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Posts Tagged ‘artist interviews’

Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part III – On local recognition of local art and the cube redefined

Posted by artradar on September 15, 2010


TAIWANESE CONTEMPORARY ART INSTALLATION TAIWAN-CHINA RELATIONS ARTIST INTERVIEW

When Tsong Pu was studying overseas in the 1970s he would introduce himself as Chinese or as being from China. Later, as China opened it’s borders and more art from the country was exposed to the outside world, Tsong began to introduce himself as Taiwanese. Now, he introduces himself as a Shanghai-born artist who lives in Taiwan.

Cultural relations between Taiwan and China have always been complicated and the current success Chinese contemporary artists are enjoying globally generally outstrips that of artists who are living and working in Taiwan. Although originally from China himself, abstract artist Tsong Pu does not see much collaboration between the two countries.

“Each side does their own thing. At the moment you will find that very few Taiwanese artists show their work in Mainland China, in galleries or in museums. But you will find that many artists from China show their works in Taiwanese galleries or museums.”

Tsong believes that Taiwanese artists and art professionals need to work hard to change this situation, “to give collectors and buyers more confidence in Taiwanese art.” He goes on to state that the Chinese art market is created and supported by the Taiwanese collector.

“Much of the artwork coming out of China is being sold to Taiwanese collectors. The [Taiwanese] government supports Chinese artists, but the Chinese government doesn’t support Taiwanese artists.”

This view is expressed in the installation One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media), which we discuss with Tsong in this article. Blake Carter, writing for the Taipei Times in November last year, talked about the piece:

“I was surprised to find that some of the ropes he installed at the Biennial fall onto a bent metal signpost that reads ‘Taiwan Contemporary Art Museum.’ There is no such place. Many artists complain that Taiwan’s museums – especially in the capital, and specifically the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) – don’t pay enough attention to the country’s artists.”

Blake went on to say that “Taiwanese artists are relegated to the museum’s smaller galleries downstairs while Chinese artists Fang Lijun, Cai Guo-Qiang and Ai Weiwei get large exhibitions at TFAM.” When asked by Blake whether One Comes from Emptiness was a comment on Taiwan’s art institutions and their treatment of Taiwanese art and artists, Tsong replied, “Yes.”

This is part three of a three part series. In this part we relay to you Tsong’s views on the artistic relationship between Taiwan and China and look at two further installations by the artist. Both of these works are tied to the artist’s signature grid pattern, the repetition of 1 x 1 cm squares often intersected with a diagonal line. This grid form is represented in the weave of the nylon rope in One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media) and pulled apart and reconstituted in the separate canvases of Declaration Independence (first presented 1996, mixed media). For more on what to expect from the first and second parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

Tsong Pu, 'One Comes From Emptiness', 2009, mixed media installation, 10 x 1075 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'One Comes from Emptiness', 2009, mixed media installation, 10 x 1075 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media installation) was shown at Viewpoints and Viewing Points: 2009 Asian Art Biennial. In your artist statement for this exhibition you suggested that people from the West and people from the East will perceive this installation differently. Could you explain further?

“I tried to pretend that the rope is just like calligraphy: more natural and softer. This soft line is like Chinese calligraphy or Chinese traditional ink painting. When you see a Chinese courtyard, it makes you feel very natural, it’s soft…. It has something representing the water, the wind, the earth. I used very simple lines or string to create circles. These circles remind me of a Japanese courtyard, its oriental elements, and the lines are like the rain. A traditional Chinese courtyard always expresses these kinds of things. I tried to … merge [this] with Western style.

The steel part is more structural – it has more strength – and represents Western art expression: strong, energetic, long lasting. I am influenced by an artist from England called Anthony Caro who creates sculptures from steel.”

Why do the circles overlay the steel?

“At the very beginning, I tried to present only the circles and the simple white lines but I thought it was too beautiful…. It didn’t have any power. [The circles overlap the steel because] the nylon rope is soft and flexible. It can’t be cut or broken and it will flow over things. Of the material, you can see that one is soft and one is hard, so they contrast. That is the basic structure [of the work]. Different style, different shape, different material, different thinking. But when they come together they can merge.”

So they can exist together?

“Yes, yes. Together they can generate something new, a new way of thinking.”

Is there anything else you’d like to say about One Comes from Emptiness?

