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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part III – On local recognition of local art and the cube redefined

Posted by artradar on September 15, 2010


TAIWANESE CONTEMPORARY ART INSTALLATION TAIWAN-CHINA RELATIONS ARTIST INTERVIEW

When Tsong Pu was studying overseas in the 1970s he would introduce himself as Chinese or as being from China. Later, as China opened it’s borders and more art from the country was exposed to the outside world, Tsong began to introduce himself as Taiwanese. Now, he introduces himself as a Shanghai-born artist who lives in Taiwan.

Cultural relations between Taiwan and China have always been complicated and the current success Chinese contemporary artists are enjoying globally generally outstrips that of artists who are living and working in Taiwan. Although originally from China himself, abstract artist Tsong Pu does not see much collaboration between the two countries.

“Each side does their own thing. At the moment you will find that very few Taiwanese artists show their work in Mainland China, in galleries or in museums. But you will find that many artists from China show their works in Taiwanese galleries or museums.”

Tsong believes that Taiwanese artists and art professionals need to work hard to change this situation, “to give collectors and buyers more confidence in Taiwanese art.” He goes on to state that the Chinese art market is created and supported by the Taiwanese collector.

“Much of the artwork coming out of China is being sold to Taiwanese collectors. The [Taiwanese] government supports Chinese artists, but the Chinese government doesn’t support Taiwanese artists.”

This view is expressed in the installation One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media), which we discuss with Tsong in this article. Blake Carter, writing for the Taipei Times in November last year, talked about the piece:

“I was surprised to find that some of the ropes he installed at the Biennial fall onto a bent metal signpost that reads ‘Taiwan Contemporary Art Museum.’ There is no such place. Many artists complain that Taiwan’s museums – especially in the capital, and specifically the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) – don’t pay enough attention to the country’s artists.”

Blake went on to say that “Taiwanese artists are relegated to the museum’s smaller galleries downstairs while Chinese artists Fang Lijun, Cai Guo-Qiang and Ai Weiwei get large exhibitions at TFAM.” When asked by Blake whether One Comes from Emptiness was a comment on Taiwan’s art institutions and their treatment of Taiwanese art and artists, Tsong replied, “Yes.”

This is part three of a three part series. In this part we relay to you Tsong’s views on the artistic relationship between Taiwan and China and look at two further installations by the artist. Both of these works are tied to the artist’s signature grid pattern, the repetition of 1 x 1 cm squares often intersected with a diagonal line. This grid form is represented in the weave of the nylon rope in One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media) and pulled apart and reconstituted in the separate canvases of Declaration Independence (first presented 1996, mixed media). For more on what to expect from the first and second parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

Tsong Pu, 'One Comes From Emptiness', 2009, mixed media installation, 10 x 1075 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'One Comes from Emptiness', 2009, mixed media installation, 10 x 1075 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media installation) was shown at Viewpoints and Viewing Points: 2009 Asian Art Biennial. In your artist statement for this exhibition you suggested that people from the West and people from the East will perceive this installation differently. Could you explain further?

“I tried to pretend that the rope is just like calligraphy: more natural and softer. This soft line is like Chinese calligraphy or Chinese traditional ink painting. When you see a Chinese courtyard, it makes you feel very natural, it’s soft…. It has something representing the water, the wind, the earth. I used very simple lines or string to create circles. These circles remind me of a Japanese courtyard, its oriental elements, and the lines are like the rain. A traditional Chinese courtyard always expresses these kinds of things. I tried to … merge [this] with Western style.

The steel part is more structural – it has more strength – and represents Western art expression: strong, energetic, long lasting. I am influenced by an artist from England called Anthony Caro who creates sculptures from steel.”

Why do the circles overlay the steel?

“At the very beginning, I tried to present only the circles and the simple white lines but I thought it was too beautiful…. It didn’t have any power. [The circles overlap the steel because] the nylon rope is soft and flexible. It can’t be cut or broken and it will flow over things. Of the material, you can see that one is soft and one is hard, so they contrast. That is the basic structure [of the work]. Different style, different shape, different material, different thinking. But when they come together they can merge.”

So they can exist together?

“Yes, yes. Together they can generate something new, a new way of thinking.”

Is there anything else you’d like to say about One Comes from Emptiness?

“This work was created in 2009. During this year a major typhoon hit Taiwan. This typhoon caused a landslide which covered a mountain village. Because of this event, the natural environment and the view of the landscape was changed. A house that has been moved or destroyed might not actually look so terrible in its new position. After you have viewed it for sometime, you might realise that it actually looks quite beautiful.”

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 1996, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 1996, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

We are interested in your installation Declaration Independence (first presented 1996, mixed media) because you showed it in 1996 and then again this year at your TFAM retrospective, “Art From the Underground“. Can you explain the relationship between the objects and each painting?

“The idea for this work comes from [Transposition of Light and Water (1992, mixed media installation)] but it is represented in a different space. I took one cube from this work and distributed it into several pieces.”

The way you have used the gallery space in Declaration Independence is quite different to how you have used it in other installation pieces.

“These are canvases, just like [The White Line on Grey (mixed media, 1983)] is a canvas. I used the same technique [to paint them both]. The ones that are the same are grouped together. The paintings are like different pages in a book; the pattern [on the canvases] resembles words without any special meaning.

This [coat hanging on the wall] is an object and this object has some dimension – it is 3D and not flat – but [the paintings] are flat, so when they are placed with the 3D objects they will have a conversation. The paintings are like a code and when I separate them in this way they are like the pages [of a book] on the wall.

The paintings have no meaning, but the objects may project some meaning onto them. Among the objects are some maps. When all these things are separate they have no meaning but when they are placed together they could have some meaning. I am not sure whether the paintings influence the objects, or the objects influence the paintings. When you open a book there is a lot of information in it. It is like this book on the wall has been opened and many things have started to happen. There is a conversation between [the paintings and the objects], a relationship.”

And is it you, the artist, who brings meaning to this book, or is it the task of the viewer?

“It should be both. I hope it is the viewer.”

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 2010, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 2010, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

About this series

This Art Radar interview with Taiwanese artist Tsong Pu has been presented in three parts. In part one, Master Tsong discusses two works in which he has used and adapted his most well known technique, a 1 cm by 1 cm grid pattern. In part two, the artist speaks on two very different installation pieces, close in date of construction but not in their theory of development. Part three talks about some of the artist’s most recent installation work.

We have also premised each part with some of the artist’s views on the current Taiwanese contemporary art industry, as developed from his roles as mentor, curator and master artist.

KN

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ArtSway Associate Dinu Li’s new solo exhibition on China’s past and present – two Art Radar interviews

Posted by artradar on September 11, 2010


BRITISH-CHINESE ARITST PHOTOGRAPHY NEW MEDIA MULTIMEDIA RESIDENCY INTERVIEW

QUAD Gallery at Derby, UK presents UK and China-based artist Dinu Li’s past, recent and newly commissioned works in a solo showYesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery. This show is partly supported by the ArtSway Associates scheme that Dinu Li is a member of. In this interview, Li discusses the creative inspiration behind his works and ArtSway introduces its unique programme, too.

Dinu Li’s work draws together China’s past and present in a range of medium, including photography, film, video and recently performance. Informed by his personal experiences and thanks to his astute observations, he is fascinated by the spaces in between the personal and political, the public and private. Across all his projects, Li has explored these themes: time, space, change, where things come from, where things go to next, the essence of culture and the interrogation of a vernacular.

Family Village, 2009 Installation view at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion, the 53rd Venice Biennale. Courtesy of artist

'Family Village' (2009). Installation view at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Image courtesy of the artist.

In 2009, Dinu Li was selected to take up a residency at ArtSway, the contemporary visual arts venue in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK. ArtSway provides full curatorial support, mentoring and advisory support for all of their selected artists. After his residency, Dinu Li was invited to become an ArtSway Associate, a scheme providing legacy support for ongoing development and mentoring with Mark Segal, ArtSway’s director, and other industry professionals.

Art Radar Asia interviewed Dinu Li and ArtSway curator Peter Bonnell to discuss Li’s works and ArtSway’s initiatives.

Dinu Li on his works and inspirations

Your work deals a lot with the passing of time by drawing together China’s past and present. Which elements of China’s past and present do you highlight and put in contrast to each other? And why?

Since 2001 I have spent more and more time in China. Over this period, I have seen and experienced a tremendous amount of change taking place throughout the country, at an epic, breathless and almost seismic scale of transformation. This is most noticeable when walking in a neighbourhood I should be familiar with, only to find it almost unrecognisable a year later due to the way it has developed and evolved. People have also changed considerably in this period. There is a sense of ceaseless appetite to consume ideas, experiences and lifestyles.

As a reaction to all these changes, I decided to collaborate with my mother several years ago, in an exercise to identify and retrace the exact sites of her memories. One of the concepts I am trying to grapple with at the moment is to interrogate the relationship between obedience and power in connections to Confucius and Mao.

How did you first become fascinated by this subject and formulate your creative process? Also, did being away from your motherland play a role in the process?

My initial fascination with China came about as a young child growing up in Hong Kong, when my mother used to tell me stories about our motherland. I remember walking around in Guangzhou wearing my favourite trousers with the letters ‘ABC’ stitched on one leg. This became a point of contempt, as people of all ages called me an ‘imperialist pig’ for daring to wear such trousers in public.

Today, I look back at that moment as both significant and pivotal. Even for a seven year old, I could sense the difference when crossing the border from the British-governed Hong Kong of the 70’s to a China still very much gripped by the ideology of Mao. That demarcation seemed to define how we would live out our lives, depending on which side of the demarcation one is situated. I learnt ones dreams and aspirations are intrinsically connected to the times we live in. And so the approach to my work involves an element of interrogation, and to discover one’s position within a space, and how that space alters in time.

The physical distance from having grown up in the West plays an important role. Whilst the distance gives me a certain vantage point to view things, my perception is nevertheless affected by the media around me, and how China is viewed by Western journalists, politicians, businesses, the art world…

Ancestral Nation, 2007 Installation view at ArtSway, UK, Courtesy of artist

'Ancestral Nation' (2007). Installation view at ArtSway, UK. Image courtesy of the artist.

As an artist closely observing life, do you feel in today’s China that the demarcation is still so binary? Today, many native Chinese move from one culture to another and they may come to discover that China, despite it being their homeland, has layers they knew existed…

Defining China in contemporary times is complex, as the nation is transforming at such a rapid pace. On the one hand, there is a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, as demonstrated during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As China expands, the complexity of its national borders becomes increasingly contentious, as its neighbours watch in awe but ultimately in apprehension.

On the other hand, China fully embraces today’s global ideologies, albeit controlled and mediated by central government. Unlike any other time in its history, the China of today is very much integrated with a much wider perspective, which ultimately reduces the feeling of stepping into a different zone when crossing into its borders. Today’s China is equally adept at both Chinese and Western medicine. Walking down a high street, one can find a Starbuck’s as easily as a teahouse. And so the concept of space changing in time is very much in evidence in China.

