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Archive for the ‘Handicraft art’ Category

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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First New York solo show for Sopheap Pich, Cambodia’s most prominent contemporary artist

Posted by artradar on November 23, 2009


SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE

On November 12th, Tyler Rollins Fine Art (TRFA) introduced another Southeast Asian artist to the New York art scene. Bamboo sculptor Sopheap Pich’s first solo exhibition in New York will run until January 9th 2009, ending the Fall exhibition season.

RAFT, 2009 BAMBOO, RATTAN, WOOD, WIRE, METAL BOLTS 89 X 177 X 52 IN.

According to TRFA, Pich has been very active on the international stage in recent years and is now considered to be Cambodia’s most prominent contemporary artist. In addition, Pich’s artwork is currently part of the 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale ending on November 23rd.

"THE PULSE WITHIN" INSTALLATION VIEW

“Issues of time, memory, and the body are integral to Pich’s work. For this exhibition, he has created a dynamic group of sculptural forms derived from the internal organs of the human body, such as the heart, lungs, and intestines. These function as visceral reminders of the past and of the intimate, physical connections between human beings” – quoting TRFA’s website

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SF/KCE

Posted in Body, Cambodian, Emerging artists, Gallery shows, Handicraft art, Installation, New York, Rattan, Sculpture, Sopheap Pich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Middle Eastern, Indian, Pakistani artists show seminal works in 3-city exhibition: Lines of Control

Posted by artradar on February 23, 2009


Anita Dube, River Disease, 1999

Anita Dube, River Disease, 1999

MIDDLE EAST SOUTH ASIA ART

Two influential art enterprises, Green Cardamom and Middle Eastern gallery The Third Line co-present Lines of Control, a fascinating series of exhibitions in Dubai, Karachi and London comprising both seminal and new works by 18 artists. Arguably this is a show of some of the most respected artists from the Middle East and South Asia working in contemporary art today.

The series which was initiated by the  Green Cardamom in 2007, the 60th anniversary of the partition of the subcontinent, explores both the chaos and the productive capacity of partitions through the practice of visual art.

The Third Line, Dubai: 15th January – 8th February 2009
VM Gallery, Karachi: 28th January – 28th February 2009
Green Cardamom, London: 18th February – 27th March 2009

Theme of the show: Partition

These last two years – 2007 and 2008 – mark the 60th anniversaries of two groups of nations that were ‘made’ through partitions: firstly, the independence of India and the creation of Pakistan (itself partitioned 24 years later to form another new nation – Bangladesh), and secondly, the creation of Israel from British-controlled Palestine. Both partitions have cast long shadows in world history and had an unprecedented impact. The 1947 fracture of India led to over 15 million people being displaced, and an estimated one million deaths over a few brutal weeks. The aftermath of Israel’s creation remains arguably the leading cause for global geo-political instability.

Art can be a means to explore areas of life where words fail us, and partitions and their aftermath are ripe for such exploration. Lines of Control is not only about commemorating the past, but about current lives in partitioned times: South Ossetia, Baghdad’s Green Zone/Red Zone, Israel’s ‘security barrier’, Kosovo, the Kurdish population in Iraq and Turkey, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Pakistan’s tribal areas, India’s minority provinces – are all testimony to the seductive simplicity of drawing lines as a substitute for learning how to live with each other. Living these lines is a messy, bloody business but also offers a productive space where new nations, identities, languages and relationships are forged.

Interview with curator Hammad Nasser

Art Radar: How have the artists differed in the way they approached the subject?

Identity, nation, memory, history, borders


HN: The subject is vast – covering notions of identity and nation, as well as memory, history and borders.

In researching the topic and the works of artists that have addressed it, we were keen to include works that have become seminal, as well as encourage the production of new works.

Rashid Rana, All Eyes Skyward at the Annual Parade, 2004

Rashid Rana, All Eyes Skyward at the Annual Parade, 2004

Seminal works: Pakistani artist Rashid Rana

So among the 18 artists who participated in Lines of Control, nearly half showed existing works, in many cases borrowed from private collections. Rashid Rana’s large scale composite image, All Eyes Skywards at the Annual Parade, of a crowd waving Pakistani flags as it admires a fly-past is composed of thousands of stills from Bollywood films. A poignant commentary on Pakistani identity, despite best efforts, being defined by the other.

New works: Naeem Mohaiemen


Among the new works created I will pick out a wonderful set of digital prints and an accompanying stack of stamps bearing the portrait of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Bengali poet who resisted Partition before losing his ability to speak.

In these companion works, the Dhaka and New York based-artist Naeem Mohaiemen excavates history to show how the governments of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan all tried to project their own political fantasies on the mute figure of the revered poet. By isolating Kazi’s eyes in public photographs, Mohaiemen argues that his eyes register their silent protest at these political machinations.

Nalini Malani, Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines 2008

Nalini Malani, Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines 2008

Collaborative work, embroidery: Indian artist Nalini Malani and Pakistani Iftikhar Dadi

Bloodlines, a collaboration between the Indian artist Nalini Malani and the Pakistani Iftikhar Dadi, is both old and new. The work was conceived by the artists, and made by embroiderers in Karachi initially in 1997. It is perhaps the first collaborative work between artists from both countries. For Lines of Control it has been realized again by Mr. Abdul Khaliq and his team in Karachi.

The individual panels, with their flat panels of coloured sequins, mimic the mapping process that defines borders, supposedly with detached objectivity. However, the red border lines, drawn by the Radcliffe commission as part of the de-colonization process, run across this field of gold as arbitrary lines of blood. The artists describe the dense golden sequins as “enacting an allegory of the individual, affirming its uniqueness and their diversity, yet also suggesting that their coming together illuminates and enriches the entire region without limit”.
AR: Have there been any unusual, unexpected or interesting responses from viewers, critics?

The exhibitions have been very well received in Dubai and Karachi, by audiences who have lived through the Partition, by students who know of it only through history books and by critics.

Perhaps the most touching reaction was by an audience member with tears in her eyes as she listened to and observed the Home project by Sophie Ernst: video clips of artists talking to their parents and grandparents about the homes they left behind at the time of Partition, projected on to small scale architectural models of the places described.

AR: Why were these 3 cities chosen? Are different responses expected in the different cities?

HN: Lines of Control is an ongoing project, and after the initial focus on India’s partition, we start looking at Palestine and other partitions in the Middle East. Thus it was important that we involve multiple geographies and engage people around histories that are not their own but have many similarities. With South Ossettia, Kosovo, Baghdad, Cyprus — even Belgium for goodness sake — all in the news in recent months; we have to learn how to live in peace with our partitioned selves.

AR: Do you think travelling art shows can play a part in healing partitions, rifts?

HN: I am not sure I believe that art can change the world. But I do believe that art has a role to play in helping us understand phenomenon where words fail us. Artists, by reaching us outside language, allow us to find new avenues of enquiry and reflection. Healing comes with understanding, and art can certainly help us understand in a way that is not didactic.

AR: What is different about a travelling art show compared with a static one confined to one country?


HN: Its a hell of a lot harder work! But less flippantly, putting together exhibitions is also a learning process. And by working in this way where we have worked with three locations, three very different spaces and three different contexts, it gives us a chance to develop a much more nuanced understanding of what we are dealing with. Speaking personally, I am learning more about each work and some of the notions they explore through every interaction I have with them. Hopefully we will be able to use this in taking the project forward.

Artists

The exhibitions include works by Bani Abidi, Roohi Ahmed, Farida Batool, Rana Begum, Iftikhar Dadi and Nalini Malini, Anita Dube, Sophie Ernst, Ahsan Jamal, Amar Kanwar, Tariq Khalil, Ahmed Ali Manganhar, Naeem Mohaiemen, Raqs Media Collective, Rashid Rana, Seher Shah, Abdullah Syed, Hajra Waheed and Muhammad Zeeshan.

Reviews and writing

Chinar Tree Jan 2009 – Strong informative review of the Dubai show, well worth reading. Concludes that this edition of the on-going show ‘lacks coherence to some extent’. However commends and discusses in detail artwork from the following artists : Anita Dube, Naeem Mohaiemen, Rashid Rana. Interesting quotes:

On comparison of Indian partition with the Holocaust: “Hammad feels that despite this being the case, little thought or attention is paid to the scars or after-effects left by the division of a country and its people. “If you compare the Holocaust in Europe to the partition of India, one has almost spawned a commemorative industry whereas there’s almost no trace of India’s partition. Why are there no memorials or museums commemorating this?” “

On future plans for the exhibition: “Next year we’ll look at partitions in the Middle-East, Palestine, Lebanon and possibly the Kurdish question in Iraq and Turkey, if we find the art. The longer-term plan is to look at this as a global issue, to include international artists and take this to museums around the world.” Hammad Nasser, curator

Anita Dube, River Disease 1999, detail

Anita Dube, River Disease 1999, detail

Art Asia Pacific: A useful background article by Hammad Nasser curator. Discusses the meaning of the exhibition title Lines of Control: a reference to ‘the messy legacy of colonisation’ and to the lenticular print of Farida Batool entitled Line of Control (see article for image).

On partition art’s growth in last decade: “In Partition’s immediate aftermath, most Indian artists were unable, or more probably unwilling, to address its smouldering embers. And in Pakistan, the idea of critically examining Partition opened up the uncomfortable prospect of national existential crisis. Since Partition’s 50th anniversary a decade ago, however, a rich seam of artistic production engaging the topic has emerged.”

Artists’ works discussed in depth: Shilpa Gupta’s Aar Baar, Farida Batool’s Line of Control, Anita Dube’s River/Disease

Farida Batool Line of Control 2004 lenticular print

Farida Batool Line of Control 2004 lenticular print

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Renowned African contemporary artist El Anatsui says African art now receiving attention again – Art Interview

Posted by artradar on December 20, 2008


anatsui_009

AFRICAN ARTIST INTERVIEW

For the past 30 years, El Anatsui has been known within Africa as one of the continent’s most influential sculptors and today he is now also recognized as one of the foremost contemporary artists of his generation.Description of his work

Up to 20 assistants help Anatsui flatten aluminum seals taken from thousands of liquor bottles. They then fold them into strips that are woven together with copper wire, resulting in draping cloth-like pieces that often reach sizes of 30 feet or more. Anatsui’s sculptures not only transform common materials and impart new meaning to them, they also continuously evolve undergoing transformations themselves each time they are shown.

About El Anatsui

El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Anyako, Ghana. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sculpture and a Postgraduate Diploma in Art Education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Much of Anatsui’s early work made use of scorching wood with fire. Before venturing into his current “cloth series” he worked with the concept of fragility through ceramics and created sculptures with a chainsaw and wood.

Exhibitions

Many major institutions throughout the world have exhibited Anatsui’s work. He received an honorable mention at the 44th Venice Biennale. In 2007 El Anatsui exhibited at the 52nd Venice Biennale with a site-specific installation, transforming one of Venice’s most celebrated Gothic landmarks by wrapping the façade of the Palazzo Fortuny in a vast metal cloth.

El Anatsui collectors

Works by Anatsui can be seen in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; The British Museum, London and the Pompidou Center, Paris, France, as well as many other institutions.

Anatsui lives and works in Nigeria where he is a Professor of Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. October Gallery, London and David Krut Fine Art, New York represents El Anatsui. This is an extract from Art Interview’s talk with El Anatsui:

El Anatsui Dusasa II Venice Biennale 2007

El Anatsui Dusasa II Venice Biennale 2007

Art Interview: You are renowned as one of the most influential African artists in the world. Does this surprise you? El Anatsui: Yes, it does surprise me. (Laughs) I live in a very simple village, nothing glamorous or extraordinary. I think that probably makes for little distraction, so I can concentrate on my work more than if I were living in a busy metropolitan setting. When my works are shown in cities like New York I am surprised to see people are able to deeply relate to them but at the same time it is gratifying to see that others in different circumstances and locations are able to connect and make meaning of one’s little efforts.

Art Interview: Would you say that African art is making an impact on the international contemporary art market?

El Anatsui: Yes, I should say it’s receiving attention again. I’ve been watching the trends over the years. There was an interest in the 1970’s in contemporary art from Africa but it subsided in the 80’s. It was resurrected again in the 1990’s. Now cultural production is receiving more critical attention in Africa as well as abroad. I think its impact on the international art scene and eventually, the market is accumulating.

Art Interview: Where do you originally come from?

