Joe Wright’s Brilliant Eye for Composition: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

There’s no questioning Joe Wright’s incredible talent in directing films. If you’ve seen at least Pride and Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), Anna Karenina (2012) and Pan (2015), it’s impossible not to notice his keen eye for artistic details for scriptwriting, character development, scene interpretation, dramatic lighting, shot composition and spatial awareness.

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This is the main reason why this is one of my all-time favourite films despite its historical inaccuracy and lack of faithfulness to the original book by Jane Austen. It’s more of an artistic interpretation rather than simply a film adaptation of a classic. If one prefers a perfect dramatisation of the book, BBC has done a great job in producing Pride & Prejudice (1995), a six-episode British TV drama. But hey, Joe didn’t direct this movie in order to create a duplicate film and that what makes his’ outstanding. I’ve pointed out a few commendable skills and aesthetics I admire about Joe:

Joe’s cinematography is like a love letter to the English landscapes. He has always wanted the character’s proximity to landscape and nature as close as possible especially Elizabeth who was shooting for the stars with her risk of being with Mr. Darcy. He finds it heroic for the lead character to have her feet on the ground and end up achieving her pursuit for romantic interest.

This is one of those films with multiple point of views were taken into consideration. Everyone has become a spectator and a victim at some point. I believe that Joe has consciously included voyeurism as an artistic approach in order to deeply understand what the character’s are going through and how they perceive the events in their surroundings.

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Joe as a director is very meticulous, he has admitted his like to minutiae, his obsession to details of everyday life, and I think it’s commendable to be this particular for a film. The trivial things he included makes the entire film deeper and more meaningful as you watch it over and over again. The rustic and plainness feel of the Bennet’s everyday things, the simplicity of their house decors, the kinds of food they serve on their table, and the differences in the gestures of different societal classes, all reveals a lot about who they really are.

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In terms of characters and their developments, he has portrayed their individualities, choice of words, expressions, familiarity in relationships, familial habits and the evolution of their character’s costume design.

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I will just leave this quote right here which perfectly describe how the costume design has been created for this film:

“I find empire line dresses are very ugly, so I did some research. Although the novel was published in 1813, Jane Austen wrote her first draft of “Pride and Prejudice”, then called “First Impressions”, around 1797. So we used the fashions of the earlier period, where the waist on dresses was lower and more flattering. When Caroline Bingley appears, she would obviously be wearing the latest creation. But Mrs. Bennet’s dresses are earlier than 1797, and Lady Catherine’s are even earlier, because those two would have best clothes from previous years in their wardrobe.“

(Joe Wright, Director)

Costumes are one of the best, easily spotted, telling things in a movie but often to differentiate between characters. In Pride and Prejudice (2005), it’s used to show the evolution of a character. It was mind blowing when I first noticed it years ago and it stuck to me until today.

Throughout the film, Mr. Darcy has evolved from a proud, snobbish and reserved gentleman, to apologetic, humbling and expressive fellow towards Elizabeth. His expressions and body gestures have drastically changed too. He started to smile and be more courageous in being open as an individual and his clothes reveal this change. From his uptight collar in the beginning, to his unbuttoned and loose shirt in the end.

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Joe has also portrayed how a common family like the Bennet’s would normally act on everyday life. Their unrefined table manners completely shows the difference between classes in society but also shows the deep familiarity between family members who care about each other.

Hands are also one of the most important tellings signs in the film. Physical contact was kept to a minimum and Joe has taken in great consideration the importance of showing hand gestures to portray the meaning and expressions of each character involved. It’s astounding how electrifying every scene has been portrayed shooting different emotions at play.

 The dance scene that is one of the most important scenes in the entire film. This is where the conflict has arises. In a time where physical contact can only happen through the dance, dancing is a very intimate activity between a couple. It’s sensual, electric and full of charge in a short time period of dancing in a very formal structure. The sexual chemistry between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth was present and very much alive while exchanging sarcastic remarks. There were so many factors at play in this scene and unconsciously, their relationship leaped from merely acquaintances to troubled couple-in-the-making while doubting their own prejudice against each other.

Again, Joe used voyeurism in order for the audience to intrude at this particular intimate moment between the couple. The camera angle didn’t change all throughout the dance and was carefully following Elizabeth as she twirls and moves around the hall. Following the first few sequences, the intensity of the scene became more tensed as the music increased its volume and intensity. Their witty and sarcastic remarks grew more fierce as they exchange sharper gaze against each other. And finally, the intensity reached its peak as the confrontation between the two stopped them from continuing the dance. The particular camera angle and technique has lead to inspire the entire movie of Anna Karenina (2012).

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This film overall is circular. It’s definitely not one of those films that has an open ending. It completely starts and ends with a sunrise as it open and closes the chapter of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

Joe’s comprehensive take in composition of the entire film is both admirable and commendable. His great deal in aesthetic and obsession with details in every angle and every aspect are very impressive. I hope he makes more films as thoughtful as this and he needs more recognition in his field. I can’t wait to watch his upcoming film The Darkest Hour (2017) which will be released this year.

*Source: All images were taken from my favourite Tumblr blog Pemberley-state-of-mind.tumblr.com

NGV: Whistler’s Mother

Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1871), one of the most iconic paintings in the world, was exhibited in NGV, Whistler’s Motheralong with the artist’s and other Australian painters’ works that were highly influenced by Whistler’s art.

The original title of the famous painting is Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1, which refers to the exploration of form and colour rather than the portrait of his mother present in the painting. The original title was also inspired by the abstract form of music, with the use of “Arrangement of… No.1” a standard title commonly used in classical music.

It is quite surprising that a masterpiece popularly referred to as a portrait was not originally intended to be a portrait painting at all. The solid blocks of colours, the proportional alignment of each block, and the combination of warm and dark tones portrays Whistler’s strong geometric composition on this painting. It is also important to note that Whistler’s mother’s dress is a block of solid black colour, which is one of the abstract elements that he included.

Interesting though, Alfred Barr, director of MOMA in New York back in 1943, pointed out a mind blowing fact about this painting. He wrote that, without the image of the mother, this large-scale painting is, “a composition of rectangles… not very different from the abstract Composition in white, black and red [1936] painted by [Piet] Mondrian.” He then referred to this painting as a precursor of modern abstract art. 

IMG_6599Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1871)

All my life, like most people who have seen this painting, I looked at its biographical aspect and ignored its existing visibly abstract elements. It could be due to my lack of formal art trainings and my limited exploration of my interest to visual art which has always been finitely intrapersonal. Visiting this exhibit has sparked my curiosities of further understanding behind the visual elements of an art piece, the outspoken message it communicates and the admirable skill and personal history of the artist.

Staring at this large-scale painting alone, exhibited solely in one large room, while all spotlights illuminating only it, was so dramatic, it’s moving. The overwhelming feeling I had when I first laid my eyes on Juan Luna’s Spoliarium (1884) suddenly hit me again. Its grandeur, magnificence and emotional artistic value are undeniably present.

The layout of the entire exhibit itself was carefully crafted that it started introducing the early life of the artist, his life journey, his relationship with his mother and the meaningful backstories that eventually lead him to create such masterpiece. The layout was highly commendable for the dramatic effect it created for every visitor.


James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) is an American master artist who was born in Massachusetts, USA. His family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1843 after the inglorious period of US Military Academy. In 1955, he trained in Paris as a painter for four years before moving to London. He created several works before his commendable masterpiece, Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1871), has been recognised as aestheticism, an art form which has a combination of realist and formalist elements.

Source: NGV Whistler’s Mother

 

 

 

Melbourne: Collins St x St Patrick’s Cathedral

In the arts and fashion capital of Australia, it is expected to see a long stretch of little Paris at the eastern side of Collins St, which is locally referred to as “Paris End”. Collins St. is major street in Central Melbourne that is notable for its history. It is still the home to all major designer and prestige brands, high-end retailers, and it used to be the centre of finance in Australia. The original architecture of every building is mostly preserved like any other streets in the city of Melbourne.

Walking along Collins St. towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I snapped a handful shots of the glamorous Collins St post-edited with creamy, vintage-looking effect as a reminiscent of its early history.

