A few good things happened since my last log entry. In November, the launch for the Ladies Bicycle Calendar turned out to be a success in spite of the intermittent downpour. We managed to do a massive group portrait with all the attending women with their bike in between showers. Last year, I made a decision to take my artistic journey to another level. I decided to apply for a Bachelor in Fine Art (photography) at both RMIT and VCA. That meant I spent October and November preparing my portfolio. I made it to the interview stage for both universities. I found out in mid-December that both universities have offered me entry. That was excellent end of year news!
I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Montreal. In between family-orientated activities, I went to see the exhibition on the German painter Otto Dix at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. I would describe his paintings and drawings as bold, graphic, and uninhibited. Some of his art depicted death, violence and grotesque. One of my favourite portraits was this one entitled ‘Reclining Woman on Leopard Skin’. This painting is very much inspired from the old Masters with the draperies and the reclining pose. I thought the woman had a noticeable feline look. Her posture and the way she’s slightly digging her nails in the fur made her very animal-like. Otto has often painted prostitutes and maybe the intent here was to show this woman as a powerful sensual predator.
I went to LA for a few days and took the opportunity to visit the Getty Museum. It’s worth checking out for its impressive architecture and landscape. There is also remarkable view of LA from the top of the building. We could see the snowcaps on the mountains on that clear day. At the time, there was an ongoing photo exhibition of the British-Italian Felice Beato. He was known for having documented his extensive travels throughout India and Asia during various wars. He used glass-plate negatives which were fragile and not easy to travel around with. Considering the means of the time, I appreciated his ethnographic works even more so. Beato carefully framed his subjects and his landscapes since long exposure times were required for his photo process. Not only was Beato a good printer but also a talented hand colourist. Overall, his photography inspired nostalgia and surrealism, as seen on the photo on the left.
Next to Beato’s exhibit was “Photography of the New China’, featuring emerging Chinese artists. I had seen the work of Zhang Huan,’Tree of Life’ (see photo on left), who conducted self-portraits involving identity, painting and culture. There was definitely a common thread between all the Chinese artists: politics, history, culture and tradition were strong concepts in the show. I liked Rong Rong ‘Wedding’ series of hand painted staged portraiture. Also worth noting are the photos of Liu Zheng and Song Yongping.
Concurrently at the Museum of Contemporary Art is showing ‘The Artist’s Museum’ where the artworks of 146 artists who have shaped the art scene over the last 30 years in LA are shown. There were artworks from Barbara Krueger, Mark Ryden, Devandra Banhart, and David Hockney. In the permanent collection, I liked the works of Robert Raushenberg, Jasper Johns and Joseph Cornell. I particularly liked how they used a variety of found objects with mixed media to construct their pieces. I also really liked the street photography of Helen Levitt and Robert Frank. Their simplicity in their depiction of everyday life is very inspiring. I do have a weak spot for black and white photography.
On the same topic of street photography, I went to see ‘William Eggleston: Democratic Camera—Photographs and Video, 1961–2008’ at the LACMA. He also was gifted in capturing the mundane in everyday life. He used dye transfer prints because he liked saturated colours. He claimed Henri-Cartier Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moment’ was a turning point for him. He was more than once at the right place at the right time and had a very intuitive eye. I watched a short doco on his life and works at the exhibit which portrayed Eggleston as a contemporary artist who revolutionized street photography with his colour photographs. Featured on the left is one of my favorites of Eggleston, ‘Near Extinct Wannalaw Plantation, Mississippi’.
The photo series of Manjari Sharma is probably the most modern photography exhibit I saw in the past couple of weeks. Two of her projects were featured” at the Kopeikin Gallery ‘Shower’ (see photo on left) and ‘Water’. In the first one, she photographed friends in the shower. It’s a simple project and it was well shot. I preferred the ‘Shower’ series over the ‘Water’ one. Her website is worth checking out, especially her project ‘Anastasia’.