My 2007 oil painting One Fine Day soon will conclude its five-month long exhibition at at McGuire Real Estate Gallery in Elmwood District, Berkeley. This painting, in somewhat sickly moon light tone (pale Prussian blue), depicted a school of agitated and thrashing fish, tightly packed in confining space, bulging eyes telegraphing anguish, straining to escape of a deadly trap they had unfortunately fallen into. The ironic title I chose, perhaps ought to be ascribed to some lucky fishermen. And that spo... [more]
One of my favorite museums is the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), of whose early 20th century European painting collections I am particularly partial. My most favorite was a triptych by the German painter Max Beckmann, the mystical and political Departure (1933-35). These beautifully rendered hallucinatory, menacing, foreboding, and just slightly hopeful and redemptive panels, aptly and sadly captured one of the most horrifying moments of human history. These paintings were the answers to th... [more]
The most famous burial ground in China, must be that of the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty, who employed a gigantic terracotta army to guard him in the afterlife.
In the ensuing Han Dynasty, one of the emperors employed an army of smaller scale and smaller statue. Instead of human-sized terracotta warriors, this so-called Jing Emperor could only afford to have earthen ware torso armies, with wooden arms, which by now have completely rotten away, thus this army of cripples of one-third of... [more]
There is a Great Mosque in Xi'an, China, though the main buildings had distinctive flavor of Chinese architecture, amidst Arab characteristics. I loved a group of wooden scrolls hanging by the entrances to the main hall - gold-filled calligraphy carvings on blackened wood had a pleasing contrast and each character looked like a finely composed picture, perfectly balanced and centered, and full of flowing beauty. Even the chipping of the black paints became well-integrated elements of the larg... [more]
Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an, China had many ancient artifacts due to the fact that it lies in the cradle of Chinese Yellow River civilization. My favorites there were not very flashy. I liked a shallow basin very much, for the unusual shape, the beautiful interplay of the green bronze and the red rust, and above all, the fine inscription in the middle of the basin - eight characters in the ancient style and hardly legible for a person like me without special training.
My second favorite... [more]
My Mirage, a fantastic painting, was based on a vision visited me when I was falling asleep but with enough mental presence to get up to make quick notes – a distant town, whose outlines barely discernible, in the manner of those commonly seen in old Dutch or Flemish landscape paintings, overwhelmed by several enormous and boldly sketched black feathers floating above the sky. Behind those dark and somewhat ominous feathers, a delicately pretty pale blue sky flashed through persistently. Ye... [more]
The famed Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty in China impressed not only with the sheer numbers of those soldiers, generals and horses, but upon close inspection, the endless variations of those individuals, each one of them seemed to have a distinct look and personalities, a far cry from cookie cutter mass production one might have suspected.
The most impressive was a Standing Archer - whose stylized yet naturalistic posture and his impassive face emitted an aura of ze... [more]
Banpo Archaeological Site Museum, Xi'an, China featured one of the earliest civilizations originated in China, in the Yellow River Valley, and it showcased many ancient artifacts remarkable not only for historical values, but the refined beauty belying their primitive and humble origins. One such wonder was "A basin with abstracted fish design", whose rich earthy red tone was a thing of great beauty, and the black line drawing geometrical design of fish in multiple variations and arrangements was amazi... [more]
The breathtaking artifacts in the archaeology site Sanxingdui (Three-Star Mound) in Sichuan Province, China, astonished people with their exotic to the point of bizarre beauty. For example, this pair of gold-masked busts though had all the prerequisite facial features, but the shape and proportions of those were so strange, that these busts were hardly human, at least not earthly human. However bizarre they looked, they were absolutely to behold. The green patina of the bronze harmonized magic... [more]
Dazu Rock Carvings Grottoes near Chongqing, China have wonderful Buddhist and Taoist sculptures and carvings dating back as far as the 7th century AD. There were many fantastic sculptures and my favorite one was a Buddha with a fanciful flying wings atop his crown, which instantly softened and humanized the rather austere and upright Buddha.
My second favorite sculpture was a "Circle of Life", which featured many animals and phases of life, a wonderful illustration of the concept of reincarnation.
My Favorite Museum Collection Series >> My Favorite Museum Coll... [more]
The ancient culture in nowadays Sichuan Province, China was vastly different from those originated in the Yellow River region, the mainstream Chinese culture as we know it. Jinsha (Archaeology) Site Museum in Chengdu, China, featured many mysterious artifacts resembled those we would see in Sci-Fi movies.
The most treasurable item was a gold foil wheel of Sun Birds - four cutout mythical birds flying around a cutout swirling wheel, spilling flares just like the sun. Perhaps, it was the... [more]
Xu Beihong (1895-1953) was a renown Chinese artist, who was uniquely accomplished in both western oil paintings and traditional Chinese paintings. The museum bears his name, Xu Beihong Museum in Beijing had many of fine representations of his works. One of his most famous oil painting was a portrait titled "Sound of Flute", which, though somewhat veered towards sentimentality, was redeemed by the heroine's shagginess, which transported her to the purer and more primitive and private world. Rather than a... [more]
The National Art Museum of China in Beijing has interesting oil painting collections, but when I visited it many years ago, the only oil paintings on display were a group of portraits of political and bigness bigwigs, uniformly done in the quite pompous and imperial fashion, therefore the only works worth seeing were some Chinese paintings and here are a couple of such samples. The 1960 landscape "Xiling Gorge" by FU Baoshi was a bold presentation of an often painted subject - one of the renown... [more]
Nurtured by many Russian novels while growing up, I developed a special feeling towards the omnipresent birches, which not only aptly set the scenes and evoke the particular melancholy especially associated with Russia and Russian people, and finally, I made effort in 2006 to try to capture such feelings with a painting titled Birches, which is currently showing at the McGuire Real Estate gallery in Berkeley as part of the “Crowded by Beauty” exhibit. I love the slender shapes of the... [more]
The main museum in my hometown, Manchurian city Shenyang, Liaoning Provincial Museum, boasted some magnificent artifacts and Chinese paintings, due to the fact that the last imperial dynasty was originated from Manchuria, and had kept a rich trove of art treasures in Shenyang, especially during and after World War II, when Manchu elites retreated back to northeastern China. Like many cities in China, Shenyang has experienced rapid expansion in the last decade or so, resulting in the move of it... [more]
Pinacoteca Nazionale (National Gallery) di Ferrara, also known as Palazzo dei Diamanti, named for its rusticated façade of diamond spikes, impressed with effortless elegance of the building and its collections.
The first striking piece greeted visitors was an "Assunzione di Santa Maria Maddalena" by Maestro della Maddalena Assunta.
The highly stylized landscape was an idealized world, where animals, plants, and humans mingled together in harmony. The low vantage point and the rece... [more]
The formidable and somewhat gloomy fortress, Castello Estense in Ferrara, Italy was surprisingly airy and even cheesy inside. Such as this whimsical ceiling painting, one of many, depicting carousing nude men and cherubim, who, despite in the drunken stage, allowed their stances and gestures to be regulated by some tidy order. Their pale flash tone worked really well against the elegant background of blue and pink walls and windows of a building façade, thus introduced another dimensi... [more]
During my brief day trip to Italian city Ferrara, I admired two bronze sculptures on top of the arch entrance to its Palazzo Municipale (City Hall) — Arco del Volto del cavallo (Arch of Horse Front).
On the left, there was the seated statesman Duca Borso d'Este & Marchese Niccolo III d'Este and on the right, equestrian sculpture of Marchese Niccolo III d'Este. Of these two equally impressive sculptures, the more flamboyant equestrian made more immediate impressions.
The overt masculinity... [more]
My brief excursion from Bologna to Ferrara led me to the wonderful Duomo, whose distinct façade of triple gables immediately brought me to a purified world of classicism.
True to the expectation, my favorite sculpture inside was a sculpture of a bishop (and a saint?) standing in a niche with minimal decoration. The most striking feature was the resolute and clean lines of the soaring figure, reminiscent the works of the great Bernini, such as his masterpiece of "Ecstasy of Saint T... [more]
The Palazzo D'Accursio (Palazzo Comunale) in Bologna hosted a large museum with amazing art collections. Among numerous interesting works, I found two portraits most engaging. One was "Ritratto di vecchino (Portrait of an Old Man)" by Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto. This portrait presented a robust old man with a striking set of abundant white beard, contrasting and echoing the black cap atop his broad forehead. The unwavering, penetrating, yet not-unkind gaze of this old man told all we needed to know about this steadfast character - a general? a... [more]
Basilica Santuario Santo Stefano, the oldest church in Bologna, was very atmospherically evocative and romantic, and the many unique artefacts in its often darkish chambers added much allure. The artwork left the strongest impression on me was a small plate of relief on the exterior of its nave, featuring three primitive looking figures with haloed heads resembling astronauts' in headgear, and stiffly raised hands sending signals of warning or blessing. The central figure, the only seated one, held a commanding upright staff... [more]
My 2005 oil painting Forest Within, currently showing at the McGuire Real Estate gallery in Berkeley as part of the “Crowded by Beauty” exhibit, is a play of optical illusion - the painting is a seemingly outdoor scene, yet the landscape is framed within a boxy confinement, and beams of light cast from behind and the shadows fall on the real or imaginary wall further enhances the blur of the boundary, where interior met exterior, reality met illusion.
Forest Within Oil on Canvas 24" x 30" Completed in 2005
Originally posted... [more]
Il palazzo dell'Archiginnasio (The Palace of Archeology) in Bologna is a fantastical enclosed palatial building, whose corridors are adorned with numerous decorative emblems, all of them can be viewed as relief sculptures.
My favorite was a monument of a tower wrapped by a snake and topped by a huge cross. I didn't like stare at that animal and couldn't decipher the exact meaning of the symbol, other than it resembled a reverse caduceus; but it stood out in the pack.
My second fav... [more]
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Gallery of Bologna) boasts a vast array of paintings dating from 13th through 18th century, such as this glorious "Jesus Christ and the Good Thief" by Titian and his assistants. Gesù Cristo e il buon ladrone (Jesus Christ and the Good Thief), Tiziano Vecellio e aiuti (Titian and aid), c 1563 Yet, my favorite paintings in Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna are two panels from mid-15th century. The circa 1435 piece... [more]
Italian City Bologna itself is like an open museum, full of sculptures and monuments of distinction. I was quite impressed by several groups of sculptures around Legambiente Bologna & Emilia Romagna, an old city portal and the surrounding park.
The two mirroring bronze relief sculptures at the base of the gate impressed with their incredible beautiful lines and their economic way of presenting something deeply disturbing and touching.
Inside the park, there were some marble high re... [more]
The richness and depth of artworks in numerous Italian churches, large or small, are astounding. Basilica di San Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna was just one of those enchanted me in my 2012 trip to Italy. Basilica di San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna I was very taken by one of its murals, depicting enthroned Virgin Mary, flanked by several martyr saints, underneath a pediment of resurrected Jesus. The Virgin and most of the saints were in vivid blue and red colors, contrasting strongly to the paleness... [more]
The gracefully proportioned Palazzo della Ragione in Padova (Padua), Italy, was a unique building, which was not only enormous in dimensions, but functions uniquely as a market place in its lower level, and a civic center on the top tier. The most outlandish thing, and my favorite, was a huge wooden horse, basked in blue light (or was it painted blue?). According to Padovaincoming.it,
"the big wooden horse kept in Palazzo della Ragione was ordered by Annibale Capodilista in 1466: it was one of the big machines - and the... [more]
Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padova (Padua), Italy, boasts a thrilling fresco cycle by Giotto, whose works were so delicate, that the viewers were limited to 10- to 20-minutes guided tours, and could only enter the chapel after a 15-minutes temperature and moisture modulation sessions. That cycle was simply breathtaking - enormous scope, brilliant colors, remarkable compositions, "modern" technique of rendering volumes and understanding of human anatomy and perspectives, and above all, exotic... [more]
The motive behind my oil painting Trot was my wish to explore tonal contrasts and arrive at a certain balance of playfulness and menace. The subject of this study is a cat, or two. Before I started my oil, I made several preliminary sketches and once I committed my ideas to the canvas, I proceeded with a cat with upright head. Somehow, after the composition had more or less taken shape, I noticed a more dynamic and emotional sketch with a cat whose head was bending down, thus I incorporated that cat in... [more]
The great Basilica di Sant'Antonio in Padua, famed for its relics of Saint Anthony, houses some wonderful artworks underneath its almost Byzantinesque domes. My favorite of such was the great altar, which dazzled with brilliant blue, yellow, white, red, and gold hues. A bit kitschy from distance, perhaps; but on the spot, I was quite easily transported by the mysterious shimmering light.
My second favorite was a fragmented mural, with cleanly delineated figures, animals and walled city, evoking the ideal of early Rena... [more]