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Almost all the senses

The older I get, the more I'm able to appreciate going to art galleries. I used to complain that I didn't know what to look for. Do I just stare at the painting and experience it holistically or should I dissect every brush stroke?

Luckily, with the aid of recorded guides via walkman-like devices, I can now listen to an art critic introduce and analyse the paintings in front of me. Music often accompanies the introduction, and this changes the entire experience of visiting special exhibitions.

Today I dragged my friend from San Diego to see "Masters of Colour: Derain to Kandinsky" at the Royal Academy of Arts. 80 masterpieces from the private collection of the Merzbacher couple are on loan until 17 November 2002. The exhibition could also be appropriately subtitled "From impressionism to expressionism."

After two hours of walking through four galleries and 80 paintings, I felt as if I had time travelled through not just a century of art but also geography, history, and colour. From the timid, subdued colours of the impressionists, emerged the bold colours of the Fauvists, and onto different schools of thought and experimentation of expression.

Was it Emil Nolde or Paul Klee who said,"I paint not what I see, but what I feel" ?

By now, my friend was getting hungry. So I took him to Chinatown, where I insisted on eating at the new and only restaurant in London that served Shanghainese cuisine. Being the second time there, I soon became disappointed. Nevertheless, the tastes and smells soon satisfied our hunger.

Next, we walked over the bridge to South Bank Centre, where a friend of an ex-colleague was giving her debut performance in the Purcell Room. She sang against piano accompaniment, followed later by violin and bouzouki. Such melodious songs, they were music to our ears! The concert was sold out with our tickets.

Once again, London has proved itself to be the place for culture vulture or sensual indulgence. I, for one, had pleased almost all of my senses by the end of the evening.

1 September 2002 Sunday

Soumaya Deeb, Mar 2001
(click to enlarge)
Soprano Soumaya Deeb, seated 2nd left, back.
Royal Academy of Arts
South Bank Centre: Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room
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