El Anatsui: I was born in the colonial Gold Coast in 1944, which became Ghana. I saw a transition period between the end of the Colonial era and the beginning of independence. I can remember that with our independence came feelings of nationalism. People proclaimed they were citizens of a country, not of a colony. We were trying to review what existed before colonialism in order to see what could still be used to foster a whole new society.

Art Interview: What were your parents doing at that time?

El Anatsui: I lost my mother when I was a baby and grew up with an uncle who was a protestant church reverend. My father was a head fisherman as well as a master weaver. I remember he presented one of the Kente he wove to me when I was going to the university.

 Art Interview: Did your family teach you how to weave?El Anatsui: Because I did not live with my father, I was not exposed to it. But most of my brothers who grew up at home are able to weave. I consider my current sculptural work to have several attributes of fabric, but I am not interested in textiles. Even when we were introduced to them in art school textiles did not attract me at all.

Art Interview: How did the opportunity for you to attend a university arise?

El Anatsui: In those days universities would go around looking for prospective students by sending out teams to the secondary schools, to talk about the courses they offer and their prospects. In secondary school I did well in several subjects, but the most consistent one was art, so when the team visited our school several of us completed the admission forms. I chose fine art, which the school’s guidance team thought was apt. At that time being an artist wasn’t an attractive choice because there were no visible role models like you have in architecture, engineering, pharmacy, etc. I didn’t know anyone who was a professional artist or exactly what it meant to be one. So, it was a really risky decision for me to choose this field based on the feeling it was something I would truly enjoy doing.

 Art Interview: Which University did you attend?El Anatsui: I worked for a bachelor’s degree in sculpture and a postgraduate diploma in art education at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. After that I taught for about five years at the Specialist Training College, (now the University of Education) Winneba, which is about an hour ‘s drive from Accra westwards on the coast of Ghana.

Art Interview: While you were attending college were there any professors who influenced the building of your career?

El Anatsui: In sculpture, we started with Von Stokar, who is German, and finished with the Ghanaian, Azii Akator. They would give us a challenge at a time and leave us to grapple with it, which with hindsight I think was very helpful. It was good because we had to search for our own paths. Because we had to discover what to do ourselves, the solution became a part of us.In drawing, I took courses from a British professor named Armistead, whose approach was almost scientific. He methodically took us through exercises in how to make visual judgments. He taught us how to see. The two approaches do come in here and there in the way I work.

Art Interview: You left Ghana to teach at the University of Nigeria. What made you decide to move to another country?El Anatsui: Well, a lot of things, among them I wouldn’t leave out adventure. I was very young then and I wanted to explore, to broaden my horizon. So I took the opportunity to apply at the University of Nigeria and after a year I received an appointment with them. Luckily when I got there I met one of the prominent African artists that I had read about in the few books on modern art in Africa that exited at that time. His name is Uche Okeke and he happened to be heading the department of fine arts. We had a great time getting to know each other and we learned from each other; probably more of me from him than him from me… (Laughs) We would talk about art until 2 or 3 in the morning. There were very talented and inspiring faculty in the department as well, like Obiora Udechukwu a painter and poet with whom one shared ideas and Chike Aniakor, an art historian and painter. The company was one that made for growth.

Art Interview: At what point were you able to survive financially as an artist?

 El Anatsui: About two years after finishing art school in Ghana. While teaching at Winneba, I began to work with wooden trays that are used in the markets to display wares. I would burn graphic signs onto each of them that had a saying or message associated. I tried to locate each within a border designed to enhance the meaning and message. People could relate to both the trays and the signs so they were eagerly collected at our exhibitions. That was the first point that I saw my work having the capacity to generate financial rewards. Ironically, I was generating more income this way than with my regular employment, which occupied most of my time. My students were assisting me on weekends and during holidays I would have several young relatives, boys in secondary school, work with me. Their efforts helped generate enough funds that I was easily able to pay for their school fees and also give them good pocket money to go back with!

El Anatsui Installation of Sasa Pompidou

El Anatsui Installation of Sasa Pompidou

Art Interview: Were you exhibiting in commercial galleries at that point?

El Anatsui: I appeared in group-shows in Ghana at venues like the National Art Centre until 1975. Afterwards I exhibited in Nigeria at cultural centers. The British, Italian and French cultural institutes were outfits that provided opportunities for artist to exhibit at in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Art Interview: Did you ever have to approach commercial galleries? 

