Tuesday, December 1, 2015   

Master of shadows

Wynna Wong

Friday, March 07, 2014

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus is a priceless painting of Jesus Christ, who is shown at the moment he blesses bread and reveals his true identity to two disciples who walked with him to Emmaus.

Caravaggio's innovative treatment of the subject makes this one of his most powerful works. But what exactly does a 400-year-old Italian painting have to do with Hong Kong today?

"We have deconstructed this painting into four major themes," says Frank Vigneron, curator of the exhibition. "Theatricality, realism, shadows and mystery."

The baroque maestro's handling of these four fundamental themes was what made him unique from the others, he adds.

Vigneron invited four local artists to contribute works - each corresponding to one of the themes.

"Caravaggio placed a lot of emphasis on the poor and lowly in his paintings," said So Hing-keung, a Hong Kong-born photographer in charge of "realism." At a time when artists tended to paint only aristocrats and human perfection, Caravaggio focused on the frailty of man instead.

To correspond to the theme, So chose works from a larger project he did a few years earlier, where he traveled around the rural areas of China to photograph villagers in their most natural and vulnerable state.

He points to a portrait of a tanned, gray-haired elderly woman, with a pig in the background. "Her family wanted to take the pig away, but I insisted it stayed. The animal tells us a lot."

When you look at a Caravaggio piec
e, you're meant to feel like you've walked in onto the middle of a scene, says Alessandra Schiavo, consul- general of Italy. "You get absorbed into it straight away. Every detail in his paintings has a purpose," she adds.

Other artists involved in the project are: Chow Chun-fai, who paid homage to the master's theatricality; Tsing Kin- wah, who uses projections of images to express his views on darkness; and Guangdong-born artist Wucius Wong, who uses the Chinese concept of xuan to relate to Caravaggio's darkness and mystery.

The Asia Society has arranged other activities to promote the exhibition - including a projection of Caravaggio's famous painting in Park Court, Pacific Place. That ends March 16.

The society has also developed an app - Little Caravaggio - and works produced using the app can be submitted to a social media site for public posting.

Free tickets are available for the exhibition, which runs from March 12 until April 13. Visit asiasociety.org/ hong-kong.

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