Paved with gold

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 August, 1999, 12:00am

He might have begun by painting on pavements, but it was not long before Walasse Ting began to charge for his work. The Wuxi-born New York-resident artist is now - thanks to mass production of posters - one of China's most easily recognisable artists.

A show, opened this week in the new Master Paintings and Antiques Gallery at 2 Ice House Street (Suite 108, St George's Building), shows Ting's work in another kind of not-quite-so mass production: lithographs.

The Master Paintings team has been busy this month: the gallery is also showing original lithographs by members of the CoBrA art group - at Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay until next Friday.

The movement is familiar to Hong Kong gallery-goers after an important show at the Museum of Art in February this year.

The group named itself in a Paris cafe at the end of 1948, using the first letters of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam - and the inspiring image of a dangerous snake.

Their first show caused riots: since then CoBrA art - which emphasises the simplicity of children's approaches to art and life, and the various joys of graffiti and primitive art - has become increasingly establishment.

Superficial display The Qidan nomads were not only astonishing horsemen, creating their own dynasty in China (the Liao) several centuries before their fierce Mongol neighbours.

They also had excellent taste in jewellery: with red-gold amber amulets, shiny horse bronzes and phoenix-crowns that seem, today, to come from a different world.

The University of Hong Kong has extended its show Adornment For The Body And Soul until this weekend - and the 11th-century ornaments from the Mengdiexuan collection are worth catching.

The curators have, however, fallen into the same trap that they tumbled into with their magnificent show of Buddhist pieces last year.

The pieces and the scholarship are superb - but the latter is sadly confined mostly to the catalogue.

What a waste to see carved amber plaques without the explanation that these are lotuses - symbols of both purity and summer. Or to see wrist protectors of luminous agate and dragon-engraved bone, without anything to explain the deep fascination the Qidan people had with the art of falconry, and the stories of how common people were allowed to tame eagles, but the prized grey falcons were for the elite.

The catalogue is there to be browsed, but it is not enough.

Cosmic controversy Professor Thomas Lin Yun is the founder of 'the Fourth Stage of Black Sect Tantric Buddhism'. It is one of the youngest offshoots of the ancient teachings of Buddha (and its precursor, the Bon religion), having been set up only 13 years ago - in California.

Professor Lin, who was born in Beijing, is a specialist not only in meditation but also in fung shui.

He is a controversial character: the Internet is inhabited by several disaffected former students who point out that Lin has filed down the art of geomancy from a subject that takes a lifetime to learn to one which requires a few hours, some dollars, and a few crystal balls (priced from $10 to $110 depending on model).

He has, however, thousands of followers who believe he has improved their lives.

Next week offers a chance for Hong Kong people to make up their own minds: a talk next Monday, in Mandarin and English, is free and will run from 6pm to 8pm at the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre, 40/F, One Pacific Place.