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Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei

It is such a privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a major international exhibition featuring the late pop icon Andy Warhol and political artist Ai Weiwei. Being the two of the most significant artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, I was so thrilled when I first heard the news (a year before the start of the exhibition) that the National Gallery of Victoria has teamed up with The Andy Warhol Museum, in cooperation with Ai Weiwei, to organise such event.

The major exhibition explores the influences of both artists in modern art and contemporary life, which focuses on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists’ practices. Due to transportation, gallery’s area and other limitations to consider, not all iconic artworks of the artists have been exhibited at NGV for this particular event. Nevertheless, over 300 artworks of both artists’ significant contributions that delivered evocative messages were curated, which lead to my cultivation towards their remarkable life-long journeys. (National Gallery of Victoria)

I’ll start exploring the journey of Andy, who’s art I’m the least a fan of amongst the two. Ai’s extensive, massive and evocative installations beat Andy’s flat, complacent and mass-produced paintings. Ai’s works cover as far back as Ancient China up to the latest societal issues. But to be fair, Andy’s audacity and unconventional art practices have defined a new era of revolutionary artists and may have majorly contributed to Ai’s bold, dissident style.

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andyAndy Warhol carrying a Brillo Soap Pads Box photograph by Billy Name

I first heard of Andy Warhol when I got into Advertising. I wasn’t talking about the time I majored in the field in college, but the time I got really interested in the history and admired the glory days of the industry back in mid-40’s. (cue Mad Men’s theme – TV Series) One of Andy’s famous paintings is called the Campbell Soup Cans (1962) series in which he hand-painted each can of the product, arranged each variety according to its date of release, and observed uniformity through merchandising in grocery shelves.

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The Campbell Soup Cans (1962) is the epitome of Andy’s style when it comes to paintings. Detailed, commercial, low-cost, and mass-produced, similar to the popular products he took inspirations from. His silkscreen medium allow him and his assistants to instantly produce similar huge paintings in a short period of time.

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Another famous series of paintings by Andy is his tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, which he created after the iconic actress’ death. He used a single photograph from the 1953 film Niagara as reference to re-create an entire series as a form of “..memorial and as a reflection of the media’s insatiable appetite for celebrity and tragedy.” (NGV Label of The Three Marilyns 1962)

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The Marilyn Diptych (1962) contains fifty images of Marilyn Monroe. Twenty-five images on the left are brightly coloured while the other twenty-five are in black and white, that suggests the relation between the celebrity’s life and death. The particular painting above is currently owned by Tate and unfortunately was not part of the NGV Exhibit.

IMG_6169Andy Warhol – Filmography 

Most people would associate Andy with the expression “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and his popular talk show “Fifteen Minutes” which aired from 1985-1987. Through my readings, I’ve seen at least three different interpretations for this famous expression:

  1. German art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh suggests that Andy’s style invalidates the hierarchies worthy to be represented, and once abolished, will be an opportunity for everyone to be famous; Or
  2. Fifteen Minutes represent the limited time a celebrity can only be famous; Or
  3. Due to the technological advancement and level of accessibility of today’s society, anyone can actually be virtually famous. (Wiki: Fifteen Minutes of Fame)

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I also came across different articles refuting the expression’s origin to be the words of Andy. The critics have suggested that the famous phrase was actually taken from the text of an exhibition brochure written by the curator rather than Andy himself. He tried to honestly confess the truth through interviews but it was too late. The society has already branded the expression as his and still continue to do so today.

Screen Tests (1964)

Throughout his career, celebrities, poets, musicians, socialites and other personalities posed for a short film at his legendary studio in Manhattan, the Silver Factory. The films capture the actions of the subjects at natural state and let the viewers interpret whatever narrative they desire.The Silver Factory has attracted many prominent people and has become a space for Andy’s social scene. In a span of two years, Andy has shot over 500 Screen Tests, which he prolonged to imbue a dreamlike stillness. Some of these prominent people include: Cass Elliot, Ann Buchanan, Bob Dylan, Donyale Luna, Billy Linich and Jane Holzer.

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Silkscreen Paintings of Mao (1970’s)

Andy’s repetitive paintings of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong portrays media’s proliferations of the image and advertising’s promotion of consumers’ desire and identification. Andy created these paintings during the height of cultural revolution in China that has been a global media spotlight. Andy’s numerous works of Mao portray him as a pop-cultural icon during his time.

Andy’s other silkscreen paintings throughout his career that defines today’s definition of pop-culture.

The core of Andy’s career is the portrayal of American’s consumerism: Inexpensive, low-cost, mass-produced, charismatic and popular. His means and the final products of his works both satisfy his core, which are clearly seen through his inspirations and the media he utilised.

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Andy’s painting of Coca-Cola first appeared in 1961. Six years later, he coated Coca-Cola bottles with silver paint as representation of source material. Three years more,  Coca-Cola Company responded with a cease and desist letter when he expanded his project to 100 bottles and filled it with his own You’re In / Eau d’Andy’ (1970). Get it? You’re In…

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Andy did not only focus on the glamorous lifestyle of popular products and celebrities. One of his thought provoking artwork tackles the clash of American Dream and violence in America. Incorporating a tabloid style, gloomy and sombre, Andy replicated the photograph from a newspaper with a headline ‘Did a leak kill … Mrs McCarthy and Mrs Brown?’ referring to the two women killed due to expired canned tunas. In Tunafish Disaster (1963), Andy portrayed how consumer products actually failed its consumers.

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In Silver Clouds (1966) and Cow Wallpaper (1966), Andy expands his artistic style to a theatrical scale by offering an immersive experience that encourages participation through floating metalised polyester films propelled by air currents floating from the walls into space itself. This particular installation exemplifies his fascination with serial production and repetition of pop-cultural imagery. Andy’s deployment of modern manufacturing techniques served as an introduction to a whole new era of art installations.

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Ai Weiwei

A Chinese contemporary artist and activist, I first heard of Ai Weiwei during the preparation of Beijing 2008 Olympics when he collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron in designing The Birds Nest.

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However, my interest in Ai Weiwei’s life only began in 2011 when the international media caused a stir on his arrest at the Beijing International Airport. Initially reported as arrest due to incomplete presentation of documentation for travel, the media uncover his alleged tax evasion case. Ai Weiwei has been known for his online presence writing social commentary and criticising government policies aside from sticking to his autobiographies and thoughts on art and architecture. He has always been known for his bold and unapologetic nature which are then transmitted through his art.

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Personally, I believe that Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (2015) is the quintessential artwork of Ai Weiwei. As one of his iconic works captured in both in video and photographs, this particular performative action of holding, dropping and smashing a cultural heritage clearly demonstrates his critical engagement with China’s violent cultural tradition. It draws attention to the continuous desecration of cultural heritage. As shown in the photograph, these images were re-created in plastic blocks representing pixelated forms for the distribution of his powerful message in the digital platform. He originally wanted to use Lego blocks for his other works as well but the company refused to participate in his political activism.

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During the dynastic changes in China in an attempt to erase the past and start over with the new regimes, much of Buddhist statues dating from the Northern Wei (386–535 CE) to Northern Qi (550–577 CE) dynasties were looted and only a few pieces survived today. In Ai’s Feet (2005)he sculpted stone feet on these remaining statues to show that the past cannot easily be erased and eventually catch up with the present.

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At some point in his life, his audacity lead to his detention for 81 days. Every morning, he placed a bunch of flowers in the basket of a bicycle outside his studio and captured it on camera as a form of protest against his restriction to travel. He has posted images of these flowers on social media which emerged a movement called Flowers of Freedom.

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Ai Weiwei created this series in another art form through Bicycle Basket with Flowers Porcelain (2015) and Blossom (2015), this time, to protest against the restrictive rights of people through speech and human-rights. He collaborated with the skilled porcelain craftsmen from Jingdezhen province, whose predecessors once produced the highest quality of porcelain in Ancient China. Through this complex project, he has provided temporary employment to hundreds of people, whose livelihood has been declining through the years.

IMG_6087Blossom (2015) Bed of flowers made of porcelain

Ai Weiwei’s projects do not only focus on his bold actions against government policies and protests against restricted human rights, but he also continuously provides livelihood to the very victims of injustice. 

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Another perfect example would be the Sunflower Seeds (2010) which he created for his simple yet poetic exhibition. The extensive project has been collaborated again with approximately 1,600 skilled artisans of Jingdezhen producing over 150 tons of man-made Sunflower Seeds out of porcelain. Each piece have been individually hand-painted comprising of 2-3 strokes per side by the locals of the community and the entire project lasted for two and a half years.

Ai-Weiwei-Sunflower-Seeds-Still-from-Tate-video-9Image Source: Ai Weiwei Seeds

An excerpt from Ai’s Sunflower Seed’s website – Ai Weiwei Seeds – perfectly expresses the multiple yet simple meaning behind this project:

“For Ai Weiwei, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ is one piece of art that is composed of 100 million pieces of art. As a singular tiny sculpture, every seed is submerged by a hundred million ones with subtle nuances, similar yet each unique, just as 1,600 workers in Jingdezhen performing repetitive duties; as 1.3 billion Chinese, silent in the crowd; as every fragmented individual in this digital era. Through a sunflower seed, Ai Weiwei triggers a Domino effect, enlarging the lengthy, complicated and exquisite process by 100 million times. Devoting unimaginable patience, time and energy, he brings into focus the significance of individuals, and the imposing strength when they gather together.”

The video below shows the extensive and laborious process each Sunflower seed went through for this project:


Video Source: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds by Tate

 Ai retells his detention for 81 days back in 2011 through a series of dioramas entitled S.A.C.R.E.D. Maquettes (2011). The acronym stands for  Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy and Doubt, which are the six parts of this series that are all made of fibreglass. It depicts scenes at the cell where he was imprisoned without charges that serve as evidences of oppression, denial of personal freedom and loss of dignity, he and several victims went through.

IMG_6141One of the dioramas in the series. It clearly portrays his lack of privacy and dignity throughout his time at the detention cell.

Ai do not only portray his messages through sculptures, print and dioramas, but he also take in consideration the type of material used in each masterpiece to deliver his evocative messages.

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In Surveillance Camera (2010), Ai’s practice of incorporating traditional materials in addressing contemporary cultural issues is evident. By using traditional marble to portray the elevated status of a significant artefact in this particular sculpture, this piece is very personal to Ai that relates back to his confinement at his studio while all his actions were being monitored.

handcuffsHandcuffs (2015) were both sculpted in jade and in wood. Jade is considered to be the most precious stone in China. Historically speaking, jade is worn only by the members of imperial family. Ai portrays the similar cuffs he wore during his imprisonment to address contemporary issues in the government.

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If there’s one project that clearly defines Ai Weiwei’s character and controversial career, I personally believe it’s the Study of Perspective (1993-2005). As seen in every photograph, Ai is giving a finger in every iconic location around the globe to express his disdain for authority. His audacious behaviour and poetic forms of powerful communication have inspired a new generation of artists in the 21st Century.

Andy Warhol x Ai WeiWei

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Some exhibits showcase a parallel in artistic value and in speaking social context beyond the world of art. In Neolithic Pottery with Coca-Cola Logo (2007), Ai portrays a pop-cultural imagery through the influence of Andy by painting a Chinese artefact and branding it with a logo that represents American capitalism.

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Myths are traditional stories explaining historical events or natural and social phenomenons. Ai and Andy both explore these myths through cultural archetypes from two different parts of the world. Circle of Animals (2010), is a reinterpretation of the twelve zodiac heads ransacked by French and British troops. It functioned as a water clock–fountain in the European-style gardens of Yuanmingyuan palace. “Ai focuses attention on the ethics of looting and repatriation, the role of the fake and the copy and power relations between China and the West.” (Source: Circle of Animals label)

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On the other hand, Andy presents the cultural archetypes in the American popular culture through a series of silkscreen paintings that run from Uncle Sam to the superstardom of Hollywood screen siren Greta Garbo and the innocent charm of Mickey Mouse. (Source:Narrative, myth and memory label)


Further Readings:

Masterchef x Australia

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The new season of Masterchef Australia starts tonight. It’s only fitting to post my snapshots inside the famous Masterchef Kitchen!

A little backstory about the show, Masterchef TV show was originally produced in the early 90’s and was re-developed in Australia way back in 2009 that propelled its international success (Ref). Having an avid fan of the show, I was delighted to have visited the Masterchef Kitchen, located in Metro Melbourne, where the show is annually shot.

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Among any other reality cooking shows, Masterchef got less drama and has more interesting challenges. Its format also allow a lot of information to be absorbed and learned from by the audience. It’s one of the best ways to subtly learn about culinary art while entertaining oneself. It basically showcases creativity of different culinary styles and innovating gastronomic skills. From then on, I’ve become more appreciative of the techniques and fusion of flavours in every dish I taste.

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For the Love of QVB Heritage

For my long forgotten trip to Sydney way back in September 2014, I’m dedicating this entire post solely to the majestic Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Primarily because of my deep passion and appreciation to anything with precious historical value.

QVB is situated in the heart of Sydney’s central business district. The entire building covers the whole block between George, Market, York and Druitt streets. Just across the other shopping districts.

It is highly recognisable amidst the modern skyscrapers and flashy contemporary shopping malls. Its very presence speaks a lot of history. It was built in the late 19th century exhibiting Victorian Romanesque architecture by a Scottish architect migrant who moved in Sydney in 1884. The presence of columns, arches and great attention to details shows the influence of the American Architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the said era.

Let me introduce my next passion, timepieces!  QVB has two unique huge mechanical clocks with outstanding technicality and complexity. Australia’s history is carefully handcrafted to these masterpieces while figures circumnavigate the clocks. In addition, most of it has annual calendar features too!

Here are more photos of my visit at QVB:

The precise and uniform archeways are truly admirable. The depth seems like to portray infinity. Just like how QVB is carefully preserved throughout time. On the side, the phot may be cropped but it can be clearly seen how the spiral staircases are maintained, though most of it are off limits to anyone.

Dome ceilings are very distinguished in this building.

Arches and glass windows’ intricate designs.

Aside from columns, arches and other details engraved on every corner of this building, the tile work of the flooring is very notable too.

QVB is definitely one of those heritage sites never to miss out when visiting Sydney!

Food Paradise in the Capital

If you are looking for a food adventure in Beijing, you should never miss the Wangfujing Night Market, known as Donghuamen Night Street by the locals.

The 100-meter long street food market is not hard to miss. Its eye-catching red lanterns and clean red stalls along Dong’anmen Street near Wangfujing Area is the perfect tourist destination at night. It opens at 6 in the evening everyday to delight everyone in the area. Several tourists would go a long way just to experience the market in the Capital.

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It offers a variety of authentic Chinese and exotic snacks: From the usual barbecues, noodles, “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies, local desserts, dim sums, hamburgers, pancakes and grilled seafood to insects, snakes, spiders and other surprising finger foods.

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The market is famous for its grilled exotic snacks on skewers; particularly scorpions, centipedes, crickets, seahorses, starfishes and bugs. Several stalls sell these snacks to challenge your appetite.

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I cannot imagine having a bite of these snacks though. But I can’t help admiring them all!

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These creatures are known for its rich nutrients but bland in flavour. It’s crunchy and very delicious.

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Arachnids are also served in this market. Those legs are crisp and snack-worthy. It would be a fun food adventure only if I didn’t know they’re spiders!

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The harmful toxins inside centipedes and scorpions are sucked out of them before being sold. So these food are perfectly safe! You don’t have to worry about health concerns especially that these are prepared in a clean environment.

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Have you ever dreamt of savouring snakes and eels? With the markets cheap food prices, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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A variety of grilled seafood is available to be indulged by those who cannot take to try exotic snacks. Seafood in skewers heaven! Fishes, shrimps, squids, baby lobsters and royal crabs are freshly skewed and grilled right in front of you.

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Crispy shrimps! These babies are satisfying to my hungry stomach.

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Just like any other street food areas, this market sells particular parts of chicken, pork, lamb and beef; Including intestines, kidneys and other inside parts.

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And of course, the famous steamed dim sums of Chinese cuisine! Served hot and perfect for the cold night.

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Some dim sums have dog meat stuffed in it. Be sure to carefully choose when trying out some of them.

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Once all stuffed and satisfied with all the dinner you get in one night, it’s time for desserts!

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One thing you should never miss to check out is the famous “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies. Even in other markets around the area, these sweet candies are sold on the streets at any time of the day.

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The range of food in China is as broad is its vast land. The market showcases a wide range of local desserts to satisfy a variety of sweet lovers out there!

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Buchi-looking delicacies!

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China has a lot of creativity in using flour in preparing different desserts and pastries. All are equally tasty despite the differences in flavours.

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But don’t be fooled. Some of these sweet-looking pastries are actually spicy and contains different spices on it

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The market doesn’t only appeal to the food explorers. It is also appetising to the young and the young at heart. Aside from normal skewers, fruit candies, pancakes and donuts, these fried snacks with smiley faces will surely make your little kids’ night memorable.

White Night Melbourne 2014

In 2013, Melbourne is the first city in Australia to join the ranks of global cities producing all-night arts events. Melbourne is known as Australia’s international city of artistic innovation. It embraces the opportunity to showcase its commitment to art, music and diverse culture.

When my family moved in to Melbourne in 2013, we were still staying at the service apartment along Elizabeth St in the city. It was the time White Night Melbourne premiered in Australia. I can still remember looking at tweets of people all over the city exploring the different activities simultaneously happening that night.

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This year, I decided to join the fun and see by myself what was out there. I only had a few hours to spend since I needed to catch the late train going home on a Saturday night, so I wasn’t able to explore every activity that was happening.

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First stop, I watched the Moonlight Synchronised Swimming at the Melbourne City Baths. A lot of people were already queueing all around the block just to get in. I was able to see the show Almost an hour later and the queue was even longer than before! *Yikes*

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On my way to our next stop, we passed by this food kiosk catering Filipino food just for the event! Proud to be Pinoy! I wanted to try it out but the queue was so long. 😦

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Then I went straight to the State Library of Victoria where various light works were being lit up on the facade of the library.

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Just across the road is the Melbourne Central. We had a quick peek on what’s going on inside and found out that the iconic tower was also participating. Amazing!

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The event was city-wide extending up to the other side of Yarra River. Several artworks and light performances can be seen along every stop.

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There were also live bands performing in some corners in the city.

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One of the big universities in the city, RMIT, hosted the galleries for the exhibitions. We managed to get into one and snapped a few artworks inside. There were also short films being played over and over again for everyone to see.

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Sooner than we thought, the night was over. I needed to get leave to catch our train. The entire Swanston Street was literally filled with people. It’s like flooded with people all over the place. Took me at least 40 minutes to walk down from the library to Flinders Station, which is like only 6-8 blocks away!

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Good thing a stampede didn’t happen during the event. I pity those kids forced to be there at that kind of situation. D:

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Even the iconic Flinders Street Station was part of the event. Several light performances were being lit on different parts of its facade! Incredible works!

But the night wasn’t getting any younger for me so I headed straight back home. Too bad I wasn’t able to visit the activities past the Yarra River. Maybe next year then!

Beijing Tea Ceremony

As a half-blood Chinese decent, =^_~=  it’s a satisfying experience to walk on the very land where our family’s first men walked centuries ago. This will be my first blog post regarding my recent trip to Beijing focusing on my favourite thing and the second most consumed liquid in the world – TEA! ❤

To give you a bit of my background regarding my love of tea, I used to be an obsessed coffee-drinker. Hot or iced, espresso or latte, taking a minimum of five cups a day. Then my obsession suddenly stopped for half a year. Then when I had coffee again after hiatus, my body started rejecting it. It’s not the caffeine that my body starts to reject, probably some other substance that coffee has.

That life changing event made me switch to my next obsession – TEA! Yay!

To make the most out of my trip, I made sure that I never miss the opportunity to experience the famous “Chayi” or “Art of Tea”, commonly known as the tea ceremony, in the very capital of China.

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I went to the little teashop within the grounds of Temple of Heaven. It is not hard to miss. It can be found before you leave the grounds, just beside the entrance/exit gate. It’s also easy to recognise because of the round arch popular in Chinese homes and the entrance is filled with tea mugs, teapots and anything about tea!

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Tea has been part of the Chinese culture as long as history could trace back. Tea is not just a beverage or a hot drink to warm up on a winter season. The ceremony is practiced in every possible reason you could think of. May it be to pay respect, to show gratitude, to ask for an apology or to celebrate an occasion. Aside from this, tea is consumed for health purposes. Its medicinal effect is probably the secret of Asians for being slim, youthful looking skin, having long life and less health complications as they grow old.

I’m going to share with you the steps of the tea ceremony I experienced during my trip. =^_~=image

Small teapots made of clay and glass are used in a tea ceremony. They say that this is one of the secrets of a good tea because of the environment it provides when brewing.

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Since Fruit Tea is the most flavourful, tasty and very enjoyable among the teas I tried during the ceremony, I’ll be using it as the example to show you the process. Fruit tea, made of mixed dried berries and other fruits, is passed on by the tea master to be appreciated by the guests.

Fruit Tea‘s medicinal properties greatly helps in digestion and bowel movement without the painful feeling you get from readily packed and bagged diet teas in the market. After steeping this particular type of tea for 4 to 5 times (without losing its flavor), you can even eat it for snack or mix it with your cereals.

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To start the ceremony, the tea master warms up the clay teapot, teapot pitcher (glass) and tea cups by pouring boiling water inside and out, then rinsing it afterwards. This process is done on top of the tea washing tray to cure or cleanse the tools.

Once ready, loose leaf is strained in the clay teapot, covered with a lid and brewed in a specific time depending on the type of tea. While brewing, boiling water is poured over the teapot to allow it to be hot and helps in the brewing process.

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Tea is then poured on the teapot pitcher (made of glass), which is then poured on the tall and narrow cup, one of the two cups used in the tea ceremony. The guests then sniff the aroma and appreciate the quality of tea as part of the process. The other cup is then placed upside down on top of the filled cup and guests quickly flip the cups so the tea is now on the second cup. This step is believed to bring prosperity, happiness and luck to the guests.

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Finally, after a long preparation, tea can now be indulged and seconds are welcome. Teas during the ceremony are sipped slowly and its aroma is enjoyed for almost an hour before the first sip.

Sipping is also traditionally done in steps and each signifies good health for the teeth, heart and stomach. I don’t really remember all the sips though.

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Another kind of tea is the Blooming or Flowering Tea. From the name itself, this flower bud blooms when immersed in water. It’s not as medicinal as the other teas, but it is very good decoration at home.

imageThe flower comes out when the flower bud blooms underwater.

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My next favourite is the Lychee Tea or the Litchi Black Tea .It is good for the stomach and anemia and a teaspoon can be reused for 3 to 4 times.

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 Lychee Tea can be mixed with rose petals to further enhance its flavor.

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It tastes a bit sweet and exactly like Lychee! I bought a can of it that is good for months of consumption!

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The next tea is the most medicianl tea I have ever encountered in my life. The Pu-ehr Tea (others spell it as Pu-re / Pu-re / Pu’er / Pu-reh) or Sexy Tea.  This type of tea is dried, condensed, shaped in tablets and wrapped in paper. It is a gradually fermented and matured chinese dark tea (different from Western’s black tea) for a number of years, and just like red wine, the longer it is stored and sealed in tin cans, the greater its taste would be developed. Hence, the more medicinal it would get.

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Pu-ehr or Sexy Tea is the best tea for losing weight. That’s why it is called the Sexy Tea! It is also the best tea for lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, controlling sugar levels of those suffering diabetes.  This tea can be brewed 7 to 8 times. Unlike the fruit teas I mentioned, this tea is bland in flavour. But because of its great medicinal effects, I think it cancels it out.

imageThe last but not the least kind of tea and is very popular worldwide is the Ginseng Oolong Tea. Popularised by Korean dramas, we all know the Ginseng is famous for treating various illnesses. Considering this fact combined with Oolong, it is easy to conclude that Ginseng Oolong Tea’s beneficial effects are doubled!

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Ginseng Oolong Tea is good for the memory, energy and kidney health. This can be brewed 5 to 6 times.

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The tea master also showed us the Pee Pee Boy. It is made of clay that is used to test if the water is hot enough for the tea ceremony. When the Pee Pee Boy pees when you pour boiling water on top of it, then it means you are ready to start. It doesn’t pee at all if you pour cold water. Amazing, isn’t it?

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