On golden sands

Weekend Glitz | Lisa Kao 19 Jul 2019

Lisa Kao in Macau

Four hotels under the Sands China group are showcasing spectacular ceramic collections by 30 artists from 13 countries or regions around the world.

Until October 9, All That's Gold Does Glitter - An Exhibition of Glamorous Ceramics, featuring a total of more than 90 pieces, will be on display around the Venetian, Parisian, Four Seasons, and Sands Macao, as well as the Macao Museum of Art.

"Italy, the United States, Thailand, Serbia, Japan, India are some of the countries to name," said Hong Kong artist and ceramicist Caroline Cheng, who is curating the enormous exhibition.

While the artists may hail from difference places and backgrounds and possess their individual ceramic styles, all their pieces have the same elements in common - gold and sand - which, coincidentally, is what the Chinese name of Sands Macao hotel means.

"Thus they're a natural fit for their hotels," Cheng said.

She spent 10 months organizing the exhibitions, but to her it wasn't such a tough job. "The artists are all my friends, teachers, masters," she said. "I had no idea what would happen in September last year, but I knew it would be something about gold."

Cheng recalled some artists who agreed to participate didn't have any experience using gold in their ceramics.

"John Neely always makes his teapots in black. And he told me that it took him months to figure out how to put the gold element in it," she said, adding that Neely ended up hiding gold secretly inside the teapot.

Cheng has added pieces from three great late ceramic artists from her own collection.

She's confident that even non-arts fans would enjoy the exhibition. "With over 90 pieces, I believe you are going to love at least one of them."

The curator is also among the ceramic artists showcasing her work. Her Prosperity 2019 will immediately catch visitors' attention when they step into the lobby of The Venetian Macao. From a distance, they would see what appears to be gold ancient Chinese clothing. But on closer inspection, they will find the shimmer is from thousands of gold ceramic butterflies.

"I was inspired by the shape of clothes from China's ancient six dynasties, and the butterflies are all hand made," Cheng said.

Her original concept came seven years ago, when one of her Prosperity pieces, a traditional Chinese dress covered in more than 25,000 porcelain butterflies, drew gasps from crowds at London's British Museum.

For the current exhibition in Macau, Cheng brought several pieces to showcase across the different locations.

"The dresses are different in length, color and fabric. The number of butterflies used also vary as you cannot put the gold butterflies too tightly together," she said.

Meanwhile, the chubby little ceramic figures made by Vipoo Srivilasa, a Thai-born, Melbourne-based artist, look cute, but they required detailed, time consuming work just like Cheng's pieces.

"They are made by craftsmen in Australia, Thailand, China and more countries, depending on each of their strengths," Srivilasa said. He added he was more like a conductor of the orchestra, initialing the idea and creating the final product with the assistance of different experts.

As implied by their names - Plum, Peonies, Lotus and Chrysanthemum - the gold figures are inspired by flowers.

"Flowers are a symbol of good luck, so I chose four kinds of flowers and used the shape of their petals, putting them one by one onto the figures," said Srivilasa.

Cheng hopes that the exhibition could provide a great opportunity to expose people to art.

"Visitors are usually here to relax and entertain themselves, but they are naturally exposed to the beauty of ceramics here," she said.

On the first day of the exhibition at The Venetian, Cheng saw visitors taking photos of her art piece in the hotel lobby.

"And some people prayed in front of Tetsuya Ishiyama's Vairocana Buddha statue for good luck."

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