Category Archives: Arts

Mona Yes Mona No


We finally managed to make it to the Mona, the Museum of New and Old Art, in Hobart, Tasmania. There’s quite a bit of hype about this new museum Down Under, and it is certainly different from what we are used to in Australia. The museum is the baby of David Walsh, a millionaire  from Tasmania who made his fortune with gambling systems and owns a private art collection. He decided to give something back to the place he is from and built a museum to his image. The museum itself is quite different – the architecture is amazing and worth the trip itself. To get to the Mona you can drive, but what I reckon is the cooler way to reach it is by using Mona’s private boat, painted camouflage-style and with cool stuff inside – you can also enjoy food and coffee and the half-hour ride is very relaxing. Upon arrival, a flight of stairs takes you up to the museum. Watch out if you are going on a weekend, it gets very busy – both the museum and the boat, so book in advance. What I liked about the museum is: the eclectic art collection; the theme is definitely sex and death, but the variety and originality in the pieces of art is quite amazing; the architecture, as I mentioned before; the fact that it is in Hobart; and how everyone gets into it. There are however a few things that didn’t gel with me: the space is quite narrow, and when it is busy, it gets really hard to walk around and the atmosphere gets stuffy (it’s all underground too, very dark and with no windows); there is no signage next to the art: what you are supposed to do is use an App or your phone or get headphones (they are available) – the problem I see with that is that if you are with someone and want to talk about what you are seeing, you can’t do that with headphones, and you don’t necessarily want to listen to a recording; when I looked around I could see many visitors reading their App instead of looking at the Art; there is no other way to know what you are looking at and this is annoying; there is also no visible logic in how the art is exhibited; and finally, because it is a maze, you end up missing some of the art. It’s still a great experience. There are also bars and restaurants and cafes to relax and enjoy a glass of wine of the nearby wineries. There’s even a brewery. If you get there early, you may get a seat!

Mona1 Mona5 Mona2 Mona3 Mona4

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Filed under Arts, Australia, Exhibitions, Painting

Little White Lies


I recently asked a friend of mine if he wanted to go and see a French movie, and his answer was, “I’d love to, but to be honest I am not very keen on French movies. They have no plot.” I went to see the movie by myself, and indeed it had no plot. I thought about it hard and came to the conclusion that my friend was right, most French movies have no plot. Movies are a little bit like books: some of them are plot-driven (think Harlan Coben), others are character-driven (think Jodi Picoult). The books I like usually have a strong plot ( I mean by that, that things happen) but also strong characters who change over the course of the book. As far as movies are concerned, it seems that some countries are better at one style, for example American movies always have strong plots while French movies have strong characters and unfortunately very weak plots. In French movies, a group of people often spend their time smoking and drinking, hurling insults at each other, then falling into each other’s arms, sleeping with each other, or simply ignoring one another. Little White Lies is definitely character-driven and the only thing that happens, happens in the first thirty seconds. After that, it’s all about people (friends in this case) yelling at each other or laughing together. The movie is not that bad, but don’t expect anything unusual. It was written and directed by Guillaume Canet, whose work I usually enjoy. Maybe next time…

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Filed under Arts, France, Movies

Rabbit Hole


I first saw Rabbit Hole as the famous play by David Lindsay-Abaire, which won the 2007 Pullitzer Prize for Drama. In fact I saw the Australian premiere in Sydney at the Ensemble Theatre a few years back. It’s a great play, sad and funny at the same time, and tackling a difficult subject, the grieving process of a couple who have lost their only son, run over by a car in front of their house. Lindsay-Abaire’s writing is subtle, yet powerful, and never in-your-face. I loved it.

I have just now watched the 2010 movie version of the play, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, and with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in the main roles. It is good as well – Kidman does a great job I find – but it lacks some of the good (read: funny) moments of the play, which lightened the atmosphere. Those moments are essentially those where Becca’s (Kidman’s) sister appears – I adored her character. The play and the movie are different, and having seen the play first did not make the movie any better or worse. It’s just two sides of the same story. And a good one.

Movie trailer:

And a video about the Australian premiere at the Ensemble Theatre:

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Filed under Arts, Movies, Theatre

COCORICO


I’ve been meaning to write a few words about COCORICO, a show that I went to see a few weeks ago, and which was part of Le French May Arts Festival here in Hong Kong. It is a duet made of two Frenchmen, Patrice Thibaud, a hilarious physical comedian, and Philippe Leygnac, an amazing musician. The show is in mime and with music. I hadn’t laughed that much in a long time. Thibaud is an expert at making you understand a situation with only a few gestures, and at making you scream with laughter at the same time. As for Leygnac, he is a genius – just visualise him playing the piano while his compadre keeps pushing the piano left, right and back, and you will understand what I mean. The show can be seen by people of all ages – in fact, children should rush to see it, I can guarantee you they will love it as much as adults do. Judging by the number of encore and the duration of the applause at the end, the audience lapped it up. The show is made of a series of tableaux, all linked by one element. It lasts about an hour and a half. I still haven’t got over the surprise created by Leygnac jumping out of a suitcase that had been standing at my feet for a few minutes. Ten stars!

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Filed under Arts, Hong Kong, Music, Theatre

In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play


I am finally connected again. Between the Japan earthquake and tsunami and my travels to Kunming, it’s been hard to find a working internet connection. I seem to have solved this problem for the moment. Before leaving Hong Kong, I went to see In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl at the Mcaulay Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre. What a night! This play, which premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre on February 5, 2009 is absolutely fantastic! It was nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards, and I understand why. I hadn’t laughed so much at the theatre in a very long time. The dialogues are witty, the subject funny, its treatment clever, the structure of the play works well and it’s easy to relate to the characters, even if they are from the US in the late 1800s. The play is about a doctor who uses recently discovered electricity to treat women suffering of hysteria and depression with a piece of equipment that he created himself: a vibrator! But Ruhl’s play is not a joke about the medical world, its real topic is the misunderstanding between men and women, the lack of expression of emotions, the absence of well-developed sexuality, and even female fertility. It’s a play you will remember for a long time. It’s a little in your face at times, which probably explains why it was only for over 18 years olds in Hong Kong, but I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a great night out. I’d see it again any time.

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Filed under Arts, Hong Kong, Theatre

Educating Rita


Last night I saw “Educating Rita”, the play by Willy Russell at the McAulay Studio in Wanchai, Hong Kong. For those of you who don’t know the play, it premiered on the 10th of June 1980 at the Royal Shakespeare Company Warehouse in London with Julie Waters as Rita and Mark Kingston as Frank, and received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. It was also adapted into a movie in 1983, starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, and directed by Lewis Gilbert.

Educating Rita is the story of the relationship between a young working-class hairdresser from Liverpool and Dr. Frank Bryant, a University lecturer in English literature, which takes place during one full year. We witness how Rita (who later calls herself Susan), dissatisfied with her life and education level, enrolls in an Open University course in English Literature, meeting her tutor Frank and learning “everything” from him. Rita learns fast but Frank (who deals with his own demons) is devastated to see her losing her individuality and the mere reason why he’s fallen for her. He can’t bear to see her adopt the superficiality of so many of the other students. It’s an interesting topic, it’s fun to watch and it makes you think… all the ingredients of a good play – and a good night.

The actors, Kim Haslam and Adam Harris, did a good job, even if – in true Hong Kong style! – they were sick: Haslam tried to suppress a nagging cough during the whole play (through lots of drinks and a few Fisherman’s friends –  I admire her for being able to speak clearly with one of those in her mouth) and Harris had the sniffles. They were not the only ones; the audience echoed their plight! An honest production.

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Filed under Arts, Hong Kong, Theatre, writing

My Three Friends


Zhou Sicong, Children at Play, 1991

I saw a wonderful exhibition today, which shows a selection of around 60 paintings and calligraphies by three artists, Lu Chen (1935–2003), Zhou Sicong (1939–1996), and Shi Hu (1942– ). Pictures are mostly in ink and colour on paper, and were collected by Dr Leung Kam Ching over the course of thirty years. Some of the pictures are exquisite; they need to be seen from various angles to realise the power that lies underneath each one. My favourite ones are from Shi Hu and Lu Chen. “A keen collector of Chinese antiquities, Dr Leung began to include contemporary paintings to his Jian Gu Xuan collection in the 1980s. Leung’s interest in traditional Chinese culture, and specifically the expression of the human figure, can be seen as a consistent theme throughout his painting collection. Another prominent theme is that of friendship as Leung’s collecting of these paintings arose out of his close personal relationships both with the husband and wife team of Lu Chen and Zhou Sicong, as well as with the iconoclastic contemporary artist Shi Hu.” (Extract from the exhibition’s brochure)

Lu Chen, Painter Zheng Banqiao, 1988

The exhibition was supposed to end on 15 February, but I went on the 16th and it was still open, so you may try your luck. I love the calligraphy below.

Shi Hu, Calligraphy Couplet, 1995

The exhibition is held at the University Museum and Art Gallery – UMAG
94 Bonham Road, Pokfulam (University of Hong Kong) – Hong Kong
Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 6:00 pm; Sunday 1:00 to 6:00 pm
Admission is free.

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Filed under Arts, China, Exhibitions, Hong Kong, Painting

Earth from Above


I went to see a great exhibition today entitled “An aerial portrait of our planet – toward a sustainable development”, consisting of about a hundred or so aerial photographs taken by famous French photographer and environmentalist Yann Arthus Bertrand. The photos are amazing. I own a book by Arthus Bertrand, Earth from Above, which was published a few years ago, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the photos in the exhibition were not all from the book. The exhibition focusses on sustainability and renewable forms of energy. It is staggering to know that only around 14% of energy currently produced in the world is renewable… The pictures are beautiful and have each a deeper meaning, from New Orleans’ houses covered by water after hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, to waste dumps in Africa or France, or land mines in Australia. The exhibition is held at the Open Piazza, Olympian City 2, Kowloon, Hong Kong (Olympic MTR Station), and lasts until 26 December.

I don’t want to infringe copyright by posting photos on this blog, but for those interested, you can visit Arthus Bertrand’s gallery site here. There are a lot of beautiful photos to be browsed on the site. There are even many free, stunning screen savers for your computer.

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Filed under Arts, Books, Exhibitions, Hong Kong, Travel

The Animated Version of the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival


If you have the time and manage to get tickets (I heard it’s sold out), there is a fantastic exhibition in Hong Kong at the moment. The Animated Version of the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival, which was exhibited at the China Pavilion of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, is currently in Hong Kong! Projected on a screen of more than hundred and twenty metre long and six metre high, the picture is really amazing. It’s as if you were sent back to Bianjing, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty, nine hundred years ago. The animated version of the picture is thirty times the original. You can admire the bustling streets, the moving boats and the people walking in all directions.  The picture shows night and day cycles lasting four minutes each.

Zhang Zeduan’s “Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival” is among the top ten most famous Chinese historical paintings. It depicts the life of the various social classes in Bianjing during the Qingming Festival at the time of the Song Dynasty. The exhibition’s website states that “Cities in the Song Dynasty underwent drastic changes when compared with those in previous times. These were revolutionary changes for cities in China. On the one hand, the urban outlook changed a great deal such as appearance of shops and workshops along the streets, and on the other, the social life of people changed greatly such as enrichment in cultural life of civilians. In addition, the painting demonstrates the harmony among ancient citizens inside a city as well as that between urban and rural areas.” The entire piece was painted in hand scroll format. It is often called China’s Mona Lisa by the Chinese.

Here are two pictures of the original painting.

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Filed under Arts, Exhibitions, Hong Kong

Free Royalty-free Music


I recently created a book trailer for my novel, The Wings of Leo Spencer, and I faced the same problem as anyone who wants to add music to a video-clip, be it for YouTube or any other short video website: music is copyrighted, in the same way as any kind of writing, photos etc. You don’t want to have to pay royalties for a thirty-second piece of music you used in one of your homemade video placed on YouTube! There is a lot of royalty-free music on the Web, but it is usually very expensive. While creating my book trailer, I stumbled upon Donosongs, an artist based in New York, and his website, which offers free royalty-free music for your own use. There are lots of different styles, and the music is pretty good. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to avoid trouble with the music they use for video-clips. Check it out. Dan-O is pretty cool.

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Filed under Arts, Books, Music