Spotlight on women

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am

Fringe Club boss Benny Chia has always maintained that the annual Fringe Festival develops certain themes spontaneously, not because he and his team have weeded out the contributions. It seems that this week the performing arts line-up is just crying out to be organised into a mini-festival of One-Woman Theatre.

Teresa Norton continues her ambitious nine-day run of The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe until Wednesday, and from next Thursday, Ida Kwong and Sian Jones battle it out with Jones' Love, Luck and Luvvies upstairs in the Studio, and Kwong's A Night in the Forest (II) - 34, 35, 36 There are Our Heavens, downstairs in La Cremeria Theatre.

Jones' autobiographical piece, described at more length opposite, tells how she trod the boards in the early part of this decade, before becoming a rather efficient PR woman for an American television network.

Kwong's piece deals with breast size. According to Kwong, breast size has long been a recognisable standard of female beauty and more women than would care to admit it worry about just how big is beautiful. Kwong has already presented this multi-media dance piece in New York, so she will know by now how best to cope with the audience participation she insists on in every performance. Anyone who wishes to is invited to come forward to share their 'feels'.

We can only hope this means private thoughts on bust size, rather than widespread groping.

There is even a one-woman visual art exhibition this week: the Hong Kong debut of Balinese artist Murni. Murni's subconscious is filled with images not of breasts, but feet. Feet are as taboo in her culture as breasts are in this one, and the feet in her work are aggressive, dangerous-looking creatures, with bared teeth instead of toes, and elephant tusks and trunks. The show runs until October 30 in the Nokia Gallery.

Not just horsing around Walasse Ting is arguably the most instantly recognisable painter of his generation. His glowing images of fish, women and particularly parrots are so familiar and accessible the artist has even toyed with the idea of launching a fashion label using his distinctive designs. Or perhaps that was a joke.

Ting is an old man now, but he remains one of the most life-affirming characters on the circuit. His latest exhibition at Alisan Fine Arts in Prince's Building, which opens tomorrow and runs until November 6, includes 25 of his most recent works, including several that have been exhibited at the Shanghai Art Museum.

These later works focus more on horses than his famous voluptuous images of women. Fans must draw their own conclusions about what this new direction expresses about the widowed artist, who has had a reputation in the past for enjoying the company of women.

Ting, who often writes quirky, almost nonsensical, commentaries to go with his catalogues, is returning to his native Shanghai this month to contribute to another group show at the art museum there.

Early in his career, Ting sold half a dozen paintings to Jardine's taipan John Keswick, for US$100 a piece. It was a lot of money at the time, and Ting was overwhelmed. Today, Keswick's heirs can thank that astute man for getting a real bargain. Ting's work is only available for those kind of prices in poster form these days.

Not so long ago, there were many collectors sniffing around local galleries for the same kind of great deal. Many new artists were able to charge (relatively) high prices to new collectors prepared to gamble on their taste matching that of posterity.

Avant-garde flop However, if the results of Christie's auction of Asian Avant-Garde in London this week are any indication, it is far too early to expect much return on those high-risk investments. The sale, which included some interesting work by some of the most popular Chinese pop artists, such as Zhao Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, and installation pieces by Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese artists, was a painful flop. Less than 20 per cent of the lots were sold. The best Christie's could say was that the sale had been 'highly commented on'.