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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Asian Art Investment Boom

 Here is an interesting article from The Guardian that describes the continued buoyancy of the Chinese art market as collectors see art (as well as other luxury items like wine and diamonds) as a steady investment as well as an aesthetic pleasure.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Heart and Soul- Shinto

When I was in high school one of my classmates whinged to our R. E. teacher about her subject. Why should he have to take it? It was a waste of his time. My teacher's response was one of weariness- she must of been asked this question at least twice a week- she said that learning about religious beliefs helps you to understand people, what they say and why they do the things they do. I couldn't agree more! Which is what is interesting about this excellent radio show from the BBC this time on Shinto. How can you understand the history of Japanese art without any understanding of the country's historic religious practices?

Saturday, 10 December 2011


There was a review in The Guardian the other day about a new exhibition of samurai suits of armour at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. Unfortunately the closest I shall get to France anytime soon is a limp croissant from some detestable bakery.

The samurai are, like geisha, an anachronistic image that has permeated my western consciousness of Japan, but in reality they have been done away with by our modernity. The very same modernity that allowed any real awareness in the first instance. Can you tell I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on British policy in Japan during the twilight years of the Bakumatsu? I am feeling all wistful, I may have to get round to watching The Last Samurai some time soon.

Ma Lin

I'm writing an essay at the moment on Ma Lin and Southern Song poetic painting and thought I should share one of the most ephemeral images I have ever seen.

Ma Lin, Scholar Reclining and Watching Rising Clouds Fan:

Friday, 2 December 2011

Belated pop of the week ix

The Bawdies Feat. Ai- Love you need you

Can China save the world

Can China save the world? There's a lot of discussion/hype around China's global economic power and what could potentially happen. I like to think the beeb is still impartial enough to provide a balanced fact-based analysis.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Ai and Koi

An article in The Mainichi Daily News says that a staggering 61% of Japanese men and 49.5% of women aged 18 and 34 don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend (presumably some men have a couple of girlfriends?). I find these statistics hard to understand as this is not the impression given by the shoujo manga I read in my misspent youth. Although as a genre it is fantastical and if some of the male equivalents are taken into account then perhaps its understandable. Either way I know a few girls here in Blighty who would quite charitably help out in reducing these figures.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Collecting china: bagging a bargain

The Guardian's House and Home blog has published the next installment of its Collecting china blog this time on buying pieces from charity shops.  

Mastering the Art of the Kimono

You wait for a good radio program and two come along at once. Mastering the Art of the Kimono is a look into Japan's dwindling kimono industry. I don't know why this saddens me but it does. Perhaps its because I should think it lovely to live in the 1880s -I would quite happily wander around with a parasol and huge layers of petticoats on underneath my dress, I imagine in this November weather it would be quite warm- and don't like seeing such traditions dying out (see an early post on Harris Tweed here  ). I think perhaps though deep down I do conform to the image of Japan of women wearing furisode  , samurai, tea houses and exquisite gardens, and I do not want this threatened by the likes of globalisation.  

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Off the Page

Another BBC Radio 4 show about Japan, exploring our perceptions of the country and whether they are correct. In good old beeb fashion they've interviewed people who actual have some understanding of the topic, including a Japanese Buddhism professor, The Asian editor of The Times and a comedian.

Pop video of the week viii

Strictly speaking I have again broken my own rules, but never mind. The Beauty Song from House of Flying Daggers:

I want a kimono

I'd really love to wear kimono, I love the silhouette they form. Unfortunately I'm not Japanese, I'm 5"9. I'd look like an adult wearing child's clothing. I think I will have to be content with just collecting them as art works. Style-Arena is a Japanese street fashion website along the lines of Nylon or Fruits just a lot less barmy. They have weekly updated pictures of people on Tokyo's streets and they also have a section on tribes, the uniform of a certain social group. Here's a link to women wearing yukata (lightweight summer kimono):

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Letter writing

Do you still write letters? I do, great three page monsters. I love the anticipation of a reply from loved ones. I also enjoy -rather too much- purchasing paper. I have frequently noticed that the most stylish of note paper frequents from East Asia. I had a wander around Paperchase   today and observed some very sweet little sets produced in Japan and Korea. Is this reflective of these nation's love of correspondence writing or purely an aesthetic consideration? Either way I shall purchase some in the Christmas sales.