Dinu Li on his choice of medium

Your works encompass a range of medium. Which medium did you first come into contact with?

Photography was something I came to by accident in my mid-twenties. Up until that point, I had not thought of wanting to become an artist. But as someone who had been dealing with time and space throughout my life, coming into contact with photography seemed like a very powerful intervention, something I could not ignore or resist. It was the perfect medium for me to enter a different juncture in my life, and enabled me to grapple with so many ideas that had been swirling round in my head for so long.

Following that, when did you incorporate other medium and how have you come to that decision?

Once I understood what I could do with a still image, I then wanted to explore different ways of perceiving the world. From that point, I also wanted to integrate and embrace a sense of immediacy within my practice. The immediacy I am talking about can often be found in children, who carry a fearless spontaneity in the way they approach art making. Once I adopt that as a position, it alters the way I work, and so from that point, my practice became more experimental, and I was able to really explore my work by using sound, moving imagery, animation and recently performance.

In particular, how to you decide between using camera and performance?

There is a sense of mediation whether I am in front of or behind the camera, but I guess the difference is in the idea of being inside or outside of something. For instance, there are times when I simply want to be an observer, or play the role of a voyeur. But at other times it may be absolutely necessary to be inside the artwork itself, in which case, performance comes into the fore.

Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery, 2010 Installation view at QUAD, Derby, UK. Courtesy of artist

'Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery' (2010). Installation view at QUAD, Derby, UK. Image courtesy of the artist.

Dinu Li on ArtSway and similar programmes in Asia

How has ArtSway helped you in your career, both during the residency and after?

Working with ArtSway exceeded all my expectations of a publicly-funded arts organisation. One of ArtSway’s key strengths is their notion of nurturing a long-term relationship with the artists they work with. It’s an investment they place upon a relationship built on trust. My three-month residency was extremely productive, as not only did I develop new ideas, but was invited by several institutions to exhibit my work, one of which resulted in a newly commissioned catalogue. In 2009, I was represented at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion for the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Do you know of any similar programmes in Hong Kong, China or the Asia region?

In 2009, I was selected to participate in a three-month international residency with OCAT in Shenzhen, China. As far as I know, this is one of the few, if not the only, state-funded residency schemes in China. The programme and staff at OCAT were very supportive of my research and went out of their way to help me as far as they could. They also gave me maximum flexibility and freedom to develop my work as I wished, without pressure to arrive at an end point. In that respect, they operated in a similar manner to ArtSway.

Peter Bonnell on ArtSway and their residency programme

We noticed that ArtSway has a range of initiatives and a packed calendar. Broadly, how do you describe ArtSway as an institution?

Open since 1997, the gallery exists to present accomplished and challenging contemporary art works in a supportive and relaxed environment. ArtSway supports artists [through the Residency and Associates programmes] to take risks, and also for the general public to engage with the gallery and work on display – and these visitors come from near and far to participate in workshops, talks and events.

Can you introduce the ArtSway Residency programme’s offerings?

Once an artist is selected for a residency, they can expect our full curatorial, mentoring and advisory support. We very often host artists in residence here in Sway in England’s New Forest, and can offer the use of a free studio space. In addition, artists are given an attractive fee, and funds towards researching and producing new work, as well as travel and accommodation funds. We also provide marketing expertise for their subsequent exhibition in ArtSway’s galleries.

In 2005, 2007 and 2009 ArtSway has presented an exhibition of the work of many previous artists in residence as part of ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This particular exhibition provides a significant international stage for many of the artists we have worked with in the past – with curators, writers and galleries from around the world coming to see their work.

Do artists with a residency all naturally become ArtSway Associates afterwards?

Since the year 2000 ArtSway has supported approximately thirty artists in making new work, but not all of them have become ArtSway Associates. There are currently ten artists who are part of the programme – all of whom were invited to become an Associate.

Many of those who are selected, once approached, felt that the continuing support of ArtSway would be beneficial to their practice. However, many artists who have completed a residency or commission with ArtSway are associated with other galleries, usually ones that represent them and offer an existing high level of support.

View of ArtSway. Courtesy of ArtSway

View of ArtSway. Image courtesy of ArtSway.

How have artists benefited from the Associate programme?

The Associates programme has been a huge success to date – offering all artists involved a great deal of support and funding in regard to such things as website training and development, publications, marketing, critical input, and support and advice from ArtSway Director, Mark Segal on funding applications and proposals. Other industry professionals providing mentoring sessions include Matt’s Gallery director Robin Klassnik.

How do artists with Chinese decent benefit from ArtSway support? Is it necessary that he or she has lived or worked in the UK?

ArtSway does not target artists from any particular ethnic group or country, but we do try to ensure that our various opportunities are available to as many people as possible.

However, we have in the past targeted a specific organisation to work with – such as the Chinese Arts Centre (CAC) in Manchester. The intention was to work specifically with a Chinese artist, and we collaborated with CAC to both develop a strong partnership with a high-level organisation, and also to tap into their expertise and knowledge of the Chinese arts scene.

The artist who was selected for the residency partnership with CAC was Beijing-based photographer and filmmaker Ma Yongfeng – an artist who had not worked extensively in the UK prior to our working with him.

SXB/KN/HH

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A testimonial for Chinese contemporary art – Art Radar speaks with Weng Ling

Posted by artradar on August 31, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART ART HISTORY

Weng Ling has been an essential figure over the course of Chinese contemporary art history. Since graduating in art history from the Central Academy of Fine Art (CAFA) in 1989, she has achieved much. In this Art Radar interview, Weng outlines the relationship, as she sees it, between fashion and art and demystifies the perception of her as a “fashion-forward person”, as well as providing insight into the day-to-day activities involved in creating a television art show and running a premier art institution.

She was named director of the Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Art in 1996, where the likes of Wang Guangyi and Zhang Xiaogang had their first solo shows. In 2001, she curated a breakthrough show called “Towards a New Image: Twenty Years of Chinese Contemporary Painting – 1981-2001”. For the first time, a canon of Chinese contemporary artists showed their works at national museums in China. In 2002, she helped curate the Shanghai Biennale “Urban Creation”. She then moved on to the Shanghai Gallery of Art at Three-on-the-Bund, a high-end lifestyle project backed by Chinese American lawyer and entrepreneur Handel Lee. The gallery enjoyed critical success during the six years under Weng Ling’s direction.

In 2008, she returned to Beijing to run the Beijing Center for the Arts at Ch’ien Men 23, another integrated premier lifestyle development with her long-term business partner Handel Lee. In 2010, she ventured into media to produce and host “Arts China”. “Arts China” was the first in-depth interview program to focus exclusively on the top names in the art and culture world in China, including Xu Bing, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Huan, Tan Dun, Cui Jian, and more. Weng Ling blurs the lines between visual art, architecture, design and environmentalism. She collaborates with artists, designers, businessmen, scientists and some of the top institutions and museums in the world.

Art Radar Asia met up with Weng Ling one afternoon to discuss some of her projects.

Weng Ling Portrait, courtesy of Beijing Centre for the Arts

Weng Ling, an essential figure in China's contemporary art community. Image courtesy of Beijing Centre for the Arts.

Weng Ling on “Arts China”

How did you decide to focus on contemporary art when directing the Gallery of CAFA?

It was a natural choice for me. I like art and sincerely wanted to introduce contemporary artists’ reflections on society to a broader audience. I don’t think one has to be a contemporary art connoisseur to have contact with contemporary art itself. Many in the West started promoting Chinese contemporary art because some of the works reflect the conflicts in contemporary Chinese society. After Western capital was injected into the market to raise the monetary value of Chinese contemporary art, Chinese media started following the hype. Neither of the two groups really appreciates Chinese contemporary art based on a very genuine interest in Chinese artists.

Does this partially explain why you ventured into media and produced “Arts China”?

Indeed. The media tends to misinterpret me as a very fashionable person. My work always centers on promoting the most cutting-edge and avant-garde art projects and ideas. So that partially explains why the media could misread me as a “fashion-forward person”. My work can be challenging, as I often face doubt and lack of understanding. This is also the predicament many celebrated artists, designers, architects, directors and musicians find themselves in. So I thought it would be nice to have a casual chat with these friends of mine, in order to showcase the real art and culture figures in China.

The final product looks incredibly real and has a documentary feel to it. How was the process?

It involved a huge amount of work, it sometimes took a full day to record one interview. Luckily, as old friends recounting life and the old stories over all these years, we were very engaged in the conversations. For example, Wang Guangyi looked so carefree on the outside when sharing his longing to hold on to his earliest emotions as a young artist. It was so touching and I almost cried. I have to activate all of the different “channels” in my brain during these interviews, talking like an “insider”. It was quite demanding physically and intellectually. Many museum directors really appreciate “Arts China”, recognising its value in recording Chinese contemporary art history.

Weng Ling on Beijing Center for the Arts

To you, what’s unique about the Beijing Center for the Arts (BCA)?

We are a hybrid art institution between an art museum and a commercial gallery.  On one hand, we discover and promote good Chinese contemporary art that confronts reality and/or has traditional Chinese underpinnings. On the other hand, we are dedicated to promoting collaborations between contemporary art and other disciplines and creating internationally valuable projects. With no precedent in China, it is very interesting to create this space.

It sounds like BCA is your new brainchild, a way in which many of your past experiences can come together naturally.

Yes. Our “BCA Green Art Project” series last year included “Shan Shui: Nature on the Horizon of Art” and “3D City: Future China”, focusing on nature and the urban city respectively. We cooperated with many top-notch artists, architects, scientists, environmentalists and NGOs, governments and businesses from around the world to realise the project. It was a world-wide conversation well beyond the traditional definition of “art”, but a blending of knowledge from many fields. I have previously created fine art exhibitions, city/architecture exhibitions, seminars and have long supported environmental groups and all of these experiences have become a solid foundation for me to draw from to conceive large-scaled cross-disciplinary projects.

So far in your art career, how do you make decisions about which projects to run? Is it based on your instinct, chances, responsibilities or love of art?

I champion artists’ freedom and bravery – this is the “romantic attitude” I hold. Anyone can be an artist and any project can be realised. Creativity has no limit. Whilst I do believe all the work should aim for a high professional standard in its own right, be it music, visual art, design, architecture or others. Like a scientist, I approach each new art project with caution and a rational mind. There are tons of possibilities to create something meaningful in this era in China, and due to this sense of responsibility, I must carefully review all the potential projects.

Weng Ling on crossover collaboration

You have had vast experience collaborating with partners in various fields, including design, architecture, real estate development, and corporate branding. What do you think of the trendy partnership between fashion brands and art?

Many owners of the fashion houses are art collectors who promote the creation of new art. Many fashion designers have fine art training, too. However, Art and fashion must each keep their independence when partnered up – art can easily be overtaken by the commercial demand of the fashion brand. The most meaningful and lasting collaboration is built upon borrowing the strength from the partner to elevate one’s own strength. Both parties must contribute the best of their own strengths.

Unlike their foreign peers, local Chinese businesses aren’t usually used to the idea of sponsoring art. Is that the case in your experience?

Many Chinese entrepreneurs and businessmen are my good friends. I keep learning many things from them, just like from artists. Chinese entrepreneurs have an enduring power to survive in a complex environment. Since the 90s, I have been receiving sponsorship from Chinese companies. They do not necessarily understand art itself, but want to help the ever changing Chinese art scene in any way they can.

On the other hand, the government should really implement policies to encourage corporate sponsorship. The current tax incentive is far from enough. I believe the government’s attitude is like forward-moving water, so as long as we hold an active conversation with them, things can be changed.

Finally, what do you think of the current vibe of the Chinese art scene?

Oh dear, after visiting many institutions in the UK, I have concluded, it’s so not “romantic” (laughs). Because there is no room to challenge myself, and no possibility to challenge the future. The system is so well-developed and built-up over there. Yet in China, there is a force to create something new and we never know what the height of our achievement will be. The historical meaningfulness might be beyond our imagination.

It’s true that China has many problems to deal with, but I am trying to contribute my own bit. The key is to have a humble heart and peace within, no matter which field one is in. The world doesn’t only rotate around people with money, but is transformed by the most creative individuals.

SXB/KN/HH

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A Sunday at Art Taipei – gallery comments, Australian media art, Pearl Lam

Posted by artradar on August 26, 2010


ART FAIRS TAIWANESE ART EVENTS INTERNATIONAL ART ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

Art Radar presents a Sunday at Art Taipei 2010 in nine images accompanied by quotes from Korean gallery director Jung Yong Lee and the refreshingly honest Pearl Lam, panel members at the 2010 Art Taipei Forum, five gallerists presenting their thoughts on the fair, and Australian new media artist Josephine Starrs who spoke at the one of the Art Taipei 2010 Weekend Art Lectures.

Pearl Lam, Director of Contrasts Gallery, and Jung Yong Lee, Director of Gana Art, speaking at the 2010 Art Taipei Forum. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Pearl Lam, Director of Contrasts Gallery, and Jung Yong Lee, Director of Gana Art, speaking at the 2010 Art Taipei Forum. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Pearl Lam, Director, Contrasts Gallery, as heard at the 2010 Art Taipei Forum conversation, Asia International Galleries: The Next Movement: “When the price goes up very high it goes down very fast. It happens to design and it happens to contemporary art. So in the last six months people have been very careful and very cautious about contemporary art, but in blue chip artworks like the post-war or the impressionist it is just going up. And there are a lot of private sales, a lot of secondary market sales. So most of the galleries are actually making money from the secondary market.

Collectors are actually referring to the auction prices as a reference and a lot of young collectors need the auction to validate the price. But I have my thoughts about auctions because auction prices, for me, are never accurate unless they are a really high price like 20, 30, 40 million USD 1. Because it’s very easy; you can put a painting in an auction, we can get all our friends sticking our hands up, push the price up…. So my way of seeing things … most of the auction houses are making money from private clients.”

Joanna Li, Fish Art Center, beside Huang Poren's stainless steel sculpture 'What the heck!'. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Joanna Li, Fish Art Center, beside Huang Poren's stainless steel sculpture 'What the heck!'. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Joanna Li, Fish Art Center: “This is my fifth time at Art Taipei. In the past two years we have brought brand new artworks [to the fair] and all the artists are Taiwanese. They’re still young, around 26 years old. We also have modern artists…. We have sculptures, oil paintings. We have sold more medium priced artworks…. [The collectors are] from Taiwan, a few customers are from Hong Kong and China.”

Outside Art Taipei 2010's main exhibition hall. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Outside Art Taipei 2010's main exhibition hall. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Mizuma Sueo, Director, Mizuma Art Gallery (Tokyo, Beijing): “This is our second time at Art Taipei. Today’s audience, there are so many people … but the last three days a little less. It’s a little less than last year. Sales are stable. We have sold some [works by] young Japanese artists and Chinese artists, but we have sold only one piece to a Taiwanese collector. The other pieces were sold to a Korean collector, Hong Kong and Japan. The audience is mainly Asian.”

Inside Art Taipei 2010's main exhibition hall. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Inside Art Taipei 2010's main exhibition hall. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Jung Yong Lee, Director, Gana Art, as heard at the 2010 Art Taipei Forum conversation, Asia International Galleries: The Next Movement: “When the crisis came we had a very hard time,… I’m from a commercial gallery and we have to sell a lot of artwork to maintain our operation. But when the crisis came there were literally no sales for at least six months to over a year. So what we ended up doing was, since we couldn’t find a client who was investing, who was collecting art for their collections, finding clients who were companies and local governments who had a lot of promotional money to spend. We did consulting for companies. We made outdoor sculptures, we decorated lobbies for hotels, the façades of buildings; we did a lot of projects like that. And we also helped to make art parks or small private museums.”

Chen Liu, 'Blue Blossom Standing above the sea', 2010, oil on canvas, 200 x 140 cm. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Chen Liu, 'Blue Blossom Standing above the sea', 2010, oil on canvas, 200 x 140 cm. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Junghwa Ryu, Curator, Arario Gallery (Cheonan, Beijing, Seoul, New York): “Art Taipei 2010 is more organised than the last one. Many visitors are interested in new contemporary art and we feel that the Taipei government has supported the fair well with their policy of focusing on an international base. However, the results for the sales are … not good as of now. Hanna Kim (1981, Korea) and Osang Gwon (1973, Korea) have been paid much attention. I guess in general the Taiwanese love a more light and cozy style than heavy and serious.… They are sensitive to trends and new skills.”

Sculptures by Taiwanese artist Ju Ming. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Sculptures by Taiwanese artist Ju Ming. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

James Hsu and Elise Chen, Ping Art Space (Taipei): “This is our third time here. Obviously it’s more international this year because there are more galleries participating in this art fair and we have collectors from Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia. In the past we would mainly have Taiwanese collectors…. Five years ago there might be just one Japanese gallery here but after this year there is this reputation in Japan that there is a good market in Taiwan. So this year there are 26 galleries from Japan. Also, in Taiwan, we have this history of collecting contemporary art for 20 years [and] after this period of time you can see that the market is getting better and better. Last year the economic crisis affected the market a lot and so this is like a rebound.”

Digital print by Australian media artists Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski, part of their 'Downsteam' installation, as exhibited at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Digital print by Australian media artists Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski, part of their 'Downstream' installation, as exhibited at Art Taipei 2010. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Josephine Starrs, as heard at the weekend art lecture, Recent and emerging trends in Australian media art: “This is some of the work that we are exhibiting here at Art Taipei in the <Encoded> exhibition. ‘Downstream’ explores new ways of representing the relationship between nature and culture. We are imbedding poetic text into [satellite] images of landscapes at particular risk from climate change. The work focusses on the degradation of the Murray-Darling, the largest river system in Australia, but it could be any river system in the world that is in danger from changes in climate.

We have changed the satellite imagery to write text in the landscape imagery, as if the landscape is sending us messages. When we started looking at this landscape imagery we noticed that the river almost looked like writing already. So we decided to change the river and embed this text from a famous Australian poem. The words say, ‘and the river was dust’.”

Shen Bo-Cheng's 'Read- Lleine Eschichte Der Photographie (2010), exhibited as part of Art Taipei's MADE in TAIWAN - Young Artist Discovery event. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Shen Bo-Cheng's 'Read- Lleine Eschichte Der Photographie' (2010), exhibited as part of Art Taipei's MADE in TAIWAN - Young Artist Discovery event. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

E.D.Lee Gallery Co., Ltd (Taipei): “We have been to Art Taipei twice. This year it is more international, a lot of foreign galleries have joined us here and there are a lot more people. We have sold many works today. This year all of our artists are from Taiwan. Almost all of our collectors are Taiwanese but we also have collectors from Japan and Korea.”

Yan Chao, 'The Width of the Strait', 2009, mixed media on canvas, 150 x 180 cm. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Yan Chao, 'The Width of the Strait', 2009, mixed media on canvas, 150 x 180 cm. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

We hope to bring you more on Art Taipei 2010 in the coming weeks, including an overview of what was said at the 2010 Art Taipei Forum sessions and public art lectures we attended.

KN

Related Topics: art fairs, collectors, business of art, gallerists/dealers

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Follow “The Penguin” to the mountain – Tobias Berger on the NJPAC show

Posted by artradar on August 24, 2010


KOREAN CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS EMERGING ARTISTS

The Penguin that goes to the Mountain“, an exhibition of contemporary art by young and emerging Korean artists, recently finished up this month at the Nam June Paik Art Center (NJPAC). It took the viewer on a journey from the ordered and well-known to the broken-up and disastrous. Embracing works beyond the visual arts, the exhibition presented practitioners that produced critical and demanding work often relating to the surreal and fictional. Below, Art Radar presents you with images from the exhibition and an interview with NJPAC curator Tobias Berger.

The Nam June Paik Art Center, established to celebrate and illuminate Nam June Paiks avant-garde spirit, finished running “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” last week. The exhibition displayed various methods of expression, including the visual arts, stage productions, media, theatre and animated films from 23 emerging and relatively unknown artists and artist groups. These include:

Mano AHN, Sungeun CHANG, Eunphil CHO, Yeoja DDAN, Subin HEO, Intergate, Jaechoul JEOUNG, Dokyun KIM, Kimoon KIM, Minkyu KOH, Jihoi LEE, Jinwook MOON, Moowang MOON, Sohyun MOON, Adjong PARK, Seungwon PARK, post-EAT, Jinwoo RYU, Rhee SEI, Joonghyup SEO, Mongjoo SON, Hojun SONG, Vaemo, Donhwi YOUN

"The Penguin that goes to the Mountain", an exhibition held at Korea's Nam June Paik Center this year.

"The Penguin that goes to the Mountain", an exhibition held at Korea's Nam June Paik Art Center this year. Image courtesy of NJPAC.

Focusing on the concept of “intermedia”, the exhibition proposed imaginative alternative ways to look at artistic production. Deconstructing the art center’s existing space and previously defined exhibition criteria this exhibition pushed the boundaries of the working methodologies of all those involved in its preparation and reception – from the artists and curatorial and technical staff, to the gallery assistants, and even the audience.

The title comes from Werner Herzogs 2007 documentary film made in Antarctica called “Encounter at the End of the World. The film chronicles the story of a penguin that leaves its normal habitat for the unknown world of a mountain. The idea for the exhibition came from the fact that pioneering artists such as the late Nam June Paik dared to explore new territories, combining many often unrelated genres.

Art Radar Asia spoke to Tobias Berger, Chief Curator of Nam June Paik Art Center, to find out more about the exhibition.

What prompted “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”? What is the mission of NJPAC and how does this show fit with that mission?

It was the need to show some young, edgy new work by professionals from different disciplines; the try out of new curatorial concepts by using some ideas from theater productions; to blur borders between the different disciplines. These are all the parts of the misson of what the Nam June Paik Art Center is showing. Paik wanted this to be ‘the house where his spirit lives on for a very long time’ and showing interdisciplinary young works is certainly Paik’s spirit.

Moon Moowang, 'Neurogenic Plything', 2010.

Moowang MOON, 'Neurogenic Plything', 2010. Image courtesy of NJPAC.

Can you tell us about how “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” is organised? What are the themes?

We took a very strong curatorial approach to the exhibition and it’s basically a voyage from the rather clean and not minimal. The further you go through the exhibition, the more chaotic it becomes and the more difficult it becomes to navigate. There’s a chaotic room, where two walls in the middle are falling down and the works are very tied together … We tried to put in a more kind of theatric setting.

Are there styles or mediums which predominate in “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”? Why do you think that is?

… we have sculpture to video to photography to big installations. As usual in contemporary art you do have quite a lot of videos.

Moon Sohyun, 'Poisoning of Light', 2007.

Sohyun MOON, 'Poisoning of Light', 2007. Image courtesy of NJPAC.

How did you select the artists for “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”? What characteristics were you looking for?

I think we looked for artists that really went to the edge or over the edge. That is the idea of this penguin that goes to the mountain. It’s a penguin that leaves the others and just goes this way. We more collected different works. It was not a show where we selected ten artists and asked them to do new works. It was more a show where we saw certain works that fitted into the idea of ‘The Penguin’ or into our curatorial context.

Which of your artists has drawn the most interest at “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”?

There are some controversial video works that are quite challenging. One is talking about the subject of sex, which is a little bit of an interesting subject in South Korea. The other one is an animated video, where [the subject] kind of begins to cut off her fingernails and then her fingertips and then her fingers. It’s an animation, but it’s also quite visual. I think these works are quite controversial, but also in a good way controversial.

Son Mongjoo, 'The Animals Were Gone', 2008.

Mongjoo SON, 'The Animals Were Gone', 2008. Image courtesy of NJPAC.

The artists in “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” are all emerging or young artists. What problems do you see for young artists compared with older generation artists working today? In what ways are young artists fortunate, as compared with older artists?

They all have problems and challenges. It’s going to be interesting, how do we justify and how do we not justify them? How do we relate to the art of the older generation? How do we look at it and how do we look at the artist in their mid-career. How do we judge them? You need curators, writers and critics that can evaluate different types of art. Museums can be stiff and kick out the most avant-garde. Maybe because they’re not commercial, maybe they’re a bit too challenging, maybe they’re too critical. So it is the question of the entry into the galleries or the museums or the institutions. A lot of times, the most interesting artists don’t find galleries because if you’re a media artist or performance artist your work doesn’t sell as easily as a painter. But you’re still certainly a much more interesting artist than a certain painter. How do we find a way to deal with that problem? So it has nothing to do with older or younger. It has more to do with genres.

How do you find dealing or working with young artists as opposed to established artists?

They are certainly much more involved in the process and much more interested in what’s going on, more than the established artists that have done big shows in museums many times. For [the young artists], it’s the first time to do an institutional exhibition and that brings a certain tension, but it’s basically good tension that brings out new works and quite interesting work.

Does NJPAC intend to feature other works from students, graduates or emerging artists?

In [“The Penguin that goes to the Mountain”], we cared if the work fitted into the context of the exhibition. Certainly we didn’t care if it was a young artist or an established artist, or if he’s Asian or European. But sure, we will in the future invite students or just-freshly-graduated artists again.

Song Hojun, 'G.O.D.', 2009.

Hojun SONG, 'G.O.D.', 2009. Image courtesy of NJPAC.

Have there been any unusual, unexpected or interesting responses to “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain” from the viewers and critics?

It’s Paik Art Center. People expect tough or different art…. I think the people who come here know what they can expect. There was nothing surprising or unusual, because people expect the surprising and unusual at Nam June Paik Art.

The Penguin that Goes to the Mountain” ran from 5 June until 22 August this year at South Korea’s Nam June Paik Art Center.

Tobias Berger also spoke with us about the Korean contemporary art scene: how accessible it is to non-Korean speakers; the current worldwide popularity of Korean art; the innovative non-profit art spaces in Korea. We will present this interview on Art Radar in the coming weeks.

JAS/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Korean artists, museum shows, interviews, installations

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Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara reappears after 8 year absence – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 19, 2010


JAPANESE ARTIST INTERVIEW PAINTING DRAWING EMERGING ARTISTS

Eight years ago, Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara was building up a successful career as a promising contemporary artist. He showed work at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 2001 then disappeared from the contemporary art world. Then, in 2009, he reappeared at Tokyo’s ULTRA002 art fair, and in March this year exhibited work at NYC PULSE. Last month, Art Radar Asia spoke with Fukuhara in a special interview in which he talked about artwork from his recent solo exhibition “Binary” and explained what he has been doing in the eight years that he withdrew from the art world.

Fukuhara is represented by Ai Kowada Gallery in Ebisu, Japan, where he had a solo exhibition, “Binary”, earlier this year. His artwork from this exhibition features a series of drawings on which he sketches images of flora and fauna onto a black background with pencil, making the image difficult to see in certain lighting or at certain angles. We interviewed Fukuhara at this gallery, surrounded by his most recent work. Here he explained the reasons he chose this new medium and talked about his inspiration for the title of the exhibition. We discussed his background, what drives him and his art and the challenges that face young artists working today.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

When did you first feel that you were an artist?

Something like, when I felt different from other people? (laughs)

You mean you wanted to do something different?

Yes, when I thought that, and also when there are judgment calls between something that’s supposed to be “good”, and “bad”, and I felt that, even though I know what’s socially right, morally right, I want to take those social and moral judgments separately. For example, with morals, morally, something could be bad, but it can still be good. I sometimes made that kind of judgment, but people around me, if it was morally bad they would always consider it bad. So there’s a difference there.

After exhibiting at P.S.1 in 2001, you quit all activity as an artist to pursue other work until ULTRA002 in 2009. What influenced your decision to quit activity as an artist?

When I was in university, what I made was the same as now, fine art. Then, when I was there, Phillip Morris [International] did things like Art Hour. I was remaining as a candidate until the finals – well there were twenty, thirty of us – but I was one of the finalists. Then, that became a trigger that led to some small exhibitions.… That time it was already the final. There were people from other countries in the finalists, so there were a quite lot of people, but the Finalist Award pretty much triggered other things, several other things, but after that, I sort of got tired of it…. And then, what I mean by ‘tired of it’ is that I sort of grew tired of what I was making at the time as well, and then from there, I went more towards media art.

Things like graphic design?

No, more interactive than that. There’s some programming, then projection, like that…. Then, when I was making interactive art work, places like Sendai, Mediatheque from Sendai, and New York, and there was talk of Kyuushu at one point, although that didn’t end up happening, there was talk of going to these places … and when I participated in that, then I really ended up tired of what I was doing. What I mean is, I like media art, but I don’t think I can do it.

So what did you do after you grew bored of new media art? Why hadn’t you been creating art until recently?

In 2001, I did one exhibition, but then I started to question whether there was a point in doing art without the thought, without the creativity. And then I really began to think, was there a point in doing art? Is there a point in making, say, a sculpture? Who would it be for? And what manner of creating art would satisfy me? Keeping these things in mind I made some simple test pieces…. Samples. For example, making something without a shape. Not exactly design… just the idea. Just the philosophy behind it. And so the period of time that I spend just focusing on the philosophy part, the philosophy regarding art, the creative part is open. And so I subdivided my brain a little, separated creative as creative, and that part I used when I was doing design, which I don’t consider fine art. In my head, therefore I had space to consider what I should do with the “art” side of things. I kept thinking. I mean really, I tell everybody this but, I spent at least six years thinking about this.

What have you learnt during your absence from the art world?

I realised there’s no need to make things that are already visible. For example, let’s say you go somewhere, travel somewhere, maybe. You see a very beautiful landscape. I think you can leave that for a photograph. So I decided not to recreate things that exist in the first place … I think that it’s best to draw something that uses imagination and inspiration as a way to consolidate your own philosophy.

Tell me about how you came to participate in ULTRA002 (2009) and NYC PULSE (2010).

That’s because I’m part of this gallery of artists. The artists associated with this gallery … can speak with the directors and discuss the possibility of entering the next ULTRA art fair, and it’s not certain you’ll pass, but you know, you apply for it.

Why did you want to become an artist?

I think that art is like a subject. It’s academic … the basis of art is quite academic. But the viewer has freedom. That’s why, when I make my work, it’s more philosophical. I like to have philosophical ideas and make pieces…. The point is that the people who critique art often have very academic backgrounds, but I think even children and people who don’t know anything about art should be able to see the art, and freely feel what it means to them. I feel that is the most pure, somehow. And so, for fine art, there aren’t any restrictions. For example, the big difference between ‘design’ and ‘art’ is whether or not it’s been requested. The thing with design is that, after all, it’s somebody else’s intention, or somebody’s … desire…. There’s a purpose, very clearly. And so, for fine art, the purpose is in the self, so it remains extremely pure…. For example, nobody is going to be sad as a result, or maybe they won’t be happy either, and maybe they will be sad, but, even so, it might make them happy. Thus it’s really quite a … place where one can face new challenges.

So would you consider yourself a fine artist? What do you consider your main line of work?

Myself? I would like to keep being an artist.

What major influences have you had in your life?

I suppose books…. I don’t really read novels much. Other than novels, documentaries, philosophical books, chemistry books, things like that. Especially books that might change one’s perspective, thoughts. Or else something that changes one’s thoughts, one’s mind. How should I explain this? To ‘dephase’…. And so, I’m always trying to find opportunities for change, so yes, perspective. What kind of perspective to have each time.

What was it that changed you as an artist?

Maybe books. I suppose books. For example, even people you can never meet, people who you really respect, even if you’ve never met them, that person’s words are written down. The words affect us, and make us consider things like, maybe there’s no value in that, or that’s not quite right. In the end it’s yourself thinking, but the trigger for that, what gives it initiative, are the words of those people you respect.

What has challenged you as an artist? Why? What kinds of things have been challenges for you as an artist?

Everyday is a challenge (laughs). There’s a kind of fulfillment when you finish a piece, but at the end, that’s it; and so little by little, I try to find something I don’t like about it. Even if I’m pleased with it, I look for something I find displeasing, and next time, try to make it better. Whether it’s the technique, or the philosophy behind it, or the surface, that [makes it] good. And so I don’t know what it is, but I try to improve it, even if it’s just a little bit.

What do you like about art?

After all, we don’t have to have art, but it’s better to have it. We can have art, or not, but it’s definitely better to have it; the strangeness in that! The fact that we don’t know if there is or isn’t value; it’s unclear. I think it’s obvious that it’s better to have it, so that’s what’s fun.

What makes your work different from other artists’ in your generation?

I think they’re all very accomplished (laughs)…. The difference is that they are Fukuhara, or they aren’t. What I do, only I can do; when I’m doing art, I think like that…. For example, I consider the boundary between something existing and not existing. I like that boundary … I pay a lot of close attention to that, so, for example, the medium can be pencil, or oil paints, or metal, it can be anything. And so, if something does exist, or it doesn’t … I pay attention to that, I want to express that. And so I consider how to convey that, I look for that. And even if there’s someone who’s thinking the same thing, that person and I will probably come up with different ideas. And since we have different knowledge, that’s only possible for me to do, there’s only me.… My priority is not for the expression. I’m more inclined towards the philosophy involved.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any future projects?

A big art fair. It hasn’t been decided yet but either in Miami, PULSE in Miami, or next year in New York … or a show. There are also some shows that want to exhibit my work, they’re pretty far ahead, but there are some exhibitions.

What challenges do you see for young artists working in contemporary art today?

In Japan? The circumstances are bad. Business is bad. Right now, it’s so. And, yes, the Japanese economy is very … the Japanese arts, arts scene? The arts scene I suppose, or more like, the custom here, is very bad. It depends on the culture. In Europe, and probably at PULSE as well, probably everyone is quite understanding, so they say, ‘Mr. Fukuhara, I can support you.’ As in, before they ask ‘How much?’ or things like that, they tell me, ‘I can support you.’ I’ve never heard of it in Japan. There were some people like that up till now, and so, yes, there are some, but they’re few. Overseas, in the USA, what I learned when I went to PULSE was that in fact, both very rich people, and people not quite so rich are willing to buy a piece of art if they like it. Because if they support a young artist, and since they like the piece itself, maybe they’ll become really well-known later on. There’s sort of a feeling like that. And also, they know that if they buy this piece, the artist can go on to make their next piece; they’ll approach artists in a sensibility like this, even if they don’t say it to this extent. Japan likes modern art. In Japan, there’s a kind of feeling that there’s a tendency towards it. I think that’s because the value is already determined, like: ‘This is good’; ‘That there, that is worth about this much.’ But, there isn’t much of a sense of supporting young artists … Japan has lots of really amazing young artists, but I think it’s very difficult in Japan.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, "the night with a clouded-over moon (carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50x35 cm, image courtesy of the artist

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night With a Clouded-over Moon (Carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50 x 35 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tell me about your current exhibition, “Binary”.

The color is black, but, color depends on the light. The color is determined by the light. This here, what the color white means, is that it’s reflecting white light back at us. And here the light is getting absorbed and so it’s black in color. This looks silver, but all it is is that the carbon in the pencil lead is shiny. If you put black on black, well, you can’t see it very well, but it shines, and sometimes you can see it well, sometimes you can’t. And if you see it at night, it’s almost completely dark. If you see it in a room at night the surface is completely black.

What was the philosophy behind “Binary”?

As I said earlier, I’m trying to reach the borderline between what exists and what doesn’t. That’s why, for example, from here it’s impossible to see this painting because of the glare, yes? Because of the acrylic board, because it’s darkened. But if you put your eye close to it, you can see that there’s quite a bit drawn on it. ‘Then don’t draw on it!’ someone might say. But I want to draw on it. …When you interpret a computer, the data formats are, for example… there’s a thing called text, and text goes on forever. But with binary code, it tells you in the first row how many letters there are. And you can’t have any more than that. In that lies a big difference between so-called binary code and text. With binary you know the end from the very start, and in text it goes on forever so the end is unknown. Text has no limit but binary defines the end in its first row of numbers.

How did you use this idea of “binary” in your artworks?

In how I incorporated a limit into my work process. To start with, drawing lines in a way that makes them invisible is in itself limiting. And also, binary is in two states, so it’s ‘0’ and ‘1’… there’s no middle point, I didn’t draw any middle tones. They’re all drawn as solid lines, and it’s not in grey scale, but it’s black on white. What is it? Gradation? Gradation is hard to reproduce. If someone says, ‘Here is some gradation, go copy that exactly onto here,’ it’s really difficult to do that…. If’s it’s only two colors, if there’s a line in exactly the same place, it can be reproduced. …It’s just the placement. And so, this is somehow maybe worthless in value in terms of creativity. The act of purposely making something that can be re-created easily, that’s somehow important, the value. The easiness to re-create and the difficulty to re-create. Maybe it should be the priority to make things that are harder to re-create, but I deliberately want to express what’s easy to re-create.

What do you like most about this exhibition, “Binary”? What do you like most about this series?

The fact that it’s black (laughs)… It can be black or it can be white, but to have none… The good part is that it’s clear if it is or isn’t there … if you go in what you notice in the moment you enter is that there are black squares. And then in that, there’s a, what do you call it, in minimalism they made black panels, or red panels, but I can’t get that stoic, and I do want to express…. I want to express something animated, something pulsated, but part of me also doesn’t want to express it…

And so you make it harder to see.

Yes that’s it. And also in a picture, you try to fill it up; this goes here…. And so in order to not do a layout, I start drawing from an area.

Is that easier to do if it’s black?

No, that doesn’t affect it. In order to make the layout quieter… this isn’t fixated. And so if you take the acrylic board off and touch it, it’ll come off.

Why did you decide to use black gesso?

That’s because black holds a lot of different meanings. For example, it’s very still, it has a sense of immense quiet, and also a strong sense of night and also darkness… And it’s possible to see a highly dense something in black. White things are the opposite and they’re pure, there’s cleanliness. Black for me is a mysterious color. In order to fully expose the good qualities of the color black, I wanted to make it black on black. In the end it looks more like black on silver than black on black, but the act was to put black on black.

Is there a reason you decided to use pencil?

I think it’s the freshness?… For example that piece there, I’ve fixated. It’s more like a CD. If you compare it to music, it’s more like a CD. And this is more like a live show. It’s possible to do black on black by using a brush, for example, to place a transparent medium on the black, that would make it black on black as well. But if you do that, I think that makes it more like laying it out. I think that once you start deciding the composition, the picture will get more like, well industrial arts, or arts and crafts.

And it will get harder to see.

Right. Also I don’t intend to do arts and crafts, so, for lines that I can only draw in this instant, I want to draw them in that instant as much as possible, and with pencil it’s fast.

Do you draw directly onto the gesso or the aluminium?

Yes. As a piece…. I’m repeating myself a bit, but the relationship between the pencil and the gesso is that, it’s ultimately about being able to adjust the image, and I suppose how to deal with the lighting, because I’m not using colour. And so, it’s all about how much you control the light, and so I don’t question the medium. And this acrylic case protects it, but the piece is actually the whole thing, case and all, so it’s okay. It’s fine if the surroundings are reflected on the acrylic board. It’s all included in it.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

This artwork shaped like a horse is a little different? Could you tell me more about this one?

It is different. I’m starting to do these recently, but as I said earlier about layouts, pictures tend to mostly be rectangular shaped.  I want to be able to connect the philosophy and the technique as directly as possible onto the square, the surface. However, somehow various… um, it has to go through, a certain way, and so it’s inevitable that the expression becomes more …angled than what was being imagined. For example, just drawing instinctively… without making a draft and drawing in real-time, directly, means that the lines aren’t pre-determined. After drawing a strawberry-like image… a flower appeared, and then below that are some moss-like things … and in each of those instants, there’s something that’s alive, and I try to draw them, picking up these random images from the library in my head and placing them onto the canvas. And so, when it’s square, I can’t help placing an object on it. For example, the butterfly, I put the butterfly down. This shape here, because the shape is intentional, internally it is tremendously free. I’m thinking I’d rather continue to do this sort of thing. And then when you do that, the place where it’s displayed? There might be more freedom in where you hang it and, if it’s square, for instance, often, pictures are something I want to be displayed in houses,… or museums and such as well. And so, with things like that, you feel an urge to place it bang in the middle. For example… there’s a horse drawn on that one. It’s just that a horse is there, but I drew the horse by accident. But, instead, if the canvas is a horse, then isn’t there no need to draw a horse? I can draw the pattern more freely from within, because if the tableau is square, I’m compelled to draw a horse. It’s a way that I strategise, but if the canvas is already shaped like a horse, there’s no more room to place one, and it makes it easier to make a direct connection between my head and my hand…. It’s impossible to remember what I drew (laughs).

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

You mean, the order that they’re hung is decided?

Yes, like maybe you want some more space between them. But if they’re shaped like this, and for instance, if there’s a small picture then maybe it might be good to put them in a spot like this. Yes, you might be freer to put them where you want, and maybe the meaning of the piece might change depending on where you place it. Also, outside? Having an association with a silhouette, also, makes the interior extremely … there’s a feeling of my own sense of alive-ness, and so for me I’d really like to continue to do this sort of thing.

MM/KN

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Photography in contemporary Russia – Art Radar speaks with curator Olga Sviblova, AES+F and Igor Moukhin

Posted by artradar on August 18, 2010


MOSCOW PARIS CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION MUSEUM SHOWS

With France-Russia Year 2010 in full swing, Maison Européene de la Photographie (MEP) and the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (MAMM), formerly the Moscow House of Photography, partnered for the photo exhibition “Photography in Contemporary Russia, 1990-2010, currently on display in Paris. Art Radar Asia spoke with Olga Sviblova, curator and director of the MAMM, along with reknowed photographer Igor Moukhin and artist Tatiana Arzamasova of AES+F.

Vlad Loktev, '1:0', photograph, 1999. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Vlad Loktev, '1:0', photograph, 1999. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Olga Sviblova has achieved almost superstar status in the art world for her documentary filmwork, numerous curatorial endeavors and tireless dedication to the arts, especially Russian photography. Art Radar Asia managed to catch up with the busy Sviblova who answered questions about the state of contemporary Russian photography, it’s growth since the early 1990’s and the pervasive misperceptions of Russian contemporary art.

“Russian photography, like Russian contemporary art, is quite unknown in the world,” Sviblova says frankly. “It is much less present when you compare it with photography or contemporary art from another country like America, from European countries like France, like Germany, like Britain.” Such statements seem to contradict the international fame that some Russian artists have achieved such as rising stars AES+F and established names like Oleg Kulik and Igor Mukhin. For Sviblova, however, widespread acclaim for Russian artists is still the exception, not the rule. The curator elaborates further on the effects of the economic downturn on Russian art:

“Russian art was forgotten. And also for Russian art and photography, there were not institutions that could support it … there was also the question that the Russian market inside the country was not constructed.”

It was in this climate that Sviblova founded the Moscow House of Photography, now know as the Multimedia Centre for Contemporary Art, in 1996. That same year Sviblova organised Russia’s first photobiennale, followed by the first Moscow International Photography Festival in 1999. Efforts such as these changed the climate of the art scene.

“So now we have in Russia a completely different situation … we have instutions for art and photography, we have our museums. In another sense photography has started to be open in the Russian region, photography started to be popular and contemporary art started, in the beginning, to be popular.”

Exploring the popularity of photography

For Sviblova, there is no boundary between art and photography, they are part of one another, and photography has always been art. However, photography as a medium has exploded in popularity and is, according to Sviblova, one of the “most important arts today”.

Igor Moukhin, "Moscou", photograph, 1988. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie

Igor Moukhin, 'Moscou', photograph, 1988. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Factoring into the success of photography in Russia are the new freedoms afforded to artists. This new freedom which allows photojournalistic, “street” photography to “show the face of Russia”, a truthful representation of the people, society and Russian life.

“You really can tell that today photography is an extremely popular media. Today nobody asks me if photography is art or is not art; it’s really extremely popular in Russia.”

Russian photographer Igor Moukhin echoed the same ideas when we asked him if photography was being embraced within Russia.

“People have ceased and to look [at] and trust the TV. There is no independent press. And on the Internet  [there are] a lot of photos, photos about today, yesterday, about life, and these photos discuss.”

Moukhin uses the term “direct photo” in reference to his photographs of Soviet youths and comments on the subjectiveness of his photography, saying that it is not universal since context is necessary. To artists such as Moukhin, context and knowledge of Russian history are necessary to grasp the messgae of his “direct” photography. Yet not all Russian photography is specific to Russian experiences. Communication between countries is another factor when examining the popularity of Russian photography. Acknowledging a lack of communication between Russia and other countries, Sviblova highlights the importance of photography as a method to dispel misconcenptions, and to speak about what has happened in Russia in the past and what is happening now.

Nikolai Polissky, La Tour, photograph, 2000. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Nikolai Polissky, 'La Tour', photograph, 2000. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

As Olga Sviblova states, the MEP exhibition in Paris presents yet another chance “to show what kind of new photography was born in that time [1990-2010] … we can show what has happened in Russia: on a social level, emotional level, economic level, and political level”. Images of revolution from the first and second Chechen wars also make up an important part of the exhibition and Sviblova stresses how photographers began to tackle issues outside of Russia, on an international level.

“We tried to show history … we tried to show the first and second Chechen wars, what was the Russian strategy … we tried to show the best photographers working at the time … At the same time, we tried to show what happens in the country, we tried to show the youth generation, the old people.”

While some artists use documentary photography to focus on Russian experiences, others use documentary photography to create ties to the rest of the world.  As the birth of “new Russia” took place, contemporary street photography captured it from every angle.

Russian photography, international issues

Although it is one of the most popular types of photography in Russia, the exhibition includes much more than just documentary-style images. What Sviblova calls classical art photography and fashion photography make up the remainder of the show and include names such as Oleg Kulik and Arsen Savadov.

AES+F, 'The Islamic Project: New Liberty', 2003, lambda print. Image courtesy of the AES+F website.

AES+F, 'The Islamic Project: New Liberty', 2003, lambda print. Image courtesy of the AES+F website.

Sviblova also speaks in length about the popular artist collective AES+F, a group that uses photography as a tool to address universal, and often controversial, concepts.  In reference to images from “The Islamic Project” series Sviblova remarks:

“After September 11 their images started to be so famous, distributed through the Internet and often given out without the signature of the artist because it was like popular art. It was not the mirror of reality, but also the magic mirror of the future … AES+F is one of the most sophisticated, one of the most complicated, and at the same time one fo the most magic artist [groups].”

In a brief Art Radar interview with AES+F’s Tatiana Arzamasova, the artist sheds some light on the collective’s use of photography in recent series such as “The Last Riot” and ‘”The Feast of Trimalchio”. “We use photography as a tool,” she remarks.

On the artists’ website they make no attempt to hide their process, showing how they use assorted images as a starting point for the final product. As a collective,the artists of AES, with the exception of Vladmir Fridkes, do not consider themselves “traditional” photographers. When asked if the international community still had misperceptions about Russian art and Russian photography, Arzamasova indicated that the idea of Russian photography as socialist media is still present. “[People] think of Russia as poor…they still think of the Cold War” Arzamasova states. Undaunted by such stereotypes, AES+F continues to stretch the boundaries of what Russian art and photography is considered to be. Olga Sviblova concludes:

“Great photography is not just image and document of reality, it’s much more metaphoric. If you know the language of the artist, you can read the message and through this message you can see not just today, or the past, you can see our future”

Other stand-out artists featured in the exhibition, which will run until 29 August this year, include the Fenso group, Sergui Tchilikov, Vladmir KupriyanovGeorgy Pervov, and Vladmir Fridkes.

EH/KN

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Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part II – Installations and art funding

Posted by artradar on August 17, 2010


TAIWAN CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW INSTALLATION

In this second of three interviews, Tsong Pu reveals the concepts behind two important installations, Transposition of Light and Water (1992) and Backyard in June (1997). In it, he shows that works aren’t always created in ideal gallery spaces and what this means for the art work, and we see his unique grid concept move off the canvas. Additionally, independent art space funding issues are framed by a discussion of Tsong Pu’s involvement in the 1988 founding of Taipei’s IT Park Gallery.

Master Tsong developed his trademark 1 cm by 1 cm grid technique very early on in his career; it is evident in 1980s mixed media canvases like The White Line on Grey (1983). The installations discussed in this interview represent a ten year progression on this idea, pushing the interview into the 1990s.

During this time, in 1988, Tsong Pu and three other artists, Liu Ching-tang, Chen Hui-chiao, and Huang Wen-hao, founded IT Park Gallery, one of Taipei’s older gallery spaces and a recipient of the Taipei City government’s 13th Taipei Cultural Award in 2009. When they first opened the space it was unique in Taiwan. As Tsong Pu elaborates, “During that time, there were some similar [galleries] but none exactly the same. The partnership was different, even the interior design was different. Some of the [other spaces] were just rented houses without renovation.”

Tsong Pu's trademark grid technique is clearly demonstrated in this detail of his 1983 canvas 'The White line on Grey' (mixed media, 194 x 130 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu's trademark grid technique is clearly demonstrated in this detail of his 1983 canvas 'The White line on Grey' (mixed media, 194 x 130 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

To this day it is non-profit, although there is talk of turning the second floor of the gallery into a commercial space later this year, and from 1988 to 2005 was mostly self-funded. With no profits coming in, it was often hard to obtain funding. “There were always friends and relatives helping us all along, supporting us with small amounts of money,” says Tsong Pu.

While IT Park Gallery now gets some funding from the government – they apply for fund support from the National Culture Arts Foundation every year – Tsong Pu says the biggest constraint on the gallery is still financial. As he explains, today there is greater competition: “In the past, there were no people showing contemporary art but now it’s like everybody is doing it.”

He elaborates further on government support for contemporary art spaces: “The Taiwan government will always observe your operation only and they will not provide help. It’s only when you are successful they will help. Otherwise, they won’t. Unless you become very well-known overseas, then the government will help you.”

Tsong Pu is no longer involved in the management of IT Park Gallery, but through his association with the space, his work as a teacher and a judge, and his regular attendance at local exhibitions, he often finds himself exposed to new contemporary Taiwanese artists. Named as a “father figure to many young artists” by the Taipei Times he acts as a curator, selecting young and emerging artists for exhibitions: “… because I teach in two art schools; sometimes I’m the panel judge for competitions; I also visit exhibitions quite often. I will keep those young artists in my memory. Sometimes when I need to organise an exhibition I will get certain people to join certain kinds of exhibitions.”

This is part two of a three part series. In this part we look at how an installation created by Tsong Pu in the 1990s, Transposition of Light and Water, still reflects the unique grid technique he began using ten years earlier. We also look at an installation, Backyard in June, that has been exhibited five times and changed its name twice since its creation in 1996. For more on what to expect from the first and third parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

Tsong Pu's 'Transposition of Light and Water' (1992) on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Tsong Pu's 'Transposition of Light and Water' (1992) on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

Transposition of Light and Water (1992) was given the Award for Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art in 1992. It is now held in Taipei Fine Arts Museum‘s (TFAM) permanent collection, is that correct?

Yes. It is collected by TFAM.

Can you explain the concept behind Transposition of Light and Water? I understand it relates to early works such as The White Line on Grey (1983). How?

It’s actually related to the other one [The White Line on Grey] because their forms are the same. Maybe the differences are in the space, sizes, materials. The concept is basically the same; it’s just that it’s not in a square shape. This part [Master Tsong points to the glass boxes] is originally the grid box, taken out. And then a glass [plate] has been inserted to make the slash line. So this part [Master Tsong refers to the 1 cm by 1 cm boxes in The White Line on Grey] has been taken out, and it became this shape, form.

This is the cube, and then you can see the glass, that is the bisecting line. Because this is glass, it’s transparent, so you can see the inside. You can see the light, when the light goes through the glass it creates a rainbow. It’s on the ground, so you can see that there’s a line on the ground, just like the line on the canvas [The White Line on Grey].

This work dismantles [the grid pattern in The White Line on Grey] piece by piece.

You can see the relationship between The White Line on Grey and Transposition of Light and Water and the progression from one to the other. What about the other objects? How do they relate to the installation overall?

This is a tool, a clip… It’s just a coincidence. I use this to support [the glass cubes]. This is its only function. Because I was worried that after I added the water, plus the optical line, plus sunlight, there may be some movement in this line.

[These elements] added a feeling of time.

Can you explain how?

This is water. It will evaporate. It will disappear. I also put some iron on top and on the side. It will corrode, because the iron, the water and the sun will react together. Maybe you can see that there is, that this work is on the ground but with the water, with the iron, with the sun, they enable the work to show the concept of time. We can see that the glass and the water, they have a transparent quality so it’s more pure. When I see this work I think that it’s very beautiful.

So when TFAM displays it now, do they put water in it? Do they place all of the elements together?

Yes, it’s on display now and they put water in it.

Tsong Pu's 'Backyard in June' (mixed media, 420 x 420 cm) shown restrospectively this year at the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu's 'Backyard in June' (1997, mixed media, 420 x 420 cm) shown restrospectively this year at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

Could you please confirm for me why this same installation piece has two different names, A Space Not for the Chorus (1996) and Backyard in June (1997)?

I’ve exhibited this twice. [A Space Not for the Chorus] is in a square shape. When I first did this work in exhibition, the venue space was not ideal, [there were other artworks on display around it]. That feeling was like, for example, if you are a singer and you don’t have the right partner to sing along with. It will not work.

That’s why I picked that name.

Let’s talk about Backyard in June then.

It’s in the right space.

Yang Wen-I was the curator for the “Segmentation-Multiplication: Three Taiwanese Artists exhibit at the 47th International Biennial of Visual Arts (Venice, Italy) in 1997. She is quoted in Taiwan Panorama as saying Backyard in June “is making a piercing commentary on the state of the Taiwan environment, human and natural.” How is this work doing that?

