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Archive for the ‘Gallery shows’ Category

First Hong Kong solo for Korean sculptor artist Lee Jae-Hyo

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


HONG KONG KOREAN SCULPTURE ART EXHIBITIONS

Work by internationally renowned Korean sculptor, Lee Jae-Hyo, will soon be on show in Hong Kong for the first time. In a new exhibition, “From the Third Hand of the Creator”, to be held at Hong Kong’s Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery from 31 July until 20 August this year, the gallery will present thirty pieces of representative works from Lee Jae-Hyo, including work from his “Wood” and “Nail” series.

Lee Jae-Hyo

Born in Hapchen, South Korea, in 1965, Lee Jae-Hyo graduated from Hong-ik University with a Bachelor degree in Plastic Art. Working with wood, nails, steel and stone as his primary media, Lee focuses his attention on exploring nature’s structural construction. The works are made from a process consisting of dedicated design and complex composing, sculpturing, grinding and refining. The wood pieces are assembled into curves, with which various futurist forms in hyper-modernist style are drawn. Each piece is still embroidered with growth rings. His method has been applauded for exuding a strong personal character and opening up a distinctive direction within contemporary Korean art.

New York-based art writer Jonathan Goodman describes the artist’s work in Sculpture Magazine:

Allowing the materials to speak to him, he builds self-contained worlds that mysteriously communicate with their outer surroundings. One of his most striking images is a photograph of a boat-like structure placed in the midst of a stream whose banks are covered with trees. Clearly a manmade sculpture put out into nature, the work contrasts with and succumbs to its surroundings. In the photograph, self-sufficiency is enhanced by the object’s position in a beautiful scene; the poetics of the sculpture lean on an environment that frames its polished surfaces, conferring a further dignity on a form in keeping with its forested setting.

Lee’s works are created through the assembly of a large number of units of the ingredient, and therefore become the respective images of the individual units. In their overall structures and forms, minimalist geometric lines can be found, rich in hyper-modernist imagination.

Lee’s art is built upon a typical oriental spirit – in the pursuit of unity and a harmonious co-existence between him and the universe, Lee attempts to demonstrate how humanity can continue to develop civilization with grace, on the basis of a mutual respect between the man-made and natural worlds.

Lee Jae-Hyo

Lee Jae-Hyo has exhibited widely: in Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom and the United States. He has won many awards, including the Grand Prize of Osaka Triennial (1998), Young Artist of the Day, presented by the Ministry of Culture of Korea (1998) and the Prize of Excellence in the 2008 Olympic Landscape Sculpture Contest. His artwork is collected by a number of prominent Asian, European, American and Pacific museums, hotels and universities.

From the Third Hand of the Creator” will be on show at Hong Kong’s Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery from 31 July until 20 August this year.

JAS/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Korean artists, sculpture, gallery shows

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Posted in Art spaces, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, International, Korean, Nature, Sculpture, Utopian art, Venues, Wood | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nindityo Adipurnomo talks with Art Radar on “+Road” collaboration with Myanmar artists, “gambling spirit” of Indonesian collectors

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


ART PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW INDONESIAN ART EVENTS

In an Art Radar Asia exclusive interview with Cemeti founder Nindityo Adipurnomo, we hear the fascinating story of their latest venture working collaboratively with artists from Myanmar.  Read on to learn how cultural conflicts and artistic disappointments were eventually resolved.

New Zero Art Space in Myanmar and Cemeti Art House in Indonesia joined hands in June this year to present the collaborative project and exhibition “+Road|5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists in Yogyakarta.

Within a tight schedule of two weeks, five Burmese artists and five Indonesian artists interacted and produced performances, videos and installations.

These creations acted as a language through which the two distinctive cultures could communicate their differences, resolve conflicts and move closer to mutual understanding.

The five participating Myanmar artists included Aye Ko, (Executive Director of New Zero Art Space), May Moe Thu, Htoo Aung Kyaw, Nwe (Thin Lei Nwe) and Zoncy (Zon Sapal Phyu). The five Indonesian artists were Doger Panorsa, Ikhsan Syahirul Alim (Ican), Restu Ratnaningtyas, Ristyanto Cahyo Wibowo and Wibowo Adi Utama.

To understand more about how the collaborative project came into being, how the event was viewed by the local art community, and to gain some insight into the Indonesian art scene, Art Radar Asia spoke with Nindityo Adipurnomo, one of the executive directors of Cemeti Art House.

+Road| 5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists, a collaborative exhibition currently being held at Indonesian art gallery, Cemeti Art House.

From a commercial art promotion to a cross-cultural art exchange project

Nindityo Adipurnomo explained that the idea of collaboration between the two art spaces was initiated by Aye Ko, Myanmar artist and director of New Zero Art Space and Community New Zero Art Space. Ko thought that, by hosting a project of this kind, New Zero Art Space might land an exchange grant from the Asian Cultural Council in New York. With this in mind, Ko proposed the idea to Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, co-owners/coordinators of the renowned Indonesian gallery Cemeti Art House and winners of the 2006 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Awards, who expressed a keen interest.

Art censored in Burma

The couple saw “+Road” as an excellent opportunity to develop networks within regions such as Myanmar. They had learnt much from New Zero Art Space and they had been seeking opportunities to cooperate with them since attending the New Zero Art Space organised 2007 ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange Program, an event open only to members of the space. Of the programme, Adipurnomo recalled how each of the artists, gallery owners and art activists who participated had to bring along a single painting of a limited size with no political message. The night before the event, the Burmese police came and censored the art works on display, and removed the works of four Burmese artists. Despite this horrific episode, the programme was fruitful; each of the art activists present conducted informative talks.

In addition, “+Road”‘s aims were in line with the project-based platform Cemeti Art House has been working under since the beginning of 2010. This new platform focuses on an alternative approach to art and society in Indonesia. They have a successful model to follow; Landing Soon (2006-2009) was a three year exchange program in which one Dutch artist and one Indonesian artist resided in Yogyakarta and received assistance, guidance, and support from the studio manager through weekly progress reports.

“The reason [for launching the new platform] was because we were fed up with all the exhibition models, art fairs, auctions in Indonesia; [these events] never pay attention to invest in a kind of  healthy regeneration of the art scene. No, I’m one hundred percent sure that they do not realise this. The Indonesian commercial art scene has been investing in promotion only.” Nindityo Adipurnom

Conflicting goals of Burmese and Indonesians

However, it turned out Aye Ko wasn’t thinking about the kind of collaborative exhibition Adipurnomo had in mind. Basically, he just wanted to use Cemeti’s exhibition space for a group exhibition of five Myanmar artists and five Indonesian artists, where published catalogues could distributed. His commercial approach to the collaboration, which did not aim to provide any platform for meaningful interactions among artists, was certainly not what Cemeti Art House wanted.

“We did not want to only organise a promotional exhibition that has no interesting curatorial subject, not being involved in how artists go through their process before presenting their works in exhibition. And so we, in the end, asked [the artists] to just come to Yogyakarta; not bring any paintings with them. Instead, each of [the artists] should be well prepared with an individual artwork presentation in Power Point to see what we can do together.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Jaarsma and Adipurnomo tried carefully to intervene and transform the  cooperation into a “mutual exchange project” instead: a program involving short events such as artists’ talks, discussions, workshops and master classes, allowing both groups of artists to understand each other better and create possibilities for a deeper collaboration, with an exhibition as the end goal. And in Jaarsma and Adipurnomo’s eyes, it was a success. “+Road” became a truly collaborative project for the ten artists involved, where they could engage themselves in intensive cultural exchanges and meaningful interactions.

Mix of talents strongly affects resulting artwork

The choice of the five Burmese artists and the five Indonesian artists was made separately by New Zero Art Space and Cemeti Art House respectively. Adipurnomo launched an open application, attracting nearly seventy artists, and selected five from this group. He admits to being disappointed with the choice made by New Zero Art Space. Among the five Burmese artists, only two were professional artists, while the rest of them were new members of New Zero Art Space and were very amateur beginners. In contrast, the Yogyakarta artists selected by Cemeti Art House had a lot professional experience.

Disappointment at Cemeti

“[The Burmese artists] are bad painters: they cannot draw, have no sense of colour and have, in fact, a very superficial sense of  exploring materials… While our local Yogyakarta artists you can see, … that they were very well trained academically, strong and skillfull in model drawings, sketches, colours, well experienced in treating materials with good sense.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Burmese artists favour performance art, political art

Although the Burmese artists were generally inexperienced painters, their strength lay in performance art, an artistic skill which the Yogyakarta artists were either still developing or not interested in exploring.

“My very personal observation was that the artists from Yangoon were very much into performance art. They are very direct, expressive and always fulled of political intentions in their performance. They really use their body as the most direct tool and medium…. It often becomes a physical movement that is very close to a dance performance. One of our local artists participating in this project was [hesitant] to join the workshop on performance!” Nindityo Adipurnomo

This mix of opposing artistic strengths, differences which became very apparent during the workshops, influenced what was produced for the exhibition finale. “+Road” showcased a lot of video works and photographs, and a smaller number of installation and performance pieces, with no paintings at all.

Zon Sapal Phyu's 'Revolution of Own Space' (mixed media).

Aye Ko's 'No Money, Hungry, Hard Eating' (photography, video).

Wibowo Adi Utama's 'Art-NARCHY' (video).

Ikhsan Syahirul Alim's 'Commando Dance' (video, karaoke).

More opportunities open up future collaboration

Overall, Cemeti Art House viewed the collaboration as a successful pilot project, achieving its aim of engaging artists from two cultures in interactions that led to a gradual mutual understanding.

“[The] major understanding [the artists] did have was cultural dialogues. This is something that I find you can not just improvise in an Internet facilitation. You really need to [be] facing each other. Building up your assumptions, making a lot of missunderstandings and opening up conflicts, so that in the end you will understand each other better. We did ask every Indonesian artist to be a partner everyday by sitting on the same motorcycle – one motorcycle for two artists – during the two week intensive dialogue…. The time was just too short for so many reasons. But now we know better how to handle and open up more networks with young artists, who are really willing to continue in a deeper context.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Working towards a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene

Adipurnomo considers Cemeti Art House to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene, which has grown largely commercially up to this point. From “rumours and a very quick-glimpse analyzation and observation”, he suggests that banks have been gaining control of the Indonesian art market.

Banking money makes a mark in the Indonesian art market

“In the beginning, [art] was dominated by rich people around the tobacco industry. Of course, Dr. Oei Hong Djien was the respected ‘pioneer’ of the Indonesian collectors, among many others who were more nationally known; Dr. Oei Hong Djien is going international quickly. He was also very generous in educating and influencing many other rich Chinese people in the tobacco industry to invest their capital in art. Starting from that mile stone, Indonesian art dealers and collectors [were] growing fast. Most of [these collectors] were hunting names instead of, you know, a ‘quality’. They created many kinds of tricks in order to get as many ‘big names’ as possible, which they could easily call ‘masterpiece’ makers. Auctions and art fairs were becoming a medium for them to gamble in so many tricky ways. This rapid growth of gambling spirit stimulated many other rich people, out of this tobacco industry, to borrow money from banks to join this gambling. That is the way banks are now getting involved. A lot of bankers started to invest their capital in the arts.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

New Jogyakarta Art Fair attracts outside collectors

With the opening of the Jogyakarta Art Fair recently, art dealers and bankers, many of whom had never visited the region before, flocked to Cemeti Art House to see what was happening. This is, perhaps, further evidence that the Indonesian arts scene is commercialising.

“Cemeti Art House is considered to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the art scene. We have only been ‘fighting’ for that faith for so long. Of course, we are not the only ones. There are many others, such us Ruang Rupa in Jakarta, and the new comers like JARF (Jatiwangi Artists in Residence Festival), Forum Lenteng, and many other smaller scale [organisations] who come up and disappear and come up with different formulas [only] to dissappear again.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Myanmar artists, Indonesian artists, art spaces, collaborative art

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Artist-run, Business of art, Collaborative, Collectors, Events, Gallery shows, Indonesia, Indonesian, Interviews, Multi category, Myanmar/Burmese, Nindityo Adipurnomo, Performance, Promoting art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ai Weiwei and Vito Acconci wrap up major collaboration at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space

Posted by artradar on July 6, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART HONG KONG ART SPACES ARTIST COLLABORATIONS

With a new project, Chinese art all-rounder Ai Weiwei, in cooperation with American artist Vito Acconci, has brought fresh dialogues between the East and West to Hong Kong, a monumental event in Ai Weiwei’s career and for the Hong Kong and the Asian art scenes.

installation view at para:site art space

A view of "Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project“, held at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space, has provided the opportunity for Ai Weiwei to meet and work for the first time with Vito Acconci, an American artist whom he admires.

Vito Acconci

Like Ai Weiwei, Acconci shifts between performance art and architecture, and has gained a global reputation for his bold art stunts.

In his 1971 performance entitled Seedbed, Acconci engaged his visitors in restrained sexual intimacy by masturbating continuously under a wooden platform in a gallery.

recent article published on Time Out Hong Kong describes the artist as someone who “works not as a singular artist but as an architect and ‘collaborator’ for Acconci Studios. The controversial questioning of his earlier career has been replaced with an intellegent whimsy in design. Structures roam, twist and fold within their sites. Each edifice constantly contemplating the function of space and the understanding of linear time and form.”

Ai Weiwei

Having been involved in design, architecture, curating, writing and publishing, Ai Weiwei is one of the most controversial contemporary artists of his generation. Asked to describe his art by the Financial Times, Ai Weiwei gave the following reply:

“That question makes me almost speechless, because I wonder how much do I know about it, even though it was me that did it? What part is conscious and is that consciousness important? And what part has come out only because of the public’s sentiment? And is that important?”

An article recently published in the Guardian noted that Ai Weiwei’s work “has become overtly political, blurring the boundary between art and activism”, referring to the artist’s Remembering installation. This artwork was comprised of 9,000 children’s backpacks, in reminiscence of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake casualties.

In recollection of Ai Weiwei’s past performances, an article published in the Financial Times discussed both Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), “a triptych of photographs in which he is seen casually dropping a 2,000-year-old vase to shatter on the ground”, and an exhibition of 46 avant-garde artists including himself called Fuck Off (2000), which was closed down by authorities. The artwork’s Chinese title was the milder Uncooperative Approach. Despite his strong defiance against the Beijing government, Ai Weiwei was the designer of the Bird’s Nest at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

vito acconci and ai weiwei discussing their collaboration

Vito Acconci and Ai Weiwei in discussion regarding "Acconti Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project

For “Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project”, Para/Site was transformed into a three-dimensional grid where Ai and Acconci developed their work “in constant mutation and accumulation during the two months that it [was] open to the public.” The end product was an unorthodox, multilayered installation with an accumulated collection of new works, models, drawings and various materials that were accumulated as a result of ongoing discussions between Ai Weiwei, Vito Acconci and their studios.

“The collaboration with Vito Acconci at Para/Site art space is an effort in figuring out ways to collaborate, ways [of] defining the actual process of working together. Through the development of a gallery project we are to think [of] the formation of a city.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted on the Para/Site website)

“I would never have imagined that today I could become active in art and have a chance to meet Vito…I was a young man just come from China. I was trying to be part of art history, but then it was impossible…Neither of us have any nostalgia towards the past, but we are both ready to think about today. That is our common ground.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted by the Financial Times)

The project is not just an interesting addition to Ai’s collection of stunning works. As Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, the Executive Director and Curator of Para/Site, told Art Radar Asia, it has also created a platform for dialogues about the arts in Hong Kong and, on a larger scale, throughout Asia.

“This project reflects the complex production system that surrounds the creation of new works of art/projects in the 21st century. Dialogue is an important element of this project, which is as much about exchange of ideas as it is about production. Until now most exhibitions in this part of Asia focused on exhibiting a relevant Western artist or showcasing a leading artist from Asia. But the dialogue between what is happening in different parts of the world is lacking. This conversation is conducive to new ideas and it opens new paths of research. Then, there is also the challenge to put together practitioners from different generations, that also operate within different studio cultures. It proves Hong Kong can be a platform for leading international projects, and positions this city as a destination for art lovers, and not just a stopover. It is also a picture of what Hong Kong could be in the international scene if we had some rigorous planning and more opportunities to engage with current discourses around the world. This project is about taking curatorial risks, to start a journey without knowing the final destination.”