On the theme of letters this review made me feel both proud and annoyed: 
Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail by Duncan Campbell-Smith – review  

On a side note I found it hilarious that the sending of thank you cards (really just plain good manners) increased following the now infamous email sent by a certain mother in law.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Liza Dalby

Having just mentioned her I found this article on Dalby and her life's work in The Telegraph, enjoy:


There's a rather lovely video on the Telegraph about the daily life of a maiko. Now I don't believe all the western assumptions about the profession and like to think I have a read a few credible works on the subject not just Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha (although as a bodice ripper it was pleasant to both read and watch), particularly Liza Dalby's book Geisha and Mineko Iwasaki's Geisha of Gion. One can not help but admire beauty:

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

When China Met Africa

A friend (who also has a blog, check it out) brought this film to my attention. I might just have to buy the dvd to have a look-see. After all the world we live in is not the same as it was twenty years ago.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sporting Witness: Ping Pong Diplomacy

A fascinating radio broadcast from the BBC World Service about how the sport was used to forge a closer relationship between China and America in the early 1970s.

Sporting Witness: Ping Pong Diplomacy

Korean Film

Are you a Korean film fan? Honestly I have seen far more Japanese cinema than Korean but I did enjoy A Tale of Two Sisters. I think watching a movie is an easy way to get a glimpse of another culture. Take British film for instance, and especially the likes of The King's Speech (I really did enjoy it. I, at heart, am a monarchist) which really shows us up for what we are. A nation obsessed by both World Wars and the apparently irremovable class system. Here is an interesting article in The Guardian discussing the state of Korean film and how reflective it is of their society:

Do South Koreans actually love film?

Pop Video/Film Trailer vii

I thought this week I'd be a bit different so here's a music video with clips from the film Aoi Haru with music by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. I loved the film, I also have a bit of a crush on Ryuhei Matsuda.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Asian Art Week Round iii

On Monday night, I had a jolly good time wandering around the Mayfair galleries. A particular highlight was an exhibition of Ishizumi fans by Nana Shiomi at The Oriental Club. It was a wonderful blend of a traditional Japanese art form with modern art, her use of perspective was very beautiful.

Click here to read an interview by Kanji Ishizumi from the Daiwa institute, about the art.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How to make sushi

Gosh I do love The Guardian. Here's a link they've put up on how to make sushi at home. I've made attempts before, but I never get the rice quite right. On the side bar there are also videos for tempura and miso soup! Yum!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Pop video of the week vi

I know it's not strictly pop music but the Memoirs of a Geisha soundtrack was awfully good:

Collecting china: how to buy from eBay

Another article in The Guardian's House and Home blog about collecting ceramics, this time about the perils of buying online.

Asian Art Week Round ii

Last night I went to the Hua Gallery in Battersea. A relatively new addition to the London art scene, its raison d'etre is to showcase contemporary Chinese artists, which I'm very glad about. The artist whose works made up this exhibition was Kuan Ching Mediha Ting. His work had that graffiti pop culture aesthetic that is very popular nowadays. What was interesting about it though was that I have never seen that look combined with a Chinese sensibility. Worth the wander through the jungle that is SW3 to get there.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

I love Jackie Chan

I think I can slightly say that my interest in the Far East has been fuelled by movies. With regards to China, Kung Fu films are some of my favourites. Particularly Jackie Chan (not forgetting Bruce Lee and Jet Li). I can thank Mr Chan for my academic pursuits it seems. And now he's on iPlayer, yay!

Rumble in the Bronx  

Asian Art Week Round i

I left my room, I actually left my room! And wound up on the ever delightful Kensington Church Street.

First stop was Jorge Welsh   for a lecture on a new book they've published called The RA Collection of Chinese Ceramics: A Collector's Vision   by Maria Antónia Pinto de Matos. Which was a very intriguing overview of the how the collector had amassed some very interesting pieces that showed the development of the Chinese ceramic export trade. Next stop was Marchant   for a wander around and then on to Gregg Baker   for some music by a kimono clad koto player and some really rather beautiful Japanese screens.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Asian Art Week

It's finally here! Stay posted for my reports of me actually leaving my room!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I've just read a really interesting piece on The Guardian's Women's blog about this new film Snow Flower and the Secret Fan adapted from the book by Lisa See. I vastly enjoyed another of the See's books Peony in Love. SFSF is about the life long friendships and the usage of Nushu, a written language used solely by women in Hunnan province. The Memoirs of a Geisha perhaps?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tokyo day by Day by Paul Church

The Guardian again has thrown up a gem. This time it's an article about Paul Church who has taken some really smashing photos of Tokyo, whilst there on a martial arts course. You can read his blog and see all of his pictures here.

(photo taken from

Witness: The American POW who chose China

Twenty one Americans and one British Marine chose not to return home after the end of the Second World War. An interesting interview from the BBC World Service with one of these Americans.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Friday, 28 October 2011

Harris Tweed- From Land to Street

I like tweed (there's probably a pattern forming here, teacups and tweed she's a pensioner). So I was delighted when I got sent this link to this report from the beeb about a new photography book celebrating the last 100 years of the blessed fabric, called Harris Tweed- from land to street by Lara Platman.

I think it's important that small regional producers of quality products like tweed, continue in their longstanding traditional practices. Not only as part of this country's heritage, but environmentally and ethically. It doesn't have far to travel, it's not made by exploited ten year olds in the developing world and wool itself is an often neglected natural resource that we have plenty of in this country and should be put to good use and I know I'm right about this because Prince Charles agrees with me.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Florence or a Machine

This little gem of a quiz, courtesy of The Guardian, asks you whether the lyric is from Ceremonials or made up by a computer. I got 6 out of 10, statistically speaking little more than guess work...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Going pottery

I'm slightly overwhelmed by ceramics this week. An essay to write, a wander around Liberty's and a bit of BBC viewing too. Liberty's is by far quite my favourite department store in London. I saw the most beautiful Wedgewood. I wish tea drinking was what it once was- a ritual. 

I've been watching Ceramics: A Fragile History: The Age of Wedgwood. It depressed me in all honesty. The loss of an industry and creativity. Poor Spode! Poor Britain!

I shall buy some Emma Bridgewater eventually.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Essay season and being rescued by some Darjeeling

'Tis that awful time of year again, like a grouse in hunting season I am being shot at. Unlike last year though they aren't on the economics of communist Hungary but on art, yay! I've spent the last couple of days camped out in the glorious National Art Library. Although I must say they don't appear to have heating,  and my delicate sensibilities couldn't quite handle it. The solution of course was a lovely pot of Darjeeling ( a thing for teacups is necessarily followed by a thing for tea) and a slice of millionaire shortbread in the V & A cafe. I've never been before and I was delighted to see that other than the modern serving area it is decked out in a wonderfully original arts and crafts style. The room I sat in had huge tiles of the four seasons and the months as women on the walls and lovely little blue and white tiles of the women in Greco-Roman myth. A beloved auntie recommended that I try it, and it was indeed very refreshing!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Romancing the Stone

You can tell it's autumn once the BBC starts reeling out a plethora of decent television shows. Plus you tend to see all those beautiful golden leaves everywhere which might give you a bit of a hint.

Romancing the Stone is another excellent series on British art. The first episode being on medieval sculpture and the second about the sculpture of the Empire. I can't wait for more! The beeb are really on fire at the moment:

Mandarin week 3

I'm still cracking on with it. The best that can be said is not that I have a natural flair for it, or a good ear for tones, it is more that I haven't given up entirely yet. This article in The Financial Times has made me feel that at least I am not alone.

Mandarin has the edge in Europe's classrooms

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pop video of the week iii

And this weeks goes to Girls Generation. Enjoy!

I actually made it to Frieze, yay!

Gosh it overwhelmed me, made my head feel funny. Plus I accidently spoke to Alexa Chung. 'Twas terribly traumatic, I looked a state that day. You don't expect to see someone Mulberry have named a bag after whilst wearing chinos and loafers, but unfortunately not in a chic wasp way.

There was so much to see, I don't know how to describe it all. I think perhaps it will be best to put up links to galleries and artists that I particularly remember:


Laurie Simmons- Love Doll (here is a link to an interview she has done)
Quite a creepy photograph of a Japanese love doll styled as a geisha, lying on a bed. It made me think about modern relationships and what men want from women. Not that I actually know this.

Karl Holmqvist- 'who runs this mother' (shown by White Cube); neon sign
Ah Beyonce's empty feminism

Yayoi Kusama- Tulip With All My Love 3-1 (shown by Victoria Miro)
Well because...

Danny Macdonald- Credit Card Offering 2011
The beastie from Alien bursting through Uncle Sam with an American Express card in its mouth.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Haruki Murakami interview in The Guardian

Ah! I love the man! I really do! I have never read a book quite like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. The plot so surreal and the characters so convincingly odd and yet natural. It is always a pleasure to read one of his interviews, especially because he so rarely gives them. I'm excited for IQ84.


There is a tidy little article in The Guardian today about collecting, although  the focus is on post-war British china. The price range we're talking about is nowhere near the same league as what the big auction houses are fetching for a good bit of famille verte, although some of the wares they mention are quite pretty. Having already declared my thing for tea cups, I can assure you dear reader, that I will undoubtedly collect once I finally give up on this education malarkey and get an actual job...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A slight obssession...

I'm more than a little infatuated with Florence and The Machine. As a youth I read a potent combination of Ovid and far too many gothic horror novels. The end result being a tendency towards being over nostalgic for myths and magic and a fondness for emotional melodrama. Gosh this song ticks my boxes. It helps that FaTM videos are always beautifully shot.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Pop up art show- BMDV.* 12th-15th October

I accidentally went to a show today whilst on my way back from purposefully going to see the new Tacita Dean at Tate Modern. I walked past a pop-up by Fred Lambton and Matthew Wilkinson on Gray's Inn Road (No. 91, London, WC1X 8TX). For a small exhibition, the space was the size of a reasonable corner shop, it was quite interesting. One of the more memorable works alluded to the iconography of  secret societies, the anatomical imagery used,  presumably, was closely related to the sexual nature of the title. A beloved auntie would never approve off it. The middle of the space was taken up with a female dummy with a goats head, wearing a pink froufrou tulle ball gown. Read into this what you will. The Artists' views on women perhaps or female vanity? I don't know, go, take a look and decide for yourself. Or better still ask them about it...

'Twas not the sort of thing one assumes one will come across on a Friday afternoon in Holborn, that is for sure.

*I have chosen to use the the acronym that the artists used rather than the full title in case anyone has taught their granny to google and they accidentally wander here.

Ai Weiwei and the ArtReview Power 100

Ai Weiwei is number one. Hardly surprising considering the amount the poor man was in the press this last year. Let us not forget though he had his zodiac animal heads at Somerset House, and exhibitions in both The Lisson Gallery and The Tate Modern or as Grayson Perry called it the 'Cathedral of modern art'. I particularly thought Sunflower Seeds was a very challenging work looking at the history of China's workers and its ceramics industry. Truly the most well heard Chinese voice on the international art stage.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

James Cahill- A Pure and Remote View

Professor James Cahill is one of the pre-eminent art historians who has done extensive work on China over the last few decades. He is now retired, but fortunately for us he has produced an extensive series of lectures that are on youtube in conjunction with U. C. Berkeley. This series runs from pre-Han to the Northern Song Dynasty paintings. They're very useful if like me, you are interested in gaining a solid knowledge of pre-modern Chinese painting traditions.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen

All hail Alan Measles!

Alan  Measles is Turner Prize Winner, Grayson Perry's, teddy bear and childhood hero. Perry goes about building a religion almost, for his furry chum using examples of artifacts from the Museum's collection and Perry's own experience. The exhibition is brilliantly curated. Pieces from across the globe and various cultures are grouped together so as to describe aspects of human attitudes towards religion and death. Personally I thought the ship to carry the soul into Alan Measles's afterlife was particularly meaningful.

Perry's exhibition at The British Museum was really rather entertaining. I always think that one of the unique things about British art is the sense of humour. Grayson Perry is funny as well as being socially astute. His vase detailing what he saw on telly one February evening is a case in point.

Pop video of the week ii

This week's spot goes to Ai Otsuka. I loved Hana Yori Dango, although I did think it had a bit in common with Pride and Prejudice. 

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Mixed Britannia.

Another post about the beeb, which at the moment is running a series about being mixed race in Britain. It's terribly interesting (I myself am mixed race) in regards to the changing attitudes towards race and inter-racial marriage in this country. As well as discussing how some communities were genuinely multicultural before World War II. Compelling viewing for anyone who follows certain aspects of British politics.

Won't you take me to Chinatown.

Supermarkets. I love supermarkets. Particularly supermarkets where I cannot read the labels. Lisle Street is a dream.

I have a rule that I buy something I've never tried before every time I go. So far the red wine flavoured pocky has been a personal highlight. They have a taste than can only be described as a cross between a poor merlot and a very good fruitella.

Of course I have to buy noodles. There are those instant ramen things that make the english version, quite rightly, seem awful. Although once I bought a packet of noodles which were described as Korean Starch noodles, I probably didn't serve them in the correct fashion,but my goodness ew!

Chinatown and its supermarkets always makes me feel like an inadequate cook. There are so many wonderful looking ingredients that I don't have a clue what to do with, one day I will learn! I'm also determined to eventually make those super cute bento, yummy and aesthetically pleasing.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

From Birmingham to Beijing: The Lure of a Chinese Career

This is a rather interesting radio broadcast from the BBC about British graduates going to China to intern because of the dire job market here. I think it's quite telling how a lot of British people perceive the further rise of China as an opportunity to do well.

The National Art Library, The V & A and motivational cake.

This afternoon I trundled along to the good old V & A in order to join the fantastic National Art Library.  How can one be expected to write about aesthetics when surrounded by the unseemliness of my university's concrete corridors? I much prefer a Victorian reading room.

Whilst there I thought I should most probably have another little look at some of the wondrous pieces in its various collections. I am always delighted when museums such as the V & A include contemporary art amongst their older works. Today I was not disappointed. Firstly, over the main entrance is a rather large, wooden construction entitled Timber Wave by AL_A. Then I came to the quite short, compared to shows where there is an entrance fee, but enjoyable nonetheless Power of Making exhibition. My two favourite things I saw today though, were the Textile Field in The Raphael Gallery, which essentially was a giant padded lounger across the majority of the floor space. Any museum which lets me have a lie down without my shoes on, whilst looking at some spectacular cartoons is a very lovely place in my book. Finally I came across a very amusing statue, the 'Bust of Lady Belhaven, 1827' re-imagined with hat by Stephen Jones, 2011. Marvellous!

And to top the afternoon off I stopped off at Fortnums for some motivational cake and went home with a tasty piece of apricot and ginger, wishfully called Apollo's Muse. I hope it was magic cake.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Pop video of the week:

Alright! I've decided that I shall have a pop song of the week. No cultural stone in East Asia shall remain unturned by this intrepid explorer, including the vom-inducing ultra cuteness of pop music. This weeks tune goes to Teen Top and their song, No More Perfume On You. My friend H, so wonderfully described it as 'KPop. Teaching young Korean boys how to cheat effectively!' It more than deserves the first ever spot.

First Mandarin lesson!

So I had my very first lesson today. I'm doomed, the only scrap I can remember is the word for weather. I am an Englishman through and through it seems.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Xue Xinran in The Telegraph

I enjoyed Xue Xinran's book, The Good Women of China when I read it years back, so I always take up anything by her when they pop up in the broadsheets. I have never been to China and what little reading I have done on modern Chinese society has left me without enough knowledge to really comment on the article. Interesting nonetheless.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Learning Mandarin!

I've determined that I shall learn Mandarin Chinese, thus I've subjected myself to a whole language module this year. Now whilst I am awfully excited at the prospect of all that banter with the waiters in Chinatown, there will be a lot of effort involved. I just hope it won't be Sisyphean in nature. GCSE French it aint. Judging by my abysmal scores on this BBC game teaching you the different tones, next year will be hard.  

Thursday, 29 September 2011

When does an everyday object become a piece of art?

Anyone who knows me will confirm that I, rather oddly, find department stores therapeutic. I'm not there to shop (not really, unless there's a sale, at which point...) merely to wander round and only look at all the pretty things.

Today I went to Selfridges. It was glorious.

I didn't look at the shoes. I looked at the teacups. Dear reader Wedgewood is wonderful, Spode is splendid and Minton is marvellous. Now this strange little habit of mine can probably be laid at the door of a beloved auntie, but nonetheless I do adore a good teacup. This made me think -an altogether rare event in itself and probably worthy of its own post- when do everyday items become art?

These items were made not with a purely aesthetic purpose but to have some function also and yet here I was admiring them. Now the V & A is one of my favourite places on this earth, so I really do appreciate what is traditionally referred to as decorative art as well as fine art, but I cannot help but discern a difference in the mass produced wares that the majority of us eat from and those within its collections. Is the lack of artistic merit in my dinner plates due to our very modernity, our habit of producing absolutely everything extensible the same?

The British Museum is home to one of the worlds finest collections of Chinese Ceramics, The Sir David Percival Collection and the Sir Joseph Hotung. Now obviously the pieces within the aforementioned collections are there because of the level of craftsmanship involved, their beauty and their rarity. Is that all that sets them apart from my Ikea mug? Will my assam tinged cup one day be going for umpteens at an auction, if the rest of its thousands of sibling ceramics all meet their sad demise and go to pottery heaven? It is arguably well designed, and not entirely unpleasing to look at. I think it is unlikely to make fifty pence. To someone once, some of the notable works in museums and galleries across the world, must have appeared as  everyday items, not purely as  pieces of art as we view them from behind glass panes. When does a piece stop being just a thing that happens to be beautiful but useful, to a thing of only aesthetic value? Does it rely on the object's merit being largely functional and not artistic to its creators and its earlier owners?

Perhaps, I can say it is because my mug was designed purely for functionality (albeit designed well). Whereas a tea cup used in tea ceremonies would have been highly valued for its beauty as well as for its functional purpose. I am inclined to think that it is scarcity in other examples of similar works, which greatly adds to the scholarly merit of an item.

The teacups really were terrific you know.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Asian Art in London, 3rd - 12th November 2011

First post!

Asian Art in London is getting me excited. 'How excited?', I hear you imaginary readers ask. Well dear pretend pixie people, the answer is very!

It's a most excellent opportunity for anyone whose fancy lies east of Europa's quaint borders, to experience lectures, exhibitions and gallery talks from some of the capital's finest Asian art establishments.

Indeed one of London's greatest cultural charms is its ability to shrug off a large enough chunk of its eurocentricism. This allows a novice, like myself, to peruse such a gem right amongst the other trinkets the city purveys. I for one shall be taking full advantage of the chance to intellectually window shop. I might even write about them.