 El Anatsui: During my earlier visits to New York in the 1980’s, I did go to a couple of galleries, which mostly told me they were scheduled for next two to three years. Ordinarily they kept my slides for future attention but I guess at the time they did not see any commercial prospect in the works. I then decided to just focus on the practice and forget about galleries. I began showing in museums and other non-commercial spaces and I traveled to participate in projects and residencies in Germany, the UK and the USA. In the mid 1990’s, a gallery that had seen a documentary film in which I was featured approached me for a show in the UK.

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Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2008 emerging artists on show in Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on October 29, 2008


ASIAN ART PRIZE

The Sovereign Asian Art Prize carries a first prize of US$25,000 and is in its 5th edition. This time the acceptance criteria have been broadened from all forms of painting to all forms of 2D media. Thirty finalists have been selected by a panel of experts from 1000 entries. A public prize is also awarded to the painting which receives the most votes from the public who attended the exhibition or cast their votes on the website.

The culmination of the prize is a public auction where it is hoped that funds will be raised to support charities and a ‘first of its kind in Hong Kong’ three year residency programme for international artists.

Judges are Uli Sigg (collector) Peter Aspden (Financial Times critic) Pamela Kember (art historian and critic) Victoria Lu(musem consultant) Pooja Sood(Director of Khoj Foundation) and Xu Bing (artist).

Finalists

Australia: Bundit Puangthong, Chris Wake, China: Collette Fu, Hou Yan Yan Hong Kong: Caroline Chiu, Chow Chun Fai, Man Fung-Yi, Gretchen So, Peter Steinhauer, Angela Su, Anothermountainman India:Seema Kohli, Indonesia:Terra Bajraghosa, Suroso Isur, Saputro Uji Handoko Eko, Japan: Yu Hara, Maiko Sugano, Noriko Yamaguchi Korea: Dongi Lee, Lim Taek Malaysia: Chan Kok Hooi, Hoo Kiew Hang, Myanmar: Mor Mor Philippines: Robert Langenegger Singapore: Mee Ai Om Taiwan: Chiu Chien-Jen Thailand: Jaratsri Prasongdee, Laura Spector, Sirat Ubolyeam Vietnam: Le Thiet Cuong

Radar’s picks

Lim Taek

Lim Taek

Korean artist Lim Taek’s work is inspired by 18th century traditional Korean black and white ink drawings. Tael transforms these into 3D sculptures made of plastic and Korean traditional paper which he installs in a gallery.  He then photographs animals trees rocks and people and places these images into the installation. His intention is to create a dreamlike sensation for viewers as they gaze at his imaginary world.

Maiko Sugano

Maiko Sugano

Japanese artist Maiko Suganowas nominated by Asia Art Archive. She is interested in bridging barriers and misunderstandings by seeking common ground across cultures. In 2002 Sugano was presented with the Jack and Gertrude Murphy Fine Arts Fellowship sponsored by San Francisco foundation. She also runs an artist residency house called ‘YomoYama House’.

Angela Su

Angela Su

This work ‘Amorpha Juglandis’ is part of a series and drawings and embroideries in a project entitled ‘Paracelsus Garden’ – an imaginary location inhabited by insects and plants which on closer inspection reveal themselves to be a bizarre juxtaposition of bones muscles and organs. This work takes the form of a moth which uses the cochlear (part of the human inner ear) and scapulas(shoulder blades) as wings. The entire work is embroidered with fine polyester filament on silk.

Noriko Yamaguchi

Noriko Yamaguchi

Noriko Yamaguchi was born in 1983 and her work crosses over the mediums of photography and performance art. In the ‘Ketai Girl’ series Yamaguchi wears a bodysuit made of cellphone keypads a comment on today’s society where people are in constant telephonic touch but ache for physical connection. In 2004 she received the Panel of Judges Award at the 21st Century Asia Design Competition held by Kyoto University of Art and Design.

