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Archive for the ‘Religious art’ Category

Rubin Museum breaks tradition to show the first Tibetan art show in New York – New York Times

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2010


TIBETAN CONTEMPORARY ART NEW YORK MUSEUM SHOWS

Until October 18, Rubin Museum, usually New York’s home for traditional art of the Himalayas, will run the first Tibetan contemporary art show in the city. Titled “Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond“, this exhibition showcases the works of nine Tibetan artists born within the period 1953 to 1982. In a review published by The New York Times, critic Ken Johnson comments on each of the artists’ works.

Kesang Lamdark from Zurich presents Johnson’s most highly recommended works. On display is a sculpture made of perforated beer cans. As one peers through the drinking hole they can see a “glowing, dotted-line image of a Tibetan deity.” He also presents O Mandala Tantric, a pin-pricked black disk of four-foot diameter.

The holes on 'O Mandala Tantric' by Kesang Lamdark are back-lighted, such that they create a complex mandala pattern composed of images of skulls and animals, erotic Buddhist art imageries and modern pornography. The work touches upon themes of “debasement of sex in the modern commerce” and the East-West divide over views on eroticism.

The holes on 'O Mandala Tantric' by Kesang Lamdark are back-lighted, such that they create a complex mandala pattern composed of images of skulls and animals, erotic Buddhist art imageries and modern pornography. The work touches upon themes of “debasement of sex in the modern commerce” and the East-West divide over views on eroticism.

The collages presented by Gonkar Gyatso from London are “graphically appealing,” but Johnson notes they would be more impressive if they advanced “the genre of Pop collage or ideas about spirituality and business.” One of the works on display is called Tibetan Idol 15.

'Tibetan Idol 15' by Gonkar Gystso is a collage of “hundreds of little stickers imprinted with familiar logos, cartoon characters and other signs of corporate empire” which form the “atomised silhouettes of the Buddha”.

'Tibetan Idol 15' by Gonkar Gystso is a collage of “hundreds of little stickers imprinted with familiar logos, cartoon characters and other signs of corporate empire” which form the “atomised silhouettes of the Buddha”.

The computer-generated prints by Losang Gyatso from Washington are, according to Johnson, “technically impressive” and “optically vivid”, but should attempt to draw a clearer relationship between “Buddha-mindedness” and “digital consciousness.” Clear Light Tara is one such work.

Large and colorful, 'Clear Light Tara' by Losang Gyatso is a computer-generated print which features “abstracted traditional motifs.”

Large and colorful, 'Clear Light Tara' by Losang Gyatso is a computer-generated print which features “abstracted traditional motifs.”

Ken Johnson comments on the paintings like Water 1 by Pema Rinzin from New York, stating that they are “uncomfortably close to hotel lobby decoration.”

'Water 1' by Pema Rinzin is a painting of “curvy, variously patterned shapes gathered into Cubist clusters.”

'Water 1' by Pema Rinzin is a painting of “curvy, variously patterned shapes gathered into Cubist clusters.”


Penba Wangdu from Tibet presents Links of Origination while Tenzin Norbu from Nepal presents Liberation. Both painters have the greatest “potential for narrative and symbolic elaboration,” but their works are “disappointingly decorous”, says Johnson.

Tenzin Norbu's 'Liberation' is made with stone ground pigments on cloth.

Tenzin Norbu's 'Liberation' is made with stone ground pigments on cloth.

Penba Wangdu’s 'Links of Origination' outlines a sleeping woman whose body contains a “dreamy, pastoral landscape where little people make love, give birth, drink beer and paddle a boat on a peaceful lake.”

Penba Wangdu’s 'Links of Origination' outlines a sleeping woman whose body contains a “dreamy, pastoral landscape where little people make love, give birth, drink beer and paddle a boat on a peaceful lake.”

Tsherin Sherpa from Oakland, California, presents a large watercolor painting which features, as Johnson describes, an “angry blue giant with a vulture perched on his shoulder and flames roiling behind him.” Another of the artist’s major works, Untitled, features on the official website of the exhibition.

Tsherin Sherpa's 'Untitled'.

Tsherin Sherpa's 'Untitled'.

Tenzing Rigdol from New York presents a large watercolor painting named Updating Yamantaka.

'Updating Yamantaka' by Tenzing Rigdol is composed of “crisscrossing bands” which are “layered over colorfully traditional imagery of deities and ornamentation.”

'Updating Yamantaka' by Tenzing Rigdol is composed of “crisscrossing bands” which are “layered over colorfully traditional imagery of deities and ornamentation.”

Dedron from Tibet is the only female artist in the show. We are Nearest to the Sun is painted to resemble to a “modern children’s book version of folk art.” It is a painting of a village “populated by little bug-eyed characters,” projecting the theme of “nostalgia for preindustrial times.”

'We are nearest to the Sun' by Dedron, the only female artist represented in "Tradition Transformed: Tibetan artists Respond".

'We are nearest to the Sun' by Dedron, the only female artist represented in "Tradition Transformed: Tibetan artists Respond".

Johnson sums up by stating that it is paradoxical that the “freedoms granted by modern art and culture” do not generate much imagination in the show’s artists, who still cling onto that classic Tibetan style of art that has existed “hundreds of years prior to the 20th century.” He conveys a hope that in future Rubin shows he will discover some Tibetan artists with “adventurous minds.”

CBKM/KN/HH

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

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


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

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

THAI ART BOOK WRITER INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

What prompted you to write Flavours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us more about your selection of artists in Flavours.

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

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

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

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

What makes Thai art different from other Asian art?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about the artist training system in Thailand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any major collectors of Thai art?

