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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Archive for the ‘Thread’ Category

Thai installation artist Surasi Kulsowong promises Good News at Para/Site Hong Kong – review

Posted by artradar on June 11, 2009


Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

THAI ARTIST SHOW REVIEW

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, as new curator for the well-regarded Hong Kong non-profit Para/Site art space, explained his mission for the space in January 2009 to Claire Morin for Time Out:

“I want to refocus Para/Site … with more artists from Asia,” he says. “I also want Para/Site to become a social space, a space where things are actually happening, not just exhibited… I want the public to appropriate Para/Site and become a part of Para/Site.”

Since then he has made firm headway. In January 2009, to the amuseument and confusion of locals, the eccentric Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, aka Bread Man, was guided around Hong Kong’s Graham Street market with baguettes wrapped around his head. This performance was followed by a rendition of his Finger Dolls piece inspired by his relationship with his supportive but now aged Mother (click here Tatsumi Orimoto review and video clips).

With his latest show, Fominaya has initiated an even more bemusing and irresistible experience for neighbourhood residents. In his first solo show in Hong Kong, Thai artist Surasi Kulsowong presents a site-specific show which seems to lie somewhere at the intersection between an exhibition, an experience and a grand game.

According to the publicity material the gallery is transformed into a playground by being filled

with five tons of thread waste into which a gold necklace with the Chinese word for ‘Fortune’ is hidden each week and made available to lucky members of the audience who find it.

When we visit, the feather-soft cotton waste laid out thicker than a mattress looks so inviting that we do not waste a minute in kicking off our shoes and wading into it. Not only pleasurable as a sensual experience, the show tickles the intellect with its playful turning-upside-down of the usual notions of money, gold, waste and value.

We are invited to consider whether waste products might have more value than first meets the eye. We are teased into questioning the meaning of value which, in this show, extends beyond measurable monetary value to include sensory stimulation, new experiences, social connection and plenty of laughter.

When we visit the show we see a young child who rolls around giggling on her back while her Filipino nanny chuckles and rummages on her hands and knees. The previous week the hidden gold was discovered by an elderly gentleman who is a patient in the neighbouring hospital. He came in his pyjamas with his nurse and told the staff that he planned to give the gold to his daughter. 

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Good News is Coming

Alluring to a group of people far beyond seasoned gallery-goers, the show is full of wonder, fun and reward.  Yes  “it  can be appreciated on many levels” confirms Fominaya as he shows us some of the wall-hung images made to accompany the show.

In one, a Fortune magazine cover is recreated and a headline “Good News is Coming”, from another financial article, is appropriated and pasted onto it. What does this mean? On one level, the artist is providing us with a message which, like the cotton under our feet, is soothing and playful. But on another we are roused to consider the extent to which we accept the content and power of the media messages we are exposed to.

Kulsowong’s installation is inspired by the gloom of the global recession which he aims to counter with messages of hope and experiences of  happiness. Leaving with soothed soles and a smile, we take away much more than that. The Fortune cover and the heap of textile waste prod us with powerful questions about what we can do to create our own messages of hope.

Surasi Kulsowong

Surasi Kulsowong

The exhibition is accompanied by a specially conceived art edition called Good News is Coming (With Warhol’s Flowers), 2009, the proceeds of which will fund Para/Site’s activities. Contact Para/Site to buy.

Artist details

Surasi Kulsowong was born in 1965 in Ayutthaya. He lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is best known for his One Dollar Markets in which the artist, inspired by Asian floating markets, creates a market within an art space to reflect on the nature of consumer society and expand the meaning of the art space.

He has exhibited internationally with solo shows in Tate Modern and Palais de Tokyo. He has participated in the Gwangju Biennial, 50th Venice Biennale, 2nd Guangzhou Triennial, amongst others.

Related links:

Frieze review 2004 of  work 10SEK  – the writer notes the disarming way that Kulsowong cuts through social reserve by playing with money as a notion and a physical object.

New York Times review 2001 – looks at how Surasi uses space in his installation in Chelsea at his New York debut

Culturebase article – more details about his market artworks

Para/Site website

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Posted in Art spaces, China, Connecting Asia to itself, Curators, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Installation, Nonprofit, Participatory, Recession, Thai, Thread | 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

Related links:

Related categories: Political art, Identity art, Handicraft art, Middle Eastern art,  Indian art, Israeli art, Pakistani art

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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.

ArtInterview for more questions and images

African Art Now click to buy book

Angaza Africa: African Art Now click to buy book

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Posted in African, Handicraft art, Installation, Interviews, Large art, Sculpture, Thread | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 artists dominate Saatchi’s upcoming Middle Eastern exhibition

Posted by artradar on September 29, 2008


 

Sara Rahbar Flag 19 Mixed media

Sara Rahbar Flag 19 Mixed media

ACQUISITIONS MIDDLE EASTERN ART

As financial markets roil , art collectors seeking a safe haven eye up opportunities in the Middle East. If anything, some players expect an even stronger market in the Middle East than in China, because so many of the art initiatives-to showcase the region’s artists as well as import Western art-have the direct backing of the government or royal families. Abu Dhabi is planning to spend $50 million to fill its Louvre.  

While galleries are increasingly showing Middle Eastern contemporary art, especially in London, it is still uncommon in Western collections says Conde Nast’s Portfolio. Most of the artists are unknown outside of the Middle East.

That could be about to change as British art collector and marketing guru Charles Saatchi makes his interest in Middle Eastern art known. A recent addition to his planned exhibiton list is Out of Arabia: New Art and New Perspectives in which he showcases artists from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and predominantly Iran.

At time of writing artists include:

  • Iran: Sara Rahbar, Tala Madani, Laleh Khorramian, Rokni Haerizadeh, Ramin Haerizadeh, Ali Banisadr
  • Lebanon: Jeffar Khaldi
  • Iraqi: Halim Al-Karim, Ahmed Alsoudani
  • Syria: Diana Al-Hadid

For most recent list of artists, bios and images visit Saatchi online , latest news on Middle Eastern art, Islamic art, thread art, feminist art, identity art.

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Posted in Acquisitions, Collectors, Galleries, Gallery shows, Identity art, Individual, Iranian, Iraqi, Islamic art, Lebanese, Painting, Surveys, Syrian, Thread, West Asian | 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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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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