Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Blog

I've moved my Travel-Artist blog over to Wordpress, for better integration with my website

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Collection obsession

Kitikong in his Chiang Mai gallery

The other day, Seth Godin was talking about how artists can make a living, and some of the inherent difficulties. As he sees it, artists have a limited market for their work with any individual collector: "So, what's the problem? Share of wall. Unlike records or shoes, it's hard to buy a lot of art. Pretty soon, you've got no place left to put it, do you?"

But while Seth knows lots about business and viral marketing, he doesn't know much about the business of art, which works quite differently from your typical model. Collectors are an eclectic bunch. Some focus on the work of a particular artist; others pick and choose from an era or style. They buy for many reasons: some find just the right piece for their mantel; others swoon at a piece and have to have it at any price; some are seduced by a low price tag and a promising CV; and others simply buy for the bottom line investment (though these speculators have temporarily paused, leaving mainly what gallerists like to call "Serious Collectors", flattering their sophistication). More often than not, collectors want a piece of the artist's life, manifested in his/her work. And some can never have enough.

Kitikong, pictured above, is a smart, soft-spoken artist based in Chiang Mai. He prints his own work, and helps other artists print theirs. But he doesn't print the work of just any artist (ordinary artists are welcome to play around in his studio for 500-1000 baht/day if you know what you're doing), no, he's looking to work with high-profile or bankable artists who will add to the stacks of incredible work already jamming his flat-files.

You see, this printer is also a true collector. His name-dropping skills are on par with the hippest gallery-goers in London. He's plugged-in to the gallery scene throughout Asia, L.A., New York and Australia. He knows those whom he wants to work with, and has positioned himself to make this happen. (This artist recently made a series of prints at Kitikong's Chiang Mai-based studio/gallery, C.A.P.)

C.A.P. assistants - they live upstairs, life and work inseparable

Through an ingenious funding scheme, he has created a win-win situation for fellow collectors and artists, and also for himself and his assistants. Kitikong is a great example of how an obsession - because for the best, collecting art is a true obsession - can be turned into more than just decorating our living-room walls.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Altered states

Part painting, part photograph: it's a hand-tinted print

When I decided to hand-tint blueprints for the Hong Kong book, I knew that there would be some puzzled reactions: is it a painting or a photo, or something in between? For centuries, hand-tinting has been a common way to enhance black-and-white photographs, woodblock prints, and etchings.

After weeks of experimentation, I found that blueprinting for less time (underexposing them in the sun) gave me more freedom when tinting. Instead of simply coloring the prints, I enhanced them, expanded their borders, and blurred distracting details. Beginning with blue adds a brilliance of color straight away, whereas black or sepia subdue it.

When I paint the photo-sensitive chemicals before exposure, I selectively apply them with a brush. Once it's hand-tinted afterwards, it's actually a twice-painted print.

For another perspective, Jeane Vogel talks about hand-altered photographs and their ambiguous position between painting and photography here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

blue frustrations

My roofless dream cottage next to the sea in Peng Chau, for a forthcoming book

When most people move to the bottom half of the world, their litany of concerns goes something like this: how will we get the furniture there, what car shall we buy, what x-rays/shots will I need, where will the kids go to school, etc. Mine center on how to work in a new environment.

How strong is the sunlight? (Sydney has strong UV and lots of sunshine - one reason I was interested in moving here)

What's there to shoot or sketch?

How important are the arts in its residents' priorities?

But a crucial question for many alt-process artists like me is: where's a printshop to make negatives? (see picture below - none of this happens without large-scale negatives)

Hand-tinted blueprint demo from the book

It's a rare print shop that's willing to risk its overheated machines and run my plastic transparencies through them. So far I've spoken with a dozen places in my neighborhood and in central Sydney, but haven't found anywhere that can make a successful print; the rare printers willing to try just shake their heads as my acetates jam their machines.

