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Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

Balgo Hills art: Indigenous Australian art by renowned masters in rare tour through Asia

Posted by artradar on March 3, 2010


CONTEMPORARY INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN ART

Bright colors and mythical subjects in 26 works of internationally-renowned Balgo-style Australian desert art on tour in Asia: information about the show and a primer on the Balgo art genre

The exhibition

Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills is an internationally touring exhibition of significant works from Australia’s Artbank collection.

The exhibition shows 26 works by a small community of Indigenous Australians from the Balgo Hills, a desert area in the northeast of Western Australia.

An important and highly respected range of prints by senior Balgo artists sits alongside a collection of works by emerging artists from the region.

Kathleen Paddoon, Nakarra Nakarra, etching on paper, 64 x 39 cm, 2005

image courtesy of TFAM

Balgo Hills

Priests of the German Catholic Pallottine Order established Balgo as a refuge mission in 1939. Unusually, the priests and nuns of the mission encouraged the Indigenous Australians to use their local language and customs, keeping traditional culture alive. The mission moved to the Balgo Hills area, where the community lives today, in 1965.

At Balgo Hills, different language groups were brought together as one community, and the community is collectively known as Kutjungka, meaning “being of one culture”. This mix of language and tradition has heavily influenced the Balgo artworks we see today.

Paintings from the Balgo Hills were first introduced to the world in the 1980s. An adult education centre was built in the community in 1981. Works produced here were shown at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1986, in the pivotal exhibition Art from the Great Sandy Desert. The success of this significant exhibition lead to the establishment of the Warlayirti Artists Corporation in 1987.

Susie Bootja Bootja, Kaningarra, near the Canning Stock Route, acrylic on linen, 150 x 76 cm, 2000

image courtesy of TFAM

The Dreaming

The overarching theme expressed by Balgo artists is the Dreaming. The Dreaming is a complex and holistic concept that refers to a time of mythological Ancestral Beings or Sky Heroes, to Law (or the system of moral governance) and to religious beliefs.

Works by Balgo artists portray their ancestral stories of the land or “country” (what Indigenous Australians call land) through the depiction of nature. To Balgo artists, nature is a real replication of the Dreaming. The artists meditate on the Dreaming by depicting nature in their artworks.

Balgo “style” is more true to life than other Western Desert styles. The symbols used in the paintings stem from those used in traditional sand painting and drawing, and from body painting. The artists are known for their vivid choice of colours and balanced, often symmetrical, design. A blend of modernity and tradition is clear in work from the Balgo Hills; traditional tribal myths are recreated using modern acrylic and etching.

Brandy Tjungurrayi, Narroo, acrylic on linen, 120 x 80 cm, 2002

image courtesy of TFAM

The artists

There are a number of significant senior “master” Warlayirti (Balgo Hills) artists, all of whom are internationally recognised.

Lucy Yukenbarri and Susie Bootja Bootja both work with dots; Yukenbarri’s places her’s close together to form scalloped lines while Bootja Bootja creates dotted color fields.

Many of these artists use their various painting styles to represent water sources and the importance these have in their lands: Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Boxer Milner, Fred Tjakamarra, Tjumpo Tjapanangka, Lucy Loomoo and Elizabeth Nyumi.

Commonly, Bob Dingle Tjapanangka and John Lee Tjakamarra portray Luurnpa, the Ancestral Kingfisher, who lead the Kukatja people to their lands in the Dreaming. Brandy Tjungurrayi also portrays important Dreaming figures, but in sharp geometrics.

Kathleen Paddoon is known for her dramatic use of bright colour and a particularly minimalist approach.

Uniquely, Joan Nagomara works in the style of the early days of Balgo’s emergence, using it to show the ritual activities that tie her to her country.

Eubena Nampitjin and Ningie Nangala Nangala work with the hills and rocky outcrops of their countries, representing them in a minimalist linear fashion.

Stand-out emerging artists from the Balgo Hills region include Pauline Sunfly, who paints using intense color combinations, Miriam Baadjo, who presents the important Two Children Dreaming, and Jimmy Tchooga, who paints his father’s creation story.

The tour

Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills has already shown in New Zealand, the Philippines, the USA, Thailand and Taiwan, and is currently exhibiting in Hong Kong. Further destinations include Vietnam, mainland China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Korea. A touring schedule is available via the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

KN/KCE

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Posted in Ancestors, Australia, Australian, China, Conceptual, Emerging artists, Identity art, India, Korea, Land art, Landscape, Mythical figures, Painting, Philippines, Social, Taiwan, Thailand, USA | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What is Street Art? Vandalism, graffiti or public art- Part I

Posted by artradar on January 21, 2010


URBAN ART DEFINITIONS

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in an ephemeral and viral form of art that is marking urban settings around the world, and has developed a flourishing sub-culture all its own. Now though, street art is going mainstream. Auctioneers, collectors and museum directors are scrabbling to learn urban art vocabulary and develop positions on the big street art issues. In this primer post Art Radar gives you a heads up on what you need to know.

What is Street Art?

There is as yet no simple definition of street art. It is an amorphous beast encompassing art which is found in or inspired by the urban environment. With anti-capitalist and rebellious undertones, it is a democratic form of popular public art probably best understood by seeing it in situ. It is not limited to the gallery nor easily collected or possessed by those who may turn art into a trophy.

Considered by some a nuisance, for others street art is a tool for communicating views of dissent, asking difficult questions and expressing political concerns.

Its definition and uses are changing: originally a tool to mark territorial boundaries of urban youth today it is even seen in some cases as a means of  urban beautification and regeneration.

Whether it is regarded as vandalism or public art, street art has caught the interest of the art world and its lovers of beauty.

Is street art vandalism?

In an interview with the Queens Tribune, New York City’s Queens Museum of Art Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl said public art “is the best way for people to express themselves in this city.” Finkelpearl, who helps organize socially conscious art exhibitions, added, “Art gets dialogue going. That’s very good.” However, he doesn’t find  graffiti to be art, and says, “I can’t condone vandalism… It’s really upsetting to me that people would need to write their name over and over again in public space. It’s this culture of fame. I really think it’s regrettable that they think that’s the only way to become famous.”

Is street art illegal?

The legal distinction between permanent graffiti and art is permission, but the topic becomes even more complex regarding impermanent, nondestructive forms of graffiti (yarn bombing, video projection, and street installation.)

With permission, traditional painted graffiti is technically considered public art. Without permission, painters of public and private property are committing vandalism and are, by definition, criminals. However, it still stands that most street art is unsanctioned, and many artists who have painted without permission, (Banksy, Shepard Fairey)  have been glorified as legitimate and socially conscious artists.

Although it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clearly define what unsanctioned imagery is art and what is not, the effects of such images can be observed and conclusions can be reached regarding images’ function within a public environment.

Banksy, North London

Broken Window Theory: Vandalism vs. Street Art

Vandalism is inexcusable destruction of property, and has been shown to have negative repercussions on its setting. It has also been observed by criminologists to have a ‘snowball effect’ of generating more negativity within its vicinity. Dr. James Q. Wilson and Dr. George Kelling studied the effects of disorder (in this case, a broken window) in an urban setting, and found that one instance of neglect increases the likelihood of more broken windows and graffiti will appear. Then, there is an observable increase in actual violent crime. The researchers concluded there is a direct link between vandalism, street violence, and the general decline of a society.

Their theory, named the Broken Window Theory and first published in 1982, argues that crime is the inevitable result of disorder, and that if neglect is present in a place, whether it is disrepair or thoughtless graffiti, people walking by will think no one cares about that place, and the unfavorable damage is therefore acceptable.

Street Art and Gentrification

Thoughtful and attractive street art, however, has been suggested to have regenerative effects on a neighborhood. In fact, the popular street artist Banksy, who has catapulted his guerilla street art pastime into a profitable career as an auctionable contemporary artist, has come under criticism for his art contributing to the gentrification of neighborhoods. Appropriate Media claims that:

“Banksy… sells his lazy polemics to Hollywood movie stars for big bucks… Graffiti artists are the performing spray-can monkeys for gentrification. In collusion with property developers, they paint deprived areas bright colours to indicate the latest funky inner city area ripe for regeneration. Pushing out low income families in their wake, to be replaced by middle class metrosexuals with their urban art collections.” [Times Online]

Banksy himself has received requests from residents in the neighborhoods he paints, which ask that he stop painting so they can continue to afford homes in the neighborhoods where they grew up.  A letter received by Banksy reads:

“My brother and me were born here and have lived here all our lives, but these days so many yuppies and students are moving here that neither of us can afford to buy a house where we grew up anymore. Your graffities are undoubtably part of what makes these [people] think our area is cool. You’re obviously not from around here, and after you’ve driven up the house prices you’ll just move on. Do us a favor and go do your stuff somewhere else like Brixton.”

Forms of Street Art

Traditional- Painting on the surfaces of public or private property that is visible to the public, commonly with a can of spray paint or roll-on paint. It may be comprised of just simple words (commonly the writer’s name) or be more artful and elaborate, covering a surface with a mural image.

Stencil– Painting with the use of a homemade stencil, usually a paper or cardboard cutout, to create an image that can be easily reproduced. The desired design is cut out of a selected medium, and the image is transferred to a surface through the use of spray paint or roll-on paint.


Sticker(aka sticker bombing, slap tagging, and sticker tagging) Propagates an image or message in public spaces using homemade stickers. These stickers commonly promote a political agenda, comment on a policy or issue, or comprise an avantgarde art campaign. Sticker art is considered a subcategory of postmodern art.


Mosaic- Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of smaller parts or pieces, to resemble a single giant piece of art.

Video Projection– Digitally projecting a computer-manipulated image onto a surface via a light and projection system.

Street installation- Street installations are a growing trend within the ‘street art’ movement. Whereas conventional street art and graffiti is done on surfaces or walls, ‘street installations’ use 3-D objects and space to interfere with the urban environment. Like graffiti, it is non-permission based and once the object or sculpture is installed it is left there by the artist.

Wood blocking- Artwork painted on a small portion of plywood or similar inexpensive material and attached to street signs with bolts. Often the bolts are bent at the back to prevent removal. It has become a form of graffiti used to cover a sign, poster, or any piece of advertisement that stands or hangs.

Flash mobbing- A large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse. The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social networking, and viral emails. The term is generally not applied to events organized by public relations firms or as publicity stunts. This can also be considered mass public performance art.

Yarn bombing- Yarn Bombing is a type of street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk. The practice is believed to have originated in the U.S. with Texas knitters trying to find a creative way to use their leftover and unfinished knitting projects, but has since spread worldwide. While other forms of graffiti may be expressive, decorative, territorial, socio-political commentary, advertising or vandalism, yarn bombing is almost exclusively about beautification and creativity.

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EW/KCE

Posted in Definitions, Graffiti, Open air, Profiles, Public art, Social, Street art, Urban | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Touring Taiwan: 50 of Taiwan’s top artworks on display at the Busan Museum of Arts, Korea

Posted by artradar on January 21, 2010


Taiwan’s top painters represented in Touring Taiwan: Highlights from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum Collection

As part of a cultural exchange between Taiwan and Korea, the Busan Museum of Art is currently showing Touring Taiwan: Highlights from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum Collection, an exhibition that will run until 15 February 2010.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum has selected 50 artworks by 40 of Taiwan’s most celebrated artists, including works by Yang San-lang (1907-1995) and Yen Shui-long (1903-1997), two of the most important painters in the history of Taiwan art.

Gallery detail in Busan Museum of Fine Arts

image courtesy of TFAM

Taiwan’s Eight Scenic Spots, which have been selected on an irregular basis by a public ballot system set up by the Japanese government in 1927, are represented in oil paintings, watercolor paintings, Chinese brush paintings and gouache paintings.

Yang San-lang, Old Street, Oil on Canvas, 72.7 x 90.9

image courtesy of TFAM

Highlighted destinations include Kenting, Yushan, Alishan and Sun Moon Lake. The paintings will be grouped according to which of the Eight Scenic Spots they represent, allowing viewers to see how the creative perspectives with which artists depict the scenery vary over time.

Yen Shui-long, Landscape of Orchid Island, Oil on canvas, 89.4 x 145.5

image courtesy of TFAM

“This exhibition is titled Touring Taiwan but the natural and humanistic scenes presented in the original vision of the artists will open a window on Taiwan for the extensive Busan audience,” said Hsiao-Yun Hsieh, Director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum will honour the exchange with an exhibition of selected works from the Busan Museum of Art collection from 6 March to 25 April 2010.

KN/KCE

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Posted in Korea, Landscape, Museum shows, Museums, Nationalism, Painting, Social, Taiwanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

China to use “soft power” of arts for international influence

Posted by artradar on January 5, 2010


CHINESE ART AND POLITICS

China wants its own version of  Hollywood. An intriguing article in the Toronto Star examines China’s growing recognition that media and culture can be a powerful tool to spread political, social and economic ideologies beyond its borders much in the manner of the USA’s film industry.

The economic revolution in China began thirty years ago. Back then, there was nowhere to create or exhibit art works and the Chinese government hardly had time to think about art and international cultural standing. China was opened up to Western investment and the country has since surged toward becoming the world’s second largest economy. Now, China has begun to realise the power that can be gained by having a successful cultural industry.

“…a carefully calibrated gambit is playing out that links cultural production with economic development and the ruling party’s deep desire to shift from a service-first manufacturing centre to a serious, full-fledged player on the international stage.”

China is seeking the benefits of what it calls developing its “soft power”. The country has spent many years creating a booming primary and secondary industry and as a result has spent little time focussing on becoming a cultural world entity.

“…in modern China, soft power translates to a full-scale public relations campaign designed to bolster its image – and influence – by selling an in-tune, culturally savvy version of itself to the world.”

Considering China’s significant history in contributing to world culture in centuries past it is now seeing the value in developing its cultural identity again. China is opening itself up to the international art circuit and some of its artists are gaining widespread popularity and success.

The government is trying to use the arts to disseminate its political views to the world. China’s political administration increasingly views cultural production as a valuable tool for building a strong nation and is rapidly pouring millions of dollars of government money into this sector as well as opening it up for private investment.

1500 new museums to be built by 2015

“China plans to spend untold billions to build 1,500 new museums nationwide, most of them with budgets in excess of $100 million, by 2015. Meanwhile, the state-run media and entertainment bureaus announced this fall that they would spend billions themselves to help build gargantuan media and entertainment juggernauts to rival such American monoliths as Time Warner and News Corp., with the stated intent of producing content in multiple languages for export. It also said that increased private ownership, still under state scrutiny, would also be allowed.”

Many developments have been occurring over the years where old factories and former industrial areas are being rejuvenated by the government as new “art villages”, such as Beijing’s 798 Art District. These places consist of clusters of artist studios and galleries where art can be produced, viewed and sold.

798 art district third most popular tourist draw in China

“The 798 Art District has been a remarkably successful model. In its short life, it has become the third most popular tourist draw in the country, after the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Dozens of such districts dot Beijing’s urban landscape. In Shanghai, an unofficial number has such areas at close to 300.”

Beijing's 798 Art District

While there may be a move by the government to celebrate local cultural achievements on a world scale, they still want to have control over the ideologies being expressed. However, more widespread access to and use of the Internet and digital cameras has allowed distribution of Chinese art works that critique party ideals.

“…a new kind of expression that has sprouted amid the state-mandated cultural flowering. It’s a thriving underground scene that, through the portability of technology and government indifference, is slowly beginning to promote an idea alien to Chinese thinking – that individual expression can find a place, and an audience, however small, outside the party machine.”

It seems China’s political powers hold an increasingly modern and accepting view in terms of developing the country’s cultural domain. However, even China’s most celebrated artists are finding that they still must toe the ideological line in order to continue to produce their work. There is a dark side to this cultural push and many artists have found out the hard way what happens to those who challenge the government of China.

This is a summary of How China is using art (and artists) to sell itself to the world (Murray White, Toronto Star).

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KN/KCE

Posted in Asia expands, China, Chinese, Globalisation, Museums, Nationalism, Political, Social | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sound art, trickery and time – interview Hong Kong new media artist Chilai Howard Cheng

Posted by artradar on November 12, 2009


HONG KONG ART

A portrait of the young artist Chilai Howard.

A portrait of the young artist Chilai Howard.

Chilai Howard Cheng, an ambitious young artist in his early twenties, draws attention to his video exhibition Stiffen Water at Para/Site Central, Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong (5 Sep – 30 Oct). A fresh graduate of School of Creative Media and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, also formerly educated in UK, Chilai is finding the limelight in international art shows – Barcelona, Seoul, Hamburg, and more – using innovative new media.

Just arriving from his part-time job in graphic design, Chilai loosens up in an interview with Art Radar. He talks about his deliberate manipulation of human perceptions with the sound of water dripping from five different sources, and more importantly, his mission to turn more people in Hong Kong from blind buyers into educated art admirers.

Q: Where were you born and educated and how did that influence your art?

I was born in HK. I went to high school in the UK and studied art there for 6 years. For university, I went to HKUST  (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) – creative communications design, and later CityU School of Creative Media. A tutor named Adrian Cooper, whom I met in high school, was very encouraging and recommended some artists such as Alberto Giacometti, a painter and sculptor. This influenced me to start doing some paintings and installations in his style. It’s hard to do installations in Hong Kong though – you need storage and a big studio. Video is easier to manage, so I chose that to begin with.

Q: When did you know you were an artist?

I don’t think I’m an artist. To me, artists no longer exist. R Picasso, Dali were artists because they invented and revolutionized styles and trends. Nowadays, most videos are imitations of the early cinema. At the moment, I call myself an art worker, hopefully an artist after 30 years. I believe that true artists are inventors, such as  Jeffrey Shaw , a media artist as well as the Dean of Creative Media who shaped media art. 

Q: Where did you get your inspirations for Stiffen Water?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stiffen Water by Chilai Howard, video, 2009.

Stiffen Water by Chilai Howard, video, 2009.

 

It’s actually a continuous work of final year project. I calculated the water drops from the beginning to the end of the five-day exhibition. In video-making, we take a micro-narrative approach. Since I want the audience to take a closer look at the water they drink, I decided to play with audience’s conscious and unconscious minds. Even though the video appears to freeze at times,  there is actually still motion in it.  Playing with the same concept, I once made an 18-minute video with scenes from Hong Kong in the sixties, yet in the end the characters revealed that it was in fact the year 2007, so I tricked the audience into identifying the time frame as the sixties.

Q: Why “stiffen”? Not “stiff”?

DSC_0035

Part of the installation work by Chilai Howard

I don’t have an answer because neither do I care much about the title of an artwork, nor do I find it an indispensable element. As a matter of fact, I believe a title ruins all the hidden surprises. I prefer to have my audience guess the subject of my artwork in the way they perceive it. If I were to give my artwork a random title, I would be inviting criticism. It should be the audience, not me, who should name it.

Q: What difficulties lie in the manipulation of the kinetics and sound of water (and to make sure that effects are suitable for the image)?

I had to make sure that the sound and image are synchronized. Basically, I mixed five different sources of water – toilet, shower, pipe, pissing, and water dripping into a tank, with one bass sound. The frequency and the pitches of all five sources are very different, and I had to decide where to place the high-pitch sound.

Q: What aspects of life are you trying to question through Stiffen Water?

Instead of appreciating water, we take it for granted since it’s always been with us. I have a preference for natural elements, such as wood, leaf, plant, trees, for my installations. In the UK, I once shot a bunch of leaves for many days to observe the changes in motion and light. 

Q: How does it differ from other video works of yours, such as Doors? Any particular favorite?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doors by Chilai Howard, video, 2009

The Doors by Chilai Howard, video, 2009

 

While Stiffen Water is about the natural life, Doors focuses on a social issue. With a plethora of historical buildings under destruction, it’s important to know that ancient is not synonymous with obsolete. As I spent three days taking photos of the same image, I found the patterns of door’s opening and closing fascinating. China attempted to cut off everything from the UK when it took over Hong Kong, so I wanted to shed light on the significance of Star Ferry Pier to our country.

On the other hand, Body Gender is more of a balanced statement inspired by some of my female Hong Kong friends who believe that they’re not treated fairly in Hong Kong – although I think there is equal treatment for all.  By showing only body parts instead of its entirety,  I wished to create the illusion that “he” might be a “she”, or vice versa. 

Q: Next stop for the exhibition? How do reactions to Doors differ between Hong Kong, Barcelona, Seoul and Hamburg ?

The video will travel to Berlin and Taiwan. Right now Doors is in Hamburg. I wanted to go, but I stayed for this exhibition. I also carry a part-time graphic design job, but only for the money. The design industry is far too commercial and practical in Hong Kong, thus not conceptual enough as it is in UK. It’s hard unless you’re a famous designer. 

Q: Obstacles in your art career?

One advantage that Hong Kong has is its small size, which means a smaller art society than that in other countries. So it makes easier to expose your art in Hong Kong. The problem is that people here are not interested in art or art exhibitions. Instead of appreciating art and the history behind it, some buyers use it as pure decoration. Another obstacle is that it’s hard to expose Hong Kong art to the world. There are very few internationally renowned artists from Hong Kong compared with, say, Canada, so we don’t attract as many people to our overseas exhibitions. Due to political reasons, Chinese artists are not that exposed to the world either until recently the government relaxed its policies on art. The West loves traditional Chinese art and calligraphy, but some treat it as no more than decorations, too. 

Q: What key message do you want to convey through your art?

No fixed message, but I pay attention to political or social issues. For instance, the financial markets are Hong Kong’s main asset, but as companies begin to move their headquarters to Shanghai, what else will be left in Hong Kong then? We used to have factories, but they all moved to mainland. Even yuan is more valuable than Hong Kong dollars now. 

Q: Future endeavors?

I might go back to UK to study. But I will return to Hong Kong. This is my dream to expose Hong Kong art to the world. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, to educate young kids. The art education here needs a lot of improvement. I have to be famous to acquire the credibility to convince people and change how they perceive art. 

Q: What are other graduates of your class doing? 

Not everyone wanted to be an artist. Some preferred to work nine-to-five shifts. Some became art administrators for organizing shows, while others entered the field of business, marketing, or advertising.  Everyone’s dream is different.

Q: Did you imagine yourself to be successful at a young age? Future exhibitions?

IMG_8900

Timeless by Chilai Howard Cheng, 2009.

I don’t consider myself successful, but I’m honored to be included in the exhibition. Success is when I can influence more people to appreciate art. That’s my dream. 

My new video Timeless will be exhibiting in October Contemporary. This time I will shoot a curtain to illustrate the patterns of light’s coming in and out, which reflects how time flies, and how both light and time are untouchable, abstract systems. In fact, I almost had the opportunity to exhibit my first installation there, but I missed the invitation email sent by Input Output. 

Q: You were accepted at Goldsmith College, University of London, Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. Why did you return to Hong Kong?

My art was rather renowned where I went to school in UK.  However, it’s common for westerners to like Chinese art because they find the integration of the west and east exotic. So I was dubious of my talent. I was confused about whether I were really good at art, or did they simply like my work due to the incorporation of oriental elements. To prove to myself that my artwork is worthy, I came back to Hong Kong and began everything from zero. I don’t regret the decision, especially now that I’ve started to hold exhibitions, an opportunity that would be hard to obtain in a much larger art society in UK.

WM/KCE

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Posted in Asian, Chilai Howard Cheng, Chinese, Doors, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Light, New Media, Photography, Political, Slow/fast art, Social, Sound, Sound art, Time, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Surprising new direction taken by cadaver artists and Saatchi stars: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – interview

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2009


HONG KONG CHINESE PHOTOGRAPHY ART

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, born in the early 1970s and both alumni of the prominent Beijing Central Academy of Art, have a long-established  reputation in Asia for their controversial collaborative installations featuring animals, human tissue and baby cadaver specimens.

In the west they made a big splash in 2008 at the record crowd-drawing Saatchi exhibition of new Chinese art, The Revolution Continues with a satirical work called Old People’s Home (click for video). Both popular and critically-acclaimed, this life-sized 2007 work featured sculptures of decrepit old people “looking suspiciously like world leaders… now long impotent”‘ rolling slowly in wheelchairs around the gallery and occasionally crashing into one another.

Taking a surprising new direction, their exhibition Hong Kong Intervention (Aug 22 – Oct 10) at Osage Gallery delves into the working environments of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Each of the 100 Filipino participants took a photograph of a toy grenade placed in his or her employer’s home. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu talk with Wendy Ma about whether or not this experiment in spatial intrusion by Filipino maids creates tensions.

Toy grenade placed in the center of a dining room and the back of the Filipino maid. Image courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Toy grenade placed in the center of a dining room and the back of the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: What inspired you to make photos with Filipino domestic staff?

Two years ago at a square in Central I observed the mass congregation of Filipino girls. I thought it was a very interesting situation since each one is connected to a family in Hong Kong. I started chatting with them and obtained their agreement to volunteer to do the photo shoots. Through them I could intervene in an relationship.

AR: Why do the photographs include the image of a toy grenade?

To intervene, I wanted to use a toy specifically bought in Hong Kong. It was up to them to place it anywhere inside their owner’s house, e.g. inside a garden, on the bed, blending it with the environment. Then they take a photograph of the scene. The toy is a legal product. When your kid plays with a toy grenade, you might find it cute, not dangerous. It was a chance for the participants to exercise their creativity. We wanted to use a very simple object to show how it can open up possibilities.

AR: Is it just a game or does it carry other implications?

It is a game because there are no real consequences. An example of something that is not a game would be the recent incident when a reporter threw a shoe at George Bush. However, it would’ve been a game had he said, “I’m going to throw it at you, first at your head then at your chest.” By not carrying it out, it would have remained just a concept. If something happens in reality, it changes the environment. But right now our work is only a photograph.

The proposition of the game is neutral. It doesn’t carry implications of danger. Last night someone told me that they treat their Filipino maids like guests.

Hidden toy grenade on the book shelve and the male domestic worker. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Hidden toy grenade on the book shelve and the male domestic worker. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: Why is the photograph of the back of the worker juxtaposed next to the surroundings?

Actually, neither the person nor the environment is significant. They are entities with no individual characteristics. Instead of specifying a particular being, I just want to describe a phenomenon.

AR: What have you found out about their lives and about contemporary Hong Kong society?

One third of the Filipino population live outside their country. They are a special group in Hong Kong. During the week they enter into the homes of different families. On Sundays, they bond and return to their own world. When they work, they disappear into the families of Hong Kong. They play different roles in their working and living environment. They use their culture to communicate. As for us, we work outside the family and we bond when we return to our home. For them, they enter our families to work. It’s the reverse.

Bedroom and Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Bedroom and Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: Why is the exhibition called Hong Kong Intervention?

Intervention in Chinese can be small (eating a crab) or large-scale (invading a country). It can be magnified in the imagination of readers. You can imagine the explosive possibilities of the toy grenade, despite the fact  that in reality it cannot explode. How the viewer perceives ‘intervention’ is beyond my control.

Intervention can be a strategy to communicate ideas. Ours is the study of a social phenomenon. It does not necessarily mean invasion or changing a situation as it does in the English expression “tossing a grenade”.

Words acquire different meanings in different situations. They cannot be precise. Words cannot express what you actually feel. So art is not expressed through words or titles but through a different means to pull you closer to the underlying meaning.

AR: Are you concerned that the proprietor might feel violated if he saw the photograph of his home on display?

We had no intention to expose individuals. Like I said, the photos of the maids and the homes are not meant to be specifically meaningful; they only a representation and a portrayal of the mass.

Bedroom of a Hong Kong owner and the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Bedroom of a Hong Kong owner and the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: What is the role/identity of Filipinos in your work? Creators, participants, or assistants?

I consider all the participants as collaborators: not just Filipinos, but also the audience involved in the discussions. They are common authors of the work. As part of the contract, we don’t have to give credit to them by listing their names as they transferred the copyright to us.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Editor’s note: This post is interesting to contrast with a recent exhibition at Para/Site in Hong Kong in which Filipino domestic helpers were invited to receive manicures given by the Australian artist collective Baba International.  Whereas Baba International sought to nurture and engage with their subject physically, the “‘Intervention”‘ exhibition carries intriguing tones of depersonalisation and violence. Baba was keen to explain the intentions behind their work whereas Sun Yuan and Peng Yu step away and allow the viewer to explore and fully shoulder the responsibility for interpretation.

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Posted in China, Chinese, Collaborative, Documentary, Domestic, Family, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Human Body, Interviews, Migration, Participatory, Photography, Social, Toys, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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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Posted in Activist, Critic, Curators, Feminist art, Identity art, Iranian, Islamic art, Museum shows, New York, Political, Religious art, Reviews, Shows, Social, Surveys, USA, War, Women power | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Marina Abramović to perform at MOMA 2010 – video interview at Armory

Posted by artradar on August 6, 2009


SERBIAN PHOTOGRAPHY PERFORMANCE ART

Ahead of her performance piece “The artist is present” due to take place at MoMA in 2010, Abramovic talks about her photography, seen on display at the Armory Show in New York. To view click

The Art Newspaper Digital- Video Interview- Marina Abramović at the Armory Show– 03:48 min – April 2009

Happy Christmas, by Marina Abramovic, 2008. Silver Gelatin Print. Serbian. h: 53.9 x w: 53.9 in

Happy Christmas, by Marina Abramovic, 2008. Silver Gelatin Print. Serbian. h: 53.9 x w: 53.9 in.

In this video interview, Abramovic discusses her unique performance-style art, and her technique of featuring herself in her powerful visual artworks.

The key featured piece of the show ‘Happy Christmas,’ pictured at right, she says was inspired by her current tumultuous divorce.

Of the recession, she remarks “For an artist it is good to have a recession, because then you come to the real values. Recession is the best thing that can happen. For an artist, the worst is the best. Now is the good time.”

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Contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Events, Fairs, Family, Human Body, Interviews, Marina Abramovic, Medium, New York, Performance, Serbian, Social, USA, Videos | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Male manicurists and armpits: emerging Australian art at Para/Site Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on June 25, 2009


 

 

Christian Bumbarra Thompson, The Sixth Mile, video

Christian Bumbarra Thompson, The Sixth Mile, video

AUSTRALIAN ART HONG KONG

 

 

Rare display of Australian contemporary art in Hong Kong 

From 20 June to 2 August 2009, renowned nonprofit Para/Site Art Space in Hong Kong makes its space available to the Chalk Horse Art Center, an artist run initiative from Australia for a rare display of Australian contemporary art. 

 

There are less than a handful of commercial galleries (Gaffer and Cat Street being two of the principal ones) which show Australian art in Hong Kong and in the non-commercial arena Australian art is even  more rare. So why Hong Kong? …and why now?

Oliver Watts outside Chalk Horse Art Center's show at Para/Site

Oliver Watts outside Chalk Horse Art Center's show at Para/Site

Artist Oliver Watts explains: “In Australia there is a lot of interest in Asia right now, a lot of government interest in funding these kind of cultural exchanges. After all our prime minister speaks Mandarin. We approached Para/Site about this project earlier in the year because it has an outstanding reputation in Australia”.

Their initiative was well-timed because Para/Site has become a fertile ground for such a project.  At the beginning of this year Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya took the helm as Executive Director and Curator at Para/Site and he has made it his mission to encourage collaboration and exchange between artists within the Asia Pacific region.  

So far this year Fominaya has curated shows by Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto and Thai installation artist Surasi Kusolwong. This time he is stepping back as curator to allow Australian curator Dougal Phillips to present his exhibtion called  The Horn of Plenty: Excess and Reversibility, a showcase of video, performance, installation and painting by young Australian artists.

The double themes of  ‘excess’ and ‘reversibility’ refer to the recent juddering reversal of the economy from excess which is represented by the magical horn of plenty. In mythology this horn, which Zeus provided for the goat Amalthea,  endlessly overflowed with fruit, flowers and grain.

The title of the show is topical but not an adroit fit with the artworks; no matter though because there is some powerful art on display.

Look out for Christian Bumbarra Thompson’s two compelling video artworks. Thompson is the most senior artist in the show and his The Sixth Mile (2007) was shown at the inaugural National Indigenous Arts Triennale: Culture Warriors which “explores cultural hybridity and recalls nostalgically the importance his father placed on personal grooming”.

In the 34 minute Desert Slippers made in 2007 we see Thompson and his father engaging in repetitive ritualistic movements of armpit touching. Sweat-swapping becomes a disconcertingly intimate greeting ceremony.

A graduate of RMIT in 2004, Bumbarra Thompson (b.1978) is gaining recognition for his multiple talents as photographer, installation artist, curator and writer. His works have been exhibited extensively across Asia Europe and the South Pacific.

 

Kate Mitchell (b. 1980) too is interested in the the human body as a medium and creates powerful performance art from  by turning herself into a human sundial. In the video which records  her arresting 8 hour endurance performance in its entirety, Mitchell stands in the blistering sun from 9 am to 5 pm so that her shadow can mark the time of a perfect working day.

Kate Mitchell, 9-5, performance

Kate Mitchell, 9-5, performance

Mitchell could probably have done with some serious pampering after her toil and if you feel that you could too, then  come to Para/Site space between 24 and 28 June 2009.

Push your way through a curtained door opening tucked right at the back of the Para/Site space and inside you will find a surprise: a perfectly equipped nail salon where, on the appointed days you can receive a free manicure.  This art piece has been created by Bababa International, a Melbourne-based arts collective consisting of four young men who, according to a list they scribbled down on our media kit at the show’s press conference, are 

  • Stephen Russell (tall, pale)
  • Giles Thackway (tall, handsome)
  • Tom Melick (tall, glasses)
  • IvanRuhle (the other guy)

Life appears to be a playful spree for these four and art is just as much of a lark. But it is their humour and endearing humility which allow them, with a light touch, to confront serious entrenched social issues such as the treatment of migrant workers.  While they stress that the event is open to anyone they have been working closely with organisations like the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants to help promote the event to Filipino domestic workers whom they are especially keen to attract. According to a review on SBS.com:

although a nail salon tended by boys, who admit they are still honing their skills in nail care seems like an entertaining spectacle, the project has intriguing socio-political undertones.

The salon is specifically aimed at providing pampering for Filipino maids on their day off after the collective became aware that domestic workers were congregating in an underpass in the absence of public spaces and leisure areas accessible to their socio-economic means.

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist-run, Artists as curators, Australian, China, Connecting Asia to itself, Domestic, Emerging artists, Family, Hong Kong, Human Body, Identity art, Installation, Migration, Nonprofit, Social, Time, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taiwanese photographers, video artists and an architect at 53rd Venice Biennale

Posted by artradar on May 25, 2009


TAIWANESE ARTISTS VENICE BIENNALE

Though they span architecture, film and photography, the four Taiwanese artists featured in the 53rd Venice Biennale exhibition ‘Foreign Affairs’ share a common focus. Each looks at the unequal treatment of the disadvantaged in the midst of globalisation, and has taken action through distinctive, personal, and practical means.

Furthermore, they have all engaged in dialogue and interaction with other areas of the world.

 

Hsieh Ying-Chun

Hsieh Ying-Chun

 

Hsieh Ying-Chun

 

Hsieh Ying-Chun (* 1954) is a Taiwanese architect who for years has worked to provide minorities and disadvantaged members of society with collaborative construction.
More than an architect, Hsieh is an architectural activist who takes social, cultural and economic limitations and ecological concerns into consideration to create works that embody the ideals of “sustainable construction”.
Hsieh Ying-Chun opposes modernist division of labour and classification.

 

Chen Chieh-Jen, Empire's Borders, DVD

Chen Chieh-Jen, Empire's Borders, DVD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chen Chieh-Jen

The insulting treatment recently accorded Chen Chieh-Jen while applying for a U.S. visa has precipitated discussion of the plight of the Taiwanese people under the post-Cold War, post-colonial, and neo-liberalist global order.

The new work, Empire’s Borders (2009), is a film that opens showing the various and sundry checks that Taiwanese citizens must endure when applying for a U.S. visa for business, tourism, or family reasons.

Watch excerpts from Chen Chieh-jen’s complete video works at the Asia Society… on the effects of globalization on the marginalized in society… and Lingchi Executions

Chien-Chi Chang, China Town Series, Chen X Family, 2007 C Print
Chien-Chi Chang, China Town Series

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Chien-Chi Chang

Among his best known works are photos chronicling illegal workers in New York’s Chinatown (China Town); The Chain, a series of photographs taken at Longfatang, a controversial psychiatric shelter in southern Taiwan; and the matchmaking and courting rituals that bring Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women together in marriage (Double Happiness).

Chang began his chronicling of the lives of illegal immigrants on the streets of New York’s Chinatown in 1992, traveling to Fujian province in China to visit their families and relate the unique tales of these people that live on the margins of society. Hong John Lin notes that the most remarkable aspect of the photography process is that “the photographer becomes a part of the subjects’ lives, so that a total state of disarmament is reflected in front of the camera.”

Chien-Chi Chang on wikipedia

Cheng-Ta Yu, Ventriloquists, Video, 2009

Cheng-Ta Yu, Ventriloquists, Video, 2009

Cheng – Ta Yu

Cheng-Ta Yu’s latest work is a video documentation of two Philippine women who married Taiwanese men and work in the same building in Taipei.

After more than a decade living in Taiwan, local language has become a tool in their daily lives, but in his interaction with them, Yu tries out three different languages (Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English), taking on some of their idiosyncratic pronunciations in his conversations.

To conclude the video with a note of levity, the women sing a song in Mandarin in an effort to liberate everyone from the language barriers that inevitably formed in their conversation.

Source: Press release via Universes in Universe

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Posted in Activist, Biennials, Crossover art, Domestic, Identity art, Italy, Nationalism, Photography, Political, Social, Taiwanese, Urban, Venice, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »