Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SATOSHI on Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra 2011-2012 season

The 2011 - 2012 season of the Hong Kong Philharmomic Orchestra is not too bad, though I have significantly reduced my subscription this year partly due to programming disappointments and partly to my busy schedule. Having said that, there are absolutely some fine gems to be found in the season!

When I was asked by Mark Tjhung, Associate Editor of Time-Out Hong Kong, to name my top 7 recommendations for a feature in the magazine, I actually found it quite difficult as 7 was a rather small number! As we are going to share the byline, my other concern was that we might not find a whole lot of commonality. I was wrong. In fact, for some reason, the top was kindof obvious. Briefly, here's the top 7:

  1. Season Opening Gala – September 2-3, Cultural Centre

  2. Apotheosis of the Dance - October 7-8, Cultural Centre

  3. Jaap van Zweden - Brahms, Wagenaar and Glass (November 18-19, Cultural Centre) or Prokofiev and Britten (November 25-26, Cultural Centre)

  4. Marc-Andre Hamelin - March 9-10 2012, Cultural Centre (also a recital on March 7 2012, Cultural Centre)

  5. Poetic Solitude - March 16-17 2012, Cultural Centre

  6. Beethoven 9 - April 20-21 2012, Cultural Centre

  7. L’Exotique - June 8-9 2012, Cultural Centre

Check out why these are highly recommended by clicking here or you can buy the magazine (which is already out). However, if you need an additional one or two concerts to fill up your cultural calendar, here are two that I hope can tempt the adventurous side of you:

  1. Visions Unveiled - April 6-7 2012, Cultural Centre – The combination of Chen Qigang’s Iris Devoilee and Wagner’s Parsifal – An Orchestral Quest guarantees an interesting musical evening of divergence. With Edo de Waart slated to conduct this program, one can expect a respectful yet personal interpretation of Iris Devoilee and a restraint and subtle orchestral Parsifal.

  2. Homeland Music - January 4-5 2012, Cultural Centre – The whole is greater than the sum of its part. The permutation of Andrew Litton and Gil Shaham; and Barber and Prokofiev just seemed to be a very positively intriguing proposition and one just can’t wait to witness it.

For the complete listing of the HKPO's offering, click here.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

REVIEW: Made In Britain: Contemporary Art from British Council Collection 1980-2010

Heritage Museum, Thursday August 18

My recent hectic work and travel schedule mean that my several attempts to go to the Made In Britain exhibition at the Heritage Museum were foiled at the last minute. But finally, last Thursday, I was able to make a short visit and I was blown away. I promise myself that I will go again before it ends on October 9. In measuring up this exhibiting, I asked myself to name my five top-of-mind contemporary British artists (not necessarily the 5 I like the most) and I came up with Damien Hirst, Julian Opie, Anish Kapoor, Gilbert and George and Tracey Emin. Amongst my top five, the exhibition has works by 3. Not bad at all I think! What was missing were works of Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin.
The strength of this exhibition is on the manageability of the size, balance in the representing pieces (in time, medium, topic and size) and most of all, the generosity of the presenters. Mind you, don't expect any floating tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde or diamond encrusted skull, but instead expect the unexpected. For works of Damien Hirst, his paintings from his Spin series (paintings were made with a machine that centrifugally disperse the poured paint) was there and his prints The Last Supper (13 screenprints on pharmaceutical packaging that instead have names of some everyday British food) was presented, less known but equally important and insightful.

Damien Hirst's print from The Last Supper series

Julian Opie's Suzanne Walking (a lenticular acrylic) was a bit of a let down for its size, subject and medium. I would really prefer to see one of his video portraiture. As for Gilbert and George, their Intellectual Depression (skeletal leafless tree with rich yellow background) has to be one of their most stark piece, yet equally astute philosophically.

Gilbert and George's Intellectual Depression

Now don't get me wrong, the other 32 artists presented in the exhibition were no way near pedestrian. In fact, they are the ones that I was far more interested in! The top 3 that really caught my attention in a good way were: Gary Hume's The Sister Troop series (group of ten prints on brushed aluminum); Jane Simpson's Belle (Golden Age of Refrigeration) (the use of refrigeration to form a coat of frost on the based of lamp and dish); Gavin Turk's Cave (blue imitation English Heritage plaque).

Gavin Turk's Faces

Not surprisingly, works by other YBAs (short for Young British Artists) such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas and Gillian Wearing were present. Other past Turner Prize awardees and nominees such as Martin Creed and Angela de la Cruz were not in short either. The choices of works did give one the sense of sharp sensitivity and understanding of the arts for the social, political and cultural issues in Britain. The arts were a good representation and depiction of the changing faces of the British society in the ever varying environment.

Jane Simpson's Belle (Golden Age of Refrigeration)

Finally, I truly have to mention the fantastic book that goes with the exhibit FOR FREE! The book was no pushover, it was a 100+ page talking about every single artist presented in the exhibit and their works in English and Chinese, in color! Now, for those who may think that the entrance to the Heritage Museum must be quite expensive... well, I only paid HK$10.00, that's about US$1.25, for all exhibits in the museum. Also, if one goes there on a Wednesday, it is even for free! Boy I do LOVE Hong Kong!

Exhibition Booklet for Free

Artists and Artworks

Tomma Abts
Haluk Akakçe
Phillip Allen
Keith Arnatt
Helen Chadwick
Jake and Dinos Chapman
Adam Chodzko
Mat Collishaw
Martin Creed
Angela de la Cruz
Peter Doig
Angus Fairhurst
Matt Franks
Gilbert and George
Douglas Gordon
Damien Hirst
Gary Hume
Michael Landy
Sarah Lucas
Kenny Macleod
Dan Norton
Julian Opie
Cornelia Parker
Jane Simpson
Bob and Roberta Smith
Clare Strand
Wolfgang Tillmans
Mark Titchner
Gavin Turk
Mark Wallinger
Gillian Wearing
Boyd Webb
Gary Webb
Wood and Harrison
Richard Wright

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

SATOSHI on Art and the Freedom of Expression: Mideo Cruz, Lee Stewart and Tsang Kin-Wah

A lot has been said about the recent art exhibition in the Cultural Center of the Philippines wherein Filipino artist, Mideo Cruz, juxtaposed the image of Jesus Christ with kitschy symbols of pop culture. The installation (entitled “Poleteismo” or “Polytheism”) has the conservative Catholics in a fit of outrage, who claim that the installation is a mockery of their faith. Even the President of the Philippines weighed in asking the exhibition be closed. The artist was even asked to defend himself in front of the Senate; and as of today, the debate is nowhere ending.

Mideo Cruz and his installation "Poleteismo"

I am personally quite amused not at the art itself but rather on the debate… who said what and the different tactics and gimmicks used to make their points across. Facebook alone, one can find pages like “Mideo Cruz the Anti-Christ” and “Mideo Cruz Burn in Hell” at one side of the spectrum and “Support Mideo Cruz” at the other end. The media, of course, had a field day. In fact, I believe the media played a huge role in sensationalizing it. In Facebook, JP Cuison (a fellow artist), had a great time mocking those who criticize Mideo. In his own artistic fashion, he regularly post whingeing, whining and ranting analogies (some were just plain ridiculous) worthy of an exhibition of their own, and this is not to mention some of the comments he gets.

Lee Stewart

Of course, this kind of outrage and debate is absolutely nothing new. I actually think that it is healthy for the different parties to re-evaluate what they stand for. A controversy, at a lesser degree but equally amusing, happened to an artist I admire, Lee Stewart.

Back in 2005, a squad of five police stormed into an art gallery in Glasgow over complaints about a 5,000 British pound nude painting of a woman in the window. The gallery owner was warned that if he doesn’t take down the painting, he will be charged on breach of the peace. The gallery owner was shocked, “It’s draconian, to say the very least. This painting was part of a sold-out show which ran for two months in London.” I personally don’t know what the painting looked like, but it was described as “the body of an overweight middle-aged Scots woman from below the head” (might just be something like the above picture)... or something to the style of the painting that I have by Lee Stewart (see below)... Personally, I don’t know what was the fuss all about. The difference was that the whole matter ended there; there were no huge outbursts from artists or gallery owners.

A Couple by Lee Stewart

In some cases, pre-emptive measures were made. Some institutions just simply wouldn't take the risk in allowing such "freedom of expression". November last year, I reported the case of Hong Kong artist Tsang Kin-Wah. Tsang, known for his works combining expletives with floral pattern (text with image), pulled out of an exhibition at the SCHUNCK* Heerlen in Netherlands after the museum feels that his work was too sensitive for such a prominent place as the entrance/lobby. Tsang was given the choice to either change his work or move the work to a less ‘public’ area.

Let Us Build and Launch a Blue Rocket to Heaven by Tsang Kin-Wah

No exhibition, no controversy; and the director of SCHUNCK* live happily ever after... As for Karen Flores, Head of the Visual Arts Division of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, she resigned when the exhibition was forced to close. Too bad for the Dutch, they missed the chance to see the work of a great artist. Too good for the Filipinos, they have a Karen Flores who is willing to stand for their arts.

More on Mideo Cruz's saga, click here

More on Lee Stewart's saga, click here

More on Tsang Kin-Wah saga, click here

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