Beijing, 19 August 2012

When I received an invitation for my wife and I to attend the 15th Beijing Art Expo 2012, I felt a thrill of pleasurable anticipation. The invitation announced that the exhibition would cover 10,000 square metres, with art works from more than 80 galleries and art agencies, from 16 countries and areas. But yesterday afternoon, when we entered the exhibition my heart sank. I recognized that we had visited the exhibition two years ago and had been underwhelmed by what we saw. I feared the same again.

Unfortunately, I was right. The art being shown was either pretentious crap or sucrose. I gritted my teeth and systematically worked my way from booth to booth. Hope springs eternal. But there was absolutely nothing worth looking at. So depressing …

And then I came across two booths which were exhibiting Russian art. This is not actually the first time I’ve come across Russian art being exhibited in Beijing. I find this art quite refreshing. For the most part the paintings are quiet, reflective views of rural life, with vistas of fields, village buildings, and farming folk just doing what they need to do. There are also some townscapes and seascapes. They remind me very much of the early pictures the impressionist painted in the 1860s and early 1870s, before they began to use a brighter palette.

beijing art expo 2012

The intriguing thing is that much of this art was painted in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, so when the Soviet Union still existed and so when art was closely controlled. Were these officially endorsed artists? But it doesn’t seem very “communist” art. Were they then “alternative artists”? I have to follow up on this. Watch this space.

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I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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