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

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

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

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

About Steven Pettifor

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

VL/KN

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Russian curators prosecuted for showcasing banned art: media round-up

Posted by artradar on August 2, 2010


RUSSIAN ART CURATORS BANNED ART LAW

After a two-year trial, two Russian curators, Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, were declared guilty of “inciting religious hatred,” despite massive protest. Although they escaped the three-year prison sentence demanded by the prosecution, the judge declared them guilty and each had to pay a hefty fine. Critics fear the results of this trial are proof of cultural oppression in Russia.

They had showcased art banned from other Russian museums in an exhibition entitled “Forbidden Art” at the Sakharov Museum.

Alexander Kosolapov's 'This Is My Body', from "My Blood My Body" series, one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art 2006" at the Sakharov Museum.

Alexander Kosolapov's 'This Is My Body', from "My Blood My Body" series, one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art" at the Sakharov Museum.

Strong public interest in the case

Most media leans in favor of the Russian curators and sees the verdict as a sign of cultural oppression and censorship in Russia. However protesters from both sides were present outside the courthouse on the day of the ruling. Those offended by the paintings and who initiated the prosecution were mostly fundamentalist Russian Orthodox Christians while those against the prosecution consisted generally of artists and human rights activists. Multiple blogs and news agencies have covered the trial, ranging from arts websites to Russian interest magazines and blogs about human rights.

Extreme factions from both sides have voiced their protests. The New York Times reports that radical art performance group, Voina, released cockroaches into the courtroom, an act criticized by Samodurov. According to the Associated Press, extremist members of the prosecution threatened the curators in court, reminding them of the fate of Anna Alchuk, curator of “Caution: Religion!” who was found dead in Berlin in 2008.

Artists “incited religious hatred”

'Chechen Marilyn' by Blue Noses Group (2005, colour print, 100 x 75 cm), one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art 2006" at the Sakharov Museum.

'Chechen Marilyn' by Blue Noses Group (2005, colour print, 100 x 75 cm), one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art" at the Sakharov Museum.

The works in question include an icon made of caviar, a depiction of Christ with a Mickey Mouse head, and an image of Christ with the McDonald’s sign and the words “This is my body”. There were also some non-Christian symbols included in the list of offensive images such as Chechen Marilyn and the Chinese invading the Kremlin. The exhibition spurred a lot of anger amongst religious groups.

In a video interview with Russia Today, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church explains that,

Orthodox believers, as citizens of their country…have the right to protect their sacred symbols. It was not the church that initiated this prosecution, but the people who were offended. The investigation proved that the art at the exhibit was offensive towards believers, and incited religious hatred.

The New York Times also mentioned, however, that Russian Orthodox Church officials believed that while displaying the paintings was criminal and the curators should be punished, they shouldn’t be imprisoned. Furthermore, the Russian Minister of Culture was critical of the prosecution.

A fight against censorship

The defendants’ view is that this exhibition was a critique of the materialism of Russian society and a fight against censorship of the arts, and had nothing to do with religion. Ironically, critics fear that results of the trial have shown that censorship is quite powerful in Russia.

Samodurov faced similar charges for a 2003 exhibition called “Caution: Religion!” He says the Church has reacted more strongly in the “Forbidden Art” trial.

Human rights and arts activists fully disapprove of the judge’s ruling, and are alarmed not only at the guilty verdict but at the fact that this trial even took place. The BBC News reported that thirteen renowned Russian artists signed an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev protesting the trial. Russia Today reports that,

…much more concerning [than escaping the jail sentence] for people in their circumstances is what they’ve seen as a curb from their freedom of expression.

In addition support from other artists and curators has been prevalent. The Associated Press reports that Marat Gelman, a Moscow gallery owner, declared his support for the pair by saying he would launch his own “Forbidden Art” exhibition should the ruling be in favor of the church. One sympathizer stated for the Associated Press before the verdict was declared,

‘I am very afraid for them,’ she said. ‘The church is now younger, more energetic.’

Some fear a return to a cultural oppression similar to that of Czarist Russia. Some suspect the Kremlin may have had a role in lightening the punishment of the curators to prevent tarnishing their international image. Critics have predicted that people will be wary of displaying and producing potentially offensive art in Russia, and this will make Russian art less competitive globally.

MM/KN

Related Topics: Russian artists, curators, venues – Moscow

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New York gallery Tyler Rollins holds rare showing of Thai artist Jakkai Siributr

Posted by artradar on May 13, 2010


THAI ARTIST NEW YORK RELIGIOUS ART

Showing at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, a New York gallery which specializes in Asian art, Jakkai Siributr’s Karma Cash and Carry features a series of textile compositions alongside installation and video works.

Karma Cash and Carry installation view

Not a first for Siributr, the theme of materialism and Thai cultural heritage, a significant part of which is the Buddhist religion, resurfaces with Karma Cash and Carry. In 2008, Tyler Rollins featured an installation by the artist called Temple Fair, challenging notions of religion, society and politics in the Thai context.

Red Buddha at Karma Cash and Carry

Siributr’s current exhibition extrapolates the concept of everyday materialism in religion as a Karmic convenience store, where merit can be bought and sold. Making use of daily objects and ritual practices, his work puts forth powerful visual stimulus to encourage an understanding of the growing consumerism that afflicts every social practice.

Buddhist shrine- part of the installation at Karma Cash and Carry

Drawing from an ancient legacy of Thai textile art, the artist’s work primarily uses the textile medium with a contemporary sensibility. Maintaining a crucial relationship with the legacy of Thai textile, Siributr’s use of fabric in Karma Cash and Carry pushes the boundaries of the medium.

Additionally, Siributr uses the video format for the first time here.  Evoking a cosmopolitan space where popular culture mixes freely with ancient faith, the installation presents the loss of the sanctity of the essentially non-materialistic Buddhist faith. Siributr himself is a practicing Buddhist and has often articulated deep concerns about the commercialization of the Buddhist faith. In Thailand however, such articulations are unwelcome by the Government and the largely Buddhist polity. To battle this, Siributr tactfully appoints irony and satire to veil his dissent.

Jakkai Siributr is considered one of Southeast Asia’s pre-eminent textile based artists and his work is often politically charged. He also featured in Viewpoints and Viewing Points – 2009 Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan.

Karma Cash and Carry is on at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York, until 5 June, 2010.

AM/KN

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Curator Rosa Maria Falvo on emerging Central Asian art scene- interview

Posted by artradar on December 16, 2009


Way to Rome, by Said Atbekov, 2007. Uzbekistan.

Way to Rome, by Said Atabekov, 2007. Lambda print on dibond. Uzbekistan.

CENTRAL ASIAN ART CURATOR

Every industry has its gatekeepers, and the art world is no exception. In the complex world of identifying and valuing cultural and artistic significance, it is the curator who filters through the ‘noise’ to uncover the hidden gems that are relevant, and then presents that information in a meaningful and understandable way.

One may wonder how a curator becomes such an authority, worthy of deciding what fine art demands to be seen, and what does not. The engaged art enthusiast simply must know: who are these internationally active contemporary art curators, and what can they teach us?

Art Radar Asia catches up with Rosa Maria Falvo, an independent Italian-Australian based curator whose most recent project was the East of Nowhere show in Turin, Italy, which showcased artworks from Central Asia. She sheds light on the intriguing world of multicultural curatorship, the rising international interest in artworks from the likes of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, and, most importantly– why Central Asian art is emerging onto the world scene now.

Where did you grow up and where were you educated?

RMF: I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, graduating with Honours in English literature at Monash University, majoring in theatre, psychology and sociology, and then completing a Diploma of Education. I have done various post graduate studies in Italy on language, art and culture, specialising in photography, cinema, and the 20th century avant-gardes.

Has this had any influence on your career in art, or your response to art?

RMF: I enjoy investigating differences and then looking for natural similarities. In the last 5 years I’ve really focused my curatorial thinking on the East–West dichotomy.

My Italian-Australian heritage has nurtured my open appreciation and desire for aesthetic and cultural reference points. I feel very fortunate to have this twofold awareness, which has given me unique insights and provides the foundation for my work.

Since 2000 I’ve been involved in promoting individual artists, designing exhibitions and contributing to publishing projects. As an independent writer, translator and curator I’ve established a fruitful international network.

In which countries and cities do you spend most of your time?

RMF: With dual citizenship, I live and work in both Italy and Australia, and travel regularly to various parts of Asia.

I do overland trips for long periods, such as throughout Myanmar, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Western China, meeting artists and collecting their work. These journeys are both personal and professional odysseys.

I’m particularly interested in the rich aesthetic traditions and contemporary responses of non-Western realities, and I collaborate with local artists, curators, galleries, museums and academic institutions in Europe, Asia and Australia…

I am the Asia-Pacific Publications & Projects Consultant for SKIRA International Publishing in Milan-Paris-NY. This involves establishing publishing and exhibition projects with major public and private museums, galleries, and artists throughout the Asia-Pacific Region.

Which cultures do you have a deep interest in or connection to?

RMF: I am deeply connected to Italy and also feel an affinity for Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, particularly Pakistan and India, given the many friends I’ve made and the cultural treasures I’ve experienced.

Dream, by Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu, 2003. Gouache on canvas 47 x 61cm

What types of art have you worked with in the past? Why those?

RMF: I’ve worked with Italian, Australian and Asian contemporary artists: sculptors, photographers, painters and designers.

I admire those who remain true to their own vision while mastering the technical excellence of their craft. How successfully they link the two is for me an indication of quality work, which is by definition powerful. Good artists are important cultural translators and visual conversationalists.

Do you collect art? If so, what is the most recent artwork you have bought?

RMF: I collect work on my travels, pieces that appeal to me aesthetically and intellectually. I take an interest in artists as people, and I like to know as much about their creative process and psychological view as possible.

The most recent works I have collected are by Adeel uz Zafar, a talented Pakistani painter and illustrator, working with notions of the larger-than-life canvas of life, and Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu, an emerging Mongolian painter who reworks the traditional Mongol zurag technique into contemporary themes.

Have you noticed a rising interest in Central Asian art?

RMF: There’s a rising interest in Central Asian art, because there’s tremendous shifting in this part of the world’s geopolitical and cultural realities. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the ex-Soviet republics are pulling and pushing at an amazing speed.

There’s growing curiosity from those who know very little besides what is shown on TV and ever deepening analysis from those who have long been aware and well travelled.

The allure of ethnicity, exoticism and culture shock is often a visual pretext for the real essence of a show like this, which is to present an account of the changing face of contemporary Central Asia.

This international awareness is recent if you consider that the first Central Asia pavilion took place at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, where newly established post-Soviet states Kazakhstan (with artists Khalfin, Maslov, Meldibekov, Menlibaeva, Tikhonova, Vorobyeva, Vorobyev), Kyrgyzstan (Boronilov, Djumaliev, Kasmalieva, Maskalev) and Uzbekistan (Akhunov, Atabekov, Nikolaev, and Tichina) represented a “regional group” curated by a Russian, Viktor Misiano. This heralded the development of the Central Asian art scene.

Emerging from a monolithic Soviet Union we see extraordinary complexity and fermentation on issues to do with struggle, conflict, and identity. That a place like Afghanistan nurtures its own contemporary art scene, however fledgling, is testimony to the unflagging spirit of special individuals dedicated to the arts. Rahraw Omarzad’s ‘Closed Door’ video provides a playfully eloquent metaphor for the obstacles facing ordinary Afghanis in the context of violence and corruption.

Have there been many Central Asian art shows, or was East of Nowhere introducing completely unseen art to Italy?

RMF: There have been few initiatives on Central Asian art outside Central Asia. ‘East of Nowhere’ was a natural and ambitious outgrowth of a previous premiere show entitled The Tamerlane Syndrome: Art and Conflicts in Central Asia in Orvieto, Italy (2005), curated by my expert colleagues, Enrico Mascelloni and Valeria Ibraeva, who each have 30 years of experience in this region of the world.

Men Praying on the Central Square in Bishkek, by Alimjan Jorobaev.

What kind of response did you get?

RMF: We’ve had very positive responses. This industrial area of Turin – Via Sansovino- is being redeveloped by Fondazione 107. Visitors have made a real effort to seek out this show and been impressed with the space, which is a beautifully reconverted warehouse. The variety of work and line up of both important and emerging artists has excited Italian and European media, which have been particularly complimentary; commenting on the panorama of talent and the contextual analysis of multiple narratives.

How do you personally measure the success of an exhibition?

RMF: I think a successful exhibition stimulates questions from those who were otherwise unaware of what is out there and raises the quality of debate amongst those who do.

Obviously, once there is growing public interest the art system brings the process of monetising art. Prices have certainly risen and it’s very interesting to watch what is happening in this part of the world.

What excites me is the open, honest and often young creative energy that has no direct dependence on a predetermined art market.

What themes do you see within Central Asian art, and why are they capturing the imagination of an Italian audience?

RMF: East of Nowhere offers a daring mix of impressions about a ‘Greater Central Asia’: accelerating globalization, contemporary nomadism, and pre-Soviet and Islamic traditions.

These 32 artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Mongolia take us beyond borders (which are not just arbitrarily reshaped, but often draw a blank in the minds of Westerns), violence, and Hollywood, into a new awareness of post-Soviet experience and ethnic affinities.

Said Atabekov’s Way to Rome, which is the cover image of our exhibition catalogue, recalls Marco Polo’s journey through Central Asia as the epitome of East-West encounters. For this photographic series Atabekov travelled throughout Kazakhstan, capturing daily life and landscapes, documenting the emblems of tradition and transformation. Of course, his work is also an ironic play on the ‘Path to Europe 2009-2011’ announced by Nursultan Nazarbayev in his presidential address to the people of Kazakhstan in 2008, which outlines his foreign policy for developing multilateral strategic cooperation with Europe in technology, power engineering, transport, trade, and investment. This promotion of Kazakh ‘prosperity’ highlights the paradoxical relations between Central Asia and Europe.

Alimjan Jorobaev’s Men Praying on the Central Square in Bishkek shows people praying with their backs to a sculpture exalting Lenin. Issues on collectivism, religion, identity politics, and nationhood are universal concerns, but they are in particularly sharp focus in this region of the world. I’m pleased to say that Fondazione 107 in Turin will continue to present projects based on the legacy of pioneering artists, curators, and collectors.

EW

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Iran Inside Out review round up – 56 artist survey show in New York described as mesmerising, a privilege

Posted by artradar on September 3, 2009


IRANIAN ART SURVEY

56 contemporary Iranian artists are presented in the attention-grabbing and timely  Iran Inside Out exhibition at Chelsea Art Museum in New York (June 26 – Sep 5 2009).

Surprisingly – or perhpas not – only 35 artists in the show reside inside Iran and the other 21 dispersed outside Iran. Together they contribute 210 works of painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation on themes such as gender, war, and politics. Complemented with forums and film screenings, theatre performances, music recitals, and panel discussions, Iran Inside Out is part of Chelsea Art Museum’s 2008-2009 “The East West Project”. 

In this round up, art experts and critics from the New York Times to the Huffington Post give their perspectives on this exhibition and report that they are enthralled, mesmerised and surprised.  In this rich and challenging show unexpected findings and themes abound. Be sure to scroll down and read Huffington Post’s Marina Bronchman who discovers a controversial new view of the veil and its effect on sexual and gender expression.

 

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, Digital C-print 2008 copyright artist and courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery
Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell’s Puerto Rico Performance Still, Digital C-print 2008 copyright artist and courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery

 

 

Chelsea Art Museum: Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

The curators explain that Iran Inside Out defies the traditional perceptions of Iran and Iranian art:

An intimate look into the people, both inside and outside a country that is more complex than images of veiled women, worn out calligraphy and what a handful of other emblematic images would suggest…an examination of the means through which a young generation of artists is reconciling the daily implications of cultural and geographical distances with the search for individual artistic expression…offers an unexpected insight into the artistic energy of a culture that is constantly evolving as Iranians living both in and out of the country, come of age living and working in contentious societies.

(Art Radar editor note: the curators of Saatchi’s Middle Eastern show ‘Unveiled’ (in which Iranian art predominated) earlier in 2009 also claimed to go beyond the ‘worn out’ to present a more nuanced and alternative view of art from the Middle East – this was hotly contested by some reviewers who were surprised to find that, on the contrary, bloodshed, repression and gender inequality were ubiquitous and courageously expressed. See related posts section below for the review round up of  Saatchi’s show).

 

Yet there are differences between insiders and outsiders say the curators:

Ironically, contrary to one’s expectations, the artists living abroad often draw more on their cultural heritage, while those on the inside focus more on issues of everyday life without much regard to what ‘the outside’ views as specifically Iranian references. Yet, within these disparities, one element stands strong: the recurrent references, sometimes ambiguous, at times emotional, often nostalgic and on occasion satirical and even tragic to Iran the country, Iran the past, the Iran which has been lost and that which could be found.

New York Times: Holland Cotter

Holland Cotter elaborates on how Iranian cultural references run through the show in this 30th-anniversary year of the Iranian revolution. For this critic, whether inside or out, artists are in touch with their cultural history. 

Golnaz Fathi, who lives in Tehran, walks the line between calligraphy and abstraction in his paintings; so does Pouran Jinchi, who lives in New York. The heroic epic called “The Book of Kings” is given an action-hero update by Siamak Filizadeh of Tehran, but also in film stills by Sadegh Tirafkan, who spends part of his time in Toronto.

 

“Zaal arrives to help Rostam, ROSTAM 2 The Return” by Siamak Filizadeh(2008)
“Zaal arrives to help Rostam, ROSTAM 2 The Return” by Siamak Filizadeh(2008)

 

 

Female artists are  given the spotlight, too:

Alireza Dayani’s fantastical historical drawings; Newsha Tavakolian’s photographic study of a transsexual; Saghar Daeeri’s paintings of Tehran’s boutique shoppers; Shirin Fakhim’s sculptural salute to the city’s prostitutes. Abbas Kowsari documents cadet training for chador-clad female police officers in Tehran. Less interestingly, Shahram Entekhabi draws chadors in black Magic Marker on images of dating-service models.

However, not all of them advocate social causes. Some artists employ a less aggressive tone:

Ahmad Morshedloo’s tender paintings of sleepers, Reza Paydari’s portrait of school friends and the mysterious little films of Shoja Azari are in this category.

Nevertheless, ambiguity does not equate with absence of politics in these artwork: 

Repression both inside and outside Iran is under scrutiny in a piece by Mitra Tabrizian about the roles of both the West and Muslim clergy in Iran’s modern history. In photographs by Arash Hanaei, brutal scenes from the Iran-Iraq war and Abu Ghraib are played out by bound and gagged dolls.

Flavorpill New York: Leah Taylor 

 

Sara Rahbar, 'Flag #5', 2007. Textile/mixed media, 65x35 inches
Sara Rahbar, ‘Flag #5’, 2007. Textile/mixed media, 65×35 inches

 

Taylor praises Iran Inside Out as one of the timeliest exhibitions in history:

With violence and political unrest roiling in that country, this exhibit takes a closer look at its inherent contradictions, tradition, culture, identity, and struggle — especially as faced by its younger generation of artists. As gruesome descriptions and footage of the election-protest clampdown continue to slip through Iranian censors daily, having Iran Inside Out‘s creative insight into the country seems a privilege, indeed.

Huffington Post: Marissa Bronfman

Shocked and enthralled by the creative artwork at the exhibition, Bronfman comments: 

A sense of duality was apparent in all the various pieces I saw at the exhibit, and there is an interesting geographical duality influencing the artists as well. The artists still living in Iran must struggle with avoiding government censors while not compromising with self-censorship, and those living outside strive to assume an “unlabeled artist-status” within a West-centric contemporary art world. The museum reminds us of their important commonality, however, such that all 56 artists desire to “establish an individual artistic identity free from the stigma of “stereotype” and “locality.” 

She explains what draws her the most about the Tehran Shopping Malls by Saghar Daeeri:

 

Saghar Daeeri, Shopping Malls of Tehran - Acrylic (Aaron Gallery).
Saghar Daeeri, Shopping Malls of Tehran – Acrylic (Aaron Gallery).

The paintings came to life with a stunning palette of vibrant colors and women depicted in a grotesque, almost fantastical rendering. Heavily made up faces, lacquered nails and peroxide hair instantly made me think these Iranian women were influenced by typical American ideals of beauty. However, Hanna Azemati, who works at CAM and presided over the show, offered a wonderful perspective that I hadn’t originally considered. She told me that, “Because of the compulsory veil, women express their femininity through venues that are allowed in exaggerated ways. They resort to excessive make-up, overdone highlighted hair, thin eyebrows, long colored nails and even suggestive behavior.” This dualism that Iranian women must grapple with, between veiling and self-expression, was communicated with profound contradiction and was really quite mesmerizing.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Catch Palestinian Art in Venice – Islamic art in the spotlight or in a corner?

Posted by artradar on July 29, 2009


Emily Jacir, Stazione 2009

Emily Jacir, Stazione 2009

ART PALESTINE VENICE BIENNALE

The debut of Palestine contemporary art at the 53rd Venice Biennale (June 7th – Sept. 30th) attempts to elevate Palestine art to the international spotlight. This post explores whether Islamic art from Palestine has been marginalized and to what extent the inaugural show  throws light on Palestinian art today.

In the past, Venice played a merchant role as a fulcrum between the Western and the Islamic world. Now, as an artistic realm, Venice gives Palestinian art its virgin step to impress a wider audience in the west.

However, contrary to traditional art, contemporary Palestinian art does not equate to Muslim art, and perhaps that’s why the work of seven participating artists is being featured at the Biennale. To avoid religious controversy, Muslim message is absent, whether or not it’s a true representation of Palestinian art is questionable, but Palestinian art does emerge in a gamut of forms.

Instead of pushing forward a message, it is more about preserving a collective memory. Subject to approval, chef d’oeuvres such as Gregor Schneidor’s enormous black cube, inspired by the Ka’aba in Mecca, did not pass through the religious sensitivity screening.

While accepted in the Muslim community in Germany, it was rejected at the Biennale in 2005 because some viewed it as a terrorist threat. Despite Venice’s ingrained connections to Islam culture, what is representative of all Islamic symbols is still not tolerated at the exposition. 

If the theme does not revolve around Islamic roots, Palestinian artists must borrow other elements from their culture and history to assert a unique statement about their artwork. Free from religious implications, their artwork references Palestinian issues both on a local and global scale, bridging the past and the present.

Among the participating artists at the Biennale, Emily Jacir installs a stazione that encourages cultural exchange between Venice and the Arab world within architectural space and design. Situated on all of the vaporetto #1 stops, stazione provides a link between Venice’s heritage and the Arabic world, with Arabic translations inscribed on the shops in order to inform tourists of the rich origins. 

Shadi HabibAllah, Ok, hit, hit but don't run 2009

Shadi HabibAllah, Ok, hit, hit but don't run 2009

Another artist Shadi HabibAllah, through video and animation of hominoids, delves into the visual perception of natural objects surrounding us in the mechanical state – that work is a living experience, not just a visual reference.

To evoke notions of collective past memories, Taysir Batniji uses multimedia approach by playing the “Date Video”, significant in abstracting a process where time is suspended, as the ticks resonated the length of time since the border closures that forbid him from returning home.

Via photography and video of the panorama of the structural architecture and geography of the Shufhat Refugee camp in Jerusalem, Jawad Al Malhi explores the refugee population that is marginalized and neglected. Since outsiders don’t have access to narrow passages in the camp, the panoramic view enables exploration of the image of camp as well as the entropic nature of the space of the camp. By exploring claustrophobia and containment within the camp, he casts light on the dark side of reality in the land of promise.

Taysir Batniji, Atelier 2005

Taysir Batniji, Atelier 2005

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti employ a sound installation device to explore the contemporary spatialization of urban centers. They take a dialogue in the dark approach, where the visitors enter a black-out room, blinded and only able to hear murmurs and cries of recorded discourse of what it is like to live in the Palestinian community. Heartbeats and musical interventions compounded the effect further. These two artists endeavor to illustrate the Ramallah Syndrome, which references the illusion of the new spatial social order and economic opportunities after the Oslo peace process. They question how Ramallah maintains as the city of Normalcy despite Israeli occupation and daily destructions.

Last but not least on the list of exhibiting artists, Khalil Rabah applies the Biennale idea to his work “A Geography: 50 Villages -The 3rd Riwaq Biennale”. This imaginary biennale takes place in the public space of 50 Palestinian villages, all of which are characteristic of ancient and original architecture and archways. While it rethinks confinement in physical space , it also runs parallel with Riwaq’s goal to protect and promote cultural heritage in Palestine. Meanwhile, by omitting large-scale and formal artistic presentation, it protests against the homogenization of the standard in the international art market. Moreover, it reexamines the biennale culture and ways to link Palestine art with the rest of the world.

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Contributed by Wendy Ma

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5 80s born contemporary Cambodian artists featured in historic show Forever Until Now

Posted by artradar on March 17, 2009


 CAMBODIAN ART SHOW REVIEWS

This post features introductory profiles of 5 Cambodian contemporary artists born in the 1980s in the 14 artist historic group show Forever Until Now curated by Cambodia-based Erin Gleeson.  The show which can be seen at Chancery Lane Gallery Hong Kong until April 29 2009, aims to document the development of Cambodian contemporary art. 

This is the third post of a three part series; see the related posts section below to read more about artists born earlier.

Chan Dany, Kback Phni Tes, pencil shavings

Chan Dany, Kback Phni Tes, pencil shavings

 

CHAN Dany (1984) – Chan Dany is one of the few emerging artists in Cambodia creating contemporary work that employs a flexible knowledge of kbach rachana or Khmer decorative forms – an ancient code of organic shapes and patterns applied in diffferent styles. In this show he exhibits part of a series of meticulous and delicate works made with pencil shavings which from a distance appear to be embroidery.

 

Ouk Sochivy, The Band, oil on canvas

Ouk Sochivy, The Band, oil on canvas

 

OUK Sochivy (1984) – It is common in Cambodia for elders to pass on their trade to the next generation. Before his death in December 2008 Say Ken commonly known as the grandfather of contemporary art in Cambodia – instructed his granddaughter how to paint with his self-taught flair.

Vandy Rattana, Fire of the Year 6, C-print photo

Vandy Rattana, Fire of the Year 6, C-print photo

VANDY Rattana (1980) In Fire of the Year 2008 photographer Vandy Rattana captures a hopeless story common in today’s Cambodia. With few fire trucks and bribes required for protection, a sense of chaos and resignation reigns in this series of photographs taken in the destroyed district called Dteuk Tlah or ”clear water’ (a site where 300 hundred families lived in stilted homes above a floating blanket of plastic waste). Vandy is a catalyst for creating community among photographers and artists in Cambodia and is the founder of Steiv Salapak, an art collective and gallery in Phnomh Penh.

Than Sok, Ktome Neak Ta, Incense sticks glue

Than Sok, Ktome Neak Ta, Incense sticks glue

THANN Sok (1984) – Thann Sok graduated from Reyum Art School in 2005. His current practice is an extension of his second year study of architecture. The work in this exhibition is called Ktome Neak Ta. It is a wall installation of 15 miniature houses made of incense sticks. Found in the majority of rural Cambodian homes and in the northeast corners of Buddhist temple grounds, the Neak Ta shrines serve as a site for communication with Neak Ta one of the most omnipresent divinities which populate the supernatural world of the Cambodian countryside. Incense and prayer is offered in a time of need but after the crisis has passed, the shrine is thrown away and a new one built representing a clearing of the old and a chance to begin anew. This is a multi-layered work which is also a comment on the political evolution of Cambodia since Pol Pot.

 

Sorn Setpheap, Naga, Wall installation paper

Sorn Setpheap, Naga, Wall installation paper

 

 

 

 

 

SORN Setpheap (1988) – As a graduate of Reyum Art School in 2005 and Reyum Workshop in 2007, Sorn has been exposed to a range of contemporary practices from visiting artists. Since 2006 this artist and dancer  has been training in the US with the New York-based Japanese dance group Eiko+Koma. In this show, Sorn exhibits a sculpture of a Naga – a serpent believe to be the mythical origin of the Khmer people – made of hundreds of pieces of folded paper creating an undulating form – a new form for a new generation.

 

Reviews and related links

A Coming of Age for Cambodian artists – IHT – March 2009 – The show 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, along with several other events, marks a turning point for Cambodian artistic life today. In December Cambodian artists will be represented for the first time at the sixth Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Australia, and a few weeks before, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial in Japan will again showcase the Southeast Asian nation.

A Haunting Exhibition in Hong Kong – Asia Sentinel – 17 Feb 2009 – this review was published on the eve of the long delayed trial of Tuol Sleng prison director, Kaing Guek Eav – aka \”Duch\” – the first of four Khmer Rouge leaders to be brought before the UN-backed war crime court. 12,000 people died at Tuol Sleng, known as S-21, now the Genocide Museum. This review discusses the effect the Cambodian genocide which saw the death of 1.7 million people has had on art.

Cambodian Art: Past to Present – 17 Feb 2009 – CNN – Miranda Leitsinger – As well as reviewing the works, this piece documents the hardships and challenges of producing art in Cambodia.

After a troubled past, new expressions in Cambodian art – IHT – July 2006 – this covers the role Sopheap Pich is has played in catalysing the art scene in Cambodia

Related categories: Cambodian art, religious art, reports from Hong Kong, emerging artists

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Review round up – Saatchi Middle East art show Unveiled – which artists are critic favourites?

Posted by artradar on February 26, 2009


Kader Attia, Ghost, Installation

Kader Attia, Ghost, Installation

 

 

SAATCHI MIDDLE EAST ART SHOW

Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, Saatchi Gallery, London to 6 May 2009

Advertising mogul and art patron Saatchi is a master at generating extensive high profile media coverage for his shows giving us an uncommon opportunity to synthesise the critics’ views of individual Middle Eastern artists and the show overall.  Here are the highlights:

  • critics were kind: Saatchi is “back on form” in a show which is “impressive” , “extraordinarily good”
  • Tala Madani received rave reviews: “I haven’t come across a young artist this original witty and talented in twenty years”
  • Kader Attia’s installation Ghost was the show stopper artwork for most critics
  • painting section of the show was weaker than works in other media
  • sculpture and installations garnered most critical attention receiving mixed reviews
  • varying views were expressed about the success of the organisers’  claim to overturn the cliched idea that the Middle East is synonymous with violence and intolerance   

Ranking of artists by number of  mentions (positive or neutral unless stated)

  1. Kader Attia – (5) – Independent, Reuters, Telegraph, Standard (thumbs down), Bloomberg
  2. Tala Madani – (5) – Time Out, Independent, Guardian/Observer, Telegraph, Standard
  3. Marwan Rechmaoui – (4) – Time Out, Independent, Guardian/Observer, Standard
  4. Sara Rahbar – (3) – Time Out, Independent, Reuters
  5. Rokni Haerizadeh – (3) – Reuters, LA Times, Standard
  6. Ramin Haerizadeh – (3) – Guardian/Observer, LA Times, Telegraph
  7. Wafa Hourani – (3) – Time Out, LA Times, Standard
  8. Ahmed Alsoudani – (3) – Time Out, Standard, Independent
  9. Halim al-Karim – (3) Reuters, Telegraph, Standard (thumbs down)
  10. Shirin Fakhim’s – (3) Reuters, Telegraph, Bloomberg
  11. Diana Al-Hadid – (2) Time Out, Telegraph
  12. Shadi Ghadirian – (1) Bloomberg
  13. Hayv Kahraman – (1) Independent

 

‘Unveiled: New Art From the Middle East’ at London’s Saatchi Gallery – LA Times – Henry Chu – Feb 11 2009

The usual Middle East-related topics of religion and war are not to be seen in this exhibition which is instead dominated by themes of sexuality, gender and religion says Chu. His story focuses on the struggles of the artists with censorship and the threat of officialbacklash. Despite this a thriving art scene is developing in some cities and – surprisingly – Tehran now has over 100 commercial galleries. Artists mentioned include the Haerizadeh brothers Rokni and Ramin (Men of Allah) and Palestinian Wafa Hourani’s whose  Qalandia 2067 is a ‘striking’ small-scale model of a refugee camp half a century in the future.

Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East at the Saatchi Gallery Telegraph– Richard Dorment – Feb 4 2009

Dorment pooh-poohs the ‘sunny’ assertion by Lisa Farjam in the exhibition catalogue that it is a cliche to associate the Middle East with political oppression, religious intolerance and terrorism. He ‘profoundly disagrees’ saying this show is replete with references to bombs, religious police and the denigration of women. The most ‘remarkable’ artists are Kader Attia, Halim Al-Karim (Hidden War)  and Diana Al-Hadid (Tower of Infinite Problems) because their work transcends the political. However Dorment finds himself most interested in some of the other artists. Ramin Haerizadeh’s strutting pouting Men of Allahis not the strongest work he says but one of the bravest and suggests the psychosexual motivation of fundamentalism. He mentions work by Shirin Fakhim and refers to Tala Madani (Tower Reflections) ” I haven’t come across a young artist this original witty or talented in 20 years”. Despite the weakness of the painted works, overall the show is much stronger for being ‘less slick and commercial’ than its predecessor, a show of Chinese art.