In the 1990s in Taiwan, if you were in Taiwan during this period you would have noticed a lot of political reactions in art. In a painting, the mediums blend together, but if I make an installation or a sculpture the mediums are separate. The elements are separate.

During the 90’s, there were a lot of elections and political disputes in Taiwan. [Yang Wen-I] felt that my work… each part is not attached together, they are separated…

Is that important to your work, when you do an installation compared to a work like The White Line on Grey?

To me it’s a habit more than importance. It’s not very important. When people look at my work, they will feel that it’s like the political situation in Taiwan. One moment they are attached to each other, the next moment they are separated, then re-attached, and separated again.

This separation is shown because it was originally a vase, a flowerpot.

Can you elaborate on what were you trying to show or achieve with this separation?

It’s very simple…. Originally it’s a physical item, a container. A little bit like in a cartoon, it’s been pressed or squeezed, spread into circles; a little bit like in a comic. In reality, it wouldn’t happen this way. I’m using a comic style. When you squeeze [the pot], it will become this way… But in reality, it’s impossible [for the pot] to become this.

It’s like in cartoons, when an object has been hammered… If it’s not a cartoon, you won’t able to see that kind of effect – spreading [out] circle by circle. This is an exaggeration. Normally when we watch cartoons, when [a character] hammers something, the cartoonist is able to draw out the visual effect.

[Backyard in June] feels a little bit like archeology…. When you are doing archaeological research, maybe you will also put it this way [Master Tsong refers to the placement of each piece of broken pot]; collect these pieces, label them with numbers.

About this series

This Art Radar interview with Taiwanese artist Tsong Pu has been presented in three parts. In part one, Master Tsong discusses two works in which he has used and adapted his most well known technique, a 1 cm by 1 cm grid pattern. In part two, the artist speaks on two very different installation pieces, close in date of construction but not in their theory of development. Part three talks about some of the artist’s most recent installation work.

We have also premised each part with some of the artist’s views on the current Taiwanese contemporary art industry, as developed from his roles as mentor, curator and master artist.

KN/KCE

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Writer Steven Pettifor talks about the old and the new in Thai contemporary art – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

THAI ART BOOK WRITER INTERVIEW

Thailand has long had a small but very vibrant contemporary art scene. Compared with its recently-flourishing neighbours, however, contemporary Thai art hasn’t been getting much attention. Little has been written about it. Back in 2003, Bangkok based Briton Steven Pettifor decided to address this problem with his book Flavours – Thai Contemporary Art.

Flavours was listed on a reading list for newcomers interested in Southeast Asian art, as reported in an earlier Art Radar post. With 23 profiles of artists of different mediums (painting, sculpture, textile, costume, installa­tion, ceramics and photography), the author hoped to provide exposure of Thai artists outside their home country, and to give readers “a ‘taste’ of Thailand’s burgeoning contemporary visual arts.”

It’s now been seven years since the book was first published and much of Thailand’s contemporary art scene has changed. Art Radar Asia caught up with Steven Pettifor to find out more about his book, and to see what he thinks of the country’s current art movement.

Most importantly, this interview has revealed that there is now more non-Thai Asian art able to be viewed in Thailand. Local art galleries are teaming up with other Asian galleries to bring non-Thai Asian art into Thailand and foreign artists are now viewing Thailand as a place to set up professionally. He also identifies a number of important emerging Thai artists and names some of the top collectors of Thai contemporary art.

What prompted you to write Flavours?

I’d been writing about Thai art for about seven or eight years. I was starting to build up quite a body of artists that I’ve written about and covered. There was only one other book on Thai art written in English up until that point, and that was Modern Art in Thailand by Dr. Apinan Poshyananda. His book went up to 1992 and then after that it was nothing, and 1992 was the year I arrived in Thailand, so I felt like filling in the gap from that period onwards. That was my intention.

I was floating the idea for about a year or two before I actually found someone  who wanted to collaborate and publish it, and Thavibu Gallery said yeah okay, we’ll be interested in doing it, we might be able to find someone to back it financially, which they did. They found Liam Ayudhkij, who is the owner of Liam’s Gallery in Pattaya. He’s been collecting art here for thirty, forty years. So Liam kindly backed it. That’s how the book came about.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

What were the main issues and challenges for you when writing and researching Flavours?

I wanted the book to broaden the message about Thai art. I didn’t want to keep the book an academic book, purely for an already art-affiliated readership. I wanted to move beyond that and try and get more general public interest in Thai art. So one point was to keep it accessible in terms of language and to try and cover as broad a scope as possible within a coffee-table sort of format. That was one challenge.

Another was to try and cover as many different mediums as possible, so it was finding sculptures, paintings, installations, photography… I tried to cover as many mediums as possible, and that wasn’t easy, given that some of the less popular mediums… it was hard to find good quality artists working in that field.

Tell us more about your selection of artists in Flavours.

Medium was one big consideration. Also, their career point. I tried to get as many young artists or emerging artists or mid-career artists, so that the book would have relevance ten years on. It’s six years old now and most of the artists are still in their mid-careers. I didn’t want to pick artists that were in their twilight years or have passed away. People ask me why didn’t I include Montien Boonma, who’s considered the father of installation art here. I included him in the overview essay, but because he has passed away, I didn’t want to profile him, because there wasn’t so much currency. His career is not still being carried on, basically.

How did your interest in art, and in Thai art, evolve?

As early I could remember, I could draw and paint. Not self-taught as such, but it was there from an early age. I don’t come from an artistic family at all, so it was never really nurtured as such. But when I reached high school, I then got pushed toward art, just because they saw my natural talent or whatever. So the interest in art has always been there, but I’d say from high school onwards it was developed by teachers.

…It’s not so much as a passion for Thai art. The main art that was in view in Thailand was Thai art, and you just got into it. I got to meet a lot of the artists quite quickly and I found it quite interesting to be thrown in on that level. Back in 1997, there weren’t so many foreigners involved in the art scene and everyone was quite accommodating, inviting you to their studios and things like that. So it was interesting. You got to feel involved.

What makes Thai art different from other Asian art?

Buddhism is quite predominant here. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes that can kind of almost saturate the art that is produced here. If you look at Burmese art or what’s coming out of places like Laos, you’ll see a lot of Buddhist imagery as well. Places like Indonesia and Vietnam… the art being produced in those places is not so religious-focussed. Religion would be one aspect that defines a lot of the art that is made here. Not necessarily the art that is hitting international levels. They tend to deal with work that is more universal, or themes that would fit more into the international art interest. But across the board, a lot of them deal with Buddhist subject matter.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Another thing would be the craftsmanship. I do see it elsewhere in Asia, so it’s not necessarily different but there are different kinds of crafts that are brought into Thai art. Chusak Srikwan uses shadow puppetry, but he does things like modern politicians and symbols of corruption. Montri Toemsombat has used silk weaving and silk crafting in the past. There’s this attention to craft. A lot of technical training goes on here, so they get very good grounding in the technical aspects of art training, so that comes through very strongly as well.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Tell us about the artist training system in Thailand.

It’s pretty much similar to anywhere else. It’s art school, mainly. It’s an emerging thing. Art school is expanding constantly and courses are expanding constantly here, but it’s still largely focused in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with a couple of provincial centers in the north-east and in the south. A lot of young wannabe artists, when they graduate here, will go through assisting a senior artist in a studio for a couple of years. Again, that’s comparable to anywhere else as well. But I find it quite good that artists get a lot of hands on training through working with the artists when they graduate.

Is the Thai art scene receiving greater external interest, as compared with before?

It was anticipated here around the early 2000s on that there would be a lot more interest on the back of the increased focus towards Asia, with China and India doing very well. Vietnamese art in the mid to late 90s kind of opened up a lot. And it was always expected that there would be more people coming in for Thai art, and for a while there was. There’s a lot more Thai artists now included in biennales and triennales and international thematic shows, but I would say that is comparable to just part of this larger focus on finding art in Asia. I would also say in the last couple of years it has slowed down a lot. Since the coup in 2006, and the financial recession in late 2008, the commercial aspect of art has slowed down quite a bit. But I don’t think it’s just here, I’d say it’s everywhere.

Do Thai artists see international acceptance as one of the criteria for success? How does that compare with domestic recognition?

There are artists here that are quite content to work on the domestic level, but they have to work within a fairly narrow framework in order to succeed there. And then there are those who desire and need the international exposure in order to continue making art of that kind of calibre.

You mentioned in Flavours about a gap between the public and the local art scene, citing insufficient education and exposure as a major problem. Has the situation improved?

Things like education are not going to improve overnight. There are more universities and higher education establishments offering art related courses. But for your average state sponsored school, like high school, there’s still going to be a very limited art practice beyond basic drawing techniques and painting.

But in terms of accessibility, they are trying to change things. They’ve opened the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) here in the last two years, which is a major art center in the heart of downtown. It was always the intention to put it in a very commercial area so that it would be on the consumers’ door step. So they’re hoping to draw in the public to look at art and find out what art is. And there’s another plan to build a national art center in Bangkok. But that’s all very Bangkok-focused.

…one way the void is being filled in the provinces is that some of the artists that have either come from different provinces or have gone there to settle or to set up a studio have built artist-gallery-public places – places to promote their own work, but also places to give something back to the community. Up in Chiang Rai, Thawan Duchanee is a good example of an artist that has made his work open to the public.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

How has the local art scene changed since you published Flavours?

There are a lot of commercial galleries that have opened up in the last  five to ten years, but a lot of them have a less than five-year shelf-life. A lot of galleries are still set up here by people who have an interest in art, but I wouldn’t say that they are specifically trained in how to operate a gallery on a professional level. A lot of them have opened galleries because it’s their passion, but managing it on a professional level doesn’t always work out the way they expect. It’s still tough to make a profit here as a commercial gallery. There’s been a few more non-profit spaces opening as well, but they’re even harder to manage and sustain with no profits coming in and it’s hard to find sponsorship to back spaces like that.

One thing that I think is important to push is that there’s been more diversity of art that’s been on view in the last five years or so. When I first started looking at art thirteen years ago here, it was very Thai. Most of the galleries were showing Thai. Any foreign or overseas art would predominantly be at university spaces and would be by visiting lecturers or hookups with overseas institutions. But now, in commercial spaces, more regional art is certainly being seen. Thavibu Gallery bring in Vietnamese and Burmese art. Gallery SoulFlower, which just closed last year, brought in Indian art on a regular basis. Tang have a gallery in Bangkok, and they bring in a lot of good quality, high-profile Chinese art. And there’s a couple of galleries that bring in Japanese artists, and you’ll see Indonesian art here every now and then. So there’s been more exposure to regional and international art.

Another development is there’s been more foreign artists coming and spending time here, trying to work out of here. Some just setting up their own studios and still working with their galleries overseas… others coming here to make a goal out of it, trying to get involved with the Thai art scene. If I look at foreign artists based here thirteen years ago, it was more of people using art as hobby rather than a serious pursuit. But now I would say that there’s a lot more foreign artists here that are serious about art making and trying to make a career out of their art here as well.

What is the biggest problem facing the Thai art market at the moment?

There are probably only around fifty viewing spaces in Bangkok that attempt a regular or an occasional exhibition schedule, but not of huge amount of that translate into sales. I would say only a dozen or so galleries here manage themselves towards a sustainable and professional gallery that also tries to promote its artists beyond Thailand.

Can you name some interesting galleries and non-profit spaces for our readers to explore?

It’s a bit of a self promoting thing, but I initiated the Bangkok Art Map, which is a useful tool for people arriving in the city wanting to see art, or people living in the city wanting to see what’s happening on a monthly basis. It’s a map of the city’s galleries with the regular exhibition calendar plus highlights of what’s on, and a spotlight focus every month.

…obviously I have to say Thavibu Gallery, because they published my book, and I’m working with them this year on a curatorial project for the course of a year called “3D@Thavibu“. That is my conscious effort with the gallery to promote small-scale sculpture in Thailand towards more collecting base and to push emerging sculptors here that don’t get seen in so many galleries here.

There’s H Gallery, another professionally-run gallery. It’s run by an American, H. Ernest Lee, and it’s in a beautiful colonial-style building. One of the best galleries running in terms of putting their artists into biennales and working with some of the major Asian and Thai artists is 100 Tonson Gallery. Ardel Gallery is run by a Thai artist called Thavorn Ko-udomvit, who curated the Thai Pavilion for Venice last year. DOB Hualamphong brings in artists that are not necessarily commercially minded. Numthong Gallery has been a gallery that’s done very well over the years. [Mr. Numthong Sae-tang] runs a fairly small space out of a co-op building, but he attracts some of the big name Thai artists to work with him, because he tries to help them out and he’s a very good supporter of the artists when they come on board. Obviously the BACC is a place worthy of visiting.

Which artists have been doing interesting things recently in your opinion?

There are quite a few artists. The big names are already on the radar. People like Navin Rawanchaikul, Chatchai Puipia, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Sakarin Krue-on… these are all very good established artists.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

On the younger front, I like Maitree Siriboon. He is an artist I think is worth watching. He’s been using photography to photograph himself to examine his identity as an openly gay guy from Isarn. He deals with the rural to urban migration, exploring on a sensory level what it means for him as an artist and as an openly-gay person to move from the provinces to Bangkok. Yuree Kensaku, a Thai-Japanese artist; I like her brand of painting. She’s also doing some sculptural work. I like Yuree’s work a lot. There’s Tawan Wattuya. He does watercolours, very loose watercolour paintings, all about conformity and uniformity in Thai society. He’s done a lot of paintings of groups of Thais in uniforms. There’s a strong sexual element to a lot of his works as well. Also Sudsiri Pui-Ock in Chiang Mai.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Are there any major collectors of Thai art?

There’s Narong Intanate. He has been collecting more conventional Thai art – modern Thai artists but not necessarily contemporary. But he’s recently started to branch out into contemporary. Disaphol Chansiri has a really interesting collection of Thai and international contemporary art. His collection is open by appointment, he’s housing it in an apartment space that he’s opened up as an art-viewing space on Sukhumvit Road. His collection is very contemporary, probably the most contemporary I’ve seen in terms of the artists he’s collecting. Jean Michel Beurdeley is a French collector who has lived here for decades. He has a collection that he opens up in quite a nice traditional Thai house where he lives. Again, viewable by appointment only. One more worth mentioning is Petch Osathanugrah. He’s collected contemporary domestic art. I don’t think his collection is housed in any permanent space at the moment. For awhile he was going to open a private museum, but I don’t think that has materialised.

Are there any books or websites you would recommend for learning more about Thai contemporary art?

I would say our website, the Bangkok Art Map, would be a site to mention. The Rama IX Foundation is very well supported. Until recently, they’ve focused more on senior conventional artists. I think there’s more diversity to their website, but there’s a lot of contemporary artists not on there. But it’s a good website. Several of the gallery websites have good listing info.

As I said before, there are only two books out there, Modern Art in Thailand and Flavours. They’re the only two English-language books that have been written on Thai art in the last fifteen years.

About Steven Pettifor

Born in 1968 in London, Steven Pettifor graduated with degrees in fine arts from both the Wimbledon School of Art and Liverpool Polytechnic. The writer-artist-curator has been living in Thailand since 1992, immersing himself in the local contemporary art scene. He is currently the Thailand Editor for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.

VL/KN

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Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part I – Chasing lines across space

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


TAIWANESE CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW

You may have read our recently published post on a retrospective exhibition of works by Taiwanese contemporary abstract artist Tsong Pu, which wrapped up this month at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM). To follow up on this some say long-overdue show, we asked Master Tsong, with the aid of a translator, to talk about six of his works, selected by us from a huge body of work started in the 1970s.

Even with a career that spans forty years, Tsong Pu is still a prolific artist. He produces at least thirty new pieces, small and large, each year and this year will participate in three to four exhibitions, some joint and some solo. While he does teach at two Taipei art schools, has some private students and often judges art competitions, most of his time is spent creating new works at his studio in Taipei’s Da’an District and at his home in Huayuan Community (花園新城) in the mountainous Xindian City (新店市), on the borders of the sprawling Taipei metropolis.

Taiwanese contemporary artist Tsong Pu.

Taiwanese contemporary artist Tsong Pu. Image courtesy of the artist.

This is part one of a three part series. In this part we explore two paintings, The White Line on Grey (1983) and Chasing the Horizontal Across Space (2008), created more than twenty years apart, which use Master Tsong’s signature techique, a 1 cm by 1 cm “stamped” grid pattern.

For more on what to expect from the second and third parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

I wanted to start with this image, The White Line on Grey. Why was the title chosen, what was the medium, and why did you use that medium, especially at that time, in 1983?

White lines on top of grey color.

During that era, in the 1970s before I studied overseas in Spain, during that period of time there was a lot of new art thinking, creative thinking, emerging internationally, particularly within conceptual art and abstract expressionism. Some of my seniors, masters, launched an abstract art painting campaign and exhibition in Taiwan.

Tsong Pu, 'The White Line on Grey', 1983, mixed media, 194 x 130 cm.

Tsong Pu, 'The White Line on Grey', 1983, mixed media, 194 x 130 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

They were your teachers in Taiwan before you left?

No, no. They didn’t teach me; they had some influence on me because they had an exhibition. They combined Western abstract expressionism together with some of the Chinese traditional art painting and spirit.

I had the basic principles and knowledge from these masters, so I needed to develop some new things. When it came to my generation [of artists], we developed from the foundation they had built and moved forward.

During this period I tried to perform a kind of active art.

Like performance art, or…?

I intended to elaborate more on my process and development and express my differences from them [those master artists]. I tried to create a new way of thinking about art, a new art form.

And so, what was the performance aspect of this exhibition or this work?

Actually, I was no longer doing expression at the time of this painting [The White Line on Grey]; [I was] not into those very passionate paintings with intense emotion.

I understand. You moved away from what the other masters were doing. Maybe opposite, or not quite opposite?

I was not trying to do those action paintings [the abstract expressionist works by the masters before him]. I wanted more calm and dispassionate works. Because this is a canvas [Tsong Pu gestures at the image of The White Line on Grey], a canvas made of cotton or string. And the canvas itself is a kind of knit work. So I’m trying to use the paint’s grey color, then use the wire, the lines, to mix with the color in the horizontal and the vertical. Create grid boxes with the size of about 1 cm.

Like stitched, or just placed? Like thread art?

It’s wire [on the diagonal]. I used a pencil to make the lines, and I used a chop, 1 cm by 1 cm. [There is a detailed video, produced by Main Trend Gallery, which demonstrates Tsong Pu’s process].

It is kind of like Chinese embroidery, which was very well known in the past. The needle [and thread] follow the lines…one by one…. This way it is like stitching coloured paint onto the canvas.

I did not complete this by myself. I had help from my neighbors, some madams and housewives. We would have afternoon tea, chatting and working on this at the same time.

A closer view of Tsong Pu's 'The White line on Grey' (1983).

A closer view of Tsong Pu's 'The White line on Grey' (1983). Image courtesy of the artist.

Oh, so it was a collaboration?

Yes, my whole household, they helped me to finish this one. This feeling is like going back to the good old days when we [Taiwanese people] were in an agricultural society. We had housewives doing knitting and sewing work together, helping each other. So I invited everyone to help me complete this work, just like we were in that period. In Xindian [City], my other studio, I live there now, is in the mountains, and it’s kind of like the countryside.

So, you were using traditional methods and making them new, another way of creating a new painting style by basing it on the old?

Yes. Because of these processes and ideas, this work was totally different to that of my seniors.

So, this work was the first of that kind of painting that was so different in Taiwan?

I’m not very sure. Maybe it is not…. But it is totally different to my seniors’ creations.

Tsong Pu, 'Chasing the Horizontal Across Space', acrylic on canvas, 130 x 193 cm.

Tsong Pu, 'Chasing the Horizontal Across Space', 2008, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 193 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

The 1 cm by 1 cm grid pattern that you make with a chop, I believe this is your most well known style or method, or what most people know of your work in Taiwan or abroad. Is that correct?

This [Chasing the Horizontal Across Space (2008)] uses the same method. I use a chop, too.

So Chasing the Horizontal Across Space and The White Line on Grey are part of a group, a similar kind of style?

Yes.

So the diagonal lines in this painting, what do they mean? Do they have a similar meaning to the diagonal lines in The White Line on Grey?

This one [Master Tsong refers to Chasing the Horizontal Across Space] and this one [Master Tsong refers to The White Line on Grey] have twenty years between them. Everybody is talking about communication, mobile communication, signals. Just like the [computer] monitor; you can see the reflection of the monitor, the light of the monitor. It represents the different kinds of signals in modern society.

So, is this representing many different types of communication crossing each other?

Yes. This [Master Tsong refers to Chasing the Horizontal Across Space] was painted in 2008. In 2008, we were all talking about mobile communication. You look at the computer screen every day, the light from the computer screen. This work tries to express messages delivered via communication in our current world.

And the grid pattern, does it have any relationship, do Chasing the Horizontal Across Space and The White Line on Grey have any relationship to each other, the grid pattern and the overlaying lines?

No. There is no connection. The content is different but the skill, the technical skill, is the same. It’s like a habit. My process and procedure is the same. Just the content is different.

About this series

This Art Radar interview with Taiwanese artist Tsong Pu has been presented in three parts. In part one, Master Tsong discusses two works in which he has used and adapted his most well known technique, a 1 cm by 1 cm grid pattern. In part two, the artist speaks on two very different installation pieces, close in date of construction but not in their theory of development. Part three talks about some of the artist’s most recent installation work.

We have also premised each part with some of the artist’s views on the current Taiwanese contemporary art industry, as developed from his roles as mentor, curator and master artist.

KN

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