“This work was created in 2009. During this year a major typhoon hit Taiwan. This typhoon caused a landslide which covered a mountain village. Because of this event, the natural environment and the view of the landscape was changed. A house that has been moved or destroyed might not actually look so terrible in its new position. After you have viewed it for sometime, you might realise that it actually looks quite beautiful.”

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 1996, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 1996, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

We are interested in your installation Declaration Independence (first presented 1996, mixed media) because you showed it in 1996 and then again this year at your TFAM retrospective, “Art From the Underground“. Can you explain the relationship between the objects and each painting?

“The idea for this work comes from [Transposition of Light and Water (1992, mixed media installation)] but it is represented in a different space. I took one cube from this work and distributed it into several pieces.”

The way you have used the gallery space in Declaration Independence is quite different to how you have used it in other installation pieces.

“These are canvases, just like [The White Line on Grey (mixed media, 1983)] is a canvas. I used the same technique [to paint them both]. The ones that are the same are grouped together. The paintings are like different pages in a book; the pattern [on the canvases] resembles words without any special meaning.

This [coat hanging on the wall] is an object and this object has some dimension – it is 3D and not flat – but [the paintings] are flat, so when they are placed with the 3D objects they will have a conversation. The paintings are like a code and when I separate them in this way they are like the pages [of a book] on the wall.

The paintings have no meaning, but the objects may project some meaning onto them. Among the objects are some maps. When all these things are separate they have no meaning but when they are placed together they could have some meaning. I am not sure whether the paintings influence the objects, or the objects influence the paintings. When you open a book there is a lot of information in it. It is like this book on the wall has been opened and many things have started to happen. There is a conversation between [the paintings and the objects], a relationship.”

And is it you, the artist, who brings meaning to this book, or is it the task of the viewer?

“It should be both. I hope it is the viewer.”

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 2010, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 2010, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

About this series

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

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

KN

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

Posted by artradar on September 11, 2010


BRITISH-CHINESE ARITST PHOTOGRAPHY NEW MEDIA MULTIMEDIA RESIDENCY INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinu Li on his works and inspirations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinu Li on his choice of medium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinu Li on ArtSway and similar programmes in Asia

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

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

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

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

Peter Bonnell on ArtSway and their residency programme

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

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

Can you introduce the ArtSway Residency programme’s offerings?

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

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

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

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

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

View of ArtSway. Courtesy of ArtSway

View of ArtSway. Image courtesy of ArtSway.

How have artists benefited from the Associate programme?

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

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

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

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

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

SXB/KN/HH

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Photography in contemporary Russia – Art Radar speaks with curator Olga Sviblova, AES+F and Igor Moukhin

Posted by artradar on August 18, 2010


MOSCOW PARIS CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION MUSEUM SHOWS

With France-Russia Year 2010 in full swing, Maison Européene de la Photographie (MEP) and the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (MAMM), formerly the Moscow House of Photography, partnered for the photo exhibition “Photography in Contemporary Russia, 1990-2010, currently on display in Paris. Art Radar Asia spoke with Olga Sviblova, curator and director of the MAMM, along with reknowed photographer Igor Moukhin and artist Tatiana Arzamasova of AES+F.

Vlad Loktev, '1:0', photograph, 1999. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Vlad Loktev, '1:0', photograph, 1999. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Olga Sviblova has achieved almost superstar status in the art world for her documentary filmwork, numerous curatorial endeavors and tireless dedication to the arts, especially Russian photography. Art Radar Asia managed to catch up with the busy Sviblova who answered questions about the state of contemporary Russian photography, it’s growth since the early 1990’s and the pervasive misperceptions of Russian contemporary art.

“Russian photography, like Russian contemporary art, is quite unknown in the world,” Sviblova says frankly. “It is much less present when you compare it with photography or contemporary art from another country like America, from European countries like France, like Germany, like Britain.” Such statements seem to contradict the international fame that some Russian artists have achieved such as rising stars AES+F and established names like Oleg Kulik and Igor Mukhin. For Sviblova, however, widespread acclaim for Russian artists is still the exception, not the rule. The curator elaborates further on the effects of the economic downturn on Russian art:

“Russian art was forgotten. And also for Russian art and photography, there were not institutions that could support it … there was also the question that the Russian market inside the country was not constructed.”

It was in this climate that Sviblova founded the Moscow House of Photography, now know as the Multimedia Centre for Contemporary Art, in 1996. That same year Sviblova organised Russia’s first photobiennale, followed by the first Moscow International Photography Festival in 1999. Efforts such as these changed the climate of the art scene.

“So now we have in Russia a completely different situation … we have instutions for art and photography, we have our museums. In another sense photography has started to be open in the Russian region, photography started to be popular and contemporary art started, in the beginning, to be popular.”

Exploring the popularity of photography

For Sviblova, there is no boundary between art and photography, they are part of one another, and photography has always been art. However, photography as a medium has exploded in popularity and is, according to Sviblova, one of the “most important arts today”.

Igor Moukhin, "Moscou", photograph, 1988. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie

Igor Moukhin, 'Moscou', photograph, 1988. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Factoring into the success of photography in Russia are the new freedoms afforded to artists. This new freedom which allows photojournalistic, “street” photography to “show the face of Russia”, a truthful representation of the people, society and Russian life.

“You really can tell that today photography is an extremely popular media. Today nobody asks me if photography is art or is not art; it’s really extremely popular in Russia.”

Russian photographer Igor Moukhin echoed the same ideas when we asked him if photography was being embraced within Russia.

“People have ceased and to look [at] and trust the TV. There is no independent press. And on the Internet  [there are] a lot of photos, photos about today, yesterday, about life, and these photos discuss.”

Moukhin uses the term “direct photo” in reference to his photographs of Soviet youths and comments on the subjectiveness of his photography, saying that it is not universal since context is necessary. To artists such as Moukhin, context and knowledge of Russian history are necessary to grasp the messgae of his “direct” photography. Yet not all Russian photography is specific to Russian experiences. Communication between countries is another factor when examining the popularity of Russian photography. Acknowledging a lack of communication between Russia and other countries, Sviblova highlights the importance of photography as a method to dispel misconcenptions, and to speak about what has happened in Russia in the past and what is happening now.

Nikolai Polissky, La Tour, photograph, 2000. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Nikolai Polissky, 'La Tour', photograph, 2000. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

As Olga Sviblova states, the MEP exhibition in Paris presents yet another chance “to show what kind of new photography was born in that time [1990-2010] … we can show what has happened in Russia: on a social level, emotional level, economic level, and political level”. Images of revolution from the first and second Chechen wars also make up an important part of the exhibition and Sviblova stresses how photographers began to tackle issues outside of Russia, on an international level.

“We tried to show history … we tried to show the first and second Chechen wars, what was the Russian strategy … we tried to show the best photographers working at the time … At the same time, we tried to show what happens in the country, we tried to show the youth generation, the old people.”

While some artists use documentary photography to focus on Russian experiences, others use documentary photography to create ties to the rest of the world.  As the birth of “new Russia” took place, contemporary street photography captured it from every angle.

Russian photography, international issues

Although it is one of the most popular types of photography in Russia, the exhibition includes much more than just documentary-style images. What Sviblova calls classical art photography and fashion photography make up the remainder of the show and include names such as Oleg Kulik and Arsen Savadov.

AES+F, 'The Islamic Project: New Liberty', 2003, lambda print. Image courtesy of the AES+F website.

AES+F, 'The Islamic Project: New Liberty', 2003, lambda print. Image courtesy of the AES+F website.

Sviblova also speaks in length about the popular artist collective AES+F, a group that uses photography as a tool to address universal, and often controversial, concepts.  In reference to images from “The Islamic Project” series Sviblova remarks:

“After September 11 their images started to be so famous, distributed through the Internet and often given out without the signature of the artist because it was like popular art. It was not the mirror of reality, but also the magic mirror of the future … AES+F is one of the most sophisticated, one of the most complicated, and at the same time one fo the most magic artist [groups].”

In a brief Art Radar interview with AES+F’s Tatiana Arzamasova, the artist sheds some light on the collective’s use of photography in recent series such as “The Last Riot” and ‘”The Feast of Trimalchio”. “We use photography as a tool,” she remarks.

On the artists’ website they make no attempt to hide their process, showing how they use assorted images as a starting point for the final product. As a collective,the artists of AES, with the exception of Vladmir Fridkes, do not consider themselves “traditional” photographers. When asked if the international community still had misperceptions about Russian art and Russian photography, Arzamasova indicated that the idea of Russian photography as socialist media is still present. “[People] think of Russia as poor…they still think of the Cold War” Arzamasova states. Undaunted by such stereotypes, AES+F continues to stretch the boundaries of what Russian art and photography is considered to be. Olga Sviblova concludes:

“Great photography is not just image and document of reality, it’s much more metaphoric. If you know the language of the artist, you can read the message and through this message you can see not just today, or the past, you can see our future”

Other stand-out artists featured in the exhibition, which will run until 29 August this year, include the Fenso group, Sergui Tchilikov, Vladmir KupriyanovGeorgy Pervov, and Vladmir Fridkes.

EH/KN

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Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part II – Installations and art funding

Posted by artradar on August 17, 2010


TAIWAN CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW INSTALLATION

In this second of three interviews, Tsong Pu reveals the concepts behind two important installations, Transposition of Light and Water (1992) and Backyard in June (1997). In it, he shows that works aren’t always created in ideal gallery spaces and what this means for the art work, and we see his unique grid concept move off the canvas. Additionally, independent art space funding issues are framed by a discussion of Tsong Pu’s involvement in the 1988 founding of Taipei’s IT Park Gallery.

Master Tsong developed his trademark 1 cm by 1 cm grid technique very early on in his career; it is evident in 1980s mixed media canvases like The White Line on Grey (1983). The installations discussed in this interview represent a ten year progression on this idea, pushing the interview into the 1990s.

During this time, in 1988, Tsong Pu and three other artists, Liu Ching-tang, Chen Hui-chiao, and Huang Wen-hao, founded IT Park Gallery, one of Taipei’s older gallery spaces and a recipient of the Taipei City government’s 13th Taipei Cultural Award in 2009. When they first opened the space it was unique in Taiwan. As Tsong Pu elaborates, “During that time, there were some similar [galleries] but none exactly the same. The partnership was different, even the interior design was different. Some of the [other spaces] were just rented houses without renovation.”

Tsong Pu's trademark grid technique is clearly demonstrated in this detail of his 1983 canvas 'The White line on Grey' (mixed media, 194 x 130 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu's trademark grid technique is clearly demonstrated in this detail of his 1983 canvas 'The White line on Grey' (mixed media, 194 x 130 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

To this day it is non-profit, although there is talk of turning the second floor of the gallery into a commercial space later this year, and from 1988 to 2005 was mostly self-funded. With no profits coming in, it was often hard to obtain funding. “There were always friends and relatives helping us all along, supporting us with small amounts of money,” says Tsong Pu.

While IT Park Gallery now gets some funding from the government – they apply for fund support from the National Culture Arts Foundation every year – Tsong Pu says the biggest constraint on the gallery is still financial. As he explains, today there is greater competition: “In the past, there were no people showing contemporary art but now it’s like everybody is doing it.”

He elaborates further on government support for contemporary art spaces: “The Taiwan government will always observe your operation only and they will not provide help. It’s only when you are successful they will help. Otherwise, they won’t. Unless you become very well-known overseas, then the government will help you.”

Tsong Pu is no longer involved in the management of IT Park Gallery, but through his association with the space, his work as a teacher and a judge, and his regular attendance at local exhibitions, he often finds himself exposed to new contemporary Taiwanese artists. Named as a “father figure to many young artists” by the Taipei Times he acts as a curator, selecting young and emerging artists for exhibitions: “… because I teach in two art schools; sometimes I’m the panel judge for competitions; I also visit exhibitions quite often. I will keep those young artists in my memory. Sometimes when I need to organise an exhibition I will get certain people to join certain kinds of exhibitions.”

This is part two of a three part series. In this part we look at how an installation created by Tsong Pu in the 1990s, Transposition of Light and Water, still reflects the unique grid technique he began using ten years earlier. We also look at an installation, Backyard in June, that has been exhibited five times and changed its name twice since its creation in 1996. For more on what to expect from the first and third parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

Tsong Pu's 'Transposition of Light and Water' (1992) on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Tsong Pu's 'Transposition of Light and Water' (1992) on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

Transposition of Light and Water (1992) was given the Award for Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art in 1992. It is now held in Taipei Fine Arts Museum‘s (TFAM) permanent collection, is that correct?

Yes. It is collected by TFAM.

Can you explain the concept behind Transposition of Light and Water? I understand it relates to early works such as The White Line on Grey (1983). How?

It’s actually related to the other one [The White Line on Grey] because their forms are the same. Maybe the differences are in the space, sizes, materials. The concept is basically the same; it’s just that it’s not in a square shape. This part [Master Tsong points to the glass boxes] is originally the grid box, taken out. And then a glass [plate] has been inserted to make the slash line. So this part [Master Tsong refers to the 1 cm by 1 cm boxes in The White Line on Grey] has been taken out, and it became this shape, form.

