‘Small but Impressive’ is probably the perfect caption for ARTJOG for those who have yet to visit this annual art event. Art collector and Member of the Council of National Gallery Australia (NGA), Jason Yeap invited a few art friends from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia to join him to visit this year’s exhibition in Jogjakarta with the theme ‘Changing Perspective’. Jason co-hosted a dinner at Black Goat Studios with special guest Kirsten Paisley, Deputy Director of NGA who gave a very inspiring speech on why Australia should consider Indonesian art. ARTJOG saw 73 local and international artists exhibiting hundreds of works at the Jogja National Museum. Among the artists were Angki Purbandono,Nicholas Saputra, Agus Suwage, I Nyoman Masriadi, Tromarama and Agan Harahap.
“My visits to Serengeti during these early parts of the year are undoubtedly my favourite; it coincides with the breathtaking scenes of Wildebeests gathering in huge concentrations and the dropping of their young in a miraculous, synchronised birthing.”
In Ben Chow-Battersby’s latest foray into the wondrous world of Tanzania’s Serengeti we are again privileged to partake in another surreal experience. This time it is the spectacle of the Wildebeest calving. From late January through to February the great herds of Wildebeest arrive in the midst of southern Serengeti’s lush short grasslands where most of the females give birth within the same 2 to 3 week period.
As part of Ben’s holistic and passionate approach towards studying all aspects of the Wildebeest migrations, this immersion into the poignant moments of the calves’ first throes of life has provided Ben with a wealth of invaluable knowledge.
“It wasn’t just the sight of the mass birthing – which is spectacular in itself – but the discovery of the calving structure and the complexities in behaviour amongst the Wildebeest social groups that was fascinating. I was able to observe the tell-tale signs of the birthing spectacle and this final trip elevated my understanding of the Wildebeests’ way of life to a very intimate level.”
One of the most vivid experiences was witnessing the delicate juxtaposition of life and death. Within minutes of birth the calves are able to stand on its own and trot alongside their mothers. However, with the imminent threat of prowling predators such as hyenas, lions and cheetahs many of the Wildebeests become easy prey, even in the relative ‘safety’ of the short grasslands.
Accompanying Ben on this expedition was Ali McCann – a Melbourne based visual artist and arts educator who was able to lend her penetrating gaze in the pursuit of recreating the awe-inspiring moments of the Wildebeest calving.
“It was such a fantastic opportunity to explore wildlife photography; something I had not explored in great depth in my photographic work until now. I felt as though I was learning so much about the entire African ecosystem on each daily adventure with Ben,” says McCann.
As the newborn Wildebeest calves make their way through the Grumeti and Mara rivers with the rest of their herd, the uplifting and irrepressible sense of new life permeates the air. And just as the calves create a new life for themselves, Ben’s upcoming book detailing the stunning intricacies of the Wildebeests’ annual migration will embark on a journey of its own.
‘A crane reminds him of the Song Dynasty poet, Lin Pu, a recluse and crane fancier who calls cranes his children – a somber bird, Ming Dynasty’s ill fated Pa Da Shan Ren or Zhu Da. who painted and drank his royal life away, saddened by the politics of the Dynasty. “His birds were arrogant, sad and defiant.”(TC. Lai)
So much has been written on Ding Yanyong, from scholars of art to authors, critics and adored students. His life can be read in many publications from Commercial Galleries where he exhibited to Museums and Government Art Galleries.
His works have been collected by hundreds of students and collectors, now worldwide, but there was a time when he gave his works to his best student and friend, Mok E Den of Hong Kong to sell them to anyone as he needed finance. If only I knew him then!
I attended an exhibition of Chinese Art at the Chinese Department, University of Melbourne, headed by Professor Harry Simon in the 1970’s. It included Ding Yanyong’s one painting, of a bird. It struck me as someone, so comical and simple, inferring a subject more serious, symbolic of certain human conditions. A crane reminds him of the Song Dynasty poet, Lin Pu, a recluse and crane fancier who calls cranes as his children – a somber bird, Ming Dynasty’s ill fated Pa Da Shan Ren or Zhu Da, who painted and drank his royal life away, saddened by the politics of the Dynasty. “His birds were arrogant, sad and defiant.”(TC. Lai)
Ding, came to Melbourne Australia on our invitation to exhibit his paintings. He could not speak much English but fortunately, I could speak Cantonese. There were no hotels in 1975 with Chinese staff, so he stayed with me.
One morning he was excited by a rare sound near the house, saying, “even the birds in Australia know my name. They keep calling me Ding, ding and ding,” the call of the bell birds in the bush, it made him so happy!
That year 1976 he demonstrated his art in the National Gallery of Victoria, to a fascinated and skeptic mixed crowd of art lovers. At the conclusion, they were stunned by him and his chain-smoking performance. He never spoke, just painted for an hour, after which he demanded Australian ice-cream to cool him. He donated some paintings to the Gallery. That year he sold out two Exhibitions of works, in Melbourne and Sydney but it had no effect on him, he just loved to paint. At dinner or lunch he would scribble on napkins, even thetablecloth, while he talked, and I never salvaged any of them!
His subjects varied from ludicrous, opera figures to Buddhist monks, world weary warriors to gigantic landscapes and the birds and flowers theme. But most inspiring of all were his 1-pi works of cranes, cats, rabbits and rarely figures. 1-pi painting means using ink and brush to paint a subject with only one line, without ever lifting one’s brush off the paper, till accomplished. The ink has to last and not run out or the single line be broken. Ding’s Crane was most extraordinary and so accomplished, it is difficult to fault.
Today I wonder what Ding would think of the prices, he is achieving in auction, in Japan, Hong Kong, China, America, Europe and Australia. The National Gallery of Victoria boasts a collection, with gratitude toJason Yeap of Mering Corporation Ltd. who recognised Ding’s talent and donated many works.
Ding Yanyong has a niche in 20th/21st century of Chinese Art.