According to the art space’s website, Para/Site was chosen as the base for the project because of its autonomy from large organisations, enabling it to accommodate the innovativeness of the project.

CBKM/KN

Related topics: Ai Weiwei, collaborative art, venues – Hong Kong, Chinese artists

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Young Chinese artist Lu Yang brings anti-humanist elements to the Hong Kong art scene

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


CHINESE ART HONG KONG ART GALLERIES BIOLOGICAL ART

Chinese artist Lu Yang has shocked and electrified the Hong Kong art scene with her recent solo new media exhibition, “A Torturous Vision“, held at Input/Output (I/O).

Lu Yang's exhibition "A Torturous Vision" was presented by Input/Output in Hong Kong from April to June this year.

Lu Yang's exhibition "A Torturous Vision" was presented by Input/Output in Hong Kong from April to June this year.

Showcasing her latest music video work Dictator, Lu Yang takes the audience onto a mind-boggling journey that aesthetically explores the biology of control systems in living frogs and amphibians. Progressing from her previous work Happy Tree, which shows living animals being treated with a centrally controlled pulse of electricity in a small tank, Lu Yang extracts some footage from the work and transforms them into highly aesthetical and technical forms that are presented with the accompaniment of sound composed by Wang Changcun.

Lu Yang's 'Dictator' and 'Happy Tree' in I/O gallery's latest bio art show.Lu Yang’s ‘Dictator’ and ‘Happy Tree’ in I/O gallery’s latest bio art show.

“This work was created after I determined Happy Tree would not be exhibited again, and I had to find another way to complete the work besides including living animals. At that time Happy Tree remained incomplete in my mind, and I felt there were a number of possibilities related to the work that still needed to be pursued. I also felt there was a need to complete the work, so I chose to create a music video, but I must say apologetically, that I used the same electrical current to create the video track.” Lu Yang, quoted taken from an interview with Robin Peckham.

Despite Lu Yang’s vow to never again exhibit Happy Tree, she has been persuaded by I/O to show it again alongside Dictator and another video showing the process of applying electricity to frogs. On top of the three video installations, the exhibition also presents canvases showing two of the four projects with which Yang cooperated with science teams, including Zombie Music Box – Underwater Frog Leg Ballet and Ultimate Energy Conversion – Instruman.

Lu Yang is a graduate from the China Academy of Art in the Master of Arts New Media department. Although she is not the first to exhibit bio (biological) art in Hong Kong, nor the first to explore bio art in China, where the art form is growing among young graduates, she has radically challenged the boundaries of art set by Chinese philosophy with her anti-humanistic approach.

The artist expressed to Art Radar Asia that there are certainly boundaries that she sets for her art, but that these boundaries cannot be marked with tapes or frames. Asked how she draws the line between science exploration and science exploitation, Lu Yang made the following reply:

“Since I have not had another professional background for science, I just understand it through self-learning and I create works in between arts and science by combining them. However, my arts are not always in this format; I still have many other different works. My limited abilities in science prevent me from investigating it professionally, but the ultimate goal of science is to serve and explore for mankind, while art challenges certain questions.”

Lu Yang's canvas work 'Ultimate Energy Conversion – Instruman'.

Lu Yang's canvas work 'Ultimate Energy Conversion – Instruman'.

In Hong Kong, where new media art is marginalized and considered quirky, the gallery was established a year ago to become the only art space in in the region that is primarily focused on the genre.

“The only way to raise it [new media art] out of it [the state of being marginalized and considered as quirky] is to engage in dialogues about it.” Rachel Connelly, Assistant Creative Director of I/O

Asked why the gallery decided to show Lu Yang’s work despite its ethical controversy, Connelly says that since the work inspires people to reconsider their identity and know more about themselves, the topic is rich and interesting enough to make the ethical concerns relatively less important.

“A Torturous Vision” has attracted a great range of visitors from tourists and interested individuals to students, architects and engineers. It has provoked conversations and discussions among visitors, – just what Rachel Connelly wanted and expected – while exploring different topics such as the definition of new media art and bio art versus science.

CBKM/KN

Related Topics: Chinese artistsgallery shows, venues – Hong Kong

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Gao Minglu’s maximalist exhibition blurs boundaries between traditional and contemporary Chinese art

Posted by artradar on June 25, 2010


CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART CHINESE AVANT-GARDE

Contrasts Gallery Shanghai was the host of the recent exhibition “Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts” curated by distinguished art scholar and curator Gao Minglu. While visually the works in the exhibition referenced Western modern or conceptual art, the philosophical underpinnings were quite different. Artists Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu, Lei Hong and He Xiangyu participated in the show.

All works in the exhibition where chosen because they fall under the term “maximalism”, a term used by Gao Minglu when discussing the philosophical core of Chinese abstract art. Gao characterises the art in “Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts” as being “incomplete and fragmented records of daily meditation.” According to the him, they are like a diary or running account showing the daily workings and activities of the artist, be they trivial or not, rather than a complete work of art. In this way, they present some similarities with Western postmodernist deconstruction.

Zhu Jinshi, Hui neng's work, 2010

Zhu Jinshi, Hui Neng's Work, 2010, ink on rice paper, 2000 x 72 x 130 cm.

Generally, the work of artists in the maximalism tradition is less popular or has largely been ignored. According to Gao, this is partly because of its lack of political subject matter and partly because of its literati aesthetics. Literati painters were Chinese scholar-officials who were not concerned with technical skill and commonly created black ink paintings. The style of the brushstroke was said to reveal something about the inner life of the artist.

“Although it [Maximalism] has never achieved mainstream popularity (in comparison with Political Pop and Cynical Realism), for decades some Chinese artists have devoted themselves to this low-key avant-garde practice.” Gao Minglu, taken from his essay ‘Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts’

How can we come to understand works created in the maximalist tradition? The curator states in his essay, Does Abstract Art Exist in China?, “to decode these works, the audience must do more than read the physical form of a work (that is, it’s surface, or text). It must understand the entire process of making the art, the context underlying the work.”

The four artists: Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu, Lei Hong and He Xiangyu

Zhu Jinshi (b. Beijing, 1954) is one of China’s leading avant-garde artists and was a member of the now legendary Stars Group, an artist collective active between 1979 and 1983. Zhu has dedicated the bulk of his career both in China and Germany to the exploration of abstract art and installation work. His medium of choice is Chinese rice paper and ink which he also uses in the exhibited installation, Soaking. Here he fills a metal container with ink and places a pile of rice paper partly immersed in this ink. The half of the paper that is outside the ink gradually changes colour without intervention from human hands. It is a work in progress and uses rice paper and ink; these literati characteristics put the work squarely within the maximalist tradition.

Zhu Jinshi, Soaking 2008

Zhu Jinshi, Soaking, 2008, 170 x 100 x 50 cm.

Like Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu (b. Tianjin, 1959) has also chosen rice paper and ink for his installation. For the past twenty years he has been using his finger prints; he dips his fingers into paint or water and randomly places them onto ink painting scrolls. He uses this “language” to express the relationship between our bodies and life. According to curator Gao,”[b]y being transformed from individual identification into repetitious ‘abstract’ marks, the fingerprints lose any expressional and symbolic meaning but regain a universal beauty and infinity through the process.”

Fingerprint 2004.10-1 Zhang Yu 2004

Zhang Yu, Fingerprint 2004.10-1, ink on rice paper, 200 × 260 cm.

For The Coca-Cola Project, young artist He Xiangyu (b. Dan Dong, 1986) cooked tens of thousands of litres of Coke which crystalized the dark liquid. He then made ink out of the created substance and used this “ink” to create his paintings and for writing calligraphy.

He Xiangyu, Skeleton no. 1, 2009 125 x 80 cm

He Xiangyu, Skeleton no. 1, 2009 125 x 80 cm

Lei Hong’s (b. Sichuan Province, 1972) work has the characteristic marks of Western abstract art – with its myriads of dots, lines and squares – but conceptually his motives are quite different. According to the artist, these marks are not born out of artistic concepts but rather out of imagery, akin to traditional Chinese ink painting.

Gao Minglu

The curator of the exhibition, Gao Minglu.

Gao Minglu and Contrasts Gallery

Gao Minglu, is an author, critic, curator, and scholar of contemporary Chinese art. He currently serves as Head of the Fine Arts Department at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and is a Research Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He has curated many exhibitions in the U.S. and China including the “China/Avant-Garde” exhibition (1989), “Inside Out: New Chinese Art”(1998), “The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art” (2005), “Apartment Art in China, 1970s-1990s” and “Yi School: Thirty Years of Chinese Abstraction” (2008). An art research center in Beijing is named after him, the mandate of which is to work as an alternative research space into contemporary art in China that is neither involved with the government nor with commercial art galleries.

Contrasts Gallery is a Shanghai based gallery which was founded by Pearl Lam in Hong Kong in 1992. The focus of the gallery is to promote cultural dialogue and exchange between the East and West, not only in art but also in design and architecture.


NA/KN

Related Topics: Chinese artists, curators, gallery shows

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Interventions explore art industry relationships in curator Meenakshi Thirukode’s Guild Art Gallery show: interview

Posted by artradar on June 24, 2010


ART GALLERY SHOW ASIAN ART IDENTITY CURATOR INTERVIEW

Structures Within an Intervention, a show that was on at The Guild Art Gallery, New York, was centered on the various relationships that exist in the art world. Relationships that determine the place of an artist, curator, dealer, buyer, critic and the spectator in relationship with each other under the institutional umbrella of a gallery space, function as the central premise for an interventionist re-thinking of the lines between artist, curator and spectator.

The show consisted of five “interventions“, scheduled at specific times, which were open for anyone to witness. With each intervention, the meaning of the work and the artist’s intention were reworked into a new context. Participating artists and artist collaborators included Afruz Amighi, Anindita Dutta, Divya Mehra, Fawad Khan, Mariam Ghani, Michael Buhler RoseNidhi Jalan, Rajkamal Kahlon, artist project Redo Pakistan (Fatima Hussain and Hamja Ahsan), Swati Khurana and Vandana Jain.

Intervention #1 Town Hall Meeting

Intervention #1 by Town Hall Meeting

Art Radar Asia spoke with Meenakshi Thirukode, curator of “Structures Within an Intervention”, about the show and the various issues that have arisen within and from the interventions.

How did “Structures Within an Intervention” come about?

All of my curatorial projects are essentially dialogs – a continuation of dialog to be precise. For me curating is one form of trying to find answers or just have a conversation or perhaps even find some kind of reconciliation between the idea of the institution and the idea of the individual. So, when The Guild Art Gallery asked me to curate a project for them, one of these dialogs manifested as “Structures Within An Intervention.” I don’t work from the standpoint of thematic contexts. I think that’s a regressive way of contextualizing any practice. There has to be some kind of deeper more genuine search.To go beyond expectations, categories, niches: it’s the need to have that conversation and have it materialize as projects that are physical or ephemeral, definite or indefinite that is my focus.

“Structures Within an Intervention” features contemporary artists of Asian origin and a few of these artists straddle multiple media and follow specific ideologies. How did you select artists and works for this show?

The premise was already laid out for me by the institution. As The Guild gallery focuses on South Asian and Middle Eastern artists, I had to function within those parameters, so to speak. This was a perfect scenario because it is in a sense reflective of how contexts are created based on this very focused mission of commercial institutions. In a way, this is the gallery’s identity, one that it has every right to define just as artists or even curators define their own (by choice or by contexts others build around him/her). So how do all of these structures work then? What do we have to say beyond this obvious friction between institution and individual and all of the hierarchies within it? That is something we are trying to get at here.

I chose artists that I’ve been working with since I started to “function” in the art world as a writer and curator. I’ve written about their work or curated them in other projects. I’ve done so because I connect to their work and to me it’s important to nurture that relationship, to see the work progress, evolve, change or perhaps remain as is. Whatever the case might be my relationship to all these artists is important in terms of my curatorial practice and what my work is about – some I’ve known since the start of my career and others I am getting to know along the years. This continuity is pertinent to my work and given the premise under which I was asked to curate the show, it was a perfect segue into exploring all the intricacies and structures so to speak between artist, curator, gallery, collective and all the other myriad categories under which we all function in the art world.

The works were chosen predominantly by talking to the artist about this premise and seeing what they thought would work best. In that way, I was playing with the idea of authority and control – is it the curator who has the control and so called authority to choose the work or did it transfer to the artist? Or did I, as curator, allow the transfer of authority to artist in choosing the work they wanted to be a part of the project. Of course less romanticized factors like availability of the work also played a role in what work was ultimately part of the show.

It seems the interventions essentially seek to question some defined norms of social relations, personal and public, and institutional hierarchies under the umbrella of which we all seem to operate. Do these interventions manifest themselves via the work/the artist/the curator, or via the interaction of all of them? How, then, is it a move away from or within the defined systems of collectives/curatorial practice/artist as the creator of meaning?

Freedom is an interesting word. Because we presume we have freedom but most likely we don’t. From the start of the project, the way it culminated, the responses of artists and those invited to intervene, all of it embodied this notion of freedom and control and who was giving it and how much of it. Five interventions were set to take place and four of the interveners were artists whose practice extends beyond just their ‘individual’ practice to put it in simple terms. Parlour is a curatorial duo (Leslie Rosa-Stumpf and Ciara Gilmartin) and has proposed an intervention that will re-curate the exhibition in an attempt to bring the participating artists’ practices into a broader contemporary dialogue—not one tied to a definitive cultural milieu.  New artists will be invited to be part of the conversation. Parlour alone functions predominantly as a curatorial duo but since their intervention is still to take place the context of their interaction is ambiguous. Town Hall Meeting (THM) describe themselves as performative art historians, AD HOC VOX‘s (AHV) Colleen Asper and Jennifer Dudley are artists but as AHV they are having their own critical dialogs about varied ideas both within and outside of what we call contemporary art. SHIFTER is a publication Sreshta Premnath co-founded with another artist. Greshams Ghost is Ajay Kurian, an artist who functions within the norms of a curator under this insignia.

Intervention #2 Ad Hoc Vox

Intervention #2 Ad Hoc Vox

Interestingly the four interventions that have taken place have all been more of a performance or what would seem like an artist’s intervention rather than a curatorial intervention. Of Course Parlour’s intervention is yet to take place so we would have to wait to see what they do. There was no sense of inclusion/exclusion or a presence of authority and control as would define a ‘curator’.

If work was being placed as in the case of AHV and Greshams Ghost, I did not tell them where to place it. They chose where to place the works. There was no attempt to move away from anything really because I don’t think exact defined roles exist in what we all do. How do we define performance even? During AHV’s intervention Swati Khurana, an artist in the show, did a performance with her grandmother called Lesson 1, which involved them knitting a ball of red yarn together concurrent to a reading that Colleen and Jennifer performed after installing their artwork in specific sites around the gallery space. We then celebrated her grandmom’s 80th birthday with a surprise birthday cake – is that performance? Did I, by suggesting we get cake, lead everyone into a performance no one knew they were participating in? Is that curatorial control then?

For instance, I have a blueprint on the wall where I’ve been documenting whatever has been placed or left behind or performed in the gallery space. It is a blueprint/a record in flux. In a way I am trying to exude control but do I have any? And by virtue of placing this blueprint on a wall am I functioning as an artist? Or am I strictly a curator? Are the interveners artists or curators or critics? Are they institutions since they have built an identity and a ‘brand’ with logos and mission statements separate from who they are as artists or writers? In fact, I have a logo and have created this pseudo institution of myself called MT Productions. So what does that make me? All those definitions and roles then seem redundant and I am just trying to see if that’s a justifiable statement through this project.

Intervention # 3 Shifter (Shresta Rit Premnath)

Intervention # 3 by Shifter (Sreshta Premnath)

There are set dates and times for these interventions. Do these interventions, in themselves, become performative? Is the essential quality of the show dependent upon viewers witnessing these interventions? If yes, how so?

Viewer interaction was very key in all the interventions. With Town Hall Meeting and SHIFTER they were participants rather than mere ‘viewers’. While with AHV and Greshams Ghost it was more of an opening reception/reading/panel discussion kind of interaction.

Town Hall Meeting had prepared a questionnaire based on their reading of postcolonial theorists as well as essays and texts on the notion of the ‘other’. So the participant would sit with them, in a make shift tent they made in the gallery, thereby making it a small more comforting space within the abstract gallery space, and answer the questions. THM is in the process of compiling the answers.

