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Archive for the ‘Sculpture’ Category

Ai Weiwei fills Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds

Posted by artradar on October 19, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART TATE MODERN UNILEVER SERIES INSTALLATION SCULPTURE

Ai Weiwei – artist, architectural designer, curator and social commentator – unveils his work for the prestigious Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – Britain’s largest contemporary art commission. It features the first living artist from the Asia-Pacific region to be commissioned for this series. Guest poster Pippa Dennis provides an in-depth look into the production and exhibition of this breakthrough installation.

Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei is a sensory and immersive installation which sees the vast 1000 square meters of the Turbine Hall covered with over a hundred million porcelain replicas of sunflower seeds, ten centimetres deep and weighing in at 150 metric tons. Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project in the city of Jingdezhen, home to porcelain manufacturers since the days of Imperial China.

Each ceramic seed goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. The artist jokes that he made a few himself, but his contribution was hastily rejected by the artisans in charge, such was the level of craftsmanship involved.

Ai Weiwei. Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

“Ai Weiwei has created a truly unique experience for visitors to this year’s Unilever Series. The sense of scale and quality of craftsmanship achieved in each perfectly formed sunflower seed is astonishing. In trying to comprehend their sheer quantity, Ai provokes a multitude of ideas, from the way we perceived number and value, to the way we engage with society at large.” Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate Modern

Initially, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. Image courtesy of Pippa Dennis.

The effect is a highly simplistic and subtle creation, yet complex and powerful in its depth and potential for interpretation. The sunflower itself is a profoundly symbolic object for Chinese people. A common street snack shared by friends and enjoyed by everyone, but requiring a certain skill in breaking the husk and releasing the seed in a singular movement of the teeth and tongue. For the artist it has more personal significance as he remembers it as a staple during the Mao years when material goods were virtually non-existent and food was in short supply. At this time he remembers the sharing of them as a gesture of human kindness and generosity in a period of extreme poverty and uncertainty. It was also a symbol adopted by the Communists. Propaganda pictures from this era depict Mao as the sun, and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him.

Ai has used the sunflower seed repeatedly in his work since his period in New York, such as Hanging Man (1983), and here this simple motif works to examine the concepts of mass production and traditional craftsmanship, an important aspect of Ai Weiwei’s work. The phenomena of “Made in China” and the association that accompanies it – repetition, copying and mass production – are all themes deeply rooted in Chinese tradition whilst recently they have taken on a new significance in the current geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange.

Ai Weiwei believes the role of the artist is not only about raising issues but transforming them. Here the seeds also raise questions about ourselves and society, what does it mean to be an individual in China, an individual in this world? Individualism in China was heavily criticized during the Mao years but now with its radical economic and urban transformation China’s attitude is starting to shift, particularly amongst the younger generations. Ai has commented “From a very young age, I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be”.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of the Londonist.com.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project ... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of Londonist.com.

Ai Weiwei’s work has always had an element of political and social commentary and he has not only become an important contemporary artist on the international stage but also a leader of social thought in China and the world. He comments, “My art may be political but I never intended to create political art”. However in recent years these themes, particularly for public commissions, have become increasingly prominent and in interviews and on his blog he openly criticises the Chinese government, calling for freedom of press and speaking up for human rights. He has always said his life is ready-made, “I’m my own ready-made”, acknowledging his most significant influence, Marcel Duchamp.

Life for the artist is art, politics and exchange. The act of individuals voicing their opinions and communicating with one another is of great importance to him and his practice. In Remembering (2009), he harnessed the powers of the Internet to recruit two hundred local and regional participants in the research and archiving of the names of the children who lost their lives in the Sichuan earthquake. This project resulted in five thousand names being collated and recorded and is considered the first civil rights activity in China.

In Sunflower Seeds, he harnesses the powers of social media to take his “social sculpture” to another level. Combining online and video technologies, this commission has enabled the artist to engage in a global dialogue about the work. Below the Turbine Hall, Ai Weiwei has installed a series of video booths to record questions and comments to the artist, whilst outside the Turbine Hall the audience can connect with the artist via Twitter. One to One with the Artist also marks a milestone in the Tate’s use of new media technology and the Internet, transforming the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern into a hub of global conversation.

Marc Sands, director of audiences and media at the Tate said,

“In recent years, Tate Media has found a variety of new ways for visitors to engage with the Unilever Series commissions, from iPhone apps to interactive websites. Ai Weiwei’s own passion for new communication technologies has made it possible for us to develop something really special this year, which we hope people around the world will enjoy”.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

Originally, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. However, after a very enthusiastic response from visitors, staff noticed a fine dust rising off of the seeds, and after it was confirmed that the dust “could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time”, the Tate was forced to cordon the sculpture off. Visitors are still invited to view the installation “from a walkway above the hall.”

The immediate critical response has been extremely positive. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle comments, “I love it. It is a world in a hundred million objects. It is also a singular statement, in a familiar, minimal form – like Wolfgang Laib’s floor-bound rectangles of yellow pollen, Richard Long’s stones or Antony Gormley’s fields of thousands of little humanoids. Sunflower Seeds, however, is better. It is audacious, subtle, unexpected but inevitable. It is a work of great simplicity and complexity. Sunflower Seeds refers to everyday life, to hunger (the seeds were a reliable staple during the Cultural Revolution), to collective work, and to an enduring Chinese industry.”

