Monday, July 18, 2011

REVIEW: Eques Equitis - Hand Painted Ceramic by Konstantin Bessmertny (Macau)

MC Gallery (Macau), Saturday July17

With Macao-based Russian artist Konstantin Bessmertny, it was love at first sight. I was referring to his works when I saw them in Recent Works at the Macau Museum of Art back in 2007. Aside from his technical mastery, his expansive knowledge on broad topics like literature, history and politics; and a keen observation of social behavior and inter-relation render his works the kind of intelligence that both amuses and stimulates. Together with his unique way of using colors, the results was to be whimsi-satirical.

For his latest exhibition Eques Equitis: Hand-Painted Ceramics by Konstantin Bessmertny at MC Gallery, the main features are 16-inch hand-painted ceramic plates, while there are also a few ceramic sculptures. As the title suggested, the paintings are supposed to be about human and horse in broad terms, or in particular about horsemen. The curator failed to explain why Bessmertny choose to use ceramic plates for this theme, though it is not particularly unusual.

Bessmertny’s unique humor and insights about his chosen topic was very much present in this exhibition. My personal favorites in the exhibition have perhaps the least to do with the concept but more to do with the medium. E. Meets W. and W. Meets E. shows the requisition paradox of two dining experiences. For a Chinese, it is the knowledge of protocol, of which tool to use at different stages of a Western dinner, while for the Westerner, it is the skill of using the chopsticks. What I love about these two pieces are their clarity and unity of their message and medium. Even the amounts of paints on these plates are in agreement with the message.

E. Meets W.

W. Meets E.

Not as witty but equally exquisite are two plates showing Napoleon Bonaparte. Les Femmes de Napoleon (The Women of Napoleon) showing Napoleon and his 26 Marshals of the Empire; and Les Marechaux (The Marshals) showing Napoleon and his women. I also do like his Genghis Khan paintings. One shows a younger Khan, Temujin, riding and fighting away from his enemy (going left); and another one, Chengiz Khan, showing an older Khan looking solid, stern and returning toward right.

Les Femmes De Napoleon

Les Marechaux


Chengiz Khan

Going through Bessmertny’s works was amazing. While I personally would have sequenced the pieces and displayed a piece or two differently, overall, it was a fine display of Bessmertny’s genius.

Eques Equitis: Hand Painted Ceramic by Konstantin Bessmertny
May 13, 2011 - September 6, 2011
MC Gallery
Curated by Joey Ho

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Monday, July 11, 2011

REVIEW: Who Fights Fair? by Yang Shewei

Karin Weber Gallery, Saturday July 9

I finally found some time to drop by Karin Weber Gallery to catch Yang Shewei’s WHO FIGHTS FAIR? before it closes on July 12. Yang Shewei, a Chinese born in Hunan has exhibited worldwide. For WHO FIGHTS FAIR?, Yang tries to capture internal struggles of what is honorable and fair in a fast-changing environment wherein the name of the game is to survive.

The concept was best communicated by the Red Series in the exhibit. The series was composed of red inks (more like deep fuchsia) on rice paper showing men struggling, be it versus another man, a cat or an emotion. The men in this series looks like kids pretending to be adults (with their disproportionately large head) or adults with heads about to explode. Either way, when infused with the red ink seems to intensify the conflicting emotion brought by the color. The color was too pink to represent blood and violence; and too red to represent femininity and sweetness. The effect was at the same time disturbing and funny, violent and cute.

Red Series No. 10

Red Series No. 8

Red Series No. 7

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

REVIEW: De Waart's Pathétique with HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday July 2

This final installment of HKPO’s Tchaikovsky Festival started off with the Polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin. After a nervous start, the HKPO led by Maestro Edo de Waart slowly got into the swing. While the orchestra sound may not be crisp, flexible rubato and well-sprung rhythm were in large amount stressing the beauty of live performance.

The Swan Lake Suite was the highlight of the evening for me. Not only because it has a very special place in my life, but also because it was played extremely well. For some reason, the music from Swan Lake tends to bring me back to my early years of saving up money and buying the cheapest ticket I can find to see the ballet. In particular, the pas de deux scene with the glorious cadenza for harp perfectly set the scene (by Christopher Sidenius) for the violin (masterly played by the guest concertmaster Igor Yuzefovich). In my mind, the image of Japanese prima ballerina Yoko Morishita was never far. By the time the cello responded passionately (by Richard Bamping), I was no longer in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre anymore.

After the interval came the title piece of the evening. Pathétique is not very far from Tchaikovsky’s 4th and 5th symphony in terms of subject, which is the power of Fate in life and death. The composer led the first performance of Pathétique in Saint Petersburg on October 28 1893; and nine days after, he died. Suddenly, Pathétique became a curiosity; some believe it was a “symphonic suicide note”. The fact that Tchaikovsky asserted that there was a program to the symphony but would not divulge it just made the suicide theory even more popular.

Musically, Pathétique tends to be in danger of being vulgar and manipulative, more so than the 4th and 5th, when handled improperly. The twists and turns of this musical roller coaster posts a lot of challenges in achieving balance between the conflicting emphases of expressiveness and good taste. As for Maestro de Waart, balancing act is his forte. In fact, any hysteria was totally avoided and by the time the finale ended, one just felt the depths of despair were laid bare. The only part that I wish was done differently was the Allegro con grazia, as it felt a bit too loose and it missed the opportunity to alleviate the persistent sense of gloom.

Tchaikovsky Festival: De Waart’s Pathétique
1 & 2 July 2011
Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Eugene Onegin: Polonaise
Swan Lake Suite
Symphony No. 6 Pathétique

Conductor: Edo de Waart

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

REVIEW: Midori with HKPO

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday June 25

After going to all three installments of the Tchaikovsky Festival, I have to say that this has to be my favorite.

Midori, the featured soloist of the Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, took a very thoughtful and poetic approach to the concerto. She charted through the 1st movement in an unusual lyrical way that gave the feeling of huge emotions being withheld. While this may be very unexpected and a tad unconventional, it made a lot of sense (at least to me) when heard and considered together with the 2nd and 3rd movement. The 2nd was personal and intimate, while the 3rd was an outburst of focused force and impish relish, bringing the finale to an abandonment of kept passion. HKPO, led by Edo de Waart offered a most genial accompaniment.

The Symphony No. 5 in E minor has the same DNA as the previous week’s No. 4. The 1st movement started beautifully somber and proceeded with caressing fluidity. De Waart made the most of the famous 2nd movement, careful not to drag but instead pushing it along therefore making the whole treatment more passionate. By the time 3rd and the 4th movement came in, HKPO was in full swing and in particular, the finale was rendered with immediacy that created the much-needed dramatic bite.


Tchaikovsky Festival: Midori's Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
25 & 26 June 2011, Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

Violin: Midori
Conductor: Edo de Waart

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