Long time no see... (+René Magritte)

It's April! 

Gosh time flies even when you are suffering through the mudslide of grades, homework and the flood of college results of your own and your friends. 

I realize that I hadn't been blogging for nearly 3 months and I figured it is time for me to come back and start blogging again! Since the end of January, a lot of good things happened in my life, one of which is my first-choice college acceptance- I'm going to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts next school year! I am so very excited to start this new journey and of course continue to blog about art even in Boston. I think I am going to be coming back to Beijing and Tokyo quite often during the breaks so I hope I will be able to continue to blog about Asian contemporary art as well! 

During the consecutive Chinese new year break and the spring break, i visited various museums and galleries around Beijing and some in Hakone and Tokyo. I went to a big-scaled exhibition of the Belgian Surrealist artist, René Magritte. Literally every work that I've seen from him was all there in the National Art Center in Roppongi, Tokyo- including the rough pen sketch of his famous The Treachery of Images (a.k.a/ "This is not a pipe" painting) and the Lovers series. 

One thing I noticed about Japanese exhibitions is that exhibition tend to be full in terms of both the audience and how the artwork is displayed. There were (probably) over 200 pieces by Magritte jammed inside a very small exhibition space, making the space between each work extremely narrow. Because the exhibition was a major exhibition that was advertised everywhere around Tokyo, there were so many people visiting even on Thursday when we visited. Because the paintings were literally just hang on the walls with equal distance from one another throughout the exhibition, it was a bit boring and tedious to walk through crowds of people in front of each work but I'd say it was so worth it because I thought the paintings were so amazing. 

Magritte's famous for his surreal and strange paintings that play with dimensions, proportions and colors. 

The Human Condition (image from Wikipedia)

The Human Condition (image from Wikipedia)

One of many favorites from this exhibition was a painting of a canvas titled the Human Condition, which depicts a canvas that reflects the landscape seen from the window behind the canvas. As a result, the canvas becomes something that looks transparent and partially invisible. I think the artist's virtuosity to create depth and the lack of depth is visible in how he tricks the viewers' eyes and it's interesting to see how Magritte turned the object into something that is both the reality and the representation of reality. In this way, this painting is quite similar to the Treachery of Images which focuses on the relationship between image and language. 

Magritte seems to really love confusing the audience as seen in the piece, the Empire of Light. 

The Empire of Light (image from wikipedia)  Is it night or day? 

The Empire of Light (image from wikipedia) 

Is it night or day? 

As much as I loved the paintings, I didn't like how the museum displayed the works chronologically in the order of the years of creation, for it made it harder to see the connection between the works he created in different time periods. But Magritte's constant use of the same motifs was visible throughout his career and it was easy to notice how the motifs changed throughout his life. He often used the same motifs of clear sky, a mysterious man with a top hat, words and umbrellas... but it seems like they represented different things during different times of his life. 

His style also changed dramatically during the years of world war, which was easy to see because of the chronological arrangement of this exhibition. 

I remember one of the curators of the Ullens museum telling me that a good curator takes the risk to select and arrange artwork in non-chronological way. Perhaps it's because the museum is a national, state-owned museum why the pieces were arranged in this safe, chronological manner. 

Anyway, I was so lucky to have the opportunity to see so many of Magritte's work in person (and for free- Thursday was highschooler's day)! I also went to see the Louvre exhibition in the same museum, so I will write up that in a later entry!