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Posts Tagged ‘British art’

Indian artist Anish Kapoor’s solo at Royal Academy – what did the critics call it? Performance art and Turkish toilet

Posted by artradar on January 11, 2010


INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART SCULPTURE

Anish Kapoor’s sculpture fills London’s Royal Academy

British Indian artist Anish Kapoor’s mid-career retrospective at the Royal Academy in London, England, has just wrapped up. Two years in the making, the exhibition ran from 26 September to 11 December 2009.

It must have been at least a little daunting for the artist; he is the first living British sculptor to have a solo show occupying the entire Royal Academy gallery. Critics had lots to say. Most were positively awe-inspired. It seems that reviewers found the show at once weird, entertaining and thought-provoking.

“Kapoor’s work has always been on the edge of entertainment, even as it’s tempted to high and grand pretension,” writes Tom Lubbock for The Independent.

Among the exhibits, that filled five major galleries in the Royal Academy, there were more than a few that critics believed stood out.

Tall Tree and the Eye stood in the courtyard of the Academy. Made of 76 highly polished, 15 metre high steel spheres which reflected their surroundings, it was a newly commissioned sculpture. The Economist said, “this fine work of art, or giant-sized perceptual toy, lights up, and lightens up, its venerable surroundings.”

Shooting Into the Corner consisted of a cannon fired at 20 minute intervals, shooting red wax balls into an opposite gallery space at 30 mph.

“A crowd-pleaser and teaser, Shooting Into the Corner will be held as affectionately in popular cultural memory,” summarises Jackie Wullschlager of the Financial Times.

Unfortunately, “as this artist’s work gets bigger and more grandiose, it also gets emptier and more sterile,” she continues.

Laura Cumming, writing for Guardian.co.uk, notes, “It’s a painting in progress – and not just Pollock, but Manet’s The Execution of Emperor Maximilian. It’s a sculpture – Richard Serra’s molten lead wall spatters from the Sixties. It’s a performance and a period piece, too, invoking the history of art.”

The Economist had a high opinion of the installation entitled Snail: “Snail, another exhibit, has a fat, coiling fibreglass body which opens out into a lusciously vermilion mouth. It is terrific.”

Svayambahm was a huge truck-sized block of soft red wax trundling through all five galleries on train-style tracks, leaving a snail-like trail of red on the floor, walls and ceiling.

Adrian Searle, writing for Guardian.co.uk, says of Svayambahm, “the daftness of some of Kapoor’s art is a good counterbalance to the more ponderous pretensions the artist has always been prey to. In fact, it is the wrestling between these two tendencies that produces [this], his strongest work.”

Both Shooting Into the Corner and Svayambahm were considerably less appealing to The Economist than other exhibits: “A cannon blasts gobs of lurid red wax-plus-Vaseline; a wagon-sized contraption made up of similar stuff deposits bits of itself on floors and doors as it slowly trundles through four rooms. Both these works seem unfortunate departures from Kapoor’s admired elegance and refinement.”

Brian Sewell, in a review for The London Evening Standard, mentions that both these works have been exhibited elsewhere in Europe. Perhaps the only original piece in the exhibition was Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked. Unfortunately, this piece vividly reminded Sewell “of the floor of the public lavatory in Baskale, the highest town in eastern Turkey, after months of extreme water shortage.”

The Economist wrapped up it’s opinion of all the exhibits in this comment: “Are they, in the event, relevant to their setting? Not often. But some, such as the fine mirror sculptures, are certainly enhanced by it: seeing the gallery’s gilding and skylight reflected upside-down in these pieces adds to their enjoyment. Others are splendidly positioned…”

Not everyone had something good to say. Sewell, in his review for The London Evening Standard, described the exhibition as a “damp squib” and is of the opinion that “its two most sensational kinetic exhibits [Shooting Into the Corner and Svayambahm] are given to failing their essential functions.”

Richard Dorment, in his review for The Telegraph, says of the exhibition overall: “No other contemporary British artist has Kapoor’s range of imagination and no one else routinely works on this scale. Over the years, he’s become more of a public than a private artist – or at least one whose most effective works are intended not for private contemplation, but to inspire awe in large numbers of people.”

Dorment views Kapoor’s work as something closer to performance art than sculpture.

The exhibition was reported to be a combination of historical artistic reference and self-referential humour, part homage to 1960s artists like Richard Serra and part active, living sculpture. The artist has proven his ability to highlight both primitive and modernistic elements in his work and provoke these responses in the viewer.

“What I admire about him most…is the unwavering depth of the experiences he conjures up,” said Waldemar Januszczak, of the Times Online.

It seems Anish Kapoor has again demonstrated his exceptional ability to work with traditional materials yet blend these with aspects of performance art. He works on such a large scale at every opportunity and has a huge range of imagination. This exhibition managed to absorb the viewer, highlighting what separates Kapoor from his contemporaries.

Lucie Charkin, writing for FAD, had this to say: “On reflection, no pun intended, whilst some moments in the show seem a little too contrived it could be argued that in his clever use and misuse of the RA’s galleries Kapoor has allowed himself to edge a little closer towards his personal goal of inventing ‘a new space’ with his art.”

Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent for The London Evening Standard, reported “talks are in progress with major museums and galleries about buying some of the exhibition’s biggest pieces, including the tower of steel balls from the courtyard.”

The exhibition will move to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in March 2010.

KN/KCE

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Posted in Anish Kapoor, Indian, Installation, London, Overviews, Performance, Sculpture, Shows | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

V+A museum-commissioned photography show The Mother of All Journeys lands in Hong Kong – interview Dinu Li

Posted by artradar on October 7, 2009


BRITISH-CHINESE PHOTOGRAPHY

Dinu Li, an award-winning British-Chinese visual artist, showcases his exhibition The Mother of All Journeys at Amelia Johnson Contemporary (17 Sep – 31 Oct 2009) in Hong Kong. Initially commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the exhibition is a collection of the artist’s family snapshots which traces the journey taken by the family when they emigrated from Guangdong to Hong Kong and finally to England. Dinu Li speaks to Wendy Ma about the reasons and emotions behind this collaboration with his mother as well as his fascination with time and space.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: You have had an interesting life.  Which photographs capture your most memorable experiences?

This project is about memories. The one that really captures my experiences is the picture of the first house we lived in when we emigrated from Hong Kong to UK in 1973 when I was 7 years old. As I took this photograph in 2004, there was a distance of 30 years between living there and taking the photograph. We lived there for only 1 year. We don’t know who has been sitting there since. Strange that after 33 years, they have kept the same carpet, wallpaper, and cabinet in the bedroom. Now it’s rented to students.

Q: What inspired you to collaborate with your 80-year-old mother on this artwork? Is your mother an artist, too?

When I was a young boy, she was always telling me her story, and I used to create imaginary images in my head. I always wanted to see the real landscape and not rely on my imagination, so that I could understand where the memories come from and make a comparison between fantasy and reality.

No, my mother’s not an artist. Her job was to identify the place. I also have 6 brothers and sisters in the fields of engineering and catering.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: Was there a gap between the reality and your imagination?

She had a memory about hiding behind a tree during Japanese invasion of China. I imagined a tree in a dense forest, where she would hide. But it was just a tree on the hill, which meant that she was desperate to find anywhere to hide. In that sense it was very powerful.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: What are your images trying to narrate other than the past?

Duality. When you step into a place, there is a duality between what is personal and universal. The photograph is not just about our own experiences, but others’ as well. In the process of unearthing our personal history, there are other histories in that very space. You’re sitting here on the sofa now, so you have a history here. If I come back here tomorrow to take a photograph, I have to understand that someone else sat there and has his own history. The project is multi-layered.

Past is all around us, even in the modern city of Hong Kong. Past is only one second ago, not far away. I’m deeply interested in the concept of time and space, and photography is the perfect medium that deals with this. With photography, you play with time by speeding it up, slowing it down, or freezing it still. You’re empowered with the control to manipulate time.

Roland Bathes, a philosopher, called this a subconscious fear of death. Not that we think about it all the time, but the notion that there’s limited time prompt those to use films, photographs, and videos in the endeavor to understand what time and space are.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: What feelings or revelations surfaced while exploring the sites of your mother’s past?

Sometimes you go somewhere, you rediscover something you’ve not been thinking about for a long time, and all the memories reappear. When you visit a place, certain aspects trigger your memory. It can be the shape of light, the way it falls, the circular pattern it makes. Now in front of us there’s a shadow cast on the wall, if you revisit that place in 20 years, the pattern will reappear as long as the light is still standing there.

Q: How is the joint creation of art different from solo efforts in your other creations?

A lot of my work has some sort of links – people’s identities, their history and memories. I look at other people’s archive and their personal histories. Even though it’s personal, it’s also public. There’s a different type of duality between personal and public. Their existences are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my mother’s history is not unique, but shared. For instance, many people have been in love or have been sick.

Dinu Li standing next to his artwork

Dinu Li standing next to his artwork

Q: In what ways has Mother of All Journeys affected other projects of yours?

Family Village and all my new projects – come from Mother of All Journeys. In 2005, a British architect had sent a Christmas card to his Sichuan friend, also an architect, who decided to build the town illustrated on the card in Chengdu. That inspired me and led me to question the authenticity of that place.  In terms of features, the Chengdu town has similar tile, roofs, and chimney shape.  The differences are the local materials and the fact the population in China is bigger, the houses are also taller and bigger.

Moreover, the new town in Chendu brings the authenticity of culture into question. While I was there working, the security guard tried to stop me, “How do I know you’re not a British architect who came to copy our style” Apparently, he was oblivious to the origin of the building. Often we claim that something belongs to us, such as fish and chips just because they’ve been in the UK for such a long period. In fact, chips are French and fish are Dutch.  So it’s interesting to find out where things come from.

For the Family Village project, I scanned a particular 1950’s cartoon book and retold a narrative about a hero boy who intercepted the Japanese soldiers. My adaptation of the story is about a boy on a journey while collecting bamboo. Every time he returns home he finds his home changing. I turned a static original cartoon into a five-minute animation video.

Q: What cultural shocks did you have to overcome as you emigrated from Hong Kong to Manchester? What historical events took place at that time that affected you?

The idea of space – growing up in Hong Kong, we lived in small space. England offered more space. There was more space among people in the metro. The climate – the fog and snow in England.  The sound – the silence in England, as opposed to the noises in Hong Kong.

Since we moved in1973, compared to my parents, I was too young to be affected by historical events. In the 1960’s, people feared that the Cultural Revolution might invade Hong Kong, so those who left China for Hong Kong continued their journey to the West.  

Q: How do you reconcile the cultural and generational differences?

It’s strange. Since my cousins didn’t leave China, there exists a massive cultural difference between them and me.  Having lived in the West, I perceived things from a more objective angle. But for them in that situation, they were so close that they couldn’t see or to understand the 50’s and 60’s.  You had to be further away. That’s why I became an artist.

Q: I read that your father and your mother once made underwear for a factory in Hong Kong. Tell us more about it.

In the 50’s, Hong Kong was like Shenzhen (a manufacturing region in the south of mainland China) now. The westerners established factories in Hong Kong, which at the time was just some island with fisherman.  The exodus of Chinese people to Hong Kong meant they had to start a new life from scratch. Like others, my parents just wanted to get a job in the factories. Now history is repeating itself.

Q: What artwork are you showing at the 53rd Venice Biennale?

Family Village. When you step inside the gallery, you see screens suspended in the middle of the room like a moon, inside which there is a story of a boy watching his home changing all the time as he is picking bamboos.  Inside the video, children are chanting the Chinese translation of a western song from the 1970’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Q: During the 4 years of making Mother of All Journey, has anything changed?

Yes.  You start off taking many photographs, and then you keep editing it to make it smaller until you get the core. The most important bit is the real meat of the project. Similar to making a soup, you have to patient and allow time to condense it to the best bit. I can’t just take a photograph and use it immediately. The period of four years allowed me to develop a distance from my photographs and therefore choose wisely. In the last year, I finally reduced the bunch from 300 to 35-40 based on the content.

Q: What was behind your inspiration?

People take things for granted so much that they feel they don’t need to reflect. My mother’s very old, so I must reflect. Mother of All Journeys has inspired others to start similar projects.  It’s a personal project that touches a large audience.

Q: What’s your current project?

I’m doing an artist residency in Shenzhen. I like that it’s on the border of China and Hong Kong. Sometimes my projects are accidental, and other times, to be inspired, I need to be physically in that particular place.

-Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Ancestors, Asian, Chinese, Family, Hong Kong, Migration, Photography, Slow art, Slow/fast art, Space, Time | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »