artist who has spent the last 50 years perfecting and experimenting on a skill/craft/art that he loves. Even on a grey day, Chihuly‘s glass sculptures still looked magnificent, and it was hard not to be gobsmacked by the intricate craftsmanship and dazzling colours.

 

Temperate House Persian

Temperate House Persian  Temperate House Persian

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew  Chihuly at Kew

Fiori Verdi

Chihuly at Kew

 

Besides the outdoor sculptures, the indoor ones looked marvelous too. The Temperate House Persians – a new artwork specially designed to be suspended inside the world’s largest and newly restored Victorian glasshouse could be admired from below and above. Meanwhile, some of his other works inside the glasshouse appeared to be camouflage e.g. ‘Fiori Verdi’ among the exotic plants, which was quite a pleasant surprise for the visitors.

 

‘Summer Sun’, 2010

Opal and Amber Towers, 2018

Lime Crystal Tower, 2006

 Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower

Top: ‘Summer Sun’, 2010; 2nd row: ‘Opal and Amber Towers’, 2018; 3rd row: ‘Lime Crystal Tower’, 2006; bottom row: Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower, 2013

 

One of the most conspicuous outdoor sculptures at the exhibition was ‘Summer Sun’, a bold piece consisted of 1,483 separate elements. Yet the most complex one is ‘Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower’, which has 1,882 separate elements.

Out of all the installations at the gardens, my personal favourites were the ‘Niijima Floats’ and ‘Ethereal White Persian Pond’ inside the Waterlily House. Named after a volcanic island in Tokyo Bay, the ‘Niijima Floats’ installation at the Japanese rock garden was made up of brightly coloured glass spheres in various sizes, some of which weigh up to 60 pounds (27 kg). A series introduced by Chihuly in 1991, the colourful spheres looked unexpectantly harmonious with its surroundings; I especially liked the Chinese pagoda backdrop. I felt a sense of tranquility and balance looking at this installation, and it was unfathomable by intellect – you could only feel it, which probably made it more powerful.

 

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

‘Niijima Floats’, 2019

 

‘Ethereal white persian pond’ inside the Waterlily house was another breathtaking installation. As soon as I entered the glasshouse, my eyes were captivated by the extraordinary white and translucent striped glass flowers supported and rimmed with steel standing on the surface of the pond. Again, I felt that the glass flowers belonged there, in the pond with the water lilies and lotus leaves. The reflection of the glass sculptures on the water created a dreamlike/surreal effect, which made me believe that these flowers are part of nature and that there is no difference between the sculptures and nature.

Chihuly has said that he wants his work “to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest, they might think it belonged there.” And I believe that he has certainly achieved this.

 

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

‘Ethereal white persian pond’, 2018

 

The last location I visited was the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, where visitors could see his sketches, drawings, smaller glass sculptures and a film detailing Chihuly’s creative process. It was interesting to see many artisans working alongside with Chihuly in the production process, hence the collaborative efforts are essential for his final pieces.

 

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew  Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

 

Although I have visited Kew Gardens almost annually (usually with a friend who lives locally) for the last few years, I have never been able to cover the entire area. There is always something new to discover here, and on this visit, I spent almost an hour inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory examing the carnivorous plants in a maze-like glasshouse.

 

kew gardens  kew gardens

KEW

kew plants  kew plants

kew

kew gardens

 

Although Kew is popular with visitors all year round, I personally love coming here in autumn. I enjoy hearing the rustling sounds of autumn leaves being blown in the wind, and the crunching sounds produced when my shoes made contact with the leaves. Perhaps it is due to global warming, but I feel that autumns here have become shorter, and if this is the case, then we need to cherish this season before it vanishes altogether – which will be almost unthinkable but not impossible. Watching the autumn leaves fall onto the ground is a reminder of our fleeting lives, although it comes with a sense of melancholy, there is also much beauty in it. I think nature is our best teacher, and maybe this is the reason why I will always want to return to Kew in autumn.

 

Chihuly at Kew

autumn foliage Kew  autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew  FOLIAGE KEW

FOLIAGE KEW

autunn foliage

 

 

Historic Colchester – the former capital of Roman Britain

Colchester Castle

 

Although Colchester is only 50 miles from London, I have never visited this historic market town before. Regarded as Britain’s oldest recorded town, it used to be the capital of Roman Britain, but it does not seem to attract as many visitors as Cambridge and Oxford. After visiting The Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmsmarket, I took the opportunity to trace its history and learn more about Roman Britain.

 

Colchester

colchester

Colchester   Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

 

The MUST-SEE sight in Colchester is the Grade I listed Colchester Castle, an imposing Norman Castle dating from 11th century. Built on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe. The museum displays artefacts up to 2,500 years old, from Celtic Britain, through Roman invasion and Boudiccan revolt, to Norman conquest and medieval life. Visitors can also see the prison cells in the basement.

Personally, I was fascinated by the Roman artefacts especially the beautiful mosaic floors. There is a large Middleborough Mosaic (made up of around 250,000 tesserae) on display dated to about AD150-175. It was laid inside a large villa in Middleborough outside of the town wall, and was discovered in 1979. Although it is damaged, you can still appreciate the design which features two wrestling cupids being observed by a bird in the centre, four sea creatures (hippocamps), and an acanthus scroll border with large flowers, heart-shaped fruits and four more birds.

This museum has a vast array of collection that includes pottery, vessels, armour, coins and jewellery etc; it is a gem not to be missed.

 

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle

Colchester

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle

Colchester castle/museum

 

Hollytrees Museum

Colchester

Hollytrees Museum

 

Another interesting sight is the ruins of St Botolph’s Priory, founded about 1100, one of the first Augustinian priories in England. The building was badly damaged by cannon fire during the Civil War siege of 1648, yet it was never rebuilt. This is an example of early Norman architecture built in flint and reused Roman brick, and it still looks impressive with the remaining arches and piers.

 

Colchester St Botolph's Priory

Colchester st botolph's priory  Colchester st botolph's priory

Colchester st botolph's priory

Colchester st botolph's priory  Colchester st botolph's priory

Colchester st botolph's priory

Colchester st botolph's priory

Colchester st botolph's priory

St Botolph’s Priory

 

Holy Trinity church is the oldest surviving Saxon building in Colchester. The Saxon-style tower has a triangular arch over the west door and features re-used Roman bricks. The tower dates to the mid-11th century, probably around AD1050, but the body of the church was built in 1349. The church was made redundant in 1956 and now not opened to the public.

 

Colchester trinity church

Colchester Church

Colchester

Holy Trinity church

 

The Minories Galleries houses a contemporary art gallery run by Colchester School of Art, part of Colchester Institute. The A listed Georgian building also has a shop selling arts and crafts made by local artists, as well as a Tiptree’ Tea Room with a spacious and relaxing garden.

 

Colchester Tiptree’ Tea Room

Colchester Tiptree’ Tea Room

Colchester Tiptree’ Tea Room

Colchester The Minories Galleries

The Minories Galleries & Tiptree’ Tea Room

 

Honestly, I was rather surprised to see a contemporary art institue in the middle of this historic town. Designed by starchitect Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly (also known for his car-melting Walkie-Talkie building in London), the conspicuous gold metal structure looks a bit out of place here. Built in 2011, the controversial Firstsite took 8 years to build and costed £28 million (!). It has received criticism for its sloping walls and failing to attract footfall. When I visited the venue, there were only a few visitors, which felt quite strange… However, I was impressed to see the Berryfield Mosaic reinstalled at its original site after it was unearthed in 1923 and moved to the Colchester Castle. Dating from around AD200, the mosaic originally formed part of the dining room floor of a wealthy Roman townhouse; its design features a central rose motif surrounded by four panels depicting sea monsters chasing dolphins.

 

Colchester Firstsite

Colchester Firstsite

Colchester Firstsite

Colchester Berryfield Mosaic

Colchester Firstsite

Colchester Firstsite

Colchester FirstsiteColchester Firstsite

Firstsite

 

Due to time contraint, I didn’t have enough time to visit more places, but I had a good time and would want to explore more around this part of the UK in the future.

 

A visionary’s mind: Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum

stanley kubrick exhibition

 

Although I haven’t seen all the art and design exhibitions in London this year, but out of all the ones that I have seen, I would say the Stanley Kubrick exhibition is the cream of the crop (alongside with Christian Dior at the V & A); it is certainly the best exhibition that I have seen at the Design Museum.

The exhibition is dedicated to the fans of Kubrick, so if you have not seen his films, then you are unlikely to appreciate this exhibition. But as one of most iconic and revered directors of the last century, it would be odd to not have seen any of his films, unless you were born after 2000.

 

design museum

 

Initially, I was quite apprehensive about this exhibition, and I didn’t quite see the link between Stanley Kubrick and the Design Museum (I guess I saw him more as an artist). Yet the vast exhibition really blew me away since it enabled visitors to catch a glimpse of Kubrick‘s creative mind. As we all know, he was a perfectionist or so-called ‘obsessive’. Life is never easy being a perfectionist, because you would want to control everything; nothing is adequate enough, and you believe that there is always room for improvement. However, it was Kubrick‘s drive for perfectionism that provided his audiences some of the most mesmorising cinematic experiences of their lives.

I still remember the shock of watching the rape scene in ‘A clockwork orange’, and the anxiety felt when Danny was running away from Jack in the haunted hotel in ‘The shining’ (while feeling irritated by Wendy‘s screams). I didn’t quite understand ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ the first time round because I was too young, but I was awed by his visions of the future when I watched it again (the restored version) a few years ago at the cinema.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

 

I had no idea that this exhibition had been touring around the world since 2004. It first started at Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and has taken over 14 years to come to the country where Kubrick lived and worked for 38 years until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1999. It has been a long wait, but it was well worth it.

Curated by the museum’s curators with help from Pentagram’s designers, the huge archive was transported from Kubrick’s Hertfordshire home, where his wife still resides. With over 700 exhibits on display, including photographs, slides, cameras, lens, film posters, props, costumes, illustrations, sketches, personal letters, models, and storyboards etc; you could easily spend hours here and be astonished by the meticulous work that went on behind the scenes of all his films.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 

This comprehensive exhibition is almost overwhelming (in a good way) because there is a lot to take in… and when you see the attention to detail Kubrick applied to all his work, you would understand why he is considered as one of the greatest directors of all times. Unfortunately, we are now living in a fast-paced world where speed has become the priority, and this attitude has lowered the standards of everything around us. Perhaps Kubrick‘s work ethic can be seen as the antidote to our speed-driven society today.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Sketches of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) were sent to Stanley Kubrick, the original director and producer, but he later handed it to Steven Spielberg, and the film was made after his death

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition 

Spartacus (1960)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

A Clockwork orange (1972)

 

Extensive research was crucial in all Kubrick‘s productions, and one of the most fascinating exhibits is the set of panorama photos of Commercial Road in East London (see below), which was originally considered as the location to recreate Greenwich Village in Manhattan for the set of ‘Eyes wide shut’. Although the majority of film ended up being shot in a studio, it was still amazing to see the scrupulous research done in preparation for the film.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Eyes wide shut (1999)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

The Shining (1980)

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

Sketches for ‘Dr Strangelove’ (1964)

 

After seeing this exhibition, it made me want to watch his earlier and less well-known films, as well as rewatch his famous ones. I think that at different stages of our lives, we would interpret his films differently; but one thing for sure is that I am most likely to appreciate his work even more from now on.

 

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition  stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

stanley kubrick exhibition

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

 

 

Wong Ping: Heart Digger at Camden Arts Centre, London

wong ping heart digger

 

One of my favourite art organisations in London is the Camden Arts Centre. The reason is quite simple: they are not mainstream, and they always take risks. While many famous art institutions like the Royal Academy of Art and the Tate rely heavily on big names and blockbuster shows, Camden Arts Centre is like a breath of fresh air. The artists that exhibit there are often overlooked by other institutions, but I have yet to encounter a disappointing exhibition there.

I came across Hong Kong artist Wong Ping‘s animations around a year ago in Hong Kong, and was captivated by the bold graphics and dark humour. It came as a surprise when I learned that he would be having a solo exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre, since he is hardly a conventional artist.

It turns out that Wong Ping is the inaugural recipient of Camden Art Centre’s new Emerging Artist Prize at Frieze (2018). The Prize was established in collaboration with Frieze Art Fair to nurture and celebrate the most innovative artists of the moment, who have yet to receive the recognition their work deserves. Hence, the exhibition was included as part of the prize awards.

 

camden arts centre

wong ping heart digger

 

After receiving his BA degree in multimedia design from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, in 2005, Wong Ping returned to Hong Kong and worked in TV post-production on cheesy dramas. Bored of his day job, he started making animations at home and posted them on his blog in 2010. The aesthetics of his technicolour and distinct animations recall the styles and colour palettes of the Memphis Group and 1980s video games. Yet this visual language is naive, eye-catching and unique. Interestingly, this childlike and gleeful aesthetic do not match the twisted, dark, and absurd contents. Sex, politics, family issues and social conflicts are the common themes featured in his animations. He is a keen observer and a fierce critic of our dystopian age.

The ‘Heart digger’ exhibition runs across two venues, with an off-site temporary space at Cork Street in Central London. At both sites, there are oversized inflatable animals (giraffe and rabbit) and screens showing his explicit and amusing animations.

 

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

 

This timely exhibition coincides with the Hong Kong protests that started in June (and still on going). At the Camden venue, a heart-shaped grave has been dug in the back garden from which emerge segments of a giant dismembered inflatable giraffe. In a statement at the exhibition, he mocked Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and officials saying that they have buried part of the giraffe’s neck in the backyard so that they could use the giraffe’s neck as a tunnel to escape from Hong Kong. Therefore he cut off the section of the giraffe’s neck in which the officials were hiding, and hid it in storage on Cork Street.

 

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

 

At the Cork Street space, two of his recent works – Fables 1 (2018) and Fables 2 (2019) – are shown. They are part of an ongoing ‘morality tale’ series that feature different animals such as a convicted capitalist cow, a nun elephant, and a three-headed homicidal rabbit (which is also an inflatable installation).

Perhaps Wong Ping‘s work is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is an important voice during this political crisis in Hong Kong today. As a pro-democracy activist, he uses his art to raise awareness and spread political messages to an international audience. Nobody knows what the future may hold for Hong Kong, but it is often during these unsettling times that the finest art would emerge. My wish is that ultimately these art works would connect and help to heal the wounds of the people in Hong Kong.

 

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

 

 

Wong Ping: Heart Digger exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre will end on 15th September.