So with some deadlines looming this week, I've crossed my fingers and printed dozens of images from paper negatives, as architects used to do with their drawings. I've printed these images over and over, for different exposure times, at different chemical concentrations, onto various surfaces. Tracked blue footprints down our newly-carpeted hallway. Spattered the bathroom with cyan rinsewater. I'd hoped that with some tweaking I could get something beautifully blue.

Nope. Not a single image was serviceable, let alone satisfying. The paper simply blocked too much sun, so the prints had very little contrast. Instead, I've had to focus on other endeavors before I leave for Asia.

Still these attempts have gotten me out of my new neighborhood comfort zone: I've shot a new series and will print it - somehow - when I'm back later this year.

There's always a reason for whatever we're doing, sometimes we've just got to make it up as we go along.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Travel Artist Profile: Mary-Anne Bartlett

Artist on safari

As the founder of Art Safari, Mary-Anne Bartlett seamlessly combines artwork with travel, for destinations from Antarctica to Zambia. A woman of many talents, she has also co-written a guidebook on Malawi.

Here she's written an excellent article packed with advice on how to travel. She categorizes sketching travellers into three types: the 'painting traveller', the 'artist on holiday' and the 'travel artist'.

Which one are you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Flickr Photos & Videos tagged "Obama"

from my Flickr friends around the world

Indonesian Obama by Keith Kelly

A pair of videos & photo from the Inauguration concert in Washington DC, January 18th, by Sixinterr

Obama's car

Snipers setting up for the Inauguration concert

Officials get to climb fences

Election night celebrations, Chicago - by Dave2Quam

Obama in Cambodia - by Jinja

Election day antics at FCC Phnom Penh, by Keith

Dungeons & Dragons for Obama in Washington, DC - by Nguyet

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Words & Pictures

The art market is directly linked to the rest of our markets worldwide.

Charcoal drawing from installation by Dan Perjovschi via "We Make $ not Art.

Options...by Hugh

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Travel Artist: Fritz Lang

Many years before Fritz Lang made the iconic film Metropolis, from 1911-13 "he travelled the world, visiting North Africa, Turkey, Asia Minor, and Bali. At the time he worked as a travel artist, painting postcards, travel scenes, and advertisements," according to this site.

These travels gave Lang first-hand experiences of life on the other side of the world. He would have tasted spices & exotic intoxicants of all sorts - including women, of course - and this influenced his later work. These new forms of urban architecture gave him a new perspective on western European cities.

Keep an eye out for the nearly full-length version coming out later this year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Vietnamese Elegance

St. Joseph's cathedral in Hanoi is a popular meeting-place for locals and tourists alike. There's a sea of stationary motorbikes parked in front every evening, and as boutiques shut their doors, restaurants come to life.

If you stand in front of the cathedral and look up, you'll see a splash of bright yellow across the street.

The Hanoi House is upstairs, a resting place for travellers on their way to Sapa

The brilliant color makes it hard to miss. Inside, you'll find one-of-a-kind treasures: here's a lamp made of hand-dipped incense sticks.

This birdhouse has a couple of porcelain residents

Everything here is designed by the incredibly talented Tiep. He has fans around the world, from Spain to Australia. Here he is reading my book, giving me some space to explore his with my camera.

Tiep made these tiles - he has a kiln at the edge of town. Note the color variation from different composition of earths.

"When we were kids, we would perch on the mezzanine, twirl lotus buds into spirals, then drop them spinning down to the floor below. I designed these when thinking of those games; kids don't do that anymore, they have TV and internet now."

Hallway to the cafe

Table made of traditional chopping boards, transformed into fish

Whether sculpture or room divider or knick-knack holder, this bamboo structure's beautiful

This could be a shelf or an altar or a faux fireplace, all made of tiles

Some of Tiep's work from a boutique hotel in Sapa:

Decorative drum made of coins

Head vase

"These lights were inspired by the way women used to wear their hair in my grandmother's generation: they'd wrap it in fabric then twirl it around their heads."

Tiep molded these animals, then made these coffee tables that showcase local crops.

Birdcages made of local H'mong fabric from the surrounding hills

Tiep also runs a tranquil cafe overlooking Truc Bach Lake. Highly recommend it - stop by 17A Truc Bach Lake to sample some Vietnamese delicacies and sit at tables made of motorbike chains, lit by cocoon-like lamps made of unspun silk.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekend in Hanoi

Just returned from a long weekend in Hanoi, to leave these cyanotype clothing with Maison des Arts for the Long Bien Bridge Festival.

Memories of Hanoi's Long Bien Bridge on fabric

Silhouette of tire pump from the far end of the bridge

I finished off several pieces. They're stretched on steel and Vietnamese bamboo: with metal structures above, humanity at the center, and the earth supporting it all, I thought of the living bridge that spans this busy city. It has a huge personality: what history it's witnessed, from its inception by Eiffel over a century ago, to the present.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Park Island, Part 2: Ma Wan Village

Continued from yesterday's post

Up and over a hill was another grave, this one dotted with fresh oranges and, curiously, lots of timber

I glanced up, and saw a pair of arched windows, unusual in HK, particularly in an island village, where homes are built to a spartan standard

and the entrance hinted at grand views from decades before

I crossed the threshold with some trepidation

Climbed the stairs, marveling at the fine rich wood

Thought, "I wouldn't mind having a window like this one, wherever we end up"

Further down the path was a house near the sea, the beginning of the oldest part of Ma Wan village. An ancient man wandered out of the house next door to this one, raised a fist and croaked orders in my general direction; he was more than a little senile

Did anyone still live in the fishing shacks? I wondered

Yep, somebody definitely lived in this one - they'd left their shoes neatly outside. And their door-guardians were still in good shape, too.

Someone had left their living-room door open. Note the ultra-modern Tsing Ma bridge overhead.

Typically, when the government decides to clear out a village to make way for redevelopment, villagers are compensated for losing their homes, or are given a flat elsewhere in HK. But more often than not it's only the elderly who remain, and they can't recreate their vital community in anonymous tower blocks. Canny villagers will often invest the $$, or rent out their new flats and live on the proceeds, while squatting in or near their old homes. These squats are equipped with all mod-cons like air-conditioning and satellite TV.

Kids-sized village transport, parked on the balcony

Here someone had parked their tiny village vehicle outside their house

These stacked sieves, commonly used around HK by the Hakka people, are great for drying seafood

I think these rows of planks were used as supports for drying fish; there were dozens of them right next to the water

Painting from a Tin Hau temple - portrays a scene from a few meters away

Salt-filled mats next to the pier, for preserving shrimp or fish

No cars or motorbikes: gives you an idea of the pace of village life

...but roller-skating is encouraged

In the small village square, freshly-caught fish dry in late afternoon sun

Next to the fish, a traditional rice grinder - perhaps for communal use?

From an abandoned home nearby, old-school facilities

This was once a kitchen; now the jungle's reclaiming the house

Metal doors gape, high above a forgotten warehouse

A group of high-school students were collaborating on a conceptual art project, using the houses for creative outlets & experiments

A student explained this poem she'd written on this door: "It's about the feelings I get in this old place, the wind and the sea, and I imagine what it would be like if I grew up here"

The few villagers in neighboring houses appeared mystified by all this youthful activity with paint pens and colored tape. They raised their eyebrows, but didn't comment.

Once this was....a series of sinks?

Some abandoned homes had mesh to prevent curious animals - like us - from getting inside

A miniature shopping cart parked outside someone's side door

A gorgeous mural, much better than those cheap-looking atrocities in nearby Ma Wan Park

Old kayaks stored in a crumbling wall

A fistful of kayaks

Veranda with a view - for the entire village

A local lady finishes her day's work

As the sun set, I made my way back through the park to modern Park Island, with its concrete highrises.

Eventually ended up spearing my Park'n'Shop sushi with bamboo chopsticks, amazed at the clear evening view, next to dozens of families & teens who were spending their Saturday night in a very village-like past-time: fishing from the pier.