Ai Weiwei Exhibit at the AGO

Ai Weiwei art retrospective at the AGO According to What? from Wicked and Weird

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting my brother- and sister-in-law, who were in town from Kelowna.  There was much food and wine, but we also classed it up with a visit to the AGO to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit before it closed (yesterday).  I am SO happy that I got to see it, it really was amazing.

[Warning: this post got kinda looooong.]

Ai Weiwei is probably best known for being a thorn in the Chinese government's side; I first heard of him during the Olympics when he used the public platform given to him as the designer of the show-stopping "Bird's Nest" stadium to loudly denounce China's record of human rights.  He has been incarcerated, had his studio destroyed, kept under 'house arrest', followed, interrogated, and been beaten to the point of a brain hemorrhage by Chinese authorities.  As you can imagine, his art is completely intertwined with his political sentiments.  I expected to be moved by the messages in his art, but was not prepared to be so moved by the art itself.  It was beautiful, warm, meticulously crafted and aesthetically enchanting.

In most of his works, Weiwei uses traditional Chinese materials and techniques in new, and often subversive ways.  The top left image is of his piece Teahouses, 2011 which consists of three precisely packed and positioned houses made out of tea leaves.  Each house weighs one ton (and needed to be installed by a structural engineer).  The smell of the tea is beautiful, and the effect of standing before such an imposing and heavy piece that is made out of miniscule scented dried leaves is confounding.

Beside it is a close-up of what was an enormous, long piece.  It was created out of Chinese iron wood pillars from a dismantled Qing Dynasty temple.  The pillars (it looks like there were eight?) were fused together using traditional Chinese joinery techniques with no nails or screws holding them together.  This homage to Chinese history and craftsmanship is juxtaposed with a machine-cut detailed outline of China that runs the entire length of the pillars.  As my four-year-old would say "How the HECK...??"  It is oh so beautiful.

Below are enormous traditionally built cabinets made of huali wood (from the quince tree).  The glow and grain of the wood is incredible - if I had been allowed to touch the art I think I might have rubbed my face on it.  What can I say, I love wood.  Below you can see a close-up looking through the holes at the centre; somehow using positive and negative space, the cabinets lined up together show all of the phases of the moon, which is the basis for the Chinese zodiac calendar.

Lastly is a massive snake that was positioned just outside the entrance to the show made of 5,000 backpacks, representing the 5,000 children lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  Most of these children were killed when their schools, built by a cheap government with absolutely no building codes or safety inspections, collapsed around them.  When the government refused to acknowledge the disaster, take responsibility for the shoddy building construction, or even bother recovering the names of those who died, Weiwei went to the site of the tragedy and launched a door-to-door campaign to discover and honour the name of every single child that died in Sichuan. One wall of the exhibition was a memorial to them and showed every name, date of birth and date of death, while voice read them out one by one.

Another highly effective memorial to the victims of the earthquake is shown below, consisting of the cheap iron rebar found in the rubble of the schools and other buildings.  Weiwei's team painstakingly straightened each mangled bar and placed them together in an undulating river under the quote: "The tragic reality of today is reflected in the true plight of our spiritual existence.  We are spineless and cannot stand up straight." It was very powerful.

Ai Weiwei art retrospective at the AGO According to What? from Wicked and Weird

So I didn't realize that this post was going to be a long art essay on every piece in the show!  I will speed through the Coles Notes of the rest (doing their beauty and impact no justice).  Top left is a nod to the commercialization of the world with the Coke logo painted over an antique Han Dynasty urn: cheap modern advertising desecrating a work of art that had previously lasted centuries. Or is it that the bones and shaped of the past lie under and give structure to everything we do?  Or that the foundations of Chinese culture are strong and can withstand cheap decoration, unlike the bones of the buildings in Sichaun? Discuss amongst yourselves.  Also a nod to pop art a la Andy Warhol.

Bottom right is called Divina Proportione, referencing a drawing by da Vinci with the same name.  Again, his team put this together using only traditional craftsman techniques, which took them over a year to learn.  The joinery was mind-blowing, not to mention the complicated geometry required.  The beautiful wood is reclaimed huali wood, and what I wouldn't do to have one of these in my house... I drooled over them for a good long while.

Ai Weiwei retrospective at the AGO including Dropping Han Dynasty Urn

Above is two works: Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn (in which the artist drops a Han Dynasty urn) and Colored Vases in which, like the Coke urn above, ancient urns are dipped in cheap colourful paint from the bottom and the top.  Aside from the desecration of centuries-old urns, I thought these were quite pretty!  Sometimes I'm shallow that way...

Ai Weiwei AGO retrospective  He Wei 3000 crabs seen on Wicked and Weird

Above is the piece He Xie, 3,000 individually-painted porcelain crabs.  Apparently He Xei means river crab, but the sound of the words is very similar to that of the Mandarin pronunciation for "harmonization"- a Chinese government slogan and euphemism for censorship.  Weiwei had these crabs made in an economically-depressed village, with the hope of "giving them something to do and keeping the old way of making things alive." As a thank you gift for creating this amazing work of art, Weiwei had his studio destroyed and was thrown in jail.  Doesn't sound like a fair trade to me.

Thanks for reading all the way down here; I think you have probably gathered at this point that I really liked the show and admire the strength of Weiwei's convictions.  I wish I had gone earlier and could tell you all to run out and see it, but alas, it has moved on.  I am not sure if his installations are still on display at Nathan Philips Square?  I didn't get to see those but heard that they are also quite impressive!  Did anyone else catch this show?  What did you think?

Competitive Home Decor

Beautiful Inspiration from Wicked and Weird for clean fresh bright bathroom
Click to see source on Pinterest

It finally is starting to feel like fall around here, which is great.  Not great because I love fall, (November is the most miserable month of the year, in my opinion), but because with the lovely warm September and October, I found myself outside watching the kids in the playground, going for bike rides and walks, and generally soaking up every last morsel of sun and warmth like someone scarfs down caramel cheesecake knowing she is starting a diet the next day.

beautiful living room inspiration from Wicked and Weird for rich saturated colour
Click to see source on Pinterest
The cool rainy weekend spent inside revved up my nesting instincts again, but more importantly forced me to acknowledge the house reno/flip next door that has been going on all summer is coming to a close, and that said house is starting to put our house to shame. As they paint the trim and stucco the foundation, I suddenly notice all our cracked paint and crumbling mortar.  As they spray the ceiling of the front porch a nice clean grey, I see that ours is yellowed and peeling.  As they landscape the back yard, I realize that I haven't weeded in months and my outdoor rug looks like the bottom of a shoe.  By the time they list the house it will no doubt be clear to me that have no choice but to undertake a COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF OUR HOUSE.

... funny, the hubster is on the other side of town, but I could swear I just heard him groaning...?

Anyway, hopefully this new-found competition/inspiration will result is some fun blogging.  In the meantime I leave you with some of my more recent Pinterest pins, because a blog post with no images is a sad blog post indeed, and I ain't showing you my house beside their house.

beautiful dark kitchen window with brass hardware from Wicked and Weird
Click to see source on Pinterest
Click to see source on Pinterest
Emily Henderson living room inspiration from Wicked and Weird
Click to see source on Pinterest
Emily Henderson bedroom inspiration found on Wicked and Weird
Click to see source on Pinterest

Bathroom mural ideas

The other day Jen at Rambling Renovators posted a link to a mural she liked that led me to the Canadian website  What an awesome site!  They specialize in historic, and I assume royalty-free prints for your home in large sizes, including wall mural decals.  I could lose myself for hours on their site, and their blog, but when I came across this painting above in the wall mural section, my imagination went a bit crazy.

A Dreamy Bathroom

These are my colours - muted blues, greys, a hint of green, and cream.  While I would be thrilled to have this on just about any wall of my house, for some reason it got me thinking bathrooms - perhaps because I could imagine lounging in a soaker tub gazing out enormous (but well-insulated) windows looking over a stormy sea like the one pictured.  What?  You don't have daydreams like that?  Weird.

Anyway, I spent much too much time flitting about the web, collecting items for my dream bath.  Of course the room is enormous, because to me the epitome of luxury is a huge bathroom (that and a walk-in closet).  I ended up with so many ideas I had to do a couple of boards.

Go with the Design Flow

Here's the funny thing: these boards looked WAY less alike in my head as I was doing them than they ended up. I started out with two completely different people in mind, but when I look at them together I sort of did the same room twice.  Not sure if that means I have a distinct style, or that I have no imagination. :)

Also, neither room looks quite like the ideal image I had in my head when I saw the painting.  It could be that this is where mood boards don't quite capture the essence of a room.  However, I also think that this is true to life in any design - you start with a concept and in fleshing it out you adapt it to the things you find and the pieces available, and it sort of modulates along the way.  I quite love how both the rooms represented above turned out! 

What do you think?  Is it better to stick more closely to an original idea - staying absolutely true to it - or to let the design take on a life of its own during the process - at the risk of losing the original thread?  I guess it would depend on the client, and the level of attachment they or you have to the original plan, or aspect of the plan.  Oh the things I waste my time thinking about...

PS. I have sources for all the stuff if you are interested.  Recognize the Turkish towels and hooks in the second board?  They are from Emma's bathroom on The Marion House Book!