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Posts Tagged ‘Identity art’

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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Posted in Art spaces, Chinese, Connecting Asia to itself, Curators, Events, From Art Radar, Gallery shows, Globalization of art, Hong Kong Artists, Identity art, Installation, Interviews, Medium, Migration, Performance, Photography, Professionals, Profiles, Residencies, Space, Themes and subjects, Time, Trends, UK, Venues, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First ever Moroccan art fair to launch in October

Posted by artradar on August 24, 2010


MARRAKECH MOROCCO ART FAIRS ARAB ART

In October this year, the tourist hotspot Marrakech, Morocco, will host the country’s first modern and contemporary art fair. The fair points towards a growing trend of interest and investment in art in the Middle East where Dubai, currently the top art city in the Middle East, is facing increasing competition from upcoming art ventures in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. (Read our report on this recent trend.)

Gjdn Neshat's 'Untitled96'. Neshat is a participant at this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Gjdn Neshat's 'Untitled96'. Neshat is a participant in this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Morocco, characteristically, is a country that culturally and geographically straddles the “east meets west” junction. That the Marrakech Art Fair shares some of these characteristics make it all the more special. Out of the thirty galleries exhibiting at the fair, half come from the Arab world, primarily North Africa while the other half come from Europe. For art lovers, this could provide an incredible opportunity to sample international contemporary art.

The city also plans to host simultaneous art events throughout the days of the fair. Some of these are special exhibitions at select museums and galleries in Marrakech. The idea behind engaging the city as a giant art fair in itself is to offer rare insights into Moroccan heritage and its contemporary art world.

The Marrakech Museum, for example, is hosting “Resonance: Contemporary Moroccan artists across the world”, which showcases fifteen artists of Moroccan origin who are based outside of Morocco. Inventing and re-thinking ideas of identity versus the global, these artists will work through various mediums such as painting, installation and video art to map new thoughts about the reality of art in Morocco. Another interesting intervention looks at the culmination of popular culture and art. Six graffiti artists will create spontaneous art to the music of Moroccan rapper BIGG over the period of one night.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah's 'Love'. Bouabdellah is a participant in this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah's 'Love'. Bouabdellah is a participant in this year's Marrakech Art Fair.

Other events include talks such as the panel discussions led by Roxana Azimi, a specialist in the international art market, that will deal with the twin issues of “Art market in the Arab world” and “The role of patrons and collectors.” Pascel Amel, a writer and director, will lead a debate on “Art in Morocco at the dawn of globalization.” The talks seem to be marked with hope and enthusiasm for the place of Moroccan art in the world market as well as a belief in the possibility of internal development.

Fifteen of the galleries invited to the fair will respond to a set theme of “From Orientalism to nowadays.” The Jean Brolly gallery is one such participant that intends to showcase work by two artists of different origins – Mahjoud Ben Bella and Francois Morellet. Local galleries are active participants at the fair. The Tindouf Gallery and the Galerie 127 are based in Marrakech itself. Other galleries that are showing at the fair come from Tunisia, the UAE, France and Morocco. The fair will be held from 9 to 11 October this year. For more details, visit the fair’s website.

AM/KN

Related Topics: art fairs, Middle Eastern art, promoting art

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Posted in Africa, Asia expands, Business of art, Crossover art, Fairs, Globalisation, Middle East, Promoting art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Debbie Han first Korean artist to be awarded Sovereign Asian Art Prize

Posted by artradar on May 10, 2010


KOREAN ART ASIAN ART PRIZE

Art Radar Asia is pleased to bring you an article by guest contributor, Kate Bryan. Her article, Hybrid Graces, presents an in depth insight into the work of Debbie Han, the first Korean artist to be awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Han’s work is a useful starting point for exploring the status of contemporary art and culture in Korea today.

A Sovereign Winner

Earlier this year Debbie Han became the first Korean artist to be awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, the biggest accolade of its kind in the region. The presentation of the award to Han can be seen in the context of a shift away from Korean art as an enigmatic, closed world to a thriving, open and accessible contemporary art market. That said, Korean artists are yet to penetrate mainstream consciousness, but if the quality of the work being produced by Han is anything to go by, it will not be long until they do.

Seated Three Graces

Han was awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize for Seated Three Graces, which subsequently entered the hallowed Sovereign Art Collection. The work is part of the Graces series which combine the typical body of a Korean woman with the face of an idealised Greek sculpture.

 

 

Debbie Han, Seated Three Graces

Debbie Han, Seated Three Graces

 

The composite form is painstakingly digitally rendered to look like marble, pixel by pixel for optimum realism. Subverting the practice of figurative sculpture and portrait photography, Han navigates the boundaries between illusion and reality and between western standards of ideal beauty and the reality of contemporary Asian women. Beyond the scrupulous technique and unexpected crossbreed form, the viewer is quickly drawn into the debate which Han instigates. “Beauty is a cultural conception and has long pervaded art history, what can be a better of way of understanding a given culture than through navigating this phenomenon?” Central to Han’s work is an enduring interest in how human experience is shaped and conditioned by contemporary culture, and as such the Graces series provides a sharp insight into the specifics of the world in which they were created.

A Korean artist?

Han’s interest in culturalisation makes her practice a useful starting point for a look at the developing status of both the contemporary Korean art market and Korean culture in the twenty first century more widely. That said, Han is actually an atypical Korean artist; in fact she resists the generalised label strongly. Han emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child and went on to complete her art major at the University of California and her MA at the Pratt Institute in New York. Having begun her career in the U.S., she returned to Korea only in 2003 for an artist residency programme. Han was a stranger to Seoul and her unique perspective as a culturally disembodied artist propelled her to document what was happening in Korea and in Asia more widely. “I had a strong desire to interrogate what my Asian identity was and became overwhelmed by the inherent westernisation at all levels in both society and art.” Despite the ‘identity crisis’ that sparked her profound creative journey of the last decade, Han could not be described as an unsure woman. She is a strong intellect with a mind that constantly questions the world around her.

The Beauty Myth

Han was effectively an ‘outsider’ to the art world when she returned to Seoul and it is this objectivity that lends her work such strength. As an American-Korean woman navigating the city, Han was immediately struck by the forcefulness of the western beauty mantra. Korean women were spending billions on cosmetics and plastic surgery to conform to an ‘ideal’ type of beauty, specifically a eurocentric beauty. “The perversity of the situation became clear to me when I learnt that women would have cosmetic surgery to make their eyes more western before their first job interview, it was a new rite of passage.” More than 60% of women in Korea have undergone cosmetic surgery and the numbers are on the increase. The act is no longer a choice made by a liberated individual, but a survival tactic. A telling indication of the seriousness of the situation is found in language – the term for having your face done in Korea is literally ‘face correction.’

Sensation with Content

Navigating what the polemic feminist author Naomi Wolf described as ‘beauty myths’, is characteristic of an artist whose raison d’être is to understand the world around her and present complex issues to the viewer in order to raise debate. Han’s work has always been characterised by the dual forces of painstaking, diverse craftsmanship and pieces which demand attention, cause shock or surprise the viewer. These tactics are combined to address questions of personal identity and larger social patterns. An early example is the Hard Condom Series (2001-2003) where small bronzes take the form of soiled condoms, an object which arouses great discomfort. Han therefore interrogates the complexities of society’s reaction to something as innate as sex.

 

 

 

Debbie Han, Hard Condom Series (2001-2003)

Debbie Han, Hard Condom Series (2001-2003)

 

Han’s work is certainly conceptual, but is in many ways a direct rebuttal of the earlier conceptual artists she encountered as a student. “For me, ideas will always be important and central to my work. You cannot create things just to cause a sensation, they have to have content. But on the other hand when I first saw conceptual pieces at college I was disappointed that they were not visually compelling or creatively unique.” Han bridges this gap between ideas and form, producing works that make us stop in our tracks for one reason or another, marvel at the craftsmanship and then engage with the issue at hand.

Beauty as Sport

In 2008 the artist created a departure in her practice by beginning to employ Korean lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl, a technique which demands over 20 processes to produce one work. Employing a medium which dates back thousands of years, Han’s challenge was to incorporate Korean inlaid lacquer into the contemporary arena, not only lending it a new relevance but having it underscore her subject matter. Sports Venus I is testament to the great success of the project. The life size lacquer bust is a rich dark brown, completely at odds with the classical white Venus.

 

 

Debbie Han, Sports Venus I, lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl

Debbie Han, Sports Venus I, lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl

 

As she puts it, “the reference to ancient Asian culture almost takes over, preventing a traditional appreciation of the classical Venus.” More startling still is the mother of pearl inlay which forms the pattern of a modern football, like an aggressive tattoo, across the face. Venus has entered the arena of sports, making explicit reference to the notion of ideal beauty as a new form of sports entertainment.  Han draws attention to the futility of the ideal beauty dogma, “it is just a game – in reality no one can conform to something which is a fabrication, an illusion.”

Food and Sensuality

The illusory nature of ideal beauty is deconstructed in a global series which Han has been working on since 2005. In Food and Sensuality Han collaborates with a regular woman from a given country, refashioning her into a model garnished with food from the culture in which she lives.

 

 

Debbie Han Food and Sensuality

Debbie Han, Food and Sensuality (since 2005)

 

In choosing non-professional models, Han unravels the myths about unattainable beauty by arguing that “any woman can look like a beautiful seductress given the right tools. As an artist I work to bring out to the outmost degree the unique beauty and style in each woman.” Her point is not about the benefits of a good makeover, but more about the breaking down persuasive myths and presenting a new reality. The combination of food – which is often draped over the woman to resemble clothing or jewellery – and female beauty makes explicit reference to the long held advertising mandate that sex sells. Further, in the face of a globalised world, Han rejects the homogeny of culture by identifying its distinctiveness, “food is like language, every culture has their own version and proudly supports it. This is at odds with our notions of beauty. The photographs aim to readdress the balance.”

A New Era

In all of her work Han champions the re-unification of concept and technique. Her philosophy and quest to understand the constructs of the human condition are deeply entrenched in her practice, but she does not allow herself to fall victim to her intellect. Moving between mediums – and never choosing a simple process – Han’s work demands attention not just for its subject matter but for its craftsmanship and distinct visual appeal. Han believes we are entering a new era, a movement without a name, “art must not any longer end with a concept. When I returned to Seoul I saw very thought provoking work in the context of a rapidly changing city, but I wanted to know where the form had gone.” The gravity of the themes in her work coupled with her exquisite dedication to mastering mediums makes Han a worthy prize winner, and for an audience new to Korean contemporary art, a fascinating starting point.

Kate Bryan is a contributing Editor for Asian art News, World Sculptures News and her work has been published in Kee Magazine, The Sentinel, Essence and West East. She received her BA in Fine Art from Warwick University and subsequently worked at the British Museum in London for four years. She recently completed her master’s degree at the University of Hong Kong and is the Deputy Director of The Cat Street Gallery.

Editorial disclaimer – The opinions and views expressed by guest writers  do not necessarily reflect those of Art Radar Asia, staff, sponsors and partners.
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Posted in American, Body, Debbie Han, Eyes, Female form, Food, Human Body, Kate Bryan, Korean, Lacquer, Mythical figures, Photography, Prizes, Sculpture, Sport | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by artradar on December 16, 2009


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

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

CENTRAL ASIAN ART CURATOR

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

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

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

Where did you grow up and where were you educated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you noticed a rising interest in Central Asian art?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of response did you get?

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

How do you personally measure the success of an exhibition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EW

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Thai Chinese artist Nipan Oranniwesna shows installation art made of baby powder in Hong Kong – review

Posted by artradar on August 25, 2009


THAI CONTEMPORARY ART IN HONG KONG

Is national identity still relevant within our globalized world, which is more interdependent than ever before? Where do we get our identity, and what does baby powder have to do with it? Art Radar talks with the renowned Thai contemporary artist Nipan Oranniwesna at the Osage Gallery in Kowloon, Hong Kong before the opening of his latest exhibition Being….. at homE.

Napin

Storytelling through sight, smell, and unexpected mediums

Nipan Oranniwesna had a big job ahead of him when he arrived in Hong Kong for his exhibition at the Osage Gallery, perhaps the most respected experimental art gallery in Hong Kong. In only 4 days, he would create 2 massive installation exhibits that sprawl across the floor of Osage’s Kwun Tong gallery space in Kowloon, which are sculpted out of only baby powder. Not just any baby powder either, mind you. Nipan’s baby powder installations require the signature scent of a product by Johnson & Johnson that is only available in Thailand, and countless packages needed to be flown into Hong Kong for the artist’s materials. The exhibition is essentially a story, and is complete with 3 narrative installation works that consider identity and the idea of home on a global scale, a national scale, and ends considering the idea of home and connectedness to one’s personal space.

Napin_2

Powder cities demonstrate fragility

The result of Nipan’s labor is astounding. The exhibition, titled Being….. At HomE questions the validity of nation-based identity within modern society. The first piece of the show, City of Ghost, is a massive cityscape made of baby powder that depicts 13 major metropolitan cities of the world as interconnected. A similar work of his was also on display at the 2007 Venice Biennale for 6 months, and other sprawling works of sculpted baby powder cities have sold to private collectors, fetching up to $20,000 USD. Nipan explains the meaning of this work:

“Every country is nationalistic, but is it real, or does it just manipulate our thinking? This piece challenges personal and national identity. We think we are Thai, but the interconnectedness of this work demonstrates a question… I used baby powder because global society is both beautiful and fragile. The smell of the specific brand was important, as I wanted this to be a full sensory experience, with a stronger, more serious scent.”

Napin_3

Chinese National Anthem in powder suggests vulnerability

The next piece, titled ...with our flesh and blood, examines the idea of home and identity at the national level, depicting the Chinese national anthem written in baby powder. Accompanying framed works also show the Chinese anthem created from small pierced holes on paper, creating a braille-like version of the lyrics. Through these works, Nipan was subtly suggesting the vulnerability of basing personal identity on one’s nationality or ethnicity.

Nipan_4

Come home, take off your shoes.

The last piece of the show, Narrative Floor, brings the audience to the most intimate interpretation of place and identity, the home. The piece invites viewers to get involved, take off their shoes and walk on the work, which resembles a hard wood floor inlaid with photographic ‘rain drops’. Upon closer inspection, these raindrops are revealed to be small scenes from Hong Kong, China, and Thailand. Nipan admits this piece reflects his heritage; he is ethnically Chinese, but native to Thailand. The work begs the question, when a person is connected to different places, where is home? Nipan suggests everywhere that touches someone becomes a part of him, and all of those places are his home. The piece invites viewers to take off their shoes, sit down, and even lie down, demonstrating home is a feeling that can be felt anywhere one happens to be.

It’s easy to miss the meaning

The last work, Narrative Floor, is decidedly different from the other pieces, most notably because it does not use baby powder. Nipan explains:

“I wanted to use a new language. Baby powder is just one language….. I deal with the perception of the viewer, especially using distance, the space between people and artwork, the space between people and other people. This is what I access in my work. In this piece you come inside…

The exhibition is also full of clues of meaning that could be easily missed. Nipan reveals:

Every piece and work is like a sign. The way to read the exhibition is to look for the signs, issues, even though they are almost hidden, very subtle… The red in this room suggests the color of the Chinese flag. The 5 dots that are present in the exhibition title are a reference to the 5 stars on the Chinese flag. The capital letters in the exhibition title Being….. at homE are a reference to the space between the word ‘be.’ I am concerned with what lies between. Of course my work can be read in other ways, and that is okay. But I want to deal with this triangle of me, Hong Kong, and China.

Problem: Fragile art gets harmed

The delicate nature of the work is part of the art’s significance, and also leads to inevitable mishaps. Staff at the Osage Gallery mentioned they considered turning down the air conditioning to prevent air flow from disturbing the powdery surface, and Nipan cheerfully recalled the footprint he discovered in the Venice Biennale’s installation.

Solution: That’s OK.

He explains that damaging the artwork is not encouraged, but minor accidents are natural and ultimately contribute to the participatory quality of the work, relating it to viewers. Such an attitude is wise, considering the tours of school children that parade through the gallery. Furthermore, upsetting the fragile medium reinforces the essence of the work. Nipan proves although something is not meant to be broken, it may still be far too easy to destroy.

Nipan’s exhibition is among 2 others on display at the Osage Gallery in Hong Kong. Other exhibited artists include Cheo Chai-Hiang from Singapore, and Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (China). The exhibition runs from August 21-October 4, 2009.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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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 »

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

Posted by artradar on February 23, 2009


Anita Dube, River Disease, 1999

Anita Dube, River Disease, 1999

MIDDLE EAST SOUTH ASIA ART

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

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

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

Theme of the show: Partition

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

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

Interview with curator Hammad Nasser

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

Identity, nation, memory, history, borders


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

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

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

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

Seminal works: Pakistani artist Rashid Rana

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

New works: Naeem Mohaiemen


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

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

Nalini Malani, Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines 2008

Nalini Malani, Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Artists

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

Reviews and writing

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

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

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

Anita Dube, River Disease 1999, detail

Anita Dube, River Disease 1999, detail

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

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

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

Farida Batool Line of Control 2004 lenticular print

Farida Batool Line of Control 2004 lenticular print

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