Sunday, 18 February 2018

Monet's paintings

I have always been fascinated by paintings of impressionist artist Claude Monet, especially his paintings on Sunrise and the poppy field. One can just stand hours and hours in front of these paintings and discover the remarkable mystery of the impressionist art.

Impressionist artists's works were considered as rubbish when they were on exhibition in Paris in the 1800s due to their lack of realism. In those days, paintings were mostly on religious figures/subjects and they were superbly painted with excellent use of colour. The figures looked so real that as if they were taken using camera. The impressionist works, on the other hand, were just sketches and were not considered as art. However, the spirit of the impressionism was like a revolution that swept the art world. Today, impressionist art works are sought after in auction. The paintings of Monet on water lily could fetch tens of millions of dollars.

This one was auctioned for 80 millions
Recently I have a chance to see Monet's paintings here in Singapore. Thanks to National Gallery for holding an Art Exhibition entitled Century of Light which featured quite a number of works of impressionist artist, Claude Monet. Below are just some of the paintings on display that i captured on my hand phone.

Claude Monet Self-Portrait

The elderly Monet with his pallete

If you have the time, do visit the National Gallery of Singapore for a glimpse of the world of this impressionist artist. The paintings are on loan from France until March. However, this 80 million painting of Monet is on in the exhibition.
Water Lily Pond by Monet

Monday, 12 February 2018

Statues of Da Mo

Recently collected 2 simple, yet artistic wood carvings of Da Mo, one tall and the other short one. The carvings featured only the head of Da Mo on a block of wood. Da Mo, an Indian monk who came to China in the 5th century. According to legend, he trained many disciples in martial art and started the School of Shaolin specializing in various types of kungfu routines.

Carvings of Da Mo
 Da Mo, or Bodhidharma ,was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin kungfu. In Japan, he is known as Daruma. (source from Wikipedia).

Friday, 29 December 2017

Model Train

My latest  hobby.

I bought  this model train set from the US a few months ago. Recently I set it up under the Christmas tree. Then I watched a video on how to make a  house  using card board  and I tried it out.

There it is, I have my veyy own train running around.  The children like it.

This  is the famous Santa Fe model train.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Famous teapot by Gu Zingzhou

This is a teapot made by Gu Zingzhou in the 1950s. It was reported that he made a total of 5 such teapots and he got the famous artist Wu Hufan painted on them. He then gave them away to the artist and other famous artists of the time such as Tang Yun. He himself kept one.

This teapot is a modification of a design by Chen Mansheng, a Scholar in the late Qing dynasty. Chen himself was not a potter, but a magistrate who liked Yixing tea-ware. As such, he engaged the famous potter of the time,  Yang Pengnien and his sister to make the teapots he had designed.

I don't quite like the original design by Chen as I felt that the mouth of the teapot was a bit small. The overall teapot is lacking in style and elegance. Gu's modified design looks grand and rich in shape and contour. Of course with the engraving of a famous artist, this teapot is unique in itself. It represented the works of two famous masters of the time.

Chen Mansheng's teapot

The Gu Zingzhou's teapot was auctioned a few years ago in China for millions of RMB.

Interestingly, I also own such a teapot (of course not by Gu Zingzhou). I did not buy from any shops. It was left behind by a tenant (from China) who rented my apartment a few years ago. It was put inside a cupboard. Obviously, when the tenant moved out, he could have forgotten that there was a teapot he left behind in the cupboard.

As I do not have such a teapot design in my collection, I gladly kept it for myself. 

Teapot left behind by someone

Monday, 18 December 2017

White Tea

Recently, I have tasted some white tea and found it to be quite pleasant and smooth to drink.

In the past, I did have some white tea but did not enjoyed it as much. I was told that people in Hong Kong like this tea very much. In fact my first sample of the white tea (Shou Mei) was given to me by a colleague from Hong Kong some twenty over years ago. As I did not quite like the tea, I threw it away. What a waste, the tea could have been very nice now if I kept it (May be I was too engrossed with puerh and neglected this tea). Any way, it is not too late to discover this tea and start enjoying it (or collecting it). 

White tea has been around for many years. It was mainly exported to countries in the west as locals found it  to be expensive especially the high grade type of white tea known as Yin Zhen (Silver Needle). The lesser grade such as Bai Mutan and Shou Mei are really quite affordable. White tea comes form the province of Fujian where farmers plant the tea along hilly slopes several hundred feet above sea level. Good tea is almost invariable harvested before the rainy season in March where the leaves are fresh and lively. The tea is processed in a traditional way using sunlight to dry and wither the leaves before packaging it into various forms like loose tea or compressed tea.

It is said that white tea can be kept and it matures over the years. The first three years the tea will develop its medicinal value and after 7 years the tea will become a treasure. Hence it won't be surprised to see old white tea commanding a high price after 7 years.

White tea selling 800 RMB

The tea is yellowish in colour
 The tea has a slight sweet taste with a pleasant aroma. Old white tea has different type of fragrance, like fragrance of flowers and fruits, etc.

Old Shou Mei 
Ever since my first cup of old Shou Mei, I begin to like this tea. I have since collected a few tea cakes in case the price go up in future due to inflation.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Characteristics of a good teapot

Set of mangosteen teapots
Teapot is used to brew tea, it is an essential equipment to have if you are interested in the art of tea drinking. If you possess a good teapot, it certainly brings you a lot of pleasure in your pursue of tea art culture and enrich your life through endless sessions of tea drinking. It is life time passion.

If you want a teapot just for tea drinking purpose, you need not spend a lot of money to look for the special one. A good teapot can fulfill this function. You can make tea from it, enjoy your tea and at the same time admire the artistic aspects associated with it; such as its shape, clay, colour and texture. But how to select a good teapot? Generally, there are a few things to look for in selecting a good teapot to make tea.

First on the list is the workmanship. A good teapot is professionally made and every detail (from the lid to the handle) is accurately/ proportionately executed by the potter. When you look at the teapot, it pleases you, all your senses come alive. This is the magic of good workmanship.

Second is the clay, an important factor for good teapots. A good potter is very particular about the clay he uses to make the teapot. Good clay will enhance the beauty of the teapot. Not only it is pleasing to the eye, the clay has to be clean and not tarnished after use. If the teapot is covered with muddy stuff, most likely it has been treated to make it look old and valuable. As teapots are used to brew tea, cleanliness is of paramount importance.

Third is form which can be subjective as it depends on individual's taste and preference. Form means the shape of teapots which can be round, square segmented or any shape that mimic things of nature. If workmanship is good, the form can further be enhanced through the skills and artistic talents of the potters.  Very rarely one will find a teapot with good clay and form but lousy workmanship. A good teapot coming out from a renown potter often possesses these qualities.

If you want a teapot that is worth collecting and at the same time functional (means brewing tea occasionally), then you may consider a teapot made by some known potter. It need not be a grand master in the trade. A potter who has a bit of fame is sufficient. He may be a trainee or a assistant craft-master or even a craftsman. As long as you know the person who made the teapot, it is something to treasure as it is his creation. In this case, the bigger the name, the more costly is the teapot. Also beware of fakes as there are a lot of people making a fortune of selling fake teapots. Here I means the potters are not the ones who made the teapots. Rather, people are using big names to enhance the value of the teapots.

Collecting good teapots is no easy task. It needs years of experience and costs lots of money and obviously plenty of frustrations.

Below are some examples of good teapots.

By a renown potter
By a granf master
Potter unknown
Supposedly by Shao Dahen

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Zisha clay

Two old teapots, one was given by a colleague and the other bought in a shop in Marina Square. I really like the zisha clay of the early years. It was of such high quality and purity that reflected on the teapots it produced.

The zisha clay was of the finest quality, noticeable from the shine produced on the body of the pots. Undoubtedly, teapots from the early years were all made from good yixing zisha clay. There was no concern of buying teapots made from fake clay or chemical-tainted materials. There was plenty of good clay around and authority did not bother to impose any ban on mining the zisha clay.

Raw zisha clay
With the ever increasing production of zisha ware for export, the authority in the Yixing County eventually imposed a ban on mining zisha clay from the famous Yellow Dragon Mountain which supposedly produced the finest zisha clay in the region. The rationale behind this ban was to preserve the precious resources for the future generations. However, most potters had already started hoarding the clay long before the ban was imposed. Some potters when interviewed, revealed that they had stored enough clay to last them a lifetime. There was even someone who had 3000 tonnes of clay in his ware house.
Yellow Dragon Mountain, now 1/3 its original height

Yellow Dragon Mountain site
In those early days, no body paid attention to the clay used to make teapots. The potters also didn't bother to emphasize the clay they used. It was understood that all the clay used must have come from the Yellow Dragon Mountain. Today, you will find potters and promoters alike would always highlight the premium clay used in their teapots. They used terms that described the clay and these terms were unheard of during those years.

Hoarding of zisha clay by potter's family