Shifter’s intervention involved looking at works with torchlights while Trin T Minh-ha‘s lecture played. So the role of this ‘viewer’ has also been a point of exploration within established structures.

Many Asian artists, increasingly because of international gallery representations and greater exposure to international markets, fairs and increased interest in Asian art, have attained a global status. Their works are international in spirit but often deal with themes of displacement, identity and are culturally specific. Additionally, most artists featured in this show are international artists of Asian origin. How do these themes appear in this show? In the interventions so far, how have the artists responded to re-contextualizing their works?

The artists were chosen either because they were of South Asian or Middle-Eastern origin or had some connection to the region as embodied in their practice. This was a conscious choice reaffirmed to work within the gallery’s vision as well so as to have that ever-present dialog and debate of choosing artists and creating contexts based on nationality.

The process of inviting artists was interesting. So was the process of inviting those who would function as interventions. Most accepted to be a part of the show as artists while some had issues with being contextualized based on their South Asian identity, even though the point of the project was to set it up that way so that we could deal with all the problems associated with it. And that was great! It shows how some artists can be very cautious of how their work is being contextualized. It shows a need for control, perhaps. And so even before the project materialized here we were negotiating control! Here was a strain of dialog that’s always running through every other debate on the ‘other’ identity, the ‘non-Western’ identity, that was more pronounced now that we were specifically talking about a project that was ironically trying to discuss the problems of such contexts and if at all it can be resolved here.

Intervention #4 Greshams Ghost

Intervention #4 by Greshams Ghost

In terms of responding to the actual interventions it’s always been positive and interesting when they give their feedback. They have been more open to all these different interactions and contexts. No sense of losing control even though it could have run through their mind at some point, I suppose. I can’t speak for them but it also brings up the notion of trust in my mind. The fact that I know most of them at a personal level, if not all, it’s less formal, so to speak. I mean of course there are consignment agreements and everything else related to formal structures between gallery and artists but there is still a sense of community here between all participants.

Do you plan a finale for the last day of the show?

There’s no finale. The project in its materialization at The Guild ceases to exist. The dialog still goes on.

Meenakshi Thirukode is a writer and curator based in New York. She graduated with honors for art critical and historical development from the masters program at Christie’s Education, New York. She has written for leading Indian newspaper The Hindu, and is a columnist for White Wall Magazine‘s online daily as well as artconcerns.com. Thirukode serves on the Christie’s Alumni Society Board (New York).

AM/KN

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Pop culture references abound in Indonesian art: curator Eva McGovern discusses Indieguerillas’ Happy Victims and the Southeast Asian art climate

Posted by artradar on June 23, 2010


INDONESIAN CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY EXHIBITION

Indieguerillas is made up of Indonesian husband-and-wife duo Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti, whose artistic skills stem from roots in the design industry. Known for their smooth blending of pop culture aesthetics, subtle social commentary and use of traditional Javanese folklore elements, Indieguerillas presented “Happy Victims“, their latest solo exhibition, at Valentine Willie Fine Art Singapore.

The title “Happy Victims” reflects the fact that consumers have willingly but unconsciously become dominated by capitalist spending customs – people no longer spend only for pure necessity, but now spend to gain symbols of status and success. Touching on this popular subject, Indieguerillas’ renderings are colourful and uplifting. A good sense of humour and playful attitude draw the viewer in to investigate the relationships between various elements in their works: sneakers, Mao’s headshot, Astro Boy, Colonel Sanders, Javanese folklore characters.

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

The Southeast Asian art scene is both fascinating and difficult, elements which are highlighted in “Happy Victims” and can be attributed to the area’s diversity and rich cultural history. Art Radar Asia spoke with Eva McGovern, the exhibition’s curator, to talk about Indieguerillas, the show, Southeast Asian art, and her experiences working in the region.

Can you describe the process of curating Indieguerillas’ “Happy Victims”? How did you generate the idea?

As it is a solo show by Indieguerillas, the central idea of “happy victims of the capitalism and the material world” was generated by the artists themselves. The curator provides the support structure. One of my personal interests is in urban and youth culture and street style, so I got to know the two artists about 18 months ago and visited their studio. We discussed their idea together, taking inspirations from urban culture.

What’s unique about the Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti working as a duo?

Miko and Santi have worked together since 1999 and formed Indieguerillas professionally in 2002. The husband-and-wife team usually conceptualise together for the overall big picture. Then, Miko usually makes the initial design and outlines the images while Santi creates the details. They share similar interests in urban and youth culture, which is a big part of their lives. Their works are the visual output of how they live their lives basically.

What’s the unique quality of Indieguerillas’ works compared to other contemporary Indonesian art? Is it their use of youth culture?

It is actually very popular in contemporary Indonesian art creation to incorporate urban culture elements. For example, there is a huge mural tradition in Yogyakarta [which is] common and well celebrated. Younger artists are very interested in this dimension and Indonesia is a very playful place. So lots of humour [and] social comedies can be seen in contemporary Indonesian art.

There are two striking things about Indieguerillas: first, the fact that they work as a husband-and-wife team; second, their proficient experimentation with multiple medium – paintings, installation, design, etc. They benefit from their position as designers by training. Graphic design influences the way they construct their works where there is a considerable amount of experimental energy. They do some commercial work as well, and operate between the two worlds – fine art and commercial art.

Hunter-Gatherer Society III  Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

Hunter-Gatherer Society III Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you elaborate more on the overlapping between fine art and design manifested in their works?

While design has an imbedded sense of usefulness and fine art is not about being useful, the line between fine art and design is a very flexible one. Indieguerillas do make merchandise and T-shirts, and customised sneakers. In terms of the show [“Happy Victim”], objects are fine art. It can be a bit dangerous trying to block down Indieguerillas in any camp. In this post-modern world, anything goes really.

Design is more acceptable in a way because it can reflect the pop culture we are in. People enjoy looking at design objects, which implies that power comes with an entertaining medium, so artists can convey their messages more effectively. Indieguerillas are not making political comments but simply observations, incorporating Javanese folklore. It is about how things meet and collide together. Even if no one gets the message behind, the beautiful design with its youth finish is pleasing to look at; viewers can just get a sense of enjoyment when looking at the execution of their works. Their works become a bit more sinister as you spend more time looking at it.

By lifting and restyling the Javanese folklore and wayang (shadow puppetry) and mixing them with comical and urban objects such as briefcase and sneakers, Indieguerillas display their sense of cultural pride while connecting with the younger audience.

Across contemporary Indonesian art, is it common that the traditional elements are reinvented to adapt to the new context?

The trauma of political events is still very resonating to people. Traditional culture is still very influential and you can never really escape it. The younger generation of Indonesian artists are more focused on asking themselves about their identities: what it means to be “Indonesian”, what it means to live in the 21st century…. They try to deal with these issues in an open-ended playful way. Indonesian art has many discourses around these issues, supported by solid academic writings.

The Marionette Faithful, Screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate & digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010, Courtesy of artists and VWFA

The Marionette Faithful, screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate and digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you share with us your views on the art scene in Southeast Asia and any regional differences you noticed, in particular, between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore?

It can be troublesome when trying to discuss generally and authoritatively such a complex region [as] Southeast Asia. If I were to make some observations, I would say:

Indonesia:

It is much bigger and has many more artists producing a huge volume of interesting art. There are many more art centres in the country too: Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta. The nature of the communities in the country is very creative and art is well integrated into daily life. Art and creativity is celebrated here.

There is stronger international funding compared to Malaysia and the country’s link to Holland is still very productive in terms of arts funding, cross cultural dialogues, residencies and exhibitions. Overall, Indonesian artists have more confidence about being “artists”.

Malaysia:

Having gained its independence in 1957, the country is much influenced by being more multi-racial. Malaysia has a challenging funding structure for the art, because it is not appreciated or valued as much. Institutionally, the country does not have an intellectual voice guiding or analyzing contemporary art. There are not enough curators and writers. Commercial galleries are leading the way of what kind of art is being bought and seen.

Since the 1990s, artists turned their preoccupation to social commentary and released their frustration in their works. There are several camps of artists: market-friendly traditionalists who are locally inspired and interested in abstract expressionist and realist painting, and the more international groups doing conceptual, performative and installation based work.

Singapore:

There are a lot less artists but the funding stream is well established. The country has a set of well integrated resources, such as biennales and art fairs. It is facing a top-heavy situation: it has an internationally influenced strategy on top, while due to the strict censorship, art creation is much more challenging in terms of producing politically critical work.

What is often seen is some beautifully crafted installation [work] and engagement with international critical theory and conceptual practive. Artists could be more provocative in terms of social commentary, but they are unable or don’t want to do so in this slick and modern, and financially stable, country.

Can you share with us your personal experiences working in the region? How did you first start working in Malaysia?

I came to Malaysia in 2008. Prior to that, I worked in London at a major gallery for four years. I am half English, half Malaysian. Before coming back, I got interested in the burgeoning Southeast Asian art scene and was getting a sense of what is going on. In London, a lot of my time was devoted to facilitating other people’s programmes and I did not have time to research on topics I was interested in.

After I came back, I started writing for a lot of magazines, so I forced myself to think critically. Then I started to teach Malaysian art history in Singapore. I was invited to be part of a group curatorial show on Southeast Asian in February 2009 in Hong Kong. I also work as the Managing Editor of Arteri, an arts blog that looks at Malaysian and  Southeast Asian art. I was accepting a lot of opportunities coming my way in order to figure out what my true interests were. I will be joining Valentine Willie Fine Art to become their regional curator soon.

Back here, hierarchy is not as tight as in London or the US. One is able to connect with the artists and make tangible contributions. Unlike being a small fish in a huge over saturated pond, I feel I am part of a growing changing scene. I find it very inspiring and rewarding to work with people with shared experiences, who are committed to doing something great.

SXB/KN

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Xu Zhen takes on Middle Eastern identities and cultures as the new artists’ collective alias Madeln at the Ikon Gallery, UK

Posted by artradar on June 16, 2010


MADEIN ARTIST COLLECTIVE CHINESE ART UK GALLERY SHOW

Seeing One’s Own Eyes is the first European exhibition by MadeIn, a new artists’ collective founded in 2009 in Shanghai by Xu Zhen (b. 1977, Shanghai), often heralded as one of the most important and renowned conceptual artists to have emerged from China since the 1990s.

While the work is all made in China, Madeln impersonates a fictional group of Middle Eastern artists, creating a kind of exhibition in disguise, “an exhibition of an exhibition.”  The use of this technique enables Xu to play down his personal identity.

Derived from “Made In”, two words that refer to manufacturing (with country of origin not specified), the name Madeln also phonetically translates into Chinese for “without a roof ” (‘méi d˘ı∙ng’), suggesting an openness to the collective’s work.

Through a range of media including sculpture, video and mixed-media installation, Madeln presents clichéd images of the Middle East, as a war-torn part of the world, associated with the oil industry, death, violence, human suffering and religious conflict. By raising issues of cultural perception, the exhibition encourages us to take a clearer view of current affairs in that region of the world.

The most recent work titled Hey, are you ready? (2009–2010) comprises of three large white sculptures made from polystyrene, one of the many by-products derived from the distillation of oil. These objects form neat, crisp packaging for the protection of loaded symbols including mosques, crescents, oil barrels and Kalashnikov rifles, revealed by negative space.

Spread (2009), a series of wall hangings covered with cartoon imagery, deal explicitly with the geographical politics of Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Europe and the USA. Key political figures and scenarios are starkly drawn and exaggerated to billboard proportions, provoking and highlighting the often unconstructive and negative debates that are encountered in this area.

'Spread' by Madeln (2009) Mixed Media on Canvas, Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery

'Spread' by Madeln (2009), mixed media on canvas. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

In Perfect Volume (2009) the toe-ends of combat desert boots create a circle on the floor representing a row of absent soldiers as imagined casualties. This references the eternity and infinity of the circle, and is further depicted in the piece Machine for Perpetual Motion (2009), a model of an oil pump, constructed meccano-style but made from razor wire. The energy needed for its movement is blatantly taken from an electrical socket.

The illusionary installation Calm (2009) is made of building debris, a carpet of bits of brick and rubble that is still at first glance. Slowly it reveals itself as animated, gently moving up and down as if it were breathing like the survivor of a bomb blast, trapped and awaiting rescue. This notion of destructive power also features in the low-level floor-based installationThe Colour of Heaven (2009), where mushroom clouds from atomic bomb explosions are placed under assorted glasses.

'The Colour of Heaven' by Madeln (2009) Glasses, painting Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery

'The Colour of Heaven' by Madeln (2009), glasses, painting. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

The title of this exhibition refers to a verse in the Koran, “My way, and that of my followers, is to call you to God, on evidence as clear as seeing with one’s own eyes” (Sura 12, verse 108). Freely translated it is an opportunity for to reflect, a consideration of how we see – by “seeing one’s own eyes” – as much as what we see.

Seeing One’s Own Eyes” is a collaboration with S.M.A.K. (Belgium) and is on display at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, until 11 July, 2010.

Two other articles regarding Xu Zhen’s Madeln and “Seeing One’s Own Eyes”, when the show was on display in other international locations, are:

RM/KN

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Curator Valerie Doran on ‘Hope and Glory’ and challenges for Hong Kong art world – interview

Posted by artradar on May 28, 2010


HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Valerie Doran, Hong Kong-based independent curator, writer, and translator

For a place that has been repeatedly touted as a cultural desert, Hong Kong has managed to attract arts practitioners from many walks of life who are dedicated to working with the challenging realities present within the Chinese city-state. These creative professionals are forging an atmosphere in Asia where the contemporary arts are accessible and alive. Valerie Doran, an independent curator originally from Rhode Island in the United States, embodies the spirit of these determined arts professionals who are striving to transform the parched art landscape of the former British colony.

Her most recent project, Simon Birch’s Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, has been lauded by Art Forum Online as a ‘critic pick’ and praised by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times. However, Doran asserts, the exhibition represents more than a critically acclaimed artistic endeavor, and serves as an ‘intervention’ into the Hong Kong art world, “finding a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.”

A creative spirit seeking revolution

Valerie Doran is a dichotomy: a gentle creative spirit who harbors an intense attraction to revolutionary ideas. As a Wellesley educated translator and arts scholar who majored in both Chinese and English Literature, she effortlessly exists in both eastern and western cultural worlds. As a Chinese translator and expert in traditional Chinese literature, she can read and speak fluent Mandarin.

Valerie arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1980’s as a Wellesley-Yenching fellowship recipient at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she studied Chinese intensively and taught classes in the English department and core curriculum programme. She later studied at the National University of Taiwan while the territory was still under martial law, and became involved in the burgeoning local avant-garde arts scene, which was riddled with political activists. Of the mid-80’s Taiwanese art scene, she says:

“Artists and the dissidents were very linked, and were all kind of loosely affiliated during this interesting time. There was a lot of patronage of artists by corporate people who themselves were quite liberal… Many of these people were early supporters for what became the Democratic Progressive Party.”

Her Path to Curating

Doran’s journey to becoming an independent curator included working for the distinguished Johnson Chang at Hanart TZ Gallery, which has been an instrumental gallery in pioneering contemporary Chinese art. During her 3-year stint at Hanart, Doran first began dabbling in curating contemporary art exhibitions. It was then her interest in curatorial practice was thoroughly peaked, and she enrolled in the Hong Kong Art School’s curatorial studies program, run jointly at the time with New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

In 2008, Doran was one of the first independent curators selected to curate a show for the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Her exhibition, Looking for Antonio Mak, earned wide attention, and was named as the best Hong Kong exhibition of 2008 by Time Out Magazine, as well as being cited as one of the 10 best exhibitions internationally of that year by the China edition of Artforum Online.

Most Recent Project: Hope & Glory with Simon Birch

Her most recent project is Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, inspired by Hong Kong’s British expatriate artist Simon Birch. The show encompasses 20,000 square feet in ArtisTree, a non-profit art space that exists within a sprawling office complex, and is one of the largest multimedia art exhibitions ever created in Hong Kong. The show’s installations utilize video, sculpture, costume and sound design, live performers and 2-dimensional paintings to create a fantastic, interactive environment. Running themes include the journey through life and transformation, the ‘hero’ mythologies of various cultures, and science fiction. The show also maintains a definitive preoccupation with craftsmanship and the process of producing art.

Art Radar’s writer and researcher Erin Wooters met with Valerie Doran to discuss her experience and the challenges of curating Hope & Glory, a mammoth and unprecedented project, with no comparable exhibition ever attempted in Hong Kong. Valerie’s revelations are surprising, and include details of the conceptual performance that didn’t come to fruition in Hope & Glory due to the grave injury of the human ‘artwork’, how exactly the Birch Foundation managed to secure government funding for the show within Hong Kong’s hyper-competitive and chronically under-funded art scene, and what this exhibition means for the future of contemporary art in Hong Kong.

'Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Paul Kember. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How did you meet Simon and become involved with this project?

Simon was one of the artists in my ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’ show, so that’s how I met him. What I was looking for [in artists for Antonio Mak] was not a style—I was looking for a level of sensitivity and a voice. There were artists that I liked and I wanted to work with, and I wanted a figurative painter.  I had seen a painting of Simon’s, and I didn’t know who he was, but when I saw one of his paintings I was very struck by the texture of the brushwork. So I met him. He had never heard of Antonio, and I showed him Antonio’s catalogue and he was almost in shock because he responded so strongly to the work and the imagery. So he wanted to do it … After that show completed, he asked me if I’d work with him on ‘Hope and Glory’.

Can you describe the process of curating the Hope & Glory show?

We met for over a year, working on this concept, the floor plans, the narrative, and the sub-narrative. There was a lot of discussion. Then, 3 months before the show opened, Robert Peckham from Hong Kong University, who is a history professor who had seen both the ‘Antonio’ show and a smaller show that Simon did during his illness, which was a really powerful show called ‘Out of the Darkness’, got to know Simon and was very interested in this project, so we had discussions with him. There was a lot of in-depth conceptual thought and discussion, which lasted for about a year, that went into this show. The show was very formed in Simon’s mind and he already knew certain things that he wanted to do. However, the show as it is now also has elements that were changed, or gotten rid of.

This is a very unique show. How was curating this exhibition different from your previous experiences?

It was a very different experience from curating a show that I generated the idea. This is a situation in which an artist came to me with a concept for a complex multimedia installation, and asks to have it curated, so what does that really mean? It is a very different role. The closest analogy that I can come up with to describe our relationship is an editor and a novelist. Editors come across novelists with all different levels of formed work. Some may be very sketchy, or have just a few chapters. It depends on what stage you get into the relationship with the writer. So, you must challenge the language, challenge the structure, and challenge the concept.

'Crawling From the Wreckage', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot, including an interactive viewer. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Douglas Young. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Were there any surprises or unexpected difficulties in the making of ‘Hope & Glory’?

One of the key installations, the living room installation, originally wasn’t like that. It was originally all stage, and a key concept that ended up not being able to happen, was that he hired a guy he knows to transform himself into a super being. To transform himself, an everyday guy, into an iron man athlete over the course of a year. So, the guy started training for about 6 or 7 months, and filmed himself everyday, and that was to be edited into a film about his transformation. And then over the course of the exhibition, over 2 months, the man was to always be sitting in the living room. What happened was that 6 or 7 months into his training, the guy almost broke his neck during training. It was just before Christmas, and he severely injured his neck, almost severed his spine. So obviously that didn’t happen. Simon has him on video on one of the TVs on the floor, but the overall concept had to go. It didn’t happen. We decided then it would be fun to change the living environment into the computer vector cage, and create a cage for humans in the living room space.

When it came time to build the show, it was also so complicated to build that he hired a production company that usually sets up rock concerts. Because, no one knows how to do an art show here, except people who work at the museum. No one knew how to build it. We had to start from scratch with everything. It was hideously difficult.

I also knew I was taking a big risk, as was Simon, who was taking the biggest risk of all, because he’s put everything he has into the show, and he busted his butt for over and year and had to find a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.

'Spinal Mount Starcracker', 2010. Hope and Glory installation shot, by Simon Birch. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are you satisfied with the show? Does it achieve your intentions?

I think it fulfills Simon’s vision, and I believe it’s achieved something. I believe we’ve constructed a pretty interesting world for people to enter and take something away. I think it has communicated a lot of personal vision of the artist, and I think it is conceptually multilayered and very interesting in that way. I think in terms of the physical realization of the physical works, that partly due to time limitations and all the other limitations when trying to do this, such as money and space, that certain things weren’t pushed to the limit and there are things we weren’t able to realize.

I think my collaborative experience with Simon was more problematic than expected, but that’s ok. On many levels I feel very amazed by his achievement, and I’ve learned a lot… The fact that we were able to pull together so many interesting people in the forums, and to see the students coming in, it’s awesome.

The show has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of press, and there is a really great article in the International Herald Tribune, and that’s all great, but that’s not the key issue for me.

Were pieces transported into the space or built in ArtisTree?

The large-scale sculpture pieces like the star and the steel ball, and the letters were made in a factory in Guangzhou, according to the technical drawings. The production supervisor would go out there and send photographs back.

The steel frame for the trophy ball was created in Guangzhou, and the trophies were put on by hand, one by one. And engraved one by one. The cage living room (‘Crawling from the Wreckage’) was put up string by string.

What is inscribed on the trophies?

On the ‘Spinal Mount Starcracker’… The name of every artwork Simon’s ever made and every person he’s ever loved or has been a friend to him is on those trophies, so that’s why he calls it ‘my life in a thousand cheap trophies.’

Can you tell the story about how this was funded?

Simon is an outsider in the art scene. He’s a Westerner. This is a very personal show for him, and he’s taking risks and exposing himself to a very unsympathetic, hermetic contemporary art scene.  The show has done a lot of amazing things in a lot of ways, but people are suspicious, asking, why is there government funding? Why did the tourism board give money for the show? We find this criticism quite hilarious, because Simon was working on the show for two years, with me for one year, and was maxing out all his credit cards and scrounging for sponsorship.

We heard about a mega-event fund, through somebody over at the NGO art organizer. They said, there’s this crazy fund you should try for, because they’re supposed to fund entertainment, sports, and cultural events, and they’ve got a ton of money. The main criterion is that you have to guarantee that at least 10,000 people will come to your event. The second thing is that you have to show that it will attract tourism, and that it will help benefit the image of Hong Kong. So Simon was like, let’s go for this. I’m thinking, are you crazy, they’re never going to give this to a visual artist. But why not try it, what have we got to lose, right? So, I asked a friend of mine who worked with me on the ‘Antonio’ show, who used to be a government accountant and is now an emerging curator, to come look at these forms and help us understand them. Simon also did a lot of research online about how to fill out these forms.

We filled out the forms, submitted them, and Simon was really surprised when he got short listed and called back for an interview. Then, we made the second cut, which meant that we were one of nine proposals asked to submit a seven minute PowerPoint presentation to their selection committee. That amazed us. This was all in February—we didn’t even know we had any government funding until March. All these artists are accusing- oh, they could only do this because they got government funding—which is wrong.

We had KC Wong with us for the presentation, who is a friend of Simon’s and a really great artist. He was originally going to do a piece in the show but it didn’t work out. The 3 of us went to meet 20 people in business suits at the Tourism Bureau and Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and there was a question and answer session and it wasn’t hostile. I was so surprised they were actually interested in knowing more. I never expected they’d give us money.

We were really shocked when around February we were told they were going to give us a matching grant for up to 2 million [HK] dollars for production costs. That means that we have to spend 4 million [HKD] on production and they’ll give us 2 million. However, the overall value of the show is over 15 million Hong Kong dollars [approximately 2 million USD] . That includes the sponsorship, venue (which we didn’t have to pay for), the graphic design, and the banners. This is all sponsored. For our education program, we got $50,000 HKD from Louis Vuitton to do our forums, which we are also using to pay for buses to bus in students from less advantaged areas.We were able to invite the Symbiotic Dance Troupe, a community-based group incorporating physically handicapped dancers, to perform at our first forum, and they did an interactive work inside the installation, which was absolutely beautiful. So we’re using the money very wisely and producing an educational pamphlet for students.

All the actors in the films, the designers, the film directors, and the musicians—they’ve all done this for nothing or for very little. So the main cost is the production but the value of the show is on the scale of the Tate Modern.

So does this mark a first for artists trying for this government fund?

Well, it is a relatively new fund and most artists would never even consider it. They all go running to the arts development council, where artists usually get money… Yet, here is something interesting, because it’s supposed to raise Hong Kong’s international image. Hong Kong is trying to strengthen its creative industries and make itself the creative capital of Asia, but still does not include the fine arts or visual arts within their definition of a creative industry. So, the fact that we are able to get this money actually for a visual arts project from this unlikely source, and they are willing to take a risk and fund us, is a very good thing.

'Twilight Shadows of the Bright Face', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Prodip and LucyAndBart. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How do you feel about the critics who call Hong Kong a cultural desert?

The way I look at it is this: Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, and there are a lot of talented people that are doing excellent work whether in the performing arts, music, visual arts, or theatre. The ‘desert’ is the lack of platform for them. The desert is in the cultural policy of the Hong Kong government. It’s a conceptual desert, not a real desert.

So, what is the definition of a desert? It is a place where things don’t get watered. There are plants, water them! If not, they have to move elsewhere to survive. Except for the performing arts, which has more of a platform and is better known, everything else has to move to the periphery to find ‘water’. They have to water themselves. That’s the desert.

Of course art can never be government generated, but, in the West you have a mixture. You have the Guggenheim, a private museum created by a collector, you have PS1, and there are artist-generated spaces. But here, space is at a premium—it’s valuable, it’s money. The government also doesn’t know what to do, because they don’t trust the artists. Even the ADC [Hong Kong Arts Development Council] —if you apply for $120,000 [HKD], they give you $50,000 [HKD] because they assume you are exaggerating funding needs. Everybody is always under funded.

What do you think the show means for Hong Kong?

I don’t know. I just think it’s this weird entity that happened. One thing it means for sure is that more people have been exposed to a serious multimedia installation by an artist, and been exposed to an artist’s vision. That’s amazing. That’s what you want.

What is the biggest challenge for advancing the arts in Hong Kong?

Space is a huge issue in Hong Kong—space for the visual art, where  is it? The museum? No.

1A Space is great but it’s way out there. Artists have to invent their own spaces here in Hong Kong. They are amazing in that way.  But the problem is that they’re not accessible to most people so there tends to be this kind of interiority or privacy, a self-contained, almost clubbish atmosphere here in the contemporary art scene. If you’re not a member of the club, it’s a problem. When it’s like that in art, it’s not a good thing.

There are a lot of new laws, like the ‘80% law’, which I find to be criminal. For instance, if developers are able to convince 80% of tenants to sell their properties to them, then you would be forced to sell your flat. People talk about post-colonialism, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. There is just always a new colonizer, and right now the colonizer is the developers, and the government allows it. Together, they are colonizing Hong Kong space. That has to stop, and needs to be more rational.

Which Hong Kong arts organisations do you appreciate?

In terms of an organisation that has made a new contribution in the past five to ten years, definitely Asia Art Archive. I think Asia Art Archive is a very important organisation.

1A Space is good, and has been struggling to stay open. They are artists in a government owned space; that’s really tough.

There are some important grass roots initiative projects run by artists. The Kai Tak River Project is run by artists and architects who are trying to preserve the Kai Tak River Area as a cultural space, and this involves a whole lot of other issues.

The musicians and theatre performers in the San Po Kong district who moved into factory areas to have rehearsal and performance space have also formed an organization. The government has a new initiative to develop the San Po Kong area, so they are trying to throw everyone out. But, where are they supposed to go? They have formed their own group to try to change things. [The San Po Kong Creative and Cultural Industry Concern Group]

'Tannhauser', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Gary Gunn. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are there any particular galleries you value in Hong Kong?

When it comes to commercial galleries I prefer not to answer that question, but in terms of non-commercial galleries, I can say that it’s really great there are some new locally run galleries showing more conceptual works with a less commercial and more experimental style. Like the YY9 Gallery, and the Exit Gallery. These put on small and interestingly conceived shows that are less commercial, which I think is really great.

Do you attend biennales?

Not really. Frankly I don’t have a lot of time to travel because I’m very busy. I have a child and I teach. I get to some things here and there, but biennales are not a compelling interest of mine.

How do you stay informed about the art world? What do you read?

I think I read very much at random. I’ll read some of the Western art news, like Art Forum, Art News, and The Art Newspaper. I actually find a lot of interesting stuff in the Financial Times; they have a great Arts and Culture section. Occasionally the Wall Street Journal. I’ll also look at Yishu, which is a contemporary Chinese arts journal published out of Canada. And Orientations Magazine, because I am also interested in traditional art, and I have a background in traditional Chinese painting.

However, I do research a lot of particular topics that I’m teaching. For instance, I may read about Indian art or the contemporary scene in miniatures from Pakistan. I’m not the kind of person who regularly reads a whole range of things; I’m very much driven by my personal interests.

What literature and writers have influenced your thinking?

There is a very intriguing text by the 17th century ‘eccentric’ painter Shi Tao, called in English ‘Enlightening Remarks on Painting. It is quite a radical and conceptual text in its way, and I have re-read it and drawn from it many times since I first read it more than twenty years ago.

Another book is ‘Ways of Seeing’ by the British humanist and critic John Berger. In fact, the text of Hope & Glory’s educational pamphlet, which we designed for students, (conceived by myself and Robert Peckham of HKU, with text by Robert) was inspired by Berger’s approach.

What projects are you looking forward to next?

[Laughs] Sleeping! Actually, I am involved in another project but we have not gotten to realize it yet, partly because of Hong Kong’s weird ‘creative industries’ definition. The project is ‘In Dragon Garden, which is a beautiful private garden in Tsuen Wan, and the granddaughter of the founder has managed to preserve it from developers. With her aunt and uncle, who now own it, they want to create a public cultural and artistic environment and garden. However, getting the support to do that is very difficult. So I’ve been working on a prototype art project with that, and so far we have not been able to realize it because of funding issues.

I would like to do another show that breaks the mold of how things are usually done here. I would like to work with a single Hong Kong artist and just do a major show in a major space, because no one does that. Like in New York. I just want to do that to change the paradigm. It’s great to have art in these private intimate spaces, and that’s why Hong Kong art has developed the way it has, in a very interesting way. But we need to break out of that and think about projection.

The other thing I’d like to do is create a different kind of space. And I’d love to be a curator and get paid for it. That would be exciting. [laughs]

EW/KN

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Reji Arackal is new kid on contemporary Indian art block

Posted by artradar on May 19, 2010


INDIAN ART EMERGING ARTISTS

Art Radar Asia is pleased to bring you a review of new kid on the block Reji Arackal’s “Sans Divine Machines” by guest contributor and veteran Indian art writer, Deepanjana Pal.

Reji Arackal is among the promising upcoming artists in the Indian contemporary art arena. Represented by one of Mumbai’s premier galleries, Sakshi, Arackal has shown all over India and Sakshi has previously shown his works at group shows held at Sakshi Gallery Taipei. “Sans Divine Machines” is his first major solo in Mumbai and will be on display till April 30, 2010.

 

Sharing the Concept of Abortion by Reji Arackal

Sharing the Concept of Abortion by Reji Arackal

 

Mumbai-based art critic Deepanjana Pal wrote about the show:

There is little colour in Arackal’s new show “Sans Divine Machines” and, judging from the titles, a generous dose of Roger Penrose was used in the making of these charcoal drawings. Arackal seems to agree with Penrose’s theory that human intelligence doesn’t have rationale. It’s a curious combination of illogic and the absurd. And despite the apparent chaos, it all works, but according to its own curious laws.

The human body is a strange machine in Arackal’s charcoals. His figures are bloated, almost like blimps, and yet there is no slackness to them. These aren’t fleshy bodies, as seen in Lucian Freud’s paintings, but enormous masses of humanity, like in Diego Rivera’s murals. Their immensity has something very solid about them, like the mammoth statues and drawings of peasants from Russia’s Communist years. However, unlike much of Communist art, Arackal also has a sense of humour and it surfaces unexpectedly in many of his works…

Read the complete post at Deepanjana Pal’s blog What They Got Away With.

Deepanjana Pal has been writing about art since 2006 and is the author of “The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma“. In the past, she has written for Time Out Mumbai, where she edited the art section, and has also  contributed articles for publications like ArtIndia, NuktaArt, Time Out Beijing and Time Out London.

DP/KN

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