Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Attack of the Pleinarians

"If I were in the government I would have a brigade of policemen assigned to keeping an eye on people who paint landscapes outdoors. Oh, I wouldn't want anyone killed. I'd be satisfied with just a little buckshot to begin with." —Edgar Degas

A few years ago while hiking on Po Toi, I came across a pair of plein air painters—pleinarians, as I like to call them—with their delicate easels set up on the hillside. It was a shock, and Degas' words came to mind. Two or three other times in the past eight years I've spotted people in Hong Kong sketching outdoors. I might be projecting, but they each appeared somewhat furtive, with a hint of shame even.

Things started to change a little over a year ago. The Hong Kong Urban Sketchers appeared, run by architect Alvin Wong. There were 30 or 40 members posting sporadically on Facebook; then in May, they got a nice write-up in Apple Daily and membership leapt to over 1000. Recently another HK urban sketching website appeared here, and a week ago the Asia Art Archive  sponsored a "walk and draw" near their headquarters in Sheung Wan. Get the buckshot, Edgar, it's a full blown craze!

I know plenty of 'serious' artists who are snobbish about the urban sketcher thing. Within a certain milieu it's deeply unfashionable—your  great-aunt's batik work has a better chance of getting shown at the Venice Biennale—which is why Gagosian Hong Kong's May show was so brilliant. It was more or less against the grain of the dominant mode of the art world, but at the same time completely blue chip.  A show of urban sketches (gasp); but it's okay—they're by Giacometti! His suite of lithographs of Paris seemed to have been stuck in a drawer and forgotten for a long time, then rehabilitated when the time was ripe. (Which reminds me of Jack Goldstein's story: "One day I was in a bar with Gagosian, and he told me how he could live off of one Brice Marden painting. He knew when to sell it and when to buy it at auction again.")

Some of the urban sketcher manifestos mention their desire to document vanishing buildings. This for me is not the most interesting aspect of what they're doing (after all, a camera and a measuring tape would be better suited). What's compelling is the wider scope of their activity. The drawings are often accompanied by anecdotal information, such as "After 10 minutes a security guard asked us to leave." "There was no shade, so I had to work fast." Or, "There was nowhere to sit, so we ended up here." It's clear that the choice of subject matter is not dictated entirely by what's endangered, historic, or even what's most visually interesting, but is also determined by how hospitable a neighborhood is, whether it's over-regulated or unregulated, whether it's possible to linger at a location or not. In this regard, their project is closely related to Debord's dérive. Their drawings and notes are an index of movements through the city; movements influenced by appealing or repelling ambiance as much as by preconceived agenda.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Marco Szeto at Choco Choco

" A  PLAYFUL Dog Show "
Collage by Marco Szeto
May 26 - June 30, 2014

Preview : May 25, 2014 (Sunday)
Time: 4 - 7pm

Venue: Choco Choco Fine Chocolate,
G/F, Fashion Walk, 27 - 47 Paterson St.,
Causeway Bay, HK (next to Calvin Klein)
銅鑼灣 百德新街 名店坊Fashion Walk

Thursday, May 15, 2014


 Scrolling back a few posts, I mentioned how much I enjoy Chris Doyle's use of color. Here he is talking about neon and color in a new video produced by M+.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Return of the Blog

     Tung Lung Chau gouache study, 2012

ipad finger painting, 2012

The blog is back. Why not!
Comments are switched off for now; everybody's on fb anyhow. The old comments (all of which I very much appreciate) will reappear when I get that figured out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hunan Province

White Guy Takes 5 Day Vacation to Zhangjiajie and Starts to Paint Like He's Chinese, 2012
ink on paper
12" x 9"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The thespians over at HKELD are giving away an original limited edition print—by me!—this month. Framed and ready to hang on that blank wall of yours.  7 days left to correctly answer the question.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Spotlight: Monique Lai

"...does one not find an interest in the chic and the alive in the biographies of Mondrian and so forth? It is true that Barbara Rose likes to write about when the times were more sincere, but she writes about it where she writes about everything else, in Vogue."
          Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

More photographs by Monique Lai here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday Spotlight: Hemlock

"This is how it should be done. Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continua of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times. It is through a meticulous relation with the strata that one succeeds in freeing lines of flight, causing conjugated flows to pass and escape and bringing forth continuous intensities for a BwO [Body without Organs]."
         Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 

If you're assuming that Hemlock's visual output is simply a reiteration of his writing,  you're missing out on the pleasure to be found in these collages. Here Hong Kong's political figures, along with some 60's starlet-types and a sprinkling of other vaguely familiar archetypes, operate more like raw material; an ensemble cast of reccurring figures whose physiognomies are lovingly pored over, probed, dismantled, mixed and matched, repeated stutter-like, and arrayed across trajectories of enigmatic impulses (desire, nostalgia, mirth). Ultimately these arrays, each with its own rhythmic cadence and…well…inscrutable internal coherence, seem less about political commentary than about probing rich psychodynamic territory.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday Spotlight: Christopher Doyle (杜可風)

How good is this guy? I'd say the 20th century was bracketed by two great colorists: Matisse, using paint, and Chris Doyle, using the medium of film. And he continues to break new ground.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Next week...

Monday through Friday next week,  I'll be using this space to spotlight five people producing good stuff right here in Hong Kong.  Check it out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


ipad painting USA


ipad sketch from a recent trip to the Northwest US. In addition to seeing some nice scenery, had time to finish a couple of books that had been sitting on my nightstand for over a year (Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism, and Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia). Also caught up on a few Hollywood flicks on the long flight  (Moneyball, J. Edgar, Prometheus).  

 Had a good time, but I'm  always relieved to get back to HK. Love that first meal at the cha chaan tang. Through a haze of jet lag, the sound of Canto, some congee with a few peanuts, the big plastic spoon, the familiar Hong Kong faces.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

more ipad finger paintings


ipad painting triple elvis
Triple Elvis

Fireworks from Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter

Circus, Guangzhou

 ipad sketches from 2011-12. click to enlarge

 The Megabodega show in NY is all wrapped up. Many thanks to curator Victoria Yee Howe for including Surfing Hong Kong.

Beginning July 14 the book will be available at Palace Bookshop, IFC (next to Palace Cinema).

 If you looked for Surfing Hong Kong at Kubrick Bookshop, Yau Ma Tei, and were told they don't carry it,  it's because the book was incorrectly entered into their computer system. That problem has been resolved and they have the book in stock. (Thanks to the tipster who brought this to my attention!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

NY opening

surfing hong kong family business opening

Pointing Man is aiming a little too high.  On the right is Surfing Hong Kong with pale blue and silver cover.  (By the way, Elise Inthavixay, who I collaborated with on the look of the book, is now lead designer for the revitalization of the former Central Police Station on Hollywood Road!)

James Feldman opening New York

Megabodega at Family Business Gallery, curated by Victoria Howe.  More pics here

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Surfing Hong Kong goes to New York!

  June 26 - July 6

  Family Business Gallery
  520 West 21st Street

story on Family Business, Maurizio Cattelan, and Massimiliano Gioni here

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Soul Surfing the Big Lychee!

surfing hong kong cover
  Surfing Hong Kong, 2012
book (offset lithograph)
           40 pages, 37 color photographs
printed in edition of 500
surfing hong kong north point

surfing hong kong shun tak

surfing hong kong bridge

Surfing Hong Kong: 37 surf photos of questionable veracity. If they're not true, where were those mysto waves really shot? Cyberpunk fiction or documentary photographs, enjoy the ride.

Designer Elise Inthavixay crafted an understated, timeless look for the book. Check out that shimmering, Helvetica Bold, foil-stamped cover — totally bitchin! Full specs and order info here.

Also available at Kubrick Bookshop, Yau Ma Tei.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Season's Greetings from HK

Hong Kong Paintings  IFC and harbour

Shuffled through my flat file looking for something Christmassy, and I found this study made with a two color palette of alizarin crimson and permanent green.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Hong Kong painting central

Just discovered that I received a nice write-up in The Standard —15 months ago! I'm feeling inspired to post more frequently, and Google myself more often.

    A belated thank you to Bernard Charnwut Chan for noticing this blog!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gloomy Weather

sketching Hong Kong James Feldman kwun tong

The top sketch shows Kowloon Bay and the old Kai Tak Airport runway.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Studies of boats and a trivia question

Hong Kong painting 4 boats

Which one of these artists changed his given name from 'Milton' ?

a) Jasper Johns
b) Jackson Pollock
c) Robert Rauschenberg
d) Richard Serra
e) Frank Stella

Friday, August 20, 2010

Studies of bathers and a trivia question

Which one of these artists changed his or her surname from Goldstein:

a) Elaine de Kooning
b) Max Ernst
c) Philip Guston
d) Blinky Palermo
e) Man Ray

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today's painting trivia question

Which pigment common to the painter's palette is taken orally as a treatment for radiation poisoning?

a) cadmium red
b) prussian blue
c) raw umber
d) pthalo green
e) zinc white

This one's Googleable, so I'll spare you the trouble and put the answer in the comments section.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Matisse and Hokusai on Reach Exceeding Grasp

The American actor Edward G. Robinson, who was an avid art collector, tells a story about visiting Matisse. Matisse, age 85, was living in an expensive old hotel in the South of France. He was dying of stomach cancer and confined to a wheelchair but still working, making his paper cutouts and small drawings. The hotel had carved wooden doors from the 17th or 18th century, and thumb-tacked to the doors were little drawings of hands. Robinson says to Matisse, "Are these early drawings?" Matisse replies, "No, no, I'm doing them now. I'll do a good one yet. Those damn things give me a lot of trouble, you know. I'll do it, I'll get it."

Hokusai on his deathbed, age 89, is reported to have said, "If only Heaven will give me just another ten years...Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter."



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Terry Farrell and the Ching Ming Festival

Terry Farrell

Back in April, I took advantage of the Ching Ming holiday and went to Shaoguan for a three-day weekend. Madam Cheng and I took the ferry to Pan Yu, then hailed a cab for the 20-minute ride to the train station in Guangzhou.

Turns out the
Guangzhou South Station had just opened a few weeks earlier, and the architect was Terry Farrell (who did the airport in Seoul that everyone's raving about). It was striking partly because I came across it unexpectedly, but there's no doubt it's a beautiful building. Check out those colossal Y-shaped columns—notice how elegantly they articulate the light, leaving a gap above to illuminate themselves.

Our first full day in Shauguan we hit the big regional attractions with a miserable, fly-by-night local tour company. The second day we sprung for a cab to take us to some of the more obscure places, the prime destination being fields of yellow flowers that had made a big impression on Madam Cheng in the tourist brochure.

We left the city behind, bouncing along pot-holed roads through a series of dreary villages.
Our driver was a capable fellow with a seen-it-all-before mien, who used the courtesy-honk judiciously while driving for long stretches on the wrong side of the road. I marveled at his ability to resist reflexive swerving or breaking as a steady stream of "free range" dogs darted in front of the cab. Those strings of Ching Ming Festival firecrackers can make a small dog accelerate and corner like you wouldn't believe.

An hour and a half later he hydroplaned us to a stop in the center of a deserted one-lane road. We rolled down the windows and light rain blew in. Furrowed mud extended in all directions. The driver made a call on his cellphone as I gazed out at a shallow drainage ditch just large enough to dispose of the bodies of two gullible tourists. A man draped in a transparent plastic drop cloth appeared riding an undersized motorbike and conferred with the driver and Madam Cheng. Laughter all around; just missed it, the flowers have been returned to the oil (canola). Still time to hit the Ma Ba Man archeological site!

Later I'll post more pics of Terry Farrell's Guangzhou South Railway Station.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Tai Po Lookout Tower

The Tai Po Lookout Tower was built in 1997 as part of a large park commemorating the hand-over of Hong Hong to The People's Republic of China. Signage tells us that the tower is built on the location where the British came ashore in 1898, and that the inhabitants of the New Territories put up a good fight. With its conical spiral climbing a tilted central spine, the Tai Po Lookout Tower bears more than passing resemblance to Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International (1919).

The Third International, also known as the Comintern, was the international wing of the Communist Party, and Tatlin's building was to be its headquarters. The 34-year-old revolutionary's fanciful proposal included sections that rotated at various speeds, radio broadcasting towers, giant projectors for beaming images onto the clouds, an auditorium for the masses, and so on. Alas, the salad days of the Russian avant-garde would soon be turning to gruel; within a decade the radical aesthetic of the Constructivists would be considered by Stalin to be elitist, and be replaced (by decree) with Soviet Social Realism.

All of which is to say that while the form of Tatlin's Tower was once the embodiment of revolutionary zeal, it's also now a form that reminds us of a more ominous episode. In any case, Tatlin's ghost roams the vicinity of the Tai Po Lookout Tower, whispering in visitors' ears, "It's so bourgeois to claim ownership of an idea—but this looks a lot like my idea."

Tai Po lookout tower Hong Kong James Feldman 
Tai Po Lookout Tower, 1997

Vladimir Tatlin, Monument to the Third International, 1919