Sumo culture from the inside

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 February, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 February, 1993, 12:00am

TWENTY years ago, a major Tokyo department store, eager for a ''real'' New York fashion artist, invited one over.

Less than a month later, the guest illustrator saw her first sumo match and found herself captivated by the huge men.

So began a new chapter in an already remarkable career as Lynn Matsuoka - famed not only for her fashion work, but her coverage of the Watergate trials - assumed a mantle she has worn ever since: sumo's court painter.

''Sumo is a culture within a culture and there is something truly magnificent about these people,'' Matsuoka recently told the Asian Wall Street Journal.

In 1979 she married one of her heroes - they had two children and later divorced - and still retains his name.

''She is the only artist in Japan permitted to sketch the sumo wrestlers before their matches,'' notes Carlos Prata of the Hanlin Gallery, Pacific Place. He has done his homework for a good reason. In honour of this weekend's sumo tournaments, Hanlin is exhibiting A Privileged View: Paintings by Lynn Matsuoka.

Their subjects include several of the giants who will be performing their own art at the Hongkong Coliseum.

SPECIAL cases, allowing complete temperature and humidity control, were built for the exhibits showing at the Museum of Art, Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, till February 12.

The special care was warranted: the 69 pieces, from the 270-piece collection of Mrs and Mrs John Rockefeller III, include some of the world's finest and rarest Asian antiques.

Among the Treasures of Asian Art are stone and bronze sculptures from India, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand, illustrated manuscripts from India, paintings and ceramics from China, Korea and Japan, and several examples of porcelains from the Yuan and Ming Dynasties.

Lectures by distinguished art historians are being given in conjunction with the exhibition.

''XIAO Yi is a sculptor with a tough act to follow,'' notes the latest release from Alisan Fine Arts, Prince's Building.

As a former student of Ju Ming, one of China's foremost sculptors, 36-year-old Xiao certainly does have plenty to live up to - and is succeeding very well.

''Some of his best work ever,'' Alisan says of his recent wood pieces. Showing along with them are the paintings of Shan-Shan Sheng, who at 35, is regarded as one of Taiwan's most accomplished exponents of abstract expressionism.

Impressionist paintings can also be seen this month at the J.R. Guettinger Gallery at the Fringe, Lower Albert Road.

These are by Fan Chang Jiang, vice-chairman of Shanghai's Oriental Art Association, and long-time fan of Claude Monet.

The French influence can be clearly seen in Fan's work, yet it has a distinctive charm of its own as the artist reveals in his latest series, Reverie and Romance.