This is the cube, and then you can see the glass, that is the bisecting line. Because this is glass, it’s transparent, so you can see the inside. You can see the light, when the light goes through the glass it creates a rainbow. It’s on the ground, so you can see that there’s a line on the ground, just like the line on the canvas [The White Line on Grey].

This work dismantles [the grid pattern in The White Line on Grey] piece by piece.

You can see the relationship between The White Line on Grey and Transposition of Light and Water and the progression from one to the other. What about the other objects? How do they relate to the installation overall?

This is a tool, a clip… It’s just a coincidence. I use this to support [the glass cubes]. This is its only function. Because I was worried that after I added the water, plus the optical line, plus sunlight, there may be some movement in this line.

[These elements] added a feeling of time.

Can you explain how?

This is water. It will evaporate. It will disappear. I also put some iron on top and on the side. It will corrode, because the iron, the water and the sun will react together. Maybe you can see that there is, that this work is on the ground but with the water, with the iron, with the sun, they enable the work to show the concept of time. We can see that the glass and the water, they have a transparent quality so it’s more pure. When I see this work I think that it’s very beautiful.

So when TFAM displays it now, do they put water in it? Do they place all of the elements together?

Yes, it’s on display now and they put water in it.

Tsong Pu's 'Backyard in June' (mixed media, 420 x 420 cm) shown restrospectively this year at the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu's 'Backyard in June' (1997, mixed media, 420 x 420 cm) shown restrospectively this year at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

Could you please confirm for me why this same installation piece has two different names, A Space Not for the Chorus (1996) and Backyard in June (1997)?

I’ve exhibited this twice. [A Space Not for the Chorus] is in a square shape. When I first did this work in exhibition, the venue space was not ideal, [there were other artworks on display around it]. That feeling was like, for example, if you are a singer and you don’t have the right partner to sing along with. It will not work.

That’s why I picked that name.

Let’s talk about Backyard in June then.

It’s in the right space.

Yang Wen-I was the curator for the “Segmentation-Multiplication: Three Taiwanese Artists exhibit at the 47th International Biennial of Visual Arts (Venice, Italy) in 1997. She is quoted in Taiwan Panorama as saying Backyard in June “is making a piercing commentary on the state of the Taiwan environment, human and natural.” How is this work doing that?

In the 1990s in Taiwan, if you were in Taiwan during this period you would have noticed a lot of political reactions in art. In a painting, the mediums blend together, but if I make an installation or a sculpture the mediums are separate. The elements are separate.

During the 90’s, there were a lot of elections and political disputes in Taiwan. [Yang Wen-I] felt that my work… each part is not attached together, they are separated…

Is that important to your work, when you do an installation compared to a work like The White Line on Grey?

To me it’s a habit more than importance. It’s not very important. When people look at my work, they will feel that it’s like the political situation in Taiwan. One moment they are attached to each other, the next moment they are separated, then re-attached, and separated again.

This separation is shown because it was originally a vase, a flowerpot.

Can you elaborate on what were you trying to show or achieve with this separation?

It’s very simple…. Originally it’s a physical item, a container. A little bit like in a cartoon, it’s been pressed or squeezed, spread into circles; a little bit like in a comic. In reality, it wouldn’t happen this way. I’m using a comic style. When you squeeze [the pot], it will become this way… But in reality, it’s impossible [for the pot] to become this.

It’s like in cartoons, when an object has been hammered… If it’s not a cartoon, you won’t able to see that kind of effect – spreading [out] circle by circle. This is an exaggeration. Normally when we watch cartoons, when [a character] hammers something, the cartoonist is able to draw out the visual effect.

[Backyard in June] feels a little bit like archeology…. When you are doing archaeological research, maybe you will also put it this way [Master Tsong refers to the placement of each piece of broken pot]; collect these pieces, label them with numbers.

About this series

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

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

KN/KCE

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, Tsong Pu, interviews, installation art

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

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


TAIWANESE CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW

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

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

Taiwanese contemporary artist Tsong Pu.

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

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

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

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

White lines on top of grey color.

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

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

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

They were your teachers in Taiwan before you left?

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

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

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

Like performance art, or…?

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

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

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

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

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

Like stitched, or just placed? Like thread art?

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, so it was a collaboration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this series

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

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

KN

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, interviews, painting

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more on contemporary art in Taiwan

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