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]
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]
Musei Civici degli Eremitani, (Museo Archeologico e del Museo d'Arte Medievale e Moderna) in the ancient Italian city Padua impressed me, especially many artifacts from their Archaeological Department. I was most taken by small a bronze sculpture of a winged foot for its elegant shape in an assertive yet delicate style and the absence of the rest of the body made this piece more intriguing and unforgettable.
My second favorite was a stone sculpture of a squatting bird-woman. Comparing the he sleek foot above, this one looke... [more]
My first successful pastel painting, Typhoon, is an abstract piece inspired by devastating typhoons unfortunately have been creating ever-heavier havoc recently, due to the undeniable climate change. Exploring spatial relationships, subtle variations of tones and shifting of patterns, I tried to capture the something unpredictable and the menacing. Typhoon / 颱風 / Taifun Pastel on Paper 8.5” x 11” Completed in 2015 This painting is currently being exhibited at Expressions Gallery in Berkeley, in a show aptly titled "Into the Future". Origi... [more]
Last week, UC Berkeley's Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive opened its new building to guest. Thursday was the gala opening day for donors; Friday, opening day for students; Saturday for members of the Museum/Archive; and Sunday, a community open house. I visited the Museum on 30 January, Saturday and it was nice to see so many members and their families and friends exploring the space and artworks on display. The place was full of excitement and high energy but the visitors didn'... [more]
My landscape/allegorical oil painting, Shadow, depicts a fantastic world - a vast furrowed dark brown field, whose parallel ridges converge towards the distant horizon, which was dotted with a cluster of very insignificant white buildings, centering on a little church spire, which was barely visible. The contrast between the enormous dark fields and the tiny white village is highly dramatic, yet that is topped by several huge leaden and apparently weighty clouds, which curiously cast no shadows;... [more]
Ca' Pesaro in Venice is known for its modern collections, including paintings by Gustav Klimt, Pierre Bonnard and Marc Chagall. When I visited the museum, Klimt was not on display so I chose these two pieces as my favorites. The sculpture "Cardinal" by Giacomo Manzù was a very striking piece. From the front, it looked like a well formed symmetrical shrub, or an over-sized checkers piece, which definitely was nothing but simple and had multiple layers of meanings. The side view of th... [more]
One of my paintings selected in a recent exhibition at Berkeley Central Arts Passage, Today's Artists Interact with Major Art Movements from the Renaissance to the Present, is a painting of part cityscape and part animal figure study. In Distant Country / 在遙遠的国度 / In fernem Land Oil on Canvas 22″ x 28" Completed in 2011 The left side of the painting, in shades of washed-out gray, depicts the Old St. John's Hospital, an 11th-century hospital in Bruges, Belgium while the right side zooms in one of the om... [more]
Almost every major old mansion, or Ca', as called by the locals, in Venice, are an impressive museum. Ca' d'Oro, is the most iconic of them all, famed for its Gothic columns, arched windows and fascinating asymmetrical façade, and it not only boast artifacts demonstrating the life in the begone era, it also houses some impressive artworks as well. My favorite work my saw during my 2012 trip was a painting from the workshop of one of my favorite Renaissance artists, Andrea del Sarto, titled Madonna and Child w... [more]
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim (Peggy Guggenheim Collection), located in an unfinished 18th-century palace, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, boasts many modern masterpieces ranging in style from Cubism and Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism. One of my favorite work there was a sculpture in the garden: The Cloven Viscount (Il visconte dimezzato) by Mimmo Paladino, which was simultaneously formal and fluid, familiar and strange, comforting and unsettling. The figure, installed inside a small square brick conf... [more]
Venice has almost as many museums as its numerous Palazzi; one of these stately buildings stands along the Grand Canal is Ca' Rezzonico, whose art collections are fully in line with the peculiar tastes of the 18th century Venetians, decorative, precious, and a bit silly, but redeemed somewhat by whimsical playfulness and perhaps self-mockery. The favorite piece I saw there was a fresco titled "Mondo Novo" by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, featuring vivid and even theatrical figures populating the streets in... [more]
Il Ghetto and Museo Ebraico (The Ghetto and Jewish Museum) in Venice were poignant places to visit and unsurprisingly, one of my favorite artifacts there was a series of reliefs mounted on the wall of the huge courtyard, depicting momentous experiences of the Jewish people: Another favorite of mine was an ancient map/landscape of a walled city (Jerusalem?) housed inside the museum. I was struck by the harmoniously interwoven pleasing blue and green tones throughout the lovely piece, and... [more]
A grand building in Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, houses a huge cycle of paintings by Tintoretto, commissioned in 1564. For next twenty-seven years, he and his assistants, including his son Domenico, created this opus magnum. From this cycle, I cite these two below as my favorites. The first one is "The Annunciation" which depicted this familiar subject in a startlingly dramatic way and the dynamic momentum and the stark tonal contrast were overwhelming. The Annunciation from the Tintoretto cycle, Image courtesy of Wik... [more]
Il Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore (Church of the Most Holy Redeemer) is located on a small island facing Venice across a lagoon, and a short trip by boat brought me to see some of its eclectic artworks. My favorite painting in the church was Baptism of Christ by Veronese. This painting did not present a panoramic scene of the event; rather, it brought viewers to the close proximity of the main characters in the drama -- Jesus and John the Baptist, presented as virile young men, vigo... [more]
When I visited Venice for the second time, I spent some time at the slightly flooded Punta della Dogana to admire some sculptures on the plaza. One of my favorite, “Boy With Frog,” by Charles Ray, has since been unfortunately removed, due to locals' demand of the return to the spot of a "romantic" lamppost. Without that amazing and controversial work, which would be my most favorite, I move on to cite other two sculptures as my favorites. The first one was a 2010 metaphoric one titled... [more]
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venezia, though so-called a minor cathedral, due to its strategic location near the tip of Punta della Dogana, visible when entering the Piazza San Marco from the Grand Canal, was a natural stop for many visitors to the city. Its interior was relatively sparse, understated and unassuming, but that it didn't prevent Salute from accumulating some muted splendors. Amongst several interesting and moving works, I cite these two as my favorites (below). The one l... [more]