Thursday, May 31, 2012

Re:covery Day

takashi murakami installation in the lobby of the leeum museum

we arrived back in singapore late last night after our 10 day trip to seoul and bangkok.  we had a great time and got to see many things i thought i'd more than likely only read about online or in books.  there were many highlights of the trip and rather than reiterate what our previous posts have already said, we simply went back through them and updated them with tons of photos.  we only took the iPad with us and the blogger app is quite terrible and doesn't allow for much design, so today as we sat around and recovered from our trip, we added new pictures.  i would especially recommend checking out the Do Ho Suh post, as what i wrote does not even begin to capture what the pictures can tell of that incredible show.  i feel very lucky to have gotten to see it.  and i feel very lucky to have gotten to spend a few days of my life in these cities.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vie(w) of Bangkok

It's storming in Bangkok this afternoon and as i sit and write this there is a rainbow framing the city from edge to edge. It is quite magnificent to see. I woke up way to early this morning, so while mindy slept i sat in the window and drew the view from our hotel room at the 5-star Vie hotel.

We went for breakfast and the sky began looking like something looming, so mindy and I decided to skip the four-face Buddha shrine that her mother wanted to visit and instead hit up the Bangkok Art and Culture Center with intentions of going to the aquarium. Instead, we took a nap. We're both quite tired from the last 2 1/2 weeks of travel, wedding, and general rushing around and our hotel bed was a beacon of indulgent comfort for today.

After our nap we walked to Siam Square to see the art center, but there was only one show up as they were changing out all the others. Bummer, but oh well. As we walked toward the aquarium the thick humid diesel-fueled air had us wheezing so we again got side tracked at Loft in the aircon of Siam Discovery center. After shopping around for cute little notebooks and toys we decided to skip the aquarium and head back to the hotel and just as we got inside the skies opened up and the deluge began. It rained so hard that you could barely see the buildings across the street, but we watched from the comfort of an iced latte in the lounge. Tonight we'll go for more Thai food, probably another foot massage and then tomorrow we head back to Singapore.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Grand Palace and the Canals

Morning began with Chinese food for breakfast. I skipped and opted for coffee and fruit juice instead. Then it was wandering around the mall because nothing was open yet. Mindy and I went into Loft, where we spent an hour or so browsing through all the tiny kitschy shit they had for sale. There were notebooks and stationary. There were stuffed animals and monsters. Everything to accessorize your phone, kitchen, and life. This was a mindy dream store.

We had booked a tour to take us to the grand palace, the temple of the jade buddha, and a canal tour earlier in the day and because we got sidetracked at Loft we had to suffer some shitty mall food for lunch to make our departure time for the tour.

When we got back we met our guide and driver and they promptly whisked us away through the streets of Bangkok to the grand palace and the temple of the jade Buddha. What an amazing place. The details in the different temples were incredible. The different surfaces sparkled with gemstones and the myriad statues of monkeys, demons, snakes and all kinds of other protective and reverent beings scattered the beautifully manicured spaces. I tried to draw some of the different temples and buildings but the details were too much to try to capture on a short tour and a hot day so we opted for the camera. Our guide told us stories both good and lame and explained some of the meanings behind some of the imagery.




colorful tiles


When we came to the temple of the jade Buddha we took off our shoes and walked through the gate. Wow. This must what walking into the Sistine chapel is like. The walls were painted in beautiful detail telling the story of the Buddhas struggles and suffering. In the center of the space rises a golden pagoda with the jade Buddha sitting inside. It is surrounded by standing Buddhas and all kinds of other adornment. People prayed, bowed, gave money, and generally honored the idol. No photographs or indecent attire. No incense burned, but much was offered. Jasmine flower wreathes and chanting from the background filled the atmosphere. I sat and stared at the figure for a while before attempting to draw it, and once I began, I was quickly overwhelmed by the details and decided that a few lines would suffice. It was an incredible space to see,but with all the guards, noise, and morons it was hardly a religious experience.


We then jumped a rickety boat for a tour of the canals. The breeze was refreshing and the water stank like sewer. The homes and temples lining the canal ranged from shanties to shacks to mansions. It was the best way to get a drive through view of the under belly bloodstream of bangkok and to try to get an authentic view of the way this culture lives. People fished, bathed, and traversed the water. Sheet metal roofs, hanging laundry, garbage, and rotting embankments were the feature sites of the canals, but it was beautiful in its simplicity and demeanor. The majority of the people we saw were very poor, but the water provided them with everything they needed.

After the tour we ate Thai style steamboat then went for another foot massage and walked back to the hotel. It's been a long day rushing from here to there all around this eclectic city, but it was so interesting to get to see all of it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand

We landed in Bangkok this afternoon. Took a shuttle van passed some bad graffiti, lots that looked like landfills, and sheet metal shanties to our posh-ass hotel. Bangkok on first look seems very dirty, a bit scary, and covered in motorcycles like mosquitoes. And from the van window that was my perception.

We arrived at our posh hotel over looking the city skyline, settled in, then hopped the sky train to Siam Square for my first taste of Thai food in Thailand.

This is what I've been waiting for. I love our Thai owned and operated restaurants back home in West Lafayette, and I couldn't wait to indulge here. We had fish cakes, beef salad, crab and glass noodles, kangkong with garlic, a coconut soup and a few different desserts. Holy shit this food is amazing and I have to give props to our local thai cuisine for being quite authentic. The difference is the freshness and the atmosphere. The coconut that I can hardly stomach at home is so good here that I can hardly wait to dip my spoon again. Everything had heat but in perfect balance to the sour and herbs that accompanied it. I drank beer for fear of the water and the light Thai pilsner seemed to wash everything down nicely. Mindy's mom warned me about the chilies but I had no problem with them because everything matched so well.

thai beef salad
fish cake
pandan chicken
baked pineapple rice

After dinner we wandered the streets a bit and checking out things in the marketplace then went for a foot massage. Another first for me and I hope not the last (we're only here for three days though). After washing my feet with a scrub my masseuse went to work sending my feet, toes, calves and knees into some level of nirvana. It was just the cure for 6 hours on the plane from Seoul. Now back at the hotel it's time for a shower and a good night's sleep before we go explore tomorrow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Walk about Seoul

We woke, ate breakfast of some kind of thick toasted bread with a two foot pile of whipped cream, then went to Chang Deok Gung Palace. The whipped cream must have wrecked my brain because I forgot my bag when we boarded the bus to take us to the palace. Problem was I couldn't remember if I left it in the hotel room or at the cafe. So because of that creeping worry in the back of my throat I found it a bit hard to enjoy the palace.

Thankfully when we got back to the hotel my bag was waiting there where I must have left it. Whew. After lunch, mindy, her mom and her aunt went shopping and I set out on foot to explore with my sketch book.

I walked to the city center, then turned around and walked back toward the palace. Along the way I stopped at a cool little canal that was quite populated with people dipping their toes in the water and strung with lanterns from side to side. Then after arriving near the folk museum and palace near insadong I visited a few art galleries mindy and I had either skipped or missed. I saw an interesting show I still can't quite think through. The artist was obviously studying clouds. He had created a video of layered images that allowed the clouds to appear and dissipate. Then he had created installations out of large canvases painted in single colors, but the colors were opalescent cloud colors and with the lighting they created the same sort of dissipating shapes that the clouds made in the video. It was way way minimal, and interesting, and really different than the majority of the other work I've seen in Seoul.

As I walked the 1500m or so back to the hotel I found many other buildings to draw. I ended up doing 8 different sketches in the few hours I was out wandering about. It was fun to walk around and I find that the different sections of Seoul are very walkable in the same way that the neighborhoods of NYC are walkable. Seoul is an interesting place.

Tomorrow we leave bright and early for Bangkok and whatever awaits us there. There won't be the art museums and the galleries, and I don't quite know what to anticipate there, but I'm looking forward to seeing a new city, culture and people.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Do Ho Suh at the Leeum Museum

Mindy and I went to the Leeum Museum to see the Do Ho Suh show today. Do Ho is the artist at the IMA that did the piece with all the brightly colored toy figurines holding up the acrylic floor. That piece has been a favorite since we first saw it. This current show was entitled a home within a home and featured 3 different installations and several sketches and maquette pieces for the larger installs.

The first installation we saw, Do Ho had created the different homes he'd lived in from nylon fabric. His boyhood home in Seoul, the apartment in NYC, his house in London, and his home in Berlin. The transparent pastel fabric features all of the different details of your house that you don't even notice like the light switch plate and the door hinges. The spaced created the interior and the negative space that the inside of the walls would have. It was most interesting to see the people going through the spaces because you can see through the walls. It was fun to stand back and watch what people could discover in these ultra detailed fabric rooms.

We then went upstairs and were greeted by a video installation projected off a fabric gate form. It was amazing. It reminded me of a piece mindy and I had seen in NYC of the ancient scrolls that had been animated over the top of. The video captured day into night in the same way that the piece we saw in NYC did. Simply amazing. Outside the video was a miniature version of his home in Berlin that had his home from Korea crashing landing into the side of it with the nylon fabric parachute deflated on the floor. The amazing part was that the each of the apartments was complete with every aspect of one's living space right down to the dust on the floor and the scratches on the table legs. Everyone was different and the destruction where the Korean home had crash landed was not contrived looking. It was incredible in the amount of different things from the orange juice in the refrigerators to the toilet paper in the spools. I love miniatures, but this was done in such mass that it was almost too much to try to take in.

I'm so glad that we got to see this show as it comes down next week. It was an amazing experience to get to see this work and his attention to detail was inspiring, as I find that is something I often disregard for a looser expression. I hope when I get home that all of this will still be fresh in my mind and will find its way into influencing some future work.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Korea Cute and Insa-dong

Today began with a short bus (van) ride to Insa-dong to check out some art. After ducking in many alley ways covered in street sellers and shops we see everywhere else, mindy and I finally found our street in Seoul. The road is lined with galleries and museums showing everything from pottery and fiber to paintings and post modern as well as some restaurants and shops with all things tiny cute and collectible.

We cruised up one side of the road and found the French graffiti catMonsieur Chat, on the side of a door in an alley way, then found a bigger stick-on on the window of an art center.

We saw 2 stand out shows. One by Yim Ja-hyuk and another by Lee Kwang Young.

(photos via Lee Hwaik Gallery)

Yim's work was assembled paper cutouts in what I consider to be the typical Korean color palette of bright cheerful colors that don't look cheap the way Damien Hirst's do. They were mostly simple everyday landscapes done in a quiet simplicity that showed off the technique and the materials used. They were at once stunning and cute, creating an aesthetic that was entirely approachable and joyful in their honesty even though several worked with a darker theme.

I'm not entirely certain of what the media of Young's work, but I'll refer to them as 3D paintings. The use of caricature to tell a narrative was fresh and like Yim, cute. The images moved on and off the canvas and the three dimensional roughly textured pieces cast strong shadows on the canvas. The Buddhist narrative did not over power the color palette and technique, but all worked seamlessly to create very interesting composition constructed in a manner I've never seen before. They were stunning works that, again, we're very accessible and not like your typical po-mo down talking nihilism.

Mindy and I saw a show in NYC in January called 'the Korean Eye' at MAD and after being in Seoul and seeing the place that this work comes from and see gobs more of it, I think I'm falling in love with this aesthetic. It is cute. But not kitschy. It is brightly colored and joyful. But it is not cheap. It is honest and accessible and if there's a next big thing in the art world I hope this is it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Icheon, home of celadon

Today mindy and I took a trip to icheon to see the contemporary Bandal art museum, visit a local pottery studio run by renowned Korean master and go to a Buddhist temple and monastic museum. Icheon is home to the original celadon and the studio we visited was one of the best. He was working at the wheel when we arrived cranking out shapes off the hump. Just a glance around the space was evidence of his skill. 

Double wall vessels with intricate carvings were the stand out pieces. After a brief tour we got to try our hand at the wheel and I felt ready to show off a bit. But it's been about 7 months since I've thrown on the wheel so my skills have eroded. Their local clay was an incredibly creamy white stoneware and I jumped on and made a little round vase that was quite shitty and embarrassing, but next to the master's work I imagine most anyone would look shitty. One of the apprentices told me I needed to come and stay a while to improve my skill. True that. But even after years of practice I doubt I could approach the skill exhibited in the gallery. Mindy and I bought one of his pieces and a few more produced by the studio in his style. The celadon glaze was mouthwatering. The most succulent jade green color that set off the white black and copper slips used to decorate the work. I was in awe and to see the real celadon in the real local community that produces it was a treat of a lifetime for me. To get to see the master at work was even more so. I can only hope to achieve such brilliance in my own work.

In the afternoon we visited a Buddhist woodworking museum/monastery and I must say I was floored when I walked into one of the meditation spaces. A wooden buddha greeted me and in the quiet floor to ceiling shelving sat hundreds of different carved Buddhas all with different expressions on their faces. Each one was impeccably carved and painted and I can imagine sitting before them in meditation would make it all quite alive.

We then traveled to the Bandal Art Museum where we saw some of Korea's best up and coming ceramic artists.

The way that everything was displayed was ultra refreshing since I'm used to the white box. These works were displayed with context, but in a very post modern manner. It made the works stand out and added to the experience of viewing the work.

It was a long day but a very inspiring lesson in an ancient technique with a taste of something new. I'm in love with the celadon and it was nice to get to drive through some of the Korean countryside. Now back in Seoul it's time to find some food.

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