The Telegraph’s Richard Dorment observes, “For the 11th commission in the Unilever Series, Tate Modern has offered the poisoned chalice to the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei – and he’s come up with a masterpiece.”

With the seeming success of this event and Tate Modern’s curatorial commitment to show art from new territories, we can look forward to more opportunities to see art from the Asia-Pacific region in such significant spaces as London’s premier contemporary art museum.

About Pippa Dennis

Pippa Dennis is a Chinese art specialist based in London. She has an MA in Art History and spent ten years making documentaries for the BBC before living in Shanghai and working at Eastlink Gallery. She subsequently set up Asia Art Forum, an educational platform to promote the understanding of Asian contemporary art.

HH/KN

 

Related Topics: Chinese artists, installation art, participatory art, political art, London art

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Jitish Kallat talks about Saatchi exhibition of Indian works to Economist – video

Posted by artradar on October 13, 2010


INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITIONS LONDON VIDEO

Between January and May this year, Indian contemporary artist Jitish Kallat displayed seven pieces, paintings, sculptures and installations, at Saatchi Gallery, London with 23 other contemporary Indian artists in an exhibition called “The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today. In a video produced by The Economist titled “Jitish Kallat: perspectives on modern Indian art”, Kallat discusses his and the other artists’ work from this exhibition.

In the video, Jitish Kallat reveals what it is about contemporary Indian art that makes it so interesting for him; Indian art today is influenced by almost every aspect of Indian culture and the repositioning of the country on the global map is aiding the development of the art scene.

 

Indian contemporary artist Jitish Kallat. Sourced from www.iaac.us.

Indian contemporary artist Jitish Kallat. Sourced from http://www.iaac.us.

 

“The Empire Strikes Back” shows different contemporary Indian artists expressing political statements through their work. The pieces “actually travel and gather art miles…and as they gather art miles in different locations they share and gain meaning.” For Jitish, this repetition of artists’ intentions through different cultural stimulants in different parts of the world remains a great area of interest.

As people around the world are able to access different cultures more easily they feel more empowered to deconstruct the culture code from different places around the world. However, as he states in the video, Jitish Kallat feels that “the world has this peculiar ghostly sense of sameness within which these objects travel with baggage of tales and stories and meanings and metaphors and I think I find this process exciting, challenging and also instructive.”

The first piece discussed by Kallat in the video is Eruda (2006, black lead on fibreglass, 419 x 169 x 122 cm). Eruda is a massive black lead sculpture, the development of which stemmed from a series of photographs of boys selling popular books at the traffic lights. As Kallat relays in the video, this boy represents the spirit of the city, most particularly the quintessential Indian city of Mumbai.

 

Jitish Kallat, Eruda, 2006, black lead on fibreglass, 419 x 169 x 122 cm.

Jitish Kallat, Eruda, 2006, black lead on fibreglass, 419 x 169 x 122 cm.

 

Related to Eruda, Kallat’s “Eclipse” series of paintings also capture these boys smiling back. The paintings represent someone who not only lives in Mumbai but is themselves a portrait of the city. One of the images in the video reveals that the hair of each boy almost merges together and is actually made up of interconnecting images of people and streets. As Kallat states on the video, this is meant to show that “everyone who lives in the city of Mumbai is somehow tied into one conjoint reality.”

Public Notice 2 (2007, 4,479 fibreglass sculptures, dimensions variable) is an installation using words from Mahatma Ghandi’s historic 1930’s speech. For Kallat, given the everyday rhetoric that has created some sort of terror-affected world, voices such as Ghandi’s become carriers of a message that can help overcome the foolishness of the contemporary world. The piece is large in size which, for Kallat, is central to the creation of the meaning of the piece. However, once the video moves in to focus on the letters it becomes clear that each alphabet is a sculpture of a letter morphed out of bones.

The final piece in the video, Death of Distance (2007, black lead on fibreglass, a rupee coin and five lenticular prints, sculpture 161 cm diameter, prints 46 x 60 cm), refers to two texts that entered the public domain around the same time. The first is the story of a girl who committed suicide because her mother could not give her one rupee for a meal in school due to extreme poverty. The second article is a press release by a telecommunications company which claimed the “arrival of new India.” The press release famously called this event “the death of distance in India” and stated that it would now cost only one rupee to call from any part of India to another.

The installation includes five frames carrying both texts on each frame. They flip according to where you stand. It also includes a coin of one rupee enlarged to a size of an average person from India. Kallat states in the video that the flipping texts “become like reality in India itself: [the] India you see on that day depends on where you stand at that particular moment.”

 

 

Jitish Kallat, Untitled (Eclipse) 3, 2007, acrylic on canvas, triptych, 274 x 518 cm.

Jitish Kallat, Untitled (Eclipse) 3, 2007, acrylic on canvas, triptych, 274 x 518 cm.

 

Jitish Kallat was born in Mumbai in 1974. He received his BFA in painting from Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art and his work has been exhibited worldwide, appearing in New York, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Madrid, Zurich, Amsterdam, Mumbai, and New Delhi.

To see video, click here.

EN/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Indian artists, videos, gallery shows

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Young Chinese artist Li Hui lights up Netherlands: an Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on September 28, 2010


CHINESE ARTIST SOLO EXHIBITION LIGHT ART NETHERLANDS

Li Hui at work. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Li Hui at work. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Following his impressive solo exhibition last year in Mannheim, Germany, young Chinese artist Li Hui brings yet another surprise to the European art scene. In the pitch-dark exhibition space provided by The Centre of Artificial Light in Art in the Netherlands, Li Hui presents a spectacular display of four of his light works entitled “Who’s afraid of Red, Amber and Green?. The show, which runs from 16 July to 24 October this year, showcases Li’s experiments with laser and LED light.

The current show, the title of which may remind people of Barnett Newman‘s painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?, exhibits four of Li Hui’s works: Amber, Reincarnation, Cage and Everything Starts from Here. The works were selected jointly by John Jaspers (director of The Centre of Artificial Light in Art), Christoph and Cordelia Noe (co-directors of The Ministry of Art who represent Li Hui) and the artist.

In an interview with the museum, printed on the museum guide, Li Hui describes his works:

“I can imagine that if someone sees my work for the first time, it can have a very strong visual impact. Just like in Newman’s paintings, the bright colors first have to get stored in one’s brain. I also understand that there are elements in my works that might make people feel a little puzzled or even a little scared when first confronted with them. However, from what I have experienced, it is not just the visual impact, but also the ‘otherness’ or their mysticism that can have this kind of result. It is somehow similar to … Shamanism.”

Art Radar Asia spoke to Li Hui about the ideas in his works, the challenges he faces and his future plans.

Light not an intended media

Specialising in sculpture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Li Hui learnt to use stainless steel and wood but not light. In fact, he never meant to use light in all of his works, and would not call himself a light artist. It was in the process of production that he thought of light as a possible media for some of his works. He gives an example of how he came up with using LED light for Amber.

“I wanted the transparent material to glow, and I found that LED light is the only light that can produce the effect I wanted. The material is also thin enough for me to install inside the work, so I used it.”

Using LED light led to his discovery of the properties of laser light, a non-heating light which produces pure colors, and he started to experiment with it for other works. Light is not a usual medium for art in China or the world and Li says of this phenomenon,

“Light doesn’t seem like a material that can be used in art – if you do not handle it well, the outcome will be awful. Everyone can use light in their work, but light may not always be a good material to help them express what they want to express.”

"What I want to create is smoke rising from the bed softly and freely. It is a work that would evoke emotions, but this may not be obvious from photos," relays Li Hui. Reader's who are interested in experiencing these emotions firsthand can click on the image to watch a video. (Please note that the video is presented in Dutch.) 'Reincarnation' (200 x 110 cm; height variable) is a sculpture made of laser lights, fog, metal and medical bandage to create a mysterious, psychedelic, religious visual effect. In Buddhism, reincarnation means cycle or life circulation – the recurring process of our spirit being incarnated in another life after we die. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

"What I want to create is smoke rising from the bed softly and freely. It is a work that would evoke emotions, but this may not be obvious from photos," relays Li Hui. Readers who are interested in experiencing these emotions firsthand can click on the image to watch a video. (Please note that the video is presented in Dutch.) 'Reincarnation' (200 x 110 cm; height variable) is a sculpture made of laser lights, fog, metal and medical bandages. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

At this point, Li hasn’t thought about specialising in light art, and says that he would use whatever materials suit his concepts. Asked about what he is going to do next, Li says that he is interested in the spiritual and the inner world. When asked whether there are particular philosophies that Li Hui wants to convey in his works, he answers no.

“I want to create feelings which cannot be expressed in languages. There are just too many works attached [to] some kind of philosophy, but to me that’s not what art is about. You create feelings in art – if you can feel it, others will feel it too.”

Li Hui says about his work 'Cage': "There are two cages inside the work made of laser beams. Laser beams are special in a way that they look tangible while in reality they are not. The two cages appear alternatively so that a group of people who find themselves 'trapped' in the cage in one moment would suddenly find themselves outside the cage in the next. This work brings out the contrast between reality and illusion." 'Cage' (each 200 x 200 cm; height variable) is made of laser lights, mirrors and iron. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Li Hui says about his work 'Cage': "There are two cages inside the work made of laser beams. Laser beams are special in a way that they look tangible while in reality they are not. The two cages appear alternatively so that a group of people who find themselves 'trapped' in the cage in one moment would suddenly find themselves outside the cage in the next. This work brings out the contrast between reality and illusion." 'Cage' (each 200 x 200 cm; height variable) is made of laser lights, mirrors and iron. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Technological skill toughest obstacle

You may imagine Li Hui’s laboratory crammed with a lot of professional equipment to support his experiments, but in reality he has to seek technological support from others, such as LED light producers, to create his light works. In fact, technology is one of the greatest challenges in the artist’s production process.

“It is impossible to do the works in my own studio. I have to cooperate with others. I don’t have their professional equipment. It is very costly…. The most difficult [thing] is skill – I am not talking about artistic skill, but technological skill. Sometimes the problems are just impossible to solve.”

For Li Hui, every work is born from rounds of brain-storming followed by rounds of experiments in an effort to work through and predict potential problems.

“Experiments push toward the final outcome. At the initial stage of production, I may draw on the computer. Then I begin experimenting with materials. For example, I test a few shots of laser beams with smoke and find the proportion that suits what I want to express.”

Li Hui says about his work 'Everything Starts From Here': "This is a discovery in an experiment. The light beams strike through the transparent dining goblets to project a very impressive light image on the wall. Most of my works are large but this one is not because it is an experimental work." 'Everything Starts From Here' (20 x 30 x 20cm) utilises laser lights, a metal box with a crank, glass and projectors. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Li Hui says about his work 'Everything Starts From Here': "This is a discovery in an experiment. The light beams strike through the transparent dining goblets to project a very impressive light image on the wall. Most of my works are large but this one is not because it is an experimental work." 'Everything Starts From Here' (20 x 30 x 20cm) utilises laser lights, a metal box with a crank, glass and projectors. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Ministry of Art dedicated to Chinese art in Europe

Art Radar Asia spoke with Christoph Noe, one of the directors of The Ministry of Art, an art advisory and curatorial company based in China which represents Li Hui, to find out more about how European opportunities are secured for Chinese or other Asian artists.

“The Ministry of Art … has a broader scope than [just being] a gallery. Our idea is to give artists the opportunity to cooperate with museums or art institutions in Europe … as a lot of the Chinese artists have already had the opportunity to exhibit their works in China or Asia, and some of them lack the opportunity to exhibit in Europe. We come in with our expertise because of our European origins and networks with European institutions. Once we are excited about a Chinese artist we can find an institution that fits very well for that artist.”

Li Hui will participate in a group show called Internationale Lichttage Winterthur 2010 in Switzerland in November. He will present another solo exhibition in June 2011 in Berlin, Germany.

CBKM/KN/HH

Related topics: Chinese artists, light art, museum shows, emerging artists

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India’s Experimenter focusses on the “now” with RAQS and Kolkata location – an interview with Prateek Raja

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2010


KOLKATA CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICE ART GALLERIES INTERVIEWS

For a gallery that is just over a year old, Experimenter, co-owned, run and mostly curated by husband-and-wife duo Prateek Raja and Priyanka Raja, is quickly becoming a critical current in the very new trend of gallery spaces interested strictly in the contemporary. It is a welcome break from the traditional gallery system that regularly falls back on the moderns of Indian art.

A month before the duo heads off to the Frieze Art Fair in London this October, the gallery is wrapping up a show called “This is Unreal“. Featuring artists Susanta Mandal, Yamini Nayar and RAQS Media Collective, the show was conceived by the Rajas as an idea to cohere the multiple realities of modern life.  At the crux of the show is the idea of the manipulation of what is real – artists consistently create and break realities leaving the viewer in a constant state of doubt and speculation. This event marks the eighth show in the gallery’s young but accomplished life.

Art Radar Asia spoke with Prateek Raja from Experimenter about the gallery, the show, the art scene in India generally and in Kolkata; Kolkata is a city that has produced a number of great artists, but lags behind Delhi and Mumbai in the art market scene.

Raja on the Gallery, artists RAQS, Susanta Mandal and Yamini Nayar

The title is provoking. Why “This is Unreal”? Tell us how this project came about.

“This project came about from an initial idea of confronting modern day conspiracies and then filtered down to how everything today is projected as something and is in reality something else. The topic was left open for the artists to interpret in a way they saw fit. However, at this point I would like to say that we work with a different kind of approach. Our shows originate in conceptual ideas first and then we invite artists whose work has been in the kind of direction we are thinking to respond to that idea [or] concept. So all these artists within the realm of their practice have the ability to project multiple realities from the same experience.”

Tell us about yourselves. You are a husband-wife duo – both educated in Asian art at Sotheby’s. How did Experimenter happen for you and how does this partnership work?

“We both had this common urge to work together in the contemporary scene while Priyanka was at Proctor & Gamble and I was consulting on contemporary Indian art. Then she decided to take the plunge in mid 2008 and we opened the gallery in April 2009. In between, we did a short course on contemporary Asian art at Sotheby’s. Priyanka is the planner. She works out all the details. She is the arms and legs of the gallery. I do some of the thinking, but we both do the curatorial thinking together. We do only six shows a year, but believe me, its not easy to plan, ideate and keep a natural flow to the exhibitions for the six that we do. In fact, we balance each other out very well. That’s how this partnership works really.”

Experimenter is invested in capturing the “plurality of expression.” It is also deeply interested in the “now.” Tell us a little about this. How does this show fit into this paradigm?

“‘The plurality of expression’ comes from the inclination to introduce multiple mediums of expression and at the same time challenge the viewers to question established aspects of viewing contemporary art and break pre-conceived notions. It is also very linked into “now” because whatever we show or plan to show is about our generation, is about what is happening now and is reflective of what our society, our values, our systems project “now.” And if you look at people, organisations, governments, and the society around us, you will slowly peel off layer after layer to eventually derive your own understanding of the world, which might be completely unlike what you had originally perceived it to be. So the title does provoke in that sense by calling things unreal. Sometimes, one does not even have to go deep, just viewing an idea from a different point of view gives a completely new meaning to it. That’s the essence of this show.”

Tell us about the works in this show.

“RAQS has contributed three pieces, Skirmish, The Librarian’s Lucid Dream and I Did Not Hear.

Installation view detail of RAQS Media Collective's 'Skirmish', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition from the show "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Installation view detail of RAQS Media Collective's 'Skirmish', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition from the show "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Skirmish is a narrative about an estranged couple continuing their ‘skirmish’ on the walls of an unsuspecting city. The woman paints keys that are similar to the keys to her apartment that she had given to her partner, whom she has since distanced herself from, and the man cannot go anywhere without seeing the keys and recognises what a mockery she is making of his yearning for her. Yet in response he paints padlocks on the walls to continue that skirmish (and in a sense continue the only way of communicating with her) while the city assumes it’s just locksmiths and key-makers that have stepped up their business.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'Librarians Lucid Dream', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'The Librarian's Lucid Dream', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

The second work is a wallpaper called The Librarian’s Lucid Dream that forms the backdrop against which Skirmish is installed. It’s an interpretation of a librarian’s dream through just assemblages of texts. These are titles of books but all the titles are mixed up to created new meanings and realities.

The video I Did Not Hear is of a shooter at a shooting range. While the headphones on the viewer lead him or her through an abstract narrative, a rather sinister scaffolding of events is generated by the voice which in turn leads to multiple possible identities and roles for the shooter.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'I did not hear', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Installation view of RAQS Media Collective's 'I did not hear', as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Mandal creates a kinetic sculptural installation which has a screen and a light source behind that projects an image of a boiling bowl of liquid on an open flame. Using a common scene of ‘cooking something,’ Mandal makes a pun of the phrase ‘cook up’ to express how most things today are indeed cooked up to project a reality quite different from the factual truth.

An untitled installation by Susanta Mandal, as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

An untitled installation by Susanta Mandal, as shown at Gallery Experimenter exhibition "This is Unreal". Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

Nayar’s process is essential to the show. She creates sculptural assemblages from found objects, creates them for the camera, and after photographing them destroys the objects, thereby destroying the physical existence of the source of the photograph. The works form a point of entry into the object but do not quite reveal their actual meaning.”

Pursuit_Archival C Print on Paper. Yamini Nayar. Image courtesy Gallery Experimenter from the show "This is Unreal"

Yamini Nayar, 'Pursuit', archival C print on paper. Image courtesy of Gallery Experimenter.

RAQS Media Collective has come a long way since 1992 when they started out as a group of three media practitioners in the art world. What do you make of RAQS’ growing popularity in the international arts scene?

“They are a super super important artist collective. Any international curator or museum with any interest in contemporary Indian art will know the importance RAQS has on the Indian scene. And how the international market sees India is also defined by the shows that get seen at important venues like the ones that RAQS show in. Their practice is very critical to the Indian scene internally as well. They have some very interesting things lined up this year in Europe. We will also show them solo in February 2011 … and at the India Art Summit in January 2011 in New Delhi within a group show.”

This is your first time working with RAQS, Mandal and Nayar. How was the experience?

“Absolutely fantastic. They are very professional artists. Works and concepts were discussed (that were true to Experimenter’s way of working) over a year ago and we fleshed out ideas to finally put this show on. The most interesting bit is that their work really fits well together.”

Trends in Indian art

Do you think gallery spaces in India are generally not very encouraging for installation art?

“No. I don’t think so. It’s just that this is a growing population and, like all things new and different, installations have some amount of resistance to viewing and experiencing them, even now. From a point of view of being open to exhibiting installation art, there are a bunch of new galleries like us who are doing interesting things.”

Installation art and conceptual art are increasingly popular with Indian artists today. Do you see this as a trend?

“It’s a natural progression of what the Indian art scene is. The newer, younger galleries are looking to show this form of work. You have to know at the same time that the Western art viewing audience also saw this development in other countries several years ago and that’s possibly the trajectory we might see here in India too, but over the medium term.”

Kolkata on the Indian art map

Describe for us the arts scene in Kolkata? Why not set up Experimenter in Delhi or Mumbai?

“Because its the only city in the country where one can have viewers coming back three times over, spending two hours at the gallery. This is a city where art, literature, philosophy and politics all feature in regular conversations with regular people. It’s also a city which is extremely responsive to new forms of cultural influences and it’s fun to stir things up in a somewhat sidelined city!

Opening an Experimenter in Mumbai and/or Delhi would be easy and just another … contemporary space would have been added to the growing number we see today. In Kolkata, you are really making an impact on the visual arts scene with a program like ours.”

What has your experience been working in the Kolkata arts scene? How do you compare it with Delhi and Mumbai?

“Fantastic. For Experimenter at least, we have some very exciting collections in Kolkata that we are adding work to and we are evolving a new generation of collectors. Of course, we make sure that everything is available online – one can show works, do short videos of installations, gallery walk-through videos and share the program with the world. To give a small example, we will be the only Indian gallery at Frieze Art Fair, London this year. We did not apply; they hunted us down and asked for us to apply and we got through in the curated section where there will be only about twenty young galleries from all over the world. We are probably the youngest, too. Experimenter turned a year old in April this year.”

Do you feel it’s difficult to straddle the roles of gallery owner and curator?

“For us, a gallery is an extension of who the owners are. It’s our program. It’s not like a large faceless organisation, so curating shows for the gallery comes with what we want to show and how we respond to things in today’s world as people. So it’s not tough. It’s critical that we put our minds to developing the program in such a way that there is reflection of the ‘now’ in whatever we do. Also, most of our shows are quite political in nature and we like that. We like to make people a little uncomfortable.”

AM/KN/HH

Related Topics: Indian contemporary art, interviews, trends: fact and fiction blur

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New Taiwanese book focusses on personal connection with art

Posted by artradar on September 7, 2010


ART HISTORY BOOKS PUBLIC ART PERSONAL CONNECTION TAIWAN SCHOLARS

A Taiwanese scholar has published a book focussing on the stories behind the creation of fifteen of the island’s public art installations. As reported in The China Post and on the Focus Taiwan News Channel, this is the first in a planned series that Lin Chih-ming, also president of The Educational Development Association for Public Art, will write.

Akibo Lee's 'Bigpow', situated near the Zhongshan MRT station in Taipei City, is one of the installations profiled in Lin Chih-ming's new book. Image courtesy of akiboworks.blogspot.com.

Akibo Lee's 'Bigpow', situated near the Zhongshan MRT station in Taipei City, is one of the installations profiled in Lin Chih-ming's new book. Image courtesy of akiboworks.blogspot.com.

To Lin, it is not important that many of the installations he has profiled have not been made by top-selling or popular artists. With this new approach to art-historical recording, Lin wanted to show, as The China Post and the Focus Taiwan News Channel report, “how for many artists or communities the artworks have an emotional attachment.”

“Through these stories, public artwork will no longer seem like cold statues but will actually convey emotion.” Lin Chih-ming

Editors’ Note

Story-telling, and the personalising and humanising of art is something we are seeing more and more of within the contemporary art community. We believe it is part of a larger social trend towards greater connection – initiated in the later part of the 20th century by the development of computers and the technology industry and now crossing into many commercial and social spheres. We believe that it will touch art more and more and as a result, academic art criticism is going to be challenged as new forms of appreciation of and connection with art are developed.

Do you, our readers, have any comments or observations about this “personal connection” trend in art?

KN/HH

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Comic art of Popok Tri Wahyudito portrays scenes of transport calamity

Posted by artradar on September 1, 2010


GALLERY SHOWS COMIC ART DRAWING INDONESIA

In July this year, Valentine Willie Fine Art (VWFA) partnered with Kuala Lumpur’s The Annexe Gallery to bring “BERGERak” to Malaysia. In his first Malaysian solo, Indonesian artist Popok Tri Wahyudi, uses “Jogja comic style” to create paintings which narrate the experiences of “cattle-class” airline travellers and other mass transport users. His work is accessible to a wide audience because of its familiar subject matter and simple, colorful presentation.

'Please Let Me Go', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 188 cm. Image courtesy of VWFA.

'Please Let Me Go', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 188 cm. Image courtesy of VWFA.

“Popok Tri Wahyudhi’s works in his first Malaysian solo exhibition are stories about commuting, travelling, human mobility and migration. Presented in a wide range of media, from paintings and drawings to woodblock prints, silkscreen on canvas and mini sculptures, these bittersweet and sometimes macabre narratives negate the glamorous images of the jet set…” Valentine Willie Fine Art

The artist is one of the founding members of Apotik Komik, an artist group formed in 1997 by thirteen students from Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta. The group first created mural work and then moved into printing comics, publications more visual and alternative than what was available in Indonesia at that time. Their style, influenced heavily by popular culture, is known as “playful”.

'...oops!!!', 2010, woodcut on paper, 79.5 x 54.5 cm. Image courtesy of VWFA.

'...oops!!!', 2010, woodcut on paper, 79.5 x 54.5 cm. Image courtesy of VWFA.

He is most well known for portraying Indonesian life and political situations in a sinister comic light. However he has worked with international subject matter, most notably during artist residencies at California’s 18th Street Art Center in 2001 and the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart in 2007. In addition to making paintings in his signature comic style, he has also worked on large scale wall art and created and exhibited three-dimensional pieces.

Popok Tri Wahyudi was born in Mojokerto, East Java, in April, 1973.

KN

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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

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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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“Post adolescent” art on display in two Taiwanese museums – picture feast

Posted by artradar on August 5, 2010


EMERGING ARTISTS TAIWANESE ART MUSEUM SHOWS COLLECTIONS

An exhibition exploring the theme of “post adolescence” is presenting 72 works by younger generation Taiwanese artists, those between 25-35 years of age, in an effort to reveal their art creation processes and society’s influence on them.

Aptly titled “Post Adolescence“, the exhibition recently showed at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA) and is finishing up at Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, an institution managed by the Taipei National University of the Arts.

A partnership between these two art institutions, “Post Adolescence” is in part a way to showcase NTMoFA’s Young Artist Collection Program, started in 2005 and which now holds nearly 500 pieces by “post-adolescent” Taiwanese artists under 35 years of age. According to the museum’s website, the program aims to “cultivate young artistic talent, elevate and develop contemporary art in Taiwan and promote cultural industries.”

“Post Adolescence” is seen by Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts as an attempt to define the characteristics shared by artists in this age group:

The highly motivated generation of younger artists demonstrates novel art works using [the] special visual language of comics, aimless/purposeful cacophony of voices, or Internet-based technological devices.

The works of those artists embody innovative and surreal themes, reflecting their generation characteristics – passionate yet rebellious – and presenting an alternative form of art in Taiwan.

Many of the artists exhibiting works in the show have won awards – this is one of the criteria for inclusion in the Young Artist Collection. Standout participants include: Cheng-ta Yu, Kuo I-Chen, Su Hui-yu, Huan Wei-min, Chen Wan-ren, Wang Pei-ying and Wang Ting-yu. Cheng-ta Yu and Kuo I-chen featured in the Taiwan Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale) and Su Hui-yu was nominated for the Taishin Arts Award.

Lo Chan-Peng, 'Youth Diary of the Strawberry Cell Division 3', 2008, oil on canvas, 194 x 194 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Lo Chan-Peng, 'Youth Diary of the Strawberry Cell Division 3', 2008, oil on canvas, 194 x 194 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Wang Chung-Kun, 'sound.of.bottles #3', 2009, kinetic installation, 200 x 180 x 180 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Wang Chung-Kun, 'sound.of.bottles #3', 2009, kinetic installation, 200 x 180 x 180 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Chen Ching-Yuan, 'We Catch the Land!', 2008, screen printing and acrylic, 270 x 550 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Chen Ching-Yuan, 'We Catch the Land!', 2008, screen printing and acrylic, 270 x 550 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Hua Chien-Ciang, 'The Divine Series', 2006, gauche, 200 × 60 cm (four panels). Images courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Hua Chien-Ciang, 'The Divine Series', 2006, gauche, 200 × 60 cm (four panels). Images courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Kuo I-Chen, Survivor Project《41°N,74°W》, 2007, digital print, 87 x 240 cm. Image courtesy Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Kuo I-Chen, Survivor Project《41°N,74°W》, 2007, digital print, 87 x 240 cm. Image courtesy Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Wang Liang-Yin, 'Pudding of Consciousness', 2005, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 194 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

Wang Liang-Yin, 'Pudding of Consciousness', 2005, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 194 cm. Image courtesy of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts.

KN

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Rashid Rana show proof of Musée Guimet new contemporary acquisition policy – interview with curators

Posted by artradar on August 5, 2010


INTERVIEW ASIAN ART MUSEUM CONTEMPORARY ART PAKISTANI ARTISTS

Revolutions come far and few in between in the museum world. This season promises to be different. The Musée Guimet, France’s leading ancient Asian art museum, has opened its doors to contemporary Asian art for the first time since its inception in 1898. Leading the transition from the museum’s rich history of antique collections to a contemporary view of art is a show called “Perpetual Paradox”, featuring works by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana.

The director of Musée Guimet Jacques Gies, who is also one of the curators of the show, says of this move,

The museum is much more than a safety-deposit box for antiques. In view of the value of the Asian dynamic in our modern-day world – where Asian cultures are for the first time in Western history making a place for themselves that grows larger every day – the time has come, we believe, to reflect on and reconsider our notion of the museum.

Rashid Rana. Red Carpet. 2007

Rashid Rana, 'Red Carpet', 2007.

Art Radar Asia spoke with Jacques Gies and Caroline Arhuero, curators of “Perpetual Paradox” at the Musée Guimet about, among other things, what the move means for the Musée Guimet and the museum world in general.

Since 1945, Musée Guimet has been home to a prestigious, one of a kind collection of ancient Asian art. With “Perpetual Paradox”, the museum exhibits contemporary art for the first time. What prompts this foray into contemporary Asian art? Does the museum have plans to build a contemporary Asian art collection?

This policy of the ‘Contemporary Factory of Art’ will to be the spearhead of a new acquisition policy, in resonance with the collection. This is in order to extend the historical competency of the museum until the contemporary time and also towards the future.

How did the curators zero down on Rashid Rana?

We heard of the artist’s name from the president of Sotheby’s France, Mr. Guillaume Cerutti, and then we conducted the research and here we are today.

Tell us about the experience of working with Rashid Rana on “Perpetual Paradox”?

With the artist, a very positive working relationship … hearing each other out. So, we were able to well place his works, with his agreement, within the permanent collections of the museum.

How does this experience compare with other shows you have organised?

Last year, at the first ever exhibition of the “contemporary art factory”, with the living artists Hung-Chih Peng and Chu Teh-Chun, we experienced the same great interest for this difficult exercise. Moreover, these artists [are] very aware of the quality of the ancient works [currently in the museum], even showed some concern about this challenge. Only the greatest [contemporary artists] have this modesty.

What challenges have you faced? What have you enjoyed the most? What has surprised you the most as the curator of “Perpetual Paradox”?

They were numerous, as this exhibition by principle requests a tricky solution to avoid “over interpretation”. [We needed to] create dialog between the works, those of Rashid Rana and the historical collection, without over interpretation [and] find the secret link that can give each his dimensions. The greatest satisfaction is that this setting was rewarding because it was just. My surprise was to see the first works by R. Rana – especially the “sculptures” – integrated particularly well [into the museum’s collection]…

The exhibition, “Perpetual Paradox”, places Rana’s “paradoxical” pieces amongst ancient Asian art pieces.  This opens up several dialogs between the past and the present. How have the curators and the artist envisioned this?

The cross-historical dialog is precisely what we want to give [and] to see … integrate the work of a contemporary artist, that with this stimulus somehow our audience may feel the contemporary dimension of the works from the past … the museum can be this link crossing all times. Aren’t we [the viewer] the contemporary of all creations of art, as we receive them in the present, from the paintings [at] Lascaux to contemporary pictures?

Can you name some of the works in “Perpetual Paradox”? How did the curators narrow down on the works?

The selection of the works was made in consultation with the artist. It can be looked at it [in] fives ways: (1) “The Idea of abstract”; (2) “Transcending Tradition”; (3) “Real Time, Other Spaces”, (4) “Between Flesh and Blood”; and (5) “Self in other”.

Rana’s work is truly contemporary in the way he uses technology. His content is driven in some ways by the presence of technology in our lives. But at the same time, his free use of traditional motifs sets him apart from a lot of artists. How would you place this contradiction within Rana’s work? What is it that you think makes him an important artist today?

Here is precisely the paradox! But there is no contradiction between the use of a process, a very modern technology, and the ancient subjects. This is precisely because he assumes both…

This is the second showing of Rana’s work in France, after the first at a group show in 2006. How have the viewers responded to Rana’s work?

It seems this is the first exhibition of this scale in France, certainly for a monographic exhibition. The first ever reactions, including [those] from the staff of the museum, are extremely positive. They see a new step in the policy of the Musée Guimet.

Museum shows are stepping stones in an artist’s career. This is Rana’s eighth museum show in nine years. “Perpetual Paradox” is also his first solo in France. What do you foresee for this prolific artist?

We are convinced of the large stature of the artist R.Rana. It is clear that his name will shine; that he will be an artist contributing to a refocus of the international artistic scene in Asia.

What would you say about the growing interest in Asian contemporary art? Do you see a substantial change in the last, say ten to fifteen years?

Definitely. This is a question we could not imagine five years ago.

Are there more contemporary shows in the pipeline at the Musée Guimet?

Of course. We underline it, a coherent policy with the title “Contemporary Factory of Art in Asia”.

Interview ends.

About Rashid Rana and “Perpetual Paradox”

Trained as a painter, Rana is well known for using a variety of media like photography, video and installations, but dislikes being called a photographer, video-artist or sculptor.

Rashid Rana. Sites_1-C Print+ DIASEC. 60.96cm* 91.44cm. 2009

Rashid Rana, 'Sites_1-C Print+ DIASEC', 60.96cm x 91.44cm, 2009.

In “Perpetual Paradox”, Rana’s work in digital imaging allows him to associate opposing elements in the same piece by inlaying micro-photographic details and creating pixellated images. By associating the seen with the unseen, the artist highlights the hostility between cultures, holding responsible those who create today’s images and therefore play a role in the construction of tomorrow’s traditions. Rana says of his work,

In this age of uncertainty we have lost the privilege of having one world view. Now every image, idea and truth encompasses its opposite within itself.

Rana made his mark on the Asian art circuit with his first-ever international show in 2004 at New Delhi’s Nature Morte art gallery run by Peter Nagy. Thematically, Rana’s work express a solid affiliation with the miniature arts tradition but his fascination seems to be with the idea of “gestalt” – that the whole is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.

For instance, in a 2005 show called “Beyond Borders: Art of Pakistan” at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, Rana’s Creating Identity showed the human body as the sum of a thousand fragmented pieces which were put together in a way such that one could see visible cracks between each fragment. Viewed from afar, the digital print showed people with their gaze affixed at the sky during a National Day Parade. On closer view, it became apparent that the bodies were made up of miniature images of scenes from Bollywood films, an obsession shared by people across the India-Pakistan border.

Similarly in a 2010 show called “Hanging Fire” at Asia Society, New York, showcasing Rana’s “Red Carpet” series, the carpet works as a euphemism for buyable cultural memories and heirlooms.

Rana’s images work to undo the intricate beauty and cultural historicism of the carpet and create a new layer of meaning by appropriating gory, actual photo-images comprising thousands of tiny images, “pixels”, depicting the slaughter of goats as prescribed by Halal law. Rana’s works impact through a series of additions, subtractions, cultural associations and interpretations, all the while challenging one’s “one world view”.

AM/KN

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