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Posted in Australian, China, Chinese, Emerging artists, Handicraft art, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Human Body, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Performance, Photography, Sculpture, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Taiwanese, Thai, Thread, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iranian artist Farhad Ahrarnia picked as one to watch – Canvas

Posted by artradar on September 24, 2008


Farhad Ahrarnia

Farhad Ahrarnia

EMERGING ARTIST IRAN
Following his recent exhibition ‘Stitched’ in London, Iranian artist Farhad Ahrarnia is featured by Middle East specialist art magazine Canvas as ‘one to watch’. Born in 1971 in Shiraz, Iran and educated at the Northern Media School Sheffield UK, Ahrarnia divides his time between the two cities and “it is perhaps by being both “here and there” that he is able to reflect on his own identity and look at life as an observer” says Canvas. “For Ahrarnia nothing is quite what it seems and everything merits a closer look”.
Working in a range of media from photography and video to embroidery, Ahrarnia’s choice of technique (craft versus technology) and his subject matter (domestic versus international) are in his own words: “A reflection and testimony to the complexities of contemporary experience rooted in the hybrid, fragmented and diverse Middle Eastern ‘reality’ where tradition and modernity fuse”.
With exhibitions throughout the north of England under his belt, this summer Ahrarnia exhibited his recent work ‘Stitched’ at the Leighton House Museum in London. Featuring images of celebrities and Iranian ex-royalty taken from print and online media, Ahrarnia digitally prints the image onto canvas and then painstakingly embroiders part of the surface with colourful silk threads.
“In doing so” says Canvas “it is the relationship between what lies on the surface and what may lie underneath that piques his interest. Influenced by the ordered and geometric structures of late Mondrian paintings, Iris Murdoch’s novel ‘Under the Net’ and even the philospohical work of Wittgenstein it is the act of pulling thread through fabric that for Ahrarnia pulls hidden meanings from within the images”.
The subjects of his work include US soldiers who have died in Iraq, former empress of Iran Farah Diba Pahlavi and one of Iran’s most legendary women the stage and screen icon Googoosh.
In his brilliant video work ‘Mr Singer’ he responds to the fictional character Seargent Zinger based on a real story of a salesman and spy who sold Singer sewing machines to affluent Iranian families in the 1930s and 1940s meanwhile collecting information on the people and areas he visited.
Related:
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Posted in Activist, Celebrity art, Emerging artists, Handicraft art, Iranian, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, New Media, Political, Slow art, Thread, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Women emerge onto the Beijing art scene – International Herald Tribune

Posted by artradar on August 9, 2008


Li Shurui Seeing mountains, seeing water

Li Shurui Seeing mountains, seeing water

 

FEMALE ARTISTS BEIJING SURVEY

Gun shot by China’s first female star artist

On a February day in 1989, a young woman walked into a show at the National Gallery of Art here, whipped out a pellet gun and fired two shots into a mirrored sculpture in an exhibition called “China/Avant-Garde.” Police officers swarmed into the museum. The show, China’s first government-sponsored exhibition of experimental art, was shut down for days.

The woman, Xiao Lu, is an artist. The sculpture she fired on was her own, or rather a collaborative piece she had made with another artist, Tang Song, her boyfriend at the time. Why she did what she did was not immediately clear, but that did not matter.

She had set off a symbolic explosion.

Rebel or hero

The international press saw a rebellion story. China’s political and cultural vanguard claimed a hero. The government reacted as if attacked. The art critic Li Xianting has described the incident as a precursor to the Tiananmen Square crackdown four months later. Whatever the truth, Xiao made the history books. She was a star.

Chinese contemporary art dominated by men since 1989

She is the first and last Chinese woman so far to achieve that status in the art world here. Contemporary art in China is a man’s world. While the art market, all but nonexistent in 1989, has become a powerhouse industry and produced a pantheon of multimillionaire artist-celebrities, there are no women in that pantheon.

Women solo shows rare

The new museums created to display contemporary art rarely give women solo shows. Among the hundreds of commercial galleries competing for attention in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere, art by women is hard to find.

Art by women innovative

Yet the art is there, and it is some of the most innovative work around, even as visibility remains a problem. On a monthlong stay, I visited several women who live and work in and around Beijing and have important careers, although none of them top the auction charts and few are represented by prestigious galleries. An alternative list of women doing strong but little-noticed work would be long.

 Lin Tianmiao prominent

If any woman qualifies as a power artist on the current male model, Lin Tianmiao probably comes closest. She was born in 1961, and like many artists of her generation who were raised during the Cultural Revolution but came of age professionally in its rocky aftermath, she had a difficult start.

In the mid-1990s, with money scarce, censors watchful and no gallery or market structure in place, she and her husband, the conceptual artist Wang Gongxin, lived and worked in cramped Beijing apartments where they mounted one-night shows that doubled as rent parties.

Lin’s work reflected these hand-to-mouth conditions. It was made from used household utensils – teapots, woks, scissors, vegetable choppers – that she laboriously wrapped in layers of cheap white cotton thread to create inventories of domestic life that looked both threatening and precious.

With the market boom, her career took off, and her work grew in scale and formal polish. Her floor-to-ceiling installations of self-portrait photographs anchored by braids of white yarn are fixtures in international shows. She and Wang live in one of Beijing’s many gated high-rises for urban professionals; their joint studio is an antiques-filled farmhouse on the outskirts of the city, where, with a small staff of seamstresses, Lin produces ghostly – and expensive-looking – soft sculptures swelling with egg- and breast-shaped forms in pristine white silk.

Feminist?

Critics have noted affinities in her art to the “women’s work” aesthetic of certain Western feminists. Lin, who lived in New York in the late 1980s, would not disagree. And she acknowledges that women are treated like second-class citizens in China – like “inactive thinkers,” as she puts it.

Yet she is cautious about applying the term feminist to herself or her work. Why? The concept is too Western. It is too vague. China is not ready for feminism. China has its own brand of feminism. You hear variations on these reasons often, just as you do in the West.

Yin Xuizhen

Yin Xuizhen is Lin’s near-contemporary. Both are of the “apartment art” generation and worked with homely, personal materials. For a 1995 installation, Yin unraveled the woolen yarn from secondhand men’s and women’s sweaters and used it to knit new sweaters that merged the genders. She sealed her own clothes, including items dating to childhood, in a suitcase, as if to preserve the past and make it portable. She also began gathering architectural scraps from the streets of her native Beijing, as if to document and memorialize a city being destroyed around her.

The threat of destruction pervades her recent large-scale work too, though now the implications are global. For a continuing piece called “Fashion Terrorism,” she created a miniature airport baggage claim with mysterious parcels stalled on a carousel. They may hold the possessions of immigrants in transit; they may hold weapons. We cannot know.

Halves of art world couples

She, like Lin, is married to an artist, Song Dong, a video maker and conceptualist with a strong international reputation. In fact, a fair number of successful female artists in China are halves of art-world couples.

Lu Qing

No artist in China has a more powerful spouse than Lu Qing does. She is married to the artist-architect Ai Weiwei, who was a consultant on the design for the 2008 Olympic Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest.

Yet it is hard to think of an artist whose work is more different from his.

Ai is a conceptualist who specializes in controversy and confrontation. For one piece he smashed ancient Chinese pots. For another he disassembled antique furniture to make it unusable. On the fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, he photographed a young woman standing in front of Mao’s portrait in the square and provocatively flipping up her skirt.

Lu was the woman in that picture. But her art is the opposite of exhibitionistic.

Slow art is performance and meditation

Since 2000 she has made a single new work annually. At the beginning of each year she buys a bolt of fine silk 25 meters long, or 82 feet. Over the next 12 months, using a brush and acrylic paint, she marks its surface with tight grid patterns.

The results look like a cross between Agnes Martin’s grid drawings and traditional Chinese scroll painting, historically a man’s medium.

Some years she fills the cloth. Other years, when she can bring herself to work only sporadically, she leaves it half empty. In one year at least, she painted nothing. But completion in any ordinary sense is not the goal. Whatever state the roll is in at year’s end, that is its finished state. She packs it away and buys a new bolt.

This is private, at-home work. “I don’t think what I’m doing is art,” Lu said. “In fact, it makes me forget what art is about.” Like Lin’s early wrappings and Yin’s knitting, this is art as performance and meditation.

Few if any of China’s lionized male artists are doing work as slow, private and hermetic. And by no means all women are.

Xing Dangwen

In the 1990s the photographer Xing Danwen, born in 1967, documented the rough-and-tumble life of artists in the squatter settlement here called the East Village. Her 1995 photographic series “Born With the Cultural Revolution” examined the status of her generation of women: heirs of a Maoist principle of gender equality now living in a market economy that undermines that equality.

What has been gained and lost in the transition between old and new ways of social thinking, between collectivism and individualism, is the subject of her recent “Urban Fiction” series.

Here Xing digitally inserts miniature vignettes of domestic violence and isolation into photographs she has taken of tabletop models of Beijing high-rises. The original models were made by real estate developers to sell new apartments like the spacious but unpalatial one that Xing lives in. Many of the tiny figures in her narratives have her face.

Women’s art not confined to women’s issues

Clearly art by women in China is not confined to “women’s issues” like family and home. Much of it is about excavating a personal past and bringing it into the present, and about examining that present and how it is being lived.

In 2000 Cui Xiuwen used a hidden camera to film a group of women, most of them prostitutes, talking, applying makeup, calling clients and counting cash in the bathroom of a Beijing karaoke bar.

The video, titled “Lady’s Room,” was censored when it appeared in the 2002 Guangzhou Triennial, presumably because it presents realities – women as active agents in consumer eroticism – that contradict a spectrum of cultural ideals about gender, from a view of the sexes existing in harmonious balance to one of women as subservient. As the artist herself says of the video, “You can feel that it is a situation before a battle.”

More recently, Cui, who is in her late 30s, has produced highly finished photographs and paintings of adolescent girls dressed in uniforms of the Young Pioneers, a youth organization. Sometimes bruised and bloodied, they pose in what looks like the Forbidden City.

And most recently, she has made pictures of older girls floating like somnambulant angels above Beijing rooftops. The theme of childhood and maternity recur almost obsessively, as they do in Lin’s new sculpture.

Xiong Wenyun

Xiong Wenyun, born in 1953, is on a different track. She has a cramped studio in the 798 District, a once-hot art neighborhood now overrun by second-tier galleries and tourists, but her best-known work, the 1998 photographic series “Moving Rainbow,” was shot far from Beijing and its art world.

For this project she traveled a bleak logging road that runs through westernmost China into Tibet. She photographed people she encountered, and talked to them about commercial development that threatened their way of life. She also took photographs of truck caravans and of shack-like truck stops that lined the route, after adorning both with fabric hangings keyed to the colors of Tibetan prayer flags.

Since Xiong finished her project, China has improved the trucking road and added a mountain tunnel to make Tibet more accessible to Chinese settlers and tourists. It has also prohibited logging in the region. As a result, the caravans and many of the truck stops that Xiong turned into temporary art installations are gone; her documents are what remains of them.

Xiong is well aware that “Moving Rainbow,” with its blend of activism, anthropology and abstraction, is an anomaly in new Chinese art, much of which, in addition to being only obliquely political, is product-oriented and studio-bound.

Li Shurui much noticed

Not all of it is, though. A much-noticed young artist, Li Shurui, born in 1981, began her career while still an undergraduate with an ambitious outdoor installation. It consisted of a long line of fabric cubes that stretched across a lake in Yunnan Province inhabited by a matriarchal ethnic minority.

Although she has since become best known for her paintings – air-brushed, semi-abstract images of music club interiors executed in a pleasing internationalist mode – she stood out in a recent gallery group show for an installation that suggested a cross between a Minimalist environment illuminated by fluorescent lights and an open elevator stuck between floors.

Some people spoke of savvy references to certain Western art; others noted a resemblance to the shot-up sculpture that caused so much fuss in 1989.

Why Xiao Lu pulled the trigger

A few years ago Xiao revealed that the primary motivation behind the shooting had not been aesthetic or political, after all, but emotional. She was expressing anguish over her relationship with Tang, which was going sour. What she was firing at was not the sculpture per se, which was made from two telephone booths and titled “Dialogue,” but at her own image in its reflective surface.

For some people, the significance of her action was diminished with that revelation, although to anyone viewing it through a Western feminist eye – meaning with the understanding that the personal is political – its significance increased.

As for feminism, Li, who is married to the painter Chen Jie, acknowledges the force of male chauvinism in the art world, both in China and elsewhere. But, she says, she is still too young, still too much in the stage of discovering herself, to figure out whether she considers herself a feminist or not.

It may say something about her present and future thinking, though, that when asked to name a cultural role model, she pointed neither to other artists nor to contemporary politics, but to the deep past: to the seventh-century empress Wu Zetian, who through a combination of brains, beauty, unsparing ambition and tenacious hard work, became China’s first and only female sovereign.

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