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Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

Taiwanese collage artist Liu Shih-tung on 18th Street residency – profile

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2010


TAIWAN LOS ANGELES ARTIST RESIDENCIES COLLAGE CULTURAL EXCHANGE

Liu Shih-tung is a Taiwanese mixed media artist, born in 1970 in central Taiwan’s Miaoli County. He has been a practicing artist since 1985 when he entered the newly established senior high school art major classes and has been working primarily with collage since the early 2000s. From July to August this year, Liu undertook a residency at 18th Street Art Center in Los Angeles, California and we talk to him about this experience.

Says Clayton Campbell, Artistic Director of 18th Street and international artist residency expert, of the artist’s selection,

“Liu was selected on artistic merit and excellence, and his stated interest to be in Los Angeles. He came with his family, which we like when it’s possible. Otherwise he would not have been able to leave them and be here. We have a long term commitment to supporting artists from Taiwan.”

Liu Shih-tung's 2010 work on exhibition at Page Museum, Los Angeles. Image courtesy of the artist.

Liu Shih-tung's 2010 work on exhibition at Page Museum, Los Angeles. Image courtesy of the artist.

By the time Liu had graduated from college and completed his compulsory military service it was the early 1990s. Installation and performance art were popular mediums of expression in Taiwan at this time, perhaps because the country had recently broken from decades of authoritarian rule. In 1997 and 1998 Liu took part in two environmental art projects, River, sponsored by the Taipei Country government’s Cultural Affairs Bureau and Land Ethics, sponsored by the Fubon Art Foundation.

In 2001, during an artist residency at South Korea’s Younge-Un Museum of Contemporary Art, the artist created an indoor performance sequel to work done in Land Ethics, called Regeneration II. In the same year the Taipei Fine Arts Museum exhibited one of his installation pieces, Neon Light, Flash, Flash, Flash.

Liu Shih-tung has been moving away from installation and performance art since the early 2000s, and is now inspired by folk tradition, namely collage creation. He uses images cut from printed materials, a major source of which is fashion magazines, and recombines selected images with paint on flat canvas. Says Liu,

“In my earlier [installation and performance] works, my collage approach and development can clearly be identified. I have always used a collage approach; I re-arrange [my subjects] with humor. Subjective cutting, deformation and the traces from a paint brush: I combine all these elements into a perceptual space and create contemporary collage which goes beyond the traditional. This is what I have been pursuing.”

In ‘Cutting Out a New Reality‘, a Taiwan Review article from 2009, Pat Gao writes that the artist “first and foremost seeks a free form of expression, one that has a humorous aspect and offers an alternative to the ingrained, monotonous way of thinking about daily life.” The writer continues by stating that “Liu was one of the first major artists in the wave of ‘playful art’ that emerged in Taiwan at the beginning of the new century. …his previous performance and installation works, despite their different forms, all reflect the same ideal of combining playful action and the creation of art.”

We asked Liu if he will continue to work with collage. “Of course I will,” he said. “Collage has always been a part of me.”

Liu Shih-tung has undertaken artist residencies in New York, Korea and Los Angeles. Since the early 1990s, he has held solo and been involved in group exhibitions throughout Taiwan and his works have been collected by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.

New work created by Liu Shih-tung during his 2010 18th Street Art Center residency. Image courtesy of the artist.

New work created by Liu Shih-tung during his 2010 18th Street Art Center residency. Image courtesy of the artist.

How did 18th Street Art Centre support you during your residency with them?

They provided me with a great studio and organised an open studio event twice, one on 10 July and another on 7 August this year. Many artists and members of the public came during the open studio. By having these people view my creations and works, this achieved the purpose of a cultural exchange.

Why do you think you were selected for the 18th Street artist residency?

18th Street was my first choice because I wanted to understand more about modern art development on the West Coast of the US.

How has the 18th Street artist residency helped your art?

During this residency I mainly wanted to work on 2D creation, making collage using materials from LA (Los Angeles). 18th Street provides us with a lot of magazines and books, as well as information on how to purchase art materials.

What was the most important thing you will take from the residency? Why?

I think when you’re in a foreign land you discover cultural differences in easier and more leisurely ways. My greatest gains have been the experiences I have taken from LA life and culture: visiting all the art galleries and museums and discussing art with other artists at 18th Street. Their points of view assisted me in discovering the spirit which American culture is pursuing and the development of its art environment.

Who were you most excited to meet or interact with during your residency? How did they help or inspire you in your art or your life?

The people who I enjoyed meeting and interacting with the most during this residency were artists, critics, curators and art gallery dealers. However, I can’t deny that it’s not easy to gain practical benefits within such a short period of time.

How is the art community in the US different from Taiwan’s art community?

I think they are about the same. It’s just that those within the US art community can integrate their art into their daily life better.

Is this your first international residency outside Asia? Can you briefly tell me about any others, if any?

This is my third residency experience. The first one I undertook was in 1998; I recieved a New York art scholarship from the Asian Cultural Council. My second residency was at Younge-Un Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea in 2001. I believe that 18th Street, by bringing foreign resident artists to the US to participate in related art activities, achieves its purpose of cultural exchange.

New work created by Liu Shih-tung during his 2010 18th Street Art Center residency. Image courtesy of the artist.

New work created by Liu Shih-tung during his 2010 18th Street Art Center residency. Image courtesy of the artist.

KN

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

Posted by artradar on September 11, 2010


BRITISH-CHINESE ARITST PHOTOGRAPHY NEW MEDIA MULTIMEDIA RESIDENCY INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinu Li on his works and inspirations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinu Li on his choice of medium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinu Li on ArtSway and similar programmes in Asia

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

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

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

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

Peter Bonnell on ArtSway and their residency programme

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

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

Can you introduce the ArtSway Residency programme’s offerings?

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

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

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

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

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

View of ArtSway. Courtesy of ArtSway

View of ArtSway. Image courtesy of ArtSway.

How have artists benefited from the Associate programme?

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

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

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

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

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

SXB/KN/HH

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

Posted by artradar on August 31, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART ART HISTORY

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

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

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

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

Weng Ling Portrait, courtesy of Beijing Centre for the Arts

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

Weng Ling on “Arts China”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weng Ling on Beijing Center for the Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weng Ling on crossover collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SXB/KN/HH

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

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


TAIWANESE CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW

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

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

Taiwanese contemporary artist Tsong Pu.

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

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

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

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

White lines on top of grey color.

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

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

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

They were your teachers in Taiwan before you left?

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

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

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

Like performance art, or…?

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

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

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

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

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

Like stitched, or just placed? Like thread art?

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, so it was a collaboration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this series

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

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

KN

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

Posted by artradar on May 28, 2010


HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

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

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

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

A creative spirit seeking revolution

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

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

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

Her Path to Curating

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

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

Most Recent Project: Hope & Glory with Simon Birch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were pieces transported into the space or built in ArtisTree?

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

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

What is inscribed on the trophies?

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

Can you tell the story about how this was funded?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think the show means for Hong Kong?

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

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

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

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

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

Which Hong Kong arts organisations do you appreciate?

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any particular galleries you value in Hong Kong?

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

Do you attend biennales?

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

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

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

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

What literature and writers have influenced your thinking?

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

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

What projects are you looking forward to next?

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

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

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

EW/KN

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Hong Kong’s Adapta Gallery highlights street art in Asia- profile

Posted by artradar on April 24, 2010


STREET ART HONG KONG

Amid the many galleries in Hong Kong, there is now an organization devoted exclusively to urban art. Established in November 2008, the Adapta Gallery is showing a new kind of art in Asia.

Street art is not new; graffiti as an art form has been prevalent for decades. However, urban art has only recently been embraced by the art establishment, and many questions remain among the public regarding street art talent, technique, and policy.

 U.K. Adapta, a unique London-based organization devoted to the progress of the street art movement, has collaborated with Hong Kong’s Schoeni Art Gallery to establish a satellite project that facilitates awareness of urban art in Asia. The joint effort has yielded Hong Kong’s Adapta Gallery for contemporary art, which aims to ‘bridge the gap between the understanding of the Urban Art movement in the European and Asian art markets’ and start a sorely-needed dialogue regarding public art in Hong Kong.

Adapta promotes the following urban artists in Hong Kong:

Adam Neate – Cyclops – D*Face – David Bray – Vesna Parchet – Word to Mother

Watch this video to learn more about the Adapta Project and their most recent exhibition at Hong Kong’s Schoeni Gallery, 3-2-1 Solstice, which featured 10 renowned contemporary urban artists from the UK, USA and HK.

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Posted in Art spaces, Galleries, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Profiles, Promoting art, Public art, Street art, Urban | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

‘Guerilla’ gallerist on introducing Banksy to Asia, art atmosphere in Hong Kong- interview

Posted by artradar on April 14, 2010


HONG KONG ART MARKET

Two year old gallery Fabrik, known for its unique guerilla exhibitions and for bringing Western iconic artists to Asia, sets up permanent home in Hong Kong.

The Fabrik Contemporary Art Gallery is young in Hong Kong, having exploded onto the art scene about 2 years ago with its first show LOVE ART, which caused a sensation introducing works by the notorious street artist Banksy, who had never before been exhibited in Asia. Although the Fabrik Gallery is young, it stands out in Hong Kong’s Chinese-saturated art market for its rare support of Western and contemporary pop artworks and its unique practice of holding ‘guerilla exhibitions’ in temporary or borrowed spaces. In fact, 2 years into its business of promoting art, Fabrik Contemporary has just recently found itself a fixed home in the heart of Central in Hong Kong.

The gallery is a joint venture, owned and operated by Sean Coxall, Jurgen Abergas, and Mark Saunderson, and was originally intended as a platform for the art enthusiasts to share and market their ever-expanding private collections of Warhol and other iconic pop artworks.

The business partners recognized the void of popular Western artworks within the Hong Kong art market, which generally does not expose art lovers to Western phenomena.

The gallery’s flagship Banksy show in April 2008 shocked the art community with its overwhelming success, drawing unprecedented crowds and attention. This Spring, Fabrik fittingly celebrated the opening of their permanent space with another show featuring Banksy, accompanied by the likes of Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon, and Gilbert & George in ‘The Great British Show,’ which ran February 25-March 25.

Art Radar catches up with the Fabrik Gallery’s lively co-owner and curator Jurgen Abergas, a London-educated cosmopolitan whose background includes growing up in the Philippines and living in Los Angeles and China. He shares his perspective on the Hong Kong art scene, Hong Kong’s reaction to Western pop art, and tells all about the series of serendipitous events that culminated in bringing Banksy to Hong Kong.

Was it logistically easy to have the Banksy LOVE ART show in Hong Kong?

Yes, it was actually, because there is no tax on importing art here. We were not yet even registered as a company at that time. We were just working as a private dealership. We collaborated with the Schoeni Gallery, because [the Gallery Director] Nicole Schoeni loves Banksy and wanted to bring him here too. This was also a jump starting point for Nicole’s Adapta Gallery project in Hong Kong.

The show was comprised of 3 days in the Hong Kong Art Centre, and then another 2 weeks with additional pieces for the Schoeni show.

What is the mission of the gallery?

The mission of the gallery is to encourage first time collectors. We try to provide known iconic pieces that accurately represent the style of an artist. For instance, if you want a piece by Hirst, you wouldn’t want a piece that is only a squiggle or a dot, because that is not a known Hirst. We show work that is more iconic and familiar.

Japanese Apricot 2, 2005, by Chiho Aoshima. 55 x 77.8 cm Lithograph. Contact Fabrik Gallery.

What type of art did you intend to share with Hong Kong?

Definitely Western contemporary art. The Japanese art was not a fluke; I’ve been into manga since I was a kid, and it was something that my two partners only got eventually.

We were at a gallery showing of Murakami and other artists, and I told them we should definitely show Murakami. I mean, we go to London, New York, Los Angeles, and we see all these [Murakami] retrospectives, but we don’t see it here. I thought it would make a difference in the Hong Kong arts scene if someone showed works of Murakami here. And also, we wanted to prove that what Murakami does is beyond just Louis Vuitton.

When we opened this gallery, it was supposed to only be a stockroom. But, I said, let’s just do it properly. We were just kind of sick and tired of showing art out of our homes. It’s not ideal, but there are many dealers in New York and London that show art out of their home. However, in Hong Kong it is so crazy outside that you really need your home to be sacred space.

So, we launched the Murakami show, and we pre-sold most of the art before hand! It was one of those shows where we were struggling because clients wanted their art immediately and not wait until the end of the show! So, we were re-hanging stuff that wasn’t even Murakami anymore, because we ran out of the pieces that were actually in demand. We didn’t see that coming at all. Nobody was specializing in Murakami in Hong Kong. However, I have to credit Nicole [Schoeni], because she had works by Chiho Aoshima, who is another artist by Murakami. Aoshima is a lady who just paints women. Nicole had an amazing Japanese apricot lithograph. It is a piece that is really stuck in my head. After seeing that, I was like, ok, let’s include other artists with Murakami.

How is the Fabrik Gallery unique among galleries in Hong Kong?

I think we’re unique because we deal with art that is not generally represented in Hong Kong, and we do not deal with Chinese art.  I love Chinese art, but in a sea of contemporary Chinese art, there is only so much you want to see. We are looking to offer something different.

We also think it’s important to educate the viewer of the message behind the piece. You can go to galleries and think a work is beautiful, but not understand the inspiration for a work. We support more people, especially students, coming into the gallery and reading about an artwork so they do not have unprocessed thoughts about art. When you have a guide to read or someone who will explain the art to you, it really makes a difference and makes a lasting impression on someone who visits the gallery.

Can you describe the Fabrik Gallery’s ‘guerilla’ approach to art sales?

Basically, we went to different venues, like the W Hotel, rented out space, painted it, put up lights, and showed our works there.

Which galleries and arts organizations do you work closely with?

We work closely with White Cube in London, Aragon Press (the publisher of Damien Hirst), Other Criteria (again, Damien Hirst.) Hirst is our specialty. Also KaiKai Kiki, which is Murakami, the Helium Foundation, and other galleries in New York for our private collections.

Do you attend art fairs? Are you participating in Art HK?

This May we will be. We’re going to Art HK. One of the reasons we did the Banksy show is because we were rejected from Art HK in 2008. We were accepted this year, but we’re still deciding whether we should go. They prioritize the international galleries and we notice that most of the galleries here in Hong Kong are not participating.  I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s a very weird process.

Although we were rejected the first time, it’s the best thing that ever happened to us. If we had done Art HK, the Banksy show never would have happened.

What was your impression of Art HK?

I love Art HK. It’s a great way to see art! I think it’s one of those events that can give a platform and democratize the buying of art and make international artworks accessible to a wider audience. However, I don’t approve of hard sales tactics, and showing artworks without providing the context of the artist. In art fairs in general, it is hard to create the intimacy of an actual gallery.

What was Hong Kong’s reaction to your flagship show featuring Banksy?

It was phenomenal, they loved it. No other exhibition has ever graced the front page of the City section of the South China Morning Post. The turnout was around 1,000 people, and people from Christie’s and Sotheby’s were lining up. We had to hire security because it was just too packed. It was a very well publicized event that just happened in about 3 weeks. People usually plan this sort of thing 6 to 8 months in advance, and we did it in only 3 weeks. We worked around the clock, and were so tired afterward. Before we opened the Art Centre the next day, people were already lining up to see the show.

Was the turnout local?

It was a combination of both local and expatriate people, which is good. I think people in London and Europe are more passionate about these things, though. It’s weird, because when we opened the Banksy show, Banksy-style art of monkeys appeared on the bridges, and the next day it was already erased. A lot of people thought the graffiti was actually authentic Banksy. If this was in London, they would have preserved that. If it was in New York, they would have preserved it. But here in Hong Kong, it was wiped the next day.

The government needs to promote more sensibility toward the arts, especially here in Hong Kong Island. We’re on the cusp; we’re still not there yet.  The Hong Kong crowd still has a lot to see compared to London. However, we’re never going to be London and we need to make our own niche in Hong Kong, and make a city where art and commerce blend in. It’s still a financial city; that is what we are all about. We are not exactly an art city. That is one of the disadvantages of being here in Hong Kong. We are not exposed to a lot, and important art can get erased the next day by the cleaners. Because it’s not important to them.

Has Banksy been featured in Asia prior to your first show?

We definitely wanted Banksy to be our first show. It is the first and largest show of Banksy in Asia; Tokyo rejected it, so we were glad to take it. Ironically, now Tokyo is hungry for his works.

Does the Fabrik Gallery intend to feature other street or urban artists?

Paul Insect, Icon 8, 2008. Wooden panel, gold leaf, natural powder paint, shellac, acrylic paint.

We are planning to bring Lazarides U.K. artists Antony Micallef and Paul Insect before the end of the year. We love their works and they relate well to Warhol, especially Paul Insect. He creates appropriated images that reference historical art.

How does Banksy promote his art if his identity is kept secret? Does he directly work with galleries for his shows?

He’s not with his manager Steve Lazarides anymore, since they had a falling out. They had different intentions; it’s hard when you’re turning art into a commodity. Banksy doesn’t work directly with galleries either, and doesn’t show up in exhibitions. He just wants his identity to be secret and to keep a low profile, and to continue creating smart work and churning out really good stuff.

Why do you think Banksy created the sensation in Hong Kong?

His works confront a lot of issues and are very tongue in cheek, yet also is close to the heart. Banksy’s art talks to each individual and is easy to relate to. It makes you think, but it makes you smile as well.

Do you see any major differences between the art of Banksy and the art of the other artists in the ‘Great British Show’?

His work, whether it is rendered in canvas or in print, is from the street. There is a roughness that you can see and feel, although it is a screen print. It is still raw, and there is something sinister about it. You know the artist made this on the street in the middle of the night and ran away from the police, knowing he could get caught at any time while he was painting.

Are you familiar with the street art scene and artists in Hong Kong?  If so, who would you consider important artists?

I am familiar with Hong Kong street artists, like the ST/ART Collective… However, in general the street scene in Hong Kong is not very prolific. Funnily enough, I saw a tagging by the U.K. artist Word to Mother on a wooden board in the market. I am sure that it’s his authentic tag, since no one else can really do that. Someone just used the board to cover the fruits they were selling.

Do you view Hong Kong as an international art hub?

With Art HK, the success of ArtWalk, and the international galleries— The Gagosian Gallery is coming, Ben Brown is here, and the Malborough Gallery is opening here. Obviously people are looking at the potential of Hong Kong, and there is a big market here.

Tsang Kin-Wah, 2006. Untitled wallpaper detail for Shu Uemura in California.

What is great about the local art scene?

There are particularly 2 artists that I really like. One is Tsang Kin-wah. He was commissioned to create the wallpaper of The Pawn restaurant in Wan Chai. He made repetitions of words to create a flock wallpaper pattern. He has had exhibitions in New York, Paris and Norway. He’s really a major artist, but he’s very humble.

Nadim Abbas is another Hong Kong artist who used to work for Plum Blossoms, and is now showing his art at Para/Site. He’s a very conceptual artist, and was featured in the [Hong Kong Museum of Art] Louis Vuitton show representing Hong Kong artists. I love artists who work from their stream of consciousness, and he obviously does this.

I also like the illustration style of Carrie Chau, [featured at the Wun Yin Collection Gallery] at the Homeless boutique on Gough Street.

What news sources do you read to stay informed about the art world?

Art Observed.com is my number one resource. The Art Newspaper is good too, although I’ve noticed that not all their stories are up to date. Sometimes their news seems to be relevant to say, 1o months ago.  I also read Frieze MagazineThe Art ReviewThe Guardian, blogs, anything!

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a dealer gallery in Hong Kong?

Show only the artists that you love and the artists that you’re passionate about. Art is a very personal thing, and the general public may come in and hate it. Be prepared to be judged.

Is there any particular information, news, or advice you would like to share with our readers?

Start collecting now.  If you like something, save your money and make it your goal. In the next few years you will probably regret not getting it.

What is your next show at Fabrik Contemporary Art?

In the Name of Pop, featuring Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring will run May 6-June 10, 2010.

Visit Fabrik Contemporary Art’s new and permanent home at 412, 4F, Yip Fung Building, 2 – 18 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong.

EW/KCE

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Controversial “Kamoan” artist Andy Leleisi’uao to complete inaugural Taiwanese arts residency – profile

Posted by artradar on April 12, 2010


NEW ZEALAND-SAMOAN ARTIST PAINTING ARTS RESIDENCY TAIWAN

Socially motivated New Zealand-Samoan wraps up Taiwanese arts residency

Andy Leleisi’uao is a “Kamoan” (meaning Kiwi + Samoan, a term coined by the artist himself) artist who is the first New Zealander to be accepted for an inaugural three-month Taiwanese arts residency offered by the Asia New Zealand Foundation in partnership with the Taipei Artist Village. He completed the residency at the end of March this year, wrapping it up with a group exhibition and open studio event at the Taipei Artist Village.

Leleisi’uao began his artistic career as a widely celebrated social commentator on Samoans living in New Zealand; his paintings controversially exploring issues associated the Samoan diaspora. As he has developed his style, he has begun to both internalize and universalize these themes, exploring fantastical worlds and opening his art to a global audience.

Areatures of the Arctaur People I, 2009

His early art can be uncomfortable to view, often described by critics as confronting and controversial. In these works, his themes and intentions are obvious to the viewer; he shouts them from the canvas. During the late 1990s, Leleisi’uao’s paintings were highly politicized, socially motivated and somewhat autobiographical. He dealt obviously with the societal problems – domestic violence, poverty, unemployment and youth suicide – faced by blue-collar Pacific Island, particularly Samoan, immigrants to New Zealand.

“Leleisi’uao’s work emerges as a telling and insightful contrast to the colour, festivities and general brightness that characterizes popular media representations of Pacific Islands cultures.” Caroline Vercoe MA, Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland

The Immigrant, 1997

Pacific Island communities are generally strongly Christian and Leleisi’uao often highlighted the negative impact of the church on Samoan families, painting expressionistic pastors getting richer as communities get poorer. This focus on the negative albeit real issues faced by Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand is something that at times put him at odds with local communities.

“My early work in Samoan diaspora was necessary for self-development. It is a universal theme amongst concerns such as racism, domestic violence [and] suicide. I was in an environment and position in which these issues needed to be addressed and I used my vocation to create such works.” Andy Leleisi’uao, 2010

Angel of Falo, 2000

Since the early 2000s, however, Leleisi’uao has moderated and universalized his voice, shifting his painting focus and style. His most recent paintings are far less direct in their presentation of the painter’s ambitions and motivations. While still dealing with issues of social dislocation, he utilizes mythology and spiritualism to conjure up alternate universes populated with fantastical creatures.

“In these more recent works though the voice is more moderated and rather than a Pacific voice the works have a more universal theme of social and moral dysfunction and alienation.” John Daly, National Business Review, 2009

A critic described paintings in 2009 exhibition Le Onoeva – Misunderstood Aitu as “Armageddon-like, with gods and demons bringing saviour and damnation to a waiting populace,” while many others noted the recent moderation of his style.

“My role has changed over the years. My obligations towards social and political issues remain but at the moment I am on a cryptid journey I am really enjoying.” Andy Leleisi’uao, 2010

Though reportedly toned-down, Leleisi’uao’s newer representations still manage to stir public opinion; as reported in 2009 in the National Business Review, a commissioned public mural project planned for a community centre in South Auckland, New Zealand, came to a halt due to local community backlash.

Andy Leleisi’uao is represented by Whitespace (Auckland, New Zealand) and BCA (Raratongo, Cook Islands). This year, he has solo exhibitions in various major cities in Auckland and group exhibitions in Taiwan and New York. He recently won the coveted 2010 McCahon Arts Residency. His works are collected by major art museums and institutions worldwide including Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland University Collection, BCA Collection, Casula Powerhouse, Chartwell Trust Collection, Frankfurt Museum, Ilam University Collection, James Wallace Trust Collection, Manukau City Collection, Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures and Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand.

KN/KCE

Related Topics: spirituality in art, myth figures in art, New Zealand artists

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Posted in Migration, Mythical figures, New Zealander, Painting, Profiles, Residencies, Samoan, Social, Spiritual, Taiwan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Krishen Khanna traces evolution of Indian modern art: innovative interview technology used

Posted by artradar on April 12, 2010


INDIAN ARTIST INTERVIEW PODCAST

Saffronart is hosting a series of invaluable art historical documentary interviews with leading Indian artists to broaden the discourse about the evolution of modern and contemporary Indian art. The imaginative use of new interactive podcast technology is an initiative to emulate by both for-profits and non-profits.

The second interview in the speaker series  is to celebrate a retrospective by Krishen Khanna at Rabindra Bhavan, the Lalit Kala Akademi, in New Delhi, which lasted from 23 January to 5 February 2010. In it Krishen Khanna talks about his inspirations for painting and experiences regarding the development of modern Indian art.

Khanna, Bandwallaas in Practice, 2002

He begins with a personal ancedote about how he became involved in India’s art scene in the 1950s: he was formerly a banker, but his wife encouraged him to quit his job and take up painting. and discusses the artists (including F.N. SouzaS.H. RazaM.F. Husain) involved in Progressive Artist Group.

He mentions specific shows, such as Souza’s 1953 show containing a frontal nude self-portrait, which shocked the public and drew the attention of the moral police. Khanna emphasises Souza’s diverse inspirations, which ranged from Hokusai and Picasso.

Khanna, In My Studio, 2008
Khanna, In My Studio, 2008

Khanna also places the Progressive Artist Group into a historical context: he discusses the exodus of artists from India after it won its independence and how major events, like the death of Gandhi, affected  Indian artists globally. He then answers personal questions involving both his participation in the Progressive Artist Group and his relationship with its members.

Using a technique that we have not seen before the 30 minute audio is organised into searchable snippets under the following categories: Souza’s Solo Show, News of Ghandi’s Death, Progressive Artists’ Group, Nationalism in Art, The Form in Art and Drawing and Painting.

To hear the podcast click here.

AL/KCE

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Related topics:  INDIAN ARTISTS, NATIONALISM IN ART, ART AND THE INTERNET

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Posted in Art and internet, India, Indian, Interviews, Krishen Khanna, Nationalism, Painting, Profiles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Taiwan’s “father of printmaking” Liao Shiou-ping wins national award – profile

Posted by artradar on March 30, 2010


LIAO SHIOU-PING TAIWAN AWARD PRINTMAKING

Graphic master recognised for ability to blend Eastern imagery and Western technique

Earlier this year, Taiwan’s Council for Cultural Affairs awarded graphic artist Liao Shiou-ping one of three National Cultural Awards. The 74-year-old artist, renowned for blending Western printmaking techniques with traditional Taiwanese and Chinese influences, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to Taiwan culture.

Life #2, 1974

Liao was born in Taiwan in 1936. His father was a civil engineer and as a young child, Liao would often study the building blueprints spread across his father’s desk. His family lived near Taipei’s famed Longshan Temple and he drew on memories of the candles, incense and ghost money for much of his later work.

Shortly after graduating as a painter from the National Taiwan Normal University in 1959, Liao moved to Tokyo, Japan, and then to Paris, France, to further his studies. While in Japan he took graphic design classes, an additional course to his major studies, and here learnt valuable lessons in colour and composition. It was here, also, that he discovered printmaking.

Seasonal Chat VII, 1995

Liao began to study oil painting at the Fine Arts Institute of Paris in 1965 and was pushed by his instructor to discover a unique style for himself. He would spend much of his time wandering the collections of Chinese artefacts in the Guimet Museum which reminded him of the things he saw as a child in Longshan Temple. He developed the Gate series, his first, during this time, creating a uniquely Eastern print genre.

In 1969, Liao received an invitation to exhibit at the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art. He made the decision to relocate to New York with his family. Here he developed his Symbols series; inspiration stemmed from the images and traditions surrounding the Taiwanese Ghost Month. Liao believed that “an artist’s style reflects the rhythms of the society that he lives in.” His works from this period are strongly geometric expressing the symmetry of the city.

Knot X, 1999

The artist returned to Taiwan in 1973 to teach at the National Taiwan Normal University and a year later published The Art of Printmaking, still “the gold standard of introductory texts on the subject in the Chinese language.” He followed this teaching position with a few years teaching in Tokyo and the USA. He didn’t take his family with him this time and therefore undertook all the domestic chores himself. Vegetables, fruit, kitchenware and potted plants feature heavily in his Seasons series, a series which then evolved into both the Gathering and Chat series.

His most recent works are those under the Knots, Life Symbols and Dreams series. Knots developed out of his anger with people who struggle to value their own prosperity. Life Symbols (2000) contains mixed-media collage pieces using oil and acrylic paint, pencil drawing, wooden slabs and 2D painting and printmaking. Liao says these works express “the hidden natural order that permeates even the complexity of modern life, and also a kind of celebratory joy.” The tragic death of his wife in 2002, who died falling off a cliff while birdwatching, inspired his Dreams series in 2003. Here he conveys the duality of yin and yang, life and death, through images of outstretched hands and ghost money.  Although his production has slowed since Dreams he completed a large work entitled Timeless in 2005 and an installation piece called Speechless in 2008.

Life A, 2005

During his career, Liao Shiou-ping has held more than 70 solo exhibitions in New York, Paris, Tokyo and many other cities around the world. His artworks are collected by international museums including, but not exceeding, the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo), Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Shanghai Museum.

Liao founded the Prix de Paris fund with two other educators in 1993. The fund provides support for young artists to study abroad. He plans to donate his US$31,200 in prize money to this fund.

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Posted in Collage, Design, Domestic, Painting, Prizes, Profiles, Taiwanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »