ArtsCulture BrushPainting OldGuy[SAN FRANCISCO] -- Steely-eyed eagles perched on pines, sea spray churning against a rocky shore, the knowing gaze of a well-fed monk, and — what’s this? — a tiny car in the corner of a vast mountain range, chugging along as peaks loom in mists above.  All the drama of life contained in eloquent strokes of ink. “The Bold Brush of Au Ho-nien,“ an original exhibition at the Asian Art Museum on view from May 31 to Aug. 18, 2019, will showcase 22 scroll paintings from the decades-long career of the Au Ho-nien, beloved master of the Lingnan school. 

Lingnan means “South of the Mountains” in Chinese, and the Lingnan school of painting originated in the Guangdong area in the south of China at the end of the 19th century.  The founders sought to advance the conservative tendencies of late Imperial ink painting by incorporating unconventional influences from around the world.  Now centered in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as many places across the mainland, Lingnan painters have always been proud of their southern, regional identity as measured against classical Chinese painting. 

“The Bold Brush” includes nine new artworks created especially for this exhibition in 2018, demonstrating how Au, a living legend now in his eighties, continues to innovate across a range of subjects: from animals and landscapes to expressive figures plucked from millennia of Chinese literature and history.  This is the first solo exhibition of Au’s work at the Asian Art Museum.

“Au Ho-nien embodies the best of what the Lingnan school represents, skillfully combining the humanistic spirit and techniques of traditional Chinese fine art with Western aesthetics to create what scholars describe as an ‘eclectic fusion,’” says Dr. Jay Xu, director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum.  “Visitors to ‘The Bold Brush’ will be the first to see many fresh works from Au, who is easily one of the most celebrated living ink wash painters and continues to surprise and delight his audiences in new ways.” 

USPS Year of Dog Stampby April Xu, Sing Tao Daily, Jan. 10,2018

The following translation is a condensed version of a story about Kam Mak, the New York-based designer behind the new Year of the Dog stamp.  The story was written by April Xu and appeared in Sing Tao Daily:

The U.S. Postal Service is slated to unveil its Year of the Dog stamp on Jan. 11 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year.  It is the 11th of the second set of the Chinese zodiac series of stamps that USPS has issued annually since 1993.  Kam Mak, born in Hong Kong and a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology who has designed this and other stamps in the set, shared the story behind the stamps with Sing Tao.

The first set of 12 zodiac stamps, designed by Chinese-Hawaiian designer Clarence Lee, was first introduced in 1993 and issued for 12 consecutive years.  Since 2008, USPS has been working with Mak to launch the second set.

The Minneapolis-based Chinese Heritage Foundation’s commission “Dream of the Red Chamber” by San Francisco Opera will be touring the People’s Republic of China this month.  The tour will include two performances each in  three Chinese cities: 

Sept. 8 & 9 in Beijing’s Poly Theatre 

Sept. 15 & 16 in Changsha.  The two performances are part of the grand opening of the Meixihu International Culture and Arts Centre Grand Theatre, one of the last projects designed by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid

Sept. 22 & 23 in Wuhan’s Qintai Grand Theatre 

The “Dream of the Red Chamber” performances will be conducted by Bright Sheng, marking the composer’s first time conducting his opera.  In Beijing, Sheng will lead the Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra; in Changsha and Wuhan, he will be joined in the pit by the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra. The Chorus of the State Opera of Dnipro, Ukraine, will sing at each performance.  “Dream of the Red Chamber” will be presented in the original production by acclaimed Taiwanese director Stan Lai and Oscar-winning Chinese designer Tim Yip.  Performances will be by the original world premiere cast members.

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock said, “Dream of the Red Chamber” had a profound impact in connecting San Francisco Opera to its broader Bay Area community ... I couldn’t be more proud that San Francisco Opera was the birthplace of a work that speaks so powerfully to such a broad audience.”

“Dream” played to capacity crowds at its world premiere at San Francisco Opera’s War Memorial Opera House last September 10 and at the 45th Hong Kong Arts Festival in March 2017.  The San Francisco Chronicle hailed the opera’s “series of tautly constructed scenes that reveal the canniness of Sheng’s compositional strategy — in particular, his skill in crafting an operatic language that is a hybrid of Chinese and Western traditions.”

Adapted from Cao Xueqin’s lengthy 18th-century novel, the opera focuses on the illustrious Jia clan and the love triangle of Bao Yu, the young Jia heir, with two very different women: Dai Yu, his soulmate, and Bao Chai, a worldly beauty.  The Jia family’s future and union between Bao Yu and Dai Yu are jeopardized when the emperor rejects Princess Jia as his favored concubine.  Framed by a dreamlike prologue and epilogue,”Dream” relates the poetry and sadness of the original Chinese tale as a lush and lyrical 21st–century opera.

The opera first took root when Pearl Bergad, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Chinese Heritage Foundation, approached former San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley in 2013 about producing an opera based on the classic novel by the same name catering to non-Chinese speaking audiences.  The tour performances will be sung in English with subtitles in both English and Chinese.


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The subject of Pat Hui’s recent annual art exhibit held at the studio she shares with her partner Paul Kwok at the Traffic Zone Gallery in Minneapolis, was “Su Shi, (Dong Po) 1037-1101,”  Su was one of China’s most celebrated poet, essayist and calligrapher.  “For the past 60 years, I have collected copies of the calligraphy scripts and copied his style of writing,” stated Hui.  In the past 35 years, she has formed her own style of incorporating poetry, painting and calligraphy:  The Three Perfections.  All the works in Hui’s exhibition were organized to commemorate the 980th birth year of Su Shi, aka Su Dong Po.  It features works such as the immortal works of the “Red Cliff” poem I and II, the Cold Food Festival script and many others. 

According to multiple resources such as Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia, references used in this article, it has been documented that Su emerged as one of the most prominent poets in Chinese history amidst the political bickering of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).  Su, also known as Su Dong Po, has since become renowned for his warm, detail-oriented poetry that has inspired Chinese through the ages. 

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The Minneapolis Institute of Art held its annual “Art in Bloom” last month.  Next month, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum will present “Flower Power” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco.  The exhibit will feature pan-Asian artworks that reveal the “powerful language of flowers across times and cultures.”  The exhibit begins June 23 and runs through Oct. 1.

Any mention of the phenomenal Summer of Love of 1967 and what immediately pops into mind?  Images from the counter-culture San Francisco scene: hippies with long hair blowing in the wind, dancing in Golden Gate Park and/or tripping out on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury district.  Some might even have flowers in their hair!  So it is fitting that 50 years later, “Flower Power” is celebrated in the form of an art exhibition that “invites audiences to explore the lasting appeal and surprising stories of six flowers as distinctive as their blooms,” as stated in the Asian Art Museum’s press release.

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