I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday break and is looking forward to New Years! I have been staying with family in London England for the past week and will return to Toronto on January 5th. At this exact moment, I am taking a quick side trip to Paris, a city I haven't visited in about ten years. The weather in London and Paris have been relatively mild compared to Toronto!
In addition to enjoying time with family, I have been going to as many museums as I can in both cities. There are some very good Asian art exhibitions at the moment, and I hope to write more about them in upcoming blogs. So far the special exhibitions I have visited include:
Shadow Puppet Theatre from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand at the British Museum (September 8, 2016 - January, 29 2017)
Jade: From Emperors to Art Deco at the Guimet Museum (October 19, 2016 - January 16, 2017)
Ascetics, Sultans and Maharajas: Indian pages of the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, at the Guimet Museum (October 19, 2106 - February 13, 2017)
Walasse Ting (1918-2010): Les Voleurs de Fleurs at the Cernuschi Museum (October 27, 2016 - February 26, 2017)
I'll leave you with some of the fantastic shadow puppets I saw at the British Museum. This art form is still very active in South East Asia, and the exhibition displays works from Indonesia, Java, Malaysia and Thailand from 300 years ago to present day. They are an important category of regional folk theatre, and often tell stories from Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. These tales are epic in nature and feature gods, heroes, monsters, and demons. All of the characters are masterfully constructed by top craftsmen and contain amazing detail and bright colours.
1. Characters from 'Arunja Wiwaha', Java, 17th/18th Century
Arunja (middle figure in gold with bow and arrow) is an aesthetic who is presented multiple challenges by the Hindu gods to test his devotion. In this scene, he is ordered to take down the massive ogre Niwatakawaca. Arunja is accompanied by his two clown henchmen.
2. Detail of the ogre Niwatakawaca, wonderfully crafted with hide, horn and gold leaf
3. Three images of Ravana from the epic Hindu poem 'The Ramayana'. The figure on the left is 18th Century Java, while the other two are first half 20th Century from Bali and Malaysia respectively. Ravana is the demon king and villain of the story as he kidnaps Sita, Rama's wife. Rama goes on a long 500 chapter journey to rescue Sita, while encountering many challenges and interesting characters.
4. Two figures, Sammy and Patrick, from a contemporary shadow puppet show 'Wayang Hip Hop' (2010) by Catur Kuncoro. This story deals with modern social and political issues through the use of hip hop and comedy. They are still constructed with the traditional hide and horn material.