Unveiled: New Art From The Middle East – Time Out– Ossian Ward – Feb 3 2009

Saatchi has no truck with the high-minded concerns of the academics and curators which is a good thing says Ossian Ward. It means he does not try to provide an explanation  for his unapologetic grouping of artists who come from lands which are bewildering in their diversity. 

“The sculptural works shine but the paintings disappoint” as does some of the works which border on “gross-out territory” reminiscent of YBA (Young British Artists). Artists discussed include Marwan Rechmaoui (Spectre), Diana Al-Hadid, Wafa Hourani, Ahmed Alsoudani and Tala Madani. 

Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, Saatchi Gallery, LondonIndependent– Charles Darwent – Feb 1 2009

An ‘impressive’ and ‘extraordinarily good’ show says Darwent in which the united and divided cultures of the West and Middle East are laid bare. Rich with historical and art references, Darwent gives thoughtful reviews of works by Sara Rahbar, Hayv Kahraman, Ahmed Alsoudani, Tala Madani, Kader Attia, and Marwan Rechamoui. Sara Rahbar’s work  Flag #19 is singled out.

Noting the interplay of West and Middle East evident across the works, Darwent comments that thartists are Middle Eastern but ‘not quite’  and in fact only 11 of the 19 – and only 2 of the 7 women – artists now live  in the region.

The veil is lifted on hidden talent Guardian/Observer – Laura Cumming – Feb 1 2009

At its best says Cumming this ‘candid collection from the Islamic world is inventive and truly fearless’ though some of the work is a ‘shambolic hybrid of eastern content and western style’ which ‘plays hard to the international art fair and biennale market’. But no matter there are some independent minds: among them are Ramin Haerizadeh- whose satirical sexually-charged photo works are ‘gleefully savage’ – Marwan Rechmanoui and the ‘prodigiously gifted’ and ‘original’  Tala Madani (Holy Light, Elastic Pink). Overall says Cummings it is amazing how far into politics this art goes and points out that the publicity shot of TalaMadini has been treated to conceal her identity despite making her home in Amsterdam.

 Subversive Beauty in UnveiledStandard (This is London) – Ben Lewis – Jan 30 2009

London’s great art entrepreneur is back on form says Lewis and the works by artists from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq are “thrillingly topical and often brilliantly executed”. There is an excitement in seeing politics through the language of contemporary art rather than the familiar TV images. Highlights are paintings by 3 artists Ahmed Alsoudani, Rokni Haerizadeh and Tala Madani. Marwan Richmaoui and Wafa Hourani are mentioned. Kader Attia is slammed for being “excessively shiny and large” and Halim Al-Karim is also given a thumbs down.

Saatchi show unveils vibrant Middle East art sceneReuters– Mike Collett-White – Jan 29 2009

This provocative show will test the tolerance of some says Collett-White in a rare opinion at the beginning of this facts-dominated piece covering the inspiration for the show. The recent unrecognised flourishing of artistic communities in Tehran and Beirut is the rationale for the show explains Rebecca Wilson head of development for Saatchi. Apart from French-Algerian Kader Attia and his ‘striking’ piece (Ghost), other artists mentioned include Rokni Haerizadeh (Typical Iranian Wedding, Beach at the Caspian), Halim al-Karim (Hidden Prisoner 1993), Shirin Fakhim’s work about prostitutes incorporating kitchen utensils and Sara Rahbar.

 Saatchi shows veiled women made of foil, Iran sex-worker dollsBloomberg– Martin Gayford – Jan 29 2009

Full of “brash, sometimes shocking Saatchi-type art” this is clearly a display of one man’s tastes and there is nothing wrong with that says Martin Gayford. Saatchi has a propensity for figurative art “though frankly none of it is that exciting” but it is the sculptures and installations that grab attention and Kadia Attia’s Ghost is a show-stopper. Other artists address women’s issues too and Gayford highlights Shirin Fakhim (Tehran Prositutes) and Shadi Ghadirian’s photographs (Like Everyday Series).

Related links: Saatchi website

Related categories: Middle Eastern art, Iranian art, gender in art, political art, reports from London

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

Posted by artradar on February 23, 2009


Anita Dube, River Disease, 1999

Anita Dube, River Disease, 1999

MIDDLE EAST SOUTH ASIA ART

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

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

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

Theme of the show: Partition

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

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

Interview with curator Hammad Nasser

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

Identity, nation, memory, history, borders


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

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

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

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

Seminal works: Pakistani artist Rashid Rana

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

New works: Naeem Mohaiemen


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

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

Nalini Malani, Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines 2008

Nalini Malani, Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Artists

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

Reviews and writing

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

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

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

Anita Dube, River Disease 1999, detail

Anita Dube, River Disease 1999, detail

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

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

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

Farida Batool Line of Control 2004 lenticular print

Farida Batool Line of Control 2004 lenticular print

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

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Posted in Activist, Anita Dube, Collaborative, Collage, Curators, Gallery shows, Handicraft art, Identity art, Indian, Interviews, Middle Eastern, Migration, Nationalism, New Media, Overviews, Pakistani, Photography, Political, Professionals, Rashid Rana, Religious art, Shilpa Gupta, Social, Thread, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »