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Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara reappears after 8 year absence – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 19, 2010


JAPANESE ARTIST INTERVIEW PAINTING DRAWING EMERGING ARTISTS

Eight years ago, Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara was building up a successful career as a promising contemporary artist. He showed work at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 2001 then disappeared from the contemporary art world. Then, in 2009, he reappeared at Tokyo’s ULTRA002 art fair, and in March this year exhibited work at NYC PULSE. Last month, Art Radar Asia spoke with Fukuhara in a special interview in which he talked about artwork from his recent solo exhibition “Binary” and explained what he has been doing in the eight years that he withdrew from the art world.

Fukuhara is represented by Ai Kowada Gallery in Ebisu, Japan, where he had a solo exhibition, “Binary”, earlier this year. His artwork from this exhibition features a series of drawings on which he sketches images of flora and fauna onto a black background with pencil, making the image difficult to see in certain lighting or at certain angles. We interviewed Fukuhara at this gallery, surrounded by his most recent work. Here he explained the reasons he chose this new medium and talked about his inspiration for the title of the exhibition. We discussed his background, what drives him and his art and the challenges that face young artists working today.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

When did you first feel that you were an artist?

Something like, when I felt different from other people? (laughs)

You mean you wanted to do something different?

Yes, when I thought that, and also when there are judgment calls between something that’s supposed to be “good”, and “bad”, and I felt that, even though I know what’s socially right, morally right, I want to take those social and moral judgments separately. For example, with morals, morally, something could be bad, but it can still be good. I sometimes made that kind of judgment, but people around me, if it was morally bad they would always consider it bad. So there’s a difference there.

After exhibiting at P.S.1 in 2001, you quit all activity as an artist to pursue other work until ULTRA002 in 2009. What influenced your decision to quit activity as an artist?

When I was in university, what I made was the same as now, fine art. Then, when I was there, Phillip Morris [International] did things like Art Hour. I was remaining as a candidate until the finals – well there were twenty, thirty of us – but I was one of the finalists. Then, that became a trigger that led to some small exhibitions.… That time it was already the final. There were people from other countries in the finalists, so there were a quite lot of people, but the Finalist Award pretty much triggered other things, several other things, but after that, I sort of got tired of it…. And then, what I mean by ‘tired of it’ is that I sort of grew tired of what I was making at the time as well, and then from there, I went more towards media art.

Things like graphic design?

No, more interactive than that. There’s some programming, then projection, like that…. Then, when I was making interactive art work, places like Sendai, Mediatheque from Sendai, and New York, and there was talk of Kyuushu at one point, although that didn’t end up happening, there was talk of going to these places … and when I participated in that, then I really ended up tired of what I was doing. What I mean is, I like media art, but I don’t think I can do it.

So what did you do after you grew bored of new media art? Why hadn’t you been creating art until recently?

In 2001, I did one exhibition, but then I started to question whether there was a point in doing art without the thought, without the creativity. And then I really began to think, was there a point in doing art? Is there a point in making, say, a sculpture? Who would it be for? And what manner of creating art would satisfy me? Keeping these things in mind I made some simple test pieces…. Samples. For example, making something without a shape. Not exactly design… just the idea. Just the philosophy behind it. And so the period of time that I spend just focusing on the philosophy part, the philosophy regarding art, the creative part is open. And so I subdivided my brain a little, separated creative as creative, and that part I used when I was doing design, which I don’t consider fine art. In my head, therefore I had space to consider what I should do with the “art” side of things. I kept thinking. I mean really, I tell everybody this but, I spent at least six years thinking about this.

What have you learnt during your absence from the art world?

I realised there’s no need to make things that are already visible. For example, let’s say you go somewhere, travel somewhere, maybe. You see a very beautiful landscape. I think you can leave that for a photograph. So I decided not to recreate things that exist in the first place … I think that it’s best to draw something that uses imagination and inspiration as a way to consolidate your own philosophy.

Tell me about how you came to participate in ULTRA002 (2009) and NYC PULSE (2010).

That’s because I’m part of this gallery of artists. The artists associated with this gallery … can speak with the directors and discuss the possibility of entering the next ULTRA art fair, and it’s not certain you’ll pass, but you know, you apply for it.

Why did you want to become an artist?

I think that art is like a subject. It’s academic … the basis of art is quite academic. But the viewer has freedom. That’s why, when I make my work, it’s more philosophical. I like to have philosophical ideas and make pieces…. The point is that the people who critique art often have very academic backgrounds, but I think even children and people who don’t know anything about art should be able to see the art, and freely feel what it means to them. I feel that is the most pure, somehow. And so, for fine art, there aren’t any restrictions. For example, the big difference between ‘design’ and ‘art’ is whether or not it’s been requested. The thing with design is that, after all, it’s somebody else’s intention, or somebody’s … desire…. There’s a purpose, very clearly. And so, for fine art, the purpose is in the self, so it remains extremely pure…. For example, nobody is going to be sad as a result, or maybe they won’t be happy either, and maybe they will be sad, but, even so, it might make them happy. Thus it’s really quite a … place where one can face new challenges.

So would you consider yourself a fine artist? What do you consider your main line of work?

Myself? I would like to keep being an artist.

What major influences have you had in your life?

I suppose books…. I don’t really read novels much. Other than novels, documentaries, philosophical books, chemistry books, things like that. Especially books that might change one’s perspective, thoughts. Or else something that changes one’s thoughts, one’s mind. How should I explain this? To ‘dephase’…. And so, I’m always trying to find opportunities for change, so yes, perspective. What kind of perspective to have each time.

What was it that changed you as an artist?

Maybe books. I suppose books. For example, even people you can never meet, people who you really respect, even if you’ve never met them, that person’s words are written down. The words affect us, and make us consider things like, maybe there’s no value in that, or that’s not quite right. In the end it’s yourself thinking, but the trigger for that, what gives it initiative, are the words of those people you respect.

What has challenged you as an artist? Why? What kinds of things have been challenges for you as an artist?

Everyday is a challenge (laughs). There’s a kind of fulfillment when you finish a piece, but at the end, that’s it; and so little by little, I try to find something I don’t like about it. Even if I’m pleased with it, I look for something I find displeasing, and next time, try to make it better. Whether it’s the technique, or the philosophy behind it, or the surface, that [makes it] good. And so I don’t know what it is, but I try to improve it, even if it’s just a little bit.

What do you like about art?

After all, we don’t have to have art, but it’s better to have it. We can have art, or not, but it’s definitely better to have it; the strangeness in that! The fact that we don’t know if there is or isn’t value; it’s unclear. I think it’s obvious that it’s better to have it, so that’s what’s fun.

What makes your work different from other artists’ in your generation?

I think they’re all very accomplished (laughs)…. The difference is that they are Fukuhara, or they aren’t. What I do, only I can do; when I’m doing art, I think like that…. For example, I consider the boundary between something existing and not existing. I like that boundary … I pay a lot of close attention to that, so, for example, the medium can be pencil, or oil paints, or metal, it can be anything. And so, if something does exist, or it doesn’t … I pay attention to that, I want to express that. And so I consider how to convey that, I look for that. And even if there’s someone who’s thinking the same thing, that person and I will probably come up with different ideas. And since we have different knowledge, that’s only possible for me to do, there’s only me.… My priority is not for the expression. I’m more inclined towards the philosophy involved.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any future projects?

A big art fair. It hasn’t been decided yet but either in Miami, PULSE in Miami, or next year in New York … or a show. There are also some shows that want to exhibit my work, they’re pretty far ahead, but there are some exhibitions.

What challenges do you see for young artists working in contemporary art today?

In Japan? The circumstances are bad. Business is bad. Right now, it’s so. And, yes, the Japanese economy is very … the Japanese arts, arts scene? The arts scene I suppose, or more like, the custom here, is very bad. It depends on the culture. In Europe, and probably at PULSE as well, probably everyone is quite understanding, so they say, ‘Mr. Fukuhara, I can support you.’ As in, before they ask ‘How much?’ or things like that, they tell me, ‘I can support you.’ I’ve never heard of it in Japan. There were some people like that up till now, and so, yes, there are some, but they’re few. Overseas, in the USA, what I learned when I went to PULSE was that in fact, both very rich people, and people not quite so rich are willing to buy a piece of art if they like it. Because if they support a young artist, and since they like the piece itself, maybe they’ll become really well-known later on. There’s sort of a feeling like that. And also, they know that if they buy this piece, the artist can go on to make their next piece; they’ll approach artists in a sensibility like this, even if they don’t say it to this extent. Japan likes modern art. In Japan, there’s a kind of feeling that there’s a tendency towards it. I think that’s because the value is already determined, like: ‘This is good’; ‘That there, that is worth about this much.’ But, there isn’t much of a sense of supporting young artists … Japan has lots of really amazing young artists, but I think it’s very difficult in Japan.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, "the night with a clouded-over moon (carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50x35 cm, image courtesy of the artist

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night With a Clouded-over Moon (Carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50 x 35 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tell me about your current exhibition, “Binary”.

The color is black, but, color depends on the light. The color is determined by the light. This here, what the color white means, is that it’s reflecting white light back at us. And here the light is getting absorbed and so it’s black in color. This looks silver, but all it is is that the carbon in the pencil lead is shiny. If you put black on black, well, you can’t see it very well, but it shines, and sometimes you can see it well, sometimes you can’t. And if you see it at night, it’s almost completely dark. If you see it in a room at night the surface is completely black.

What was the philosophy behind “Binary”?

As I said earlier, I’m trying to reach the borderline between what exists and what doesn’t. That’s why, for example, from here it’s impossible to see this painting because of the glare, yes? Because of the acrylic board, because it’s darkened. But if you put your eye close to it, you can see that there’s quite a bit drawn on it. ‘Then don’t draw on it!’ someone might say. But I want to draw on it. …When you interpret a computer, the data formats are, for example… there’s a thing called text, and text goes on forever. But with binary code, it tells you in the first row how many letters there are. And you can’t have any more than that. In that lies a big difference between so-called binary code and text. With binary you know the end from the very start, and in text it goes on forever so the end is unknown. Text has no limit but binary defines the end in its first row of numbers.

How did you use this idea of “binary” in your artworks?

In how I incorporated a limit into my work process. To start with, drawing lines in a way that makes them invisible is in itself limiting. And also, binary is in two states, so it’s ‘0’ and ‘1’… there’s no middle point, I didn’t draw any middle tones. They’re all drawn as solid lines, and it’s not in grey scale, but it’s black on white. What is it? Gradation? Gradation is hard to reproduce. If someone says, ‘Here is some gradation, go copy that exactly onto here,’ it’s really difficult to do that…. If’s it’s only two colors, if there’s a line in exactly the same place, it can be reproduced. …It’s just the placement. And so, this is somehow maybe worthless in value in terms of creativity. The act of purposely making something that can be re-created easily, that’s somehow important, the value. The easiness to re-create and the difficulty to re-create. Maybe it should be the priority to make things that are harder to re-create, but I deliberately want to express what’s easy to re-create.

What do you like most about this exhibition, “Binary”? What do you like most about this series?

The fact that it’s black (laughs)… It can be black or it can be white, but to have none… The good part is that it’s clear if it is or isn’t there … if you go in what you notice in the moment you enter is that there are black squares. And then in that, there’s a, what do you call it, in minimalism they made black panels, or red panels, but I can’t get that stoic, and I do want to express…. I want to express something animated, something pulsated, but part of me also doesn’t want to express it…

And so you make it harder to see.

Yes that’s it. And also in a picture, you try to fill it up; this goes here…. And so in order to not do a layout, I start drawing from an area.

Is that easier to do if it’s black?

No, that doesn’t affect it. In order to make the layout quieter… this isn’t fixated. And so if you take the acrylic board off and touch it, it’ll come off.

Why did you decide to use black gesso?

That’s because black holds a lot of different meanings. For example, it’s very still, it has a sense of immense quiet, and also a strong sense of night and also darkness… And it’s possible to see a highly dense something in black. White things are the opposite and they’re pure, there’s cleanliness. Black for me is a mysterious color. In order to fully expose the good qualities of the color black, I wanted to make it black on black. In the end it looks more like black on silver than black on black, but the act was to put black on black.

Is there a reason you decided to use pencil?

I think it’s the freshness?… For example that piece there, I’ve fixated. It’s more like a CD. If you compare it to music, it’s more like a CD. And this is more like a live show. It’s possible to do black on black by using a brush, for example, to place a transparent medium on the black, that would make it black on black as well. But if you do that, I think that makes it more like laying it out. I think that once you start deciding the composition, the picture will get more like, well industrial arts, or arts and crafts.

And it will get harder to see.

Right. Also I don’t intend to do arts and crafts, so, for lines that I can only draw in this instant, I want to draw them in that instant as much as possible, and with pencil it’s fast.

Do you draw directly onto the gesso or the aluminium?

Yes. As a piece…. I’m repeating myself a bit, but the relationship between the pencil and the gesso is that, it’s ultimately about being able to adjust the image, and I suppose how to deal with the lighting, because I’m not using colour. And so, it’s all about how much you control the light, and so I don’t question the medium. And this acrylic case protects it, but the piece is actually the whole thing, case and all, so it’s okay. It’s fine if the surroundings are reflected on the acrylic board. It’s all included in it.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

This artwork shaped like a horse is a little different? Could you tell me more about this one?

It is different. I’m starting to do these recently, but as I said earlier about layouts, pictures tend to mostly be rectangular shaped.  I want to be able to connect the philosophy and the technique as directly as possible onto the square, the surface. However, somehow various… um, it has to go through, a certain way, and so it’s inevitable that the expression becomes more …angled than what was being imagined. For example, just drawing instinctively… without making a draft and drawing in real-time, directly, means that the lines aren’t pre-determined. After drawing a strawberry-like image… a flower appeared, and then below that are some moss-like things … and in each of those instants, there’s something that’s alive, and I try to draw them, picking up these random images from the library in my head and placing them onto the canvas. And so, when it’s square, I can’t help placing an object on it. For example, the butterfly, I put the butterfly down. This shape here, because the shape is intentional, internally it is tremendously free. I’m thinking I’d rather continue to do this sort of thing. And then when you do that, the place where it’s displayed? There might be more freedom in where you hang it and, if it’s square, for instance, often, pictures are something I want to be displayed in houses,… or museums and such as well. And so, with things like that, you feel an urge to place it bang in the middle. For example… there’s a horse drawn on that one. It’s just that a horse is there, but I drew the horse by accident. But, instead, if the canvas is a horse, then isn’t there no need to draw a horse? I can draw the pattern more freely from within, because if the tableau is square, I’m compelled to draw a horse. It’s a way that I strategise, but if the canvas is already shaped like a horse, there’s no more room to place one, and it makes it easier to make a direct connection between my head and my hand…. It’s impossible to remember what I drew (laughs).

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

You mean, the order that they’re hung is decided?

Yes, like maybe you want some more space between them. But if they’re shaped like this, and for instance, if there’s a small picture then maybe it might be good to put them in a spot like this. Yes, you might be freer to put them where you want, and maybe the meaning of the piece might change depending on where you place it. Also, outside? Having an association with a silhouette, also, makes the interior extremely … there’s a feeling of my own sense of alive-ness, and so for me I’d really like to continue to do this sort of thing.

MM/KN

Related Topics: Japanese artists, venues – Japan, gallery shows, interviews

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

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


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

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

THAI ART BOOK WRITER INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

What prompted you to write Flavours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us more about your selection of artists in Flavours.

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

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

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

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

What makes Thai art different from other Asian art?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about the artist training system in Thailand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any major collectors of Thai art?

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

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

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

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

About Steven Pettifor

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

VL/KN

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Rise of the celebrity artist: Vietnamese artist Trong Nguyen featured on Bravo TV reality series

Posted by artradar on July 27, 2010


CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS CELEBRITIES REALITY TV

From dance competitions to rehab, it seems that no subject is left untouched by reality television producers. Even the act of finding a spouse has been successfully commercialised for audience entertainment. Now, with Bravo TV’s new series, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, viewers can get a glimpse inside of the often misunderstood world of contemporary art. But at what cost?

Reality TV and contemporary art finally meet

While some shows bank on the star appeal of celebrities and athletes, others take virtual unknowns and catapult them to instant, albeit usually shortlived, fame. Some shows evoke groans of annoyance as others reign in viewers eager for enterainment or curious about the show’s focus. Bravo TV has churned out a string of successful competitive series in several disciplines including fashion, cooking, and modeling just to name a few.

As of June 2010, Bravo branched out into art with the premiere of it’s new series, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. For executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker, the show is about making art accessible to audiences who may consider it to be a “rarefied” world. In addition to giving the fourteen featured contestants a shot at a substantial amount of cash, USD100,000 to be exact, the winner also wins an opportunity to exhibit their works at the Brooklyn Museum. Such high profile spaces are rarely made available to emerging artists.

Cast of Bravo TV's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

The cast of Bravo TV's 'Work of Art: The Next Great Artist'.

But could all of this backfire? Some argue that reality TV oversimplifies certain disciplines or even presents a distorted idea of what it’s actually like to be a successful artist, dancer or model. There is also the question of whether critics and other artists will take the show’s contestants seriously. Even so, the series aims to show, in an entertaining manner, that art is not exclusive or elitist. It is something that everyone can experience, even on a daily basis. In an article published by Zap2It, Parker states:

I want to express that we all have art in our home, whether you save a postcard from a friend or put your son’s or daughter’s drawings up on the wall. That’s art, and you are part of it … and it shouldn’t be any less accessible to you than to anyone else.

As for contestants, there are those who view the competition as merely a starting point, regardless of whether they win or not. Reality stars are made quickly and can fizzle just as fast if their careers prove to be lackluster. Such possibilities don’t seem to daunt most of the artists on the show, many of whom seek to at least stand out and generate some buzz around their name. Most of the fourteen selected artists are in their twenties, few are experienced, and all are hoping that this chance of a lifetime is worth the risk of failure in front of thousands, if not millions, of viewers.

Profiles of the judges can be found here.

Vietnamese artist Trong eliminated in second round

Artist Trong Nguyen

Artist Trong Nguyen.

Brooklyn based artist and curator Trong Nguyen falls into the small category of contestants who have already achieved success. It was not enough, however, to guarantee him a spot in the third round. At only 38, he has had several international solo and group exhibitions, received numerous grants and is currently an editor for ArtSlant.

We’ve summarised below an interview with ARTINFO in which Trong discusses the artists’ attitudes towards the show, issues with judges and why he joined the cast.

When asked if he feels animosity towards reality programming, Trong expresses amibivalence, a sentiment that was reflected in his second-round installation, What Would Tom Freidman Do? (2010).

The piece itself was about my ambivalence … I thought that any serious artist,  when they’re talking about making a reality show about art, has to have subversive reasons for doing the show.

In regards to the anti-reality TV phrases written on the television sets, Trong states “… the truth kind of hurts sometimes”. The judges eliminated Trong in the second round; his truthful remarks may have indeed struck a nerve. That is not to say that the judges fawned over Trong from the start. Some snapped back with what Trong hinted were unhelpful critiques.

The judges are so defensive that they end up ignoring what you have to say, which I feel is so unconstructive … I think they actually dote on certain works and certain people on the show for whatever reason, and it hasn’t felt constructive to me.

As a more seasoned artist, Trong questions the usefulness of critiques especially when aimed at the younger contestants whom he “feels protective of”. Equally so, Trong questions the ability of these artists, many of whom are fresh from undergraduate studies, to make work with depth at such a young age.

At that age, no matter how talented you are, you just haven’t experienced life enough to really make art that has substance to it … An art career is such a long thing — you have emerging artists out there who are still in their 50s, it’s not like any other profession.

Not only does Trong feel that many of the artists are too young, but they are also putting themselves in a vulnerable position too early. The possibility of ruining ones’ career before it starts is all too real for these young unknowns, although Trong has the immunity of experience and reputation.

One of my main things I said to myself: ‘There’s no way this is going to affect my career negatively.’

Trong's piece from his eliminating round, "What Would Tom Friedman Do?", 2010, Installation

Trong's piece from his eliminating round, 'What Would Tom Friedman Do?' (2010, installation).

With all this, one may wonder why join the cast in the first place? But for Trong, the answer is simple.

If someone asked you to do the show, would you do it? … you have this great opportunity to experience this, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s the difference between living an active life and living a passive life. So I always go for the route of active.

Seems like an easy choice but becoming a great artist is never that simple.  Mega-artists and art superstars are nothing new, but can one be made on television? The show’s intentions of giving aspiring artists a chance while exposing audiences to the art world are noble, yet using reality TV as a medium could be problematic.

Do you think the series can live up to its name and purpose or will it fall flat? Post your comments below.

EH/KN

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Nindityo Adipurnomo talks with Art Radar on “+Road” collaboration with Myanmar artists, “gambling spirit” of Indonesian collectors

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


ART PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW INDONESIAN ART EVENTS

In an Art Radar Asia exclusive interview with Cemeti founder Nindityo Adipurnomo, we hear the fascinating story of their latest venture working collaboratively with artists from Myanmar.  Read on to learn how cultural conflicts and artistic disappointments were eventually resolved.

New Zero Art Space in Myanmar and Cemeti Art House in Indonesia joined hands in June this year to present the collaborative project and exhibition “+Road|5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists in Yogyakarta.

Within a tight schedule of two weeks, five Burmese artists and five Indonesian artists interacted and produced performances, videos and installations.

These creations acted as a language through which the two distinctive cultures could communicate their differences, resolve conflicts and move closer to mutual understanding.

The five participating Myanmar artists included Aye Ko, (Executive Director of New Zero Art Space), May Moe Thu, Htoo Aung Kyaw, Nwe (Thin Lei Nwe) and Zoncy (Zon Sapal Phyu). The five Indonesian artists were Doger Panorsa, Ikhsan Syahirul Alim (Ican), Restu Ratnaningtyas, Ristyanto Cahyo Wibowo and Wibowo Adi Utama.

To understand more about how the collaborative project came into being, how the event was viewed by the local art community, and to gain some insight into the Indonesian art scene, Art Radar Asia spoke with Nindityo Adipurnomo, one of the executive directors of Cemeti Art House.

+Road| 5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists, a collaborative exhibition currently being held at Indonesian art gallery, Cemeti Art House.

From a commercial art promotion to a cross-cultural art exchange project

Nindityo Adipurnomo explained that the idea of collaboration between the two art spaces was initiated by Aye Ko, Myanmar artist and director of New Zero Art Space and Community New Zero Art Space. Ko thought that, by hosting a project of this kind, New Zero Art Space might land an exchange grant from the Asian Cultural Council in New York. With this in mind, Ko proposed the idea to Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, co-owners/coordinators of the renowned Indonesian gallery Cemeti Art House and winners of the 2006 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Awards, who expressed a keen interest.

Art censored in Burma

The couple saw “+Road” as an excellent opportunity to develop networks within regions such as Myanmar. They had learnt much from New Zero Art Space and they had been seeking opportunities to cooperate with them since attending the New Zero Art Space organised 2007 ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange Program, an event open only to members of the space. Of the programme, Adipurnomo recalled how each of the artists, gallery owners and art activists who participated had to bring along a single painting of a limited size with no political message. The night before the event, the Burmese police came and censored the art works on display, and removed the works of four Burmese artists. Despite this horrific episode, the programme was fruitful; each of the art activists present conducted informative talks.

In addition, “+Road”‘s aims were in line with the project-based platform Cemeti Art House has been working under since the beginning of 2010. This new platform focuses on an alternative approach to art and society in Indonesia. They have a successful model to follow; Landing Soon (2006-2009) was a three year exchange program in which one Dutch artist and one Indonesian artist resided in Yogyakarta and received assistance, guidance, and support from the studio manager through weekly progress reports.

“The reason [for launching the new platform] was because we were fed up with all the exhibition models, art fairs, auctions in Indonesia; [these events] never pay attention to invest in a kind of  healthy regeneration of the art scene. No, I’m one hundred percent sure that they do not realise this. The Indonesian commercial art scene has been investing in promotion only.” Nindityo Adipurnom

Conflicting goals of Burmese and Indonesians

However, it turned out Aye Ko wasn’t thinking about the kind of collaborative exhibition Adipurnomo had in mind. Basically, he just wanted to use Cemeti’s exhibition space for a group exhibition of five Myanmar artists and five Indonesian artists, where published catalogues could distributed. His commercial approach to the collaboration, which did not aim to provide any platform for meaningful interactions among artists, was certainly not what Cemeti Art House wanted.

“We did not want to only organise a promotional exhibition that has no interesting curatorial subject, not being involved in how artists go through their process before presenting their works in exhibition. And so we, in the end, asked [the artists] to just come to Yogyakarta; not bring any paintings with them. Instead, each of [the artists] should be well prepared with an individual artwork presentation in Power Point to see what we can do together.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Jaarsma and Adipurnomo tried carefully to intervene and transform the  cooperation into a “mutual exchange project” instead: a program involving short events such as artists’ talks, discussions, workshops and master classes, allowing both groups of artists to understand each other better and create possibilities for a deeper collaboration, with an exhibition as the end goal. And in Jaarsma and Adipurnomo’s eyes, it was a success. “+Road” became a truly collaborative project for the ten artists involved, where they could engage themselves in intensive cultural exchanges and meaningful interactions.

Mix of talents strongly affects resulting artwork

The choice of the five Burmese artists and the five Indonesian artists was made separately by New Zero Art Space and Cemeti Art House respectively. Adipurnomo launched an open application, attracting nearly seventy artists, and selected five from this group. He admits to being disappointed with the choice made by New Zero Art Space. Among the five Burmese artists, only two were professional artists, while the rest of them were new members of New Zero Art Space and were very amateur beginners. In contrast, the Yogyakarta artists selected by Cemeti Art House had a lot professional experience.

Disappointment at Cemeti

“[The Burmese artists] are bad painters: they cannot draw, have no sense of colour and have, in fact, a very superficial sense of  exploring materials… While our local Yogyakarta artists you can see, … that they were very well trained academically, strong and skillfull in model drawings, sketches, colours, well experienced in treating materials with good sense.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Burmese artists favour performance art, political art

Although the Burmese artists were generally inexperienced painters, their strength lay in performance art, an artistic skill which the Yogyakarta artists were either still developing or not interested in exploring.

“My very personal observation was that the artists from Yangoon were very much into performance art. They are very direct, expressive and always fulled of political intentions in their performance. They really use their body as the most direct tool and medium…. It often becomes a physical movement that is very close to a dance performance. One of our local artists participating in this project was [hesitant] to join the workshop on performance!” Nindityo Adipurnomo

This mix of opposing artistic strengths, differences which became very apparent during the workshops, influenced what was produced for the exhibition finale. “+Road” showcased a lot of video works and photographs, and a smaller number of installation and performance pieces, with no paintings at all.

Zon Sapal Phyu's 'Revolution of Own Space' (mixed media).

Aye Ko's 'No Money, Hungry, Hard Eating' (photography, video).

Wibowo Adi Utama's 'Art-NARCHY' (video).

Ikhsan Syahirul Alim's 'Commando Dance' (video, karaoke).

More opportunities open up future collaboration

Overall, Cemeti Art House viewed the collaboration as a successful pilot project, achieving its aim of engaging artists from two cultures in interactions that led to a gradual mutual understanding.

“[The] major understanding [the artists] did have was cultural dialogues. This is something that I find you can not just improvise in an Internet facilitation. You really need to [be] facing each other. Building up your assumptions, making a lot of missunderstandings and opening up conflicts, so that in the end you will understand each other better. We did ask every Indonesian artist to be a partner everyday by sitting on the same motorcycle – one motorcycle for two artists – during the two week intensive dialogue…. The time was just too short for so many reasons. But now we know better how to handle and open up more networks with young artists, who are really willing to continue in a deeper context.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Working towards a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene

Adipurnomo considers Cemeti Art House to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene, which has grown largely commercially up to this point. From “rumours and a very quick-glimpse analyzation and observation”, he suggests that banks have been gaining control of the Indonesian art market.

Banking money makes a mark in the Indonesian art market

“In the beginning, [art] was dominated by rich people around the tobacco industry. Of course, Dr. Oei Hong Djien was the respected ‘pioneer’ of the Indonesian collectors, among many others who were more nationally known; Dr. Oei Hong Djien is going international quickly. He was also very generous in educating and influencing many other rich Chinese people in the tobacco industry to invest their capital in art. Starting from that mile stone, Indonesian art dealers and collectors [were] growing fast. Most of [these collectors] were hunting names instead of, you know, a ‘quality’. They created many kinds of tricks in order to get as many ‘big names’ as possible, which they could easily call ‘masterpiece’ makers. Auctions and art fairs were becoming a medium for them to gamble in so many tricky ways. This rapid growth of gambling spirit stimulated many other rich people, out of this tobacco industry, to borrow money from banks to join this gambling. That is the way banks are now getting involved. A lot of bankers started to invest their capital in the arts.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

New Jogyakarta Art Fair attracts outside collectors

With the opening of the Jogyakarta Art Fair recently, art dealers and bankers, many of whom had never visited the region before, flocked to Cemeti Art House to see what was happening. This is, perhaps, further evidence that the Indonesian arts scene is commercialising.

“Cemeti Art House is considered to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the art scene. We have only been ‘fighting’ for that faith for so long. Of course, we are not the only ones. There are many others, such us Ruang Rupa in Jakarta, and the new comers like JARF (Jatiwangi Artists in Residence Festival), Forum Lenteng, and many other smaller scale [organisations] who come up and disappear and come up with different formulas [only] to dissappear again.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

CBKM/KN/KCE

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Pop culture references abound in Indonesian art: curator Eva McGovern discusses Indieguerillas’ Happy Victims and the Southeast Asian art climate

Posted by artradar on June 23, 2010


INDONESIAN CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY EXHIBITION

Indieguerillas is made up of Indonesian husband-and-wife duo Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti, whose artistic skills stem from roots in the design industry. Known for their smooth blending of pop culture aesthetics, subtle social commentary and use of traditional Javanese folklore elements, Indieguerillas presented “Happy Victims“, their latest solo exhibition, at Valentine Willie Fine Art Singapore.

The title “Happy Victims” reflects the fact that consumers have willingly but unconsciously become dominated by capitalist spending customs – people no longer spend only for pure necessity, but now spend to gain symbols of status and success. Touching on this popular subject, Indieguerillas’ renderings are colourful and uplifting. A good sense of humour and playful attitude draw the viewer in to investigate the relationships between various elements in their works: sneakers, Mao’s headshot, Astro Boy, Colonel Sanders, Javanese folklore characters.

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

The Southeast Asian art scene is both fascinating and difficult, elements which are highlighted in “Happy Victims” and can be attributed to the area’s diversity and rich cultural history. Art Radar Asia spoke with Eva McGovern, the exhibition’s curator, to talk about Indieguerillas, the show, Southeast Asian art, and her experiences working in the region.

Can you describe the process of curating Indieguerillas’ “Happy Victims”? How did you generate the idea?

As it is a solo show by Indieguerillas, the central idea of “happy victims of the capitalism and the material world” was generated by the artists themselves. The curator provides the support structure. One of my personal interests is in urban and youth culture and street style, so I got to know the two artists about 18 months ago and visited their studio. We discussed their idea together, taking inspirations from urban culture.

What’s unique about the Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti working as a duo?

Miko and Santi have worked together since 1999 and formed Indieguerillas professionally in 2002. The husband-and-wife team usually conceptualise together for the overall big picture. Then, Miko usually makes the initial design and outlines the images while Santi creates the details. They share similar interests in urban and youth culture, which is a big part of their lives. Their works are the visual output of how they live their lives basically.

What’s the unique quality of Indieguerillas’ works compared to other contemporary Indonesian art? Is it their use of youth culture?

It is actually very popular in contemporary Indonesian art creation to incorporate urban culture elements. For example, there is a huge mural tradition in Yogyakarta [which is] common and well celebrated. Younger artists are very interested in this dimension and Indonesia is a very playful place. So lots of humour [and] social comedies can be seen in contemporary Indonesian art.

There are two striking things about Indieguerillas: first, the fact that they work as a husband-and-wife team; second, their proficient experimentation with multiple medium – paintings, installation, design, etc. They benefit from their position as designers by training. Graphic design influences the way they construct their works where there is a considerable amount of experimental energy. They do some commercial work as well, and operate between the two worlds – fine art and commercial art.

Hunter-Gatherer Society III  Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

Hunter-Gatherer Society III Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you elaborate more on the overlapping between fine art and design manifested in their works?

While design has an imbedded sense of usefulness and fine art is not about being useful, the line between fine art and design is a very flexible one. Indieguerillas do make merchandise and T-shirts, and customised sneakers. In terms of the show [“Happy Victim”], objects are fine art. It can be a bit dangerous trying to block down Indieguerillas in any camp. In this post-modern world, anything goes really.

Design is more acceptable in a way because it can reflect the pop culture we are in. People enjoy looking at design objects, which implies that power comes with an entertaining medium, so artists can convey their messages more effectively. Indieguerillas are not making political comments but simply observations, incorporating Javanese folklore. It is about how things meet and collide together. Even if no one gets the message behind, the beautiful design with its youth finish is pleasing to look at; viewers can just get a sense of enjoyment when looking at the execution of their works. Their works become a bit more sinister as you spend more time looking at it.

By lifting and restyling the Javanese folklore and wayang (shadow puppetry) and mixing them with comical and urban objects such as briefcase and sneakers, Indieguerillas display their sense of cultural pride while connecting with the younger audience.

Across contemporary Indonesian art, is it common that the traditional elements are reinvented to adapt to the new context?

The trauma of political events is still very resonating to people. Traditional culture is still very influential and you can never really escape it. The younger generation of Indonesian artists are more focused on asking themselves about their identities: what it means to be “Indonesian”, what it means to live in the 21st century…. They try to deal with these issues in an open-ended playful way. Indonesian art has many discourses around these issues, supported by solid academic writings.

The Marionette Faithful, Screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate & digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010, Courtesy of artists and VWFA

The Marionette Faithful, screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate and digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you share with us your views on the art scene in Southeast Asia and any regional differences you noticed, in particular, between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore?

It can be troublesome when trying to discuss generally and authoritatively such a complex region [as] Southeast Asia. If I were to make some observations, I would say:

Indonesia:

It is much bigger and has many more artists producing a huge volume of interesting art. There are many more art centres in the country too: Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta. The nature of the communities in the country is very creative and art is well integrated into daily life. Art and creativity is celebrated here.

There is stronger international funding compared to Malaysia and the country’s link to Holland is still very productive in terms of arts funding, cross cultural dialogues, residencies and exhibitions. Overall, Indonesian artists have more confidence about being “artists”.

Malaysia:

Having gained its independence in 1957, the country is much influenced by being more multi-racial. Malaysia has a challenging funding structure for the art, because it is not appreciated or valued as much. Institutionally, the country does not have an intellectual voice guiding or analyzing contemporary art. There are not enough curators and writers. Commercial galleries are leading the way of what kind of art is being bought and seen.

Since the 1990s, artists turned their preoccupation to social commentary and released their frustration in their works. There are several camps of artists: market-friendly traditionalists who are locally inspired and interested in abstract expressionist and realist painting, and the more international groups doing conceptual, performative and installation based work.

Singapore:

There are a lot less artists but the funding stream is well established. The country has a set of well integrated resources, such as biennales and art fairs. It is facing a top-heavy situation: it has an internationally influenced strategy on top, while due to the strict censorship, art creation is much more challenging in terms of producing politically critical work.

What is often seen is some beautifully crafted installation [work] and engagement with international critical theory and conceptual practive. Artists could be more provocative in terms of social commentary, but they are unable or don’t want to do so in this slick and modern, and financially stable, country.

Can you share with us your personal experiences working in the region? How did you first start working in Malaysia?

I came to Malaysia in 2008. Prior to that, I worked in London at a major gallery for four years. I am half English, half Malaysian. Before coming back, I got interested in the burgeoning Southeast Asian art scene and was getting a sense of what is going on. In London, a lot of my time was devoted to facilitating other people’s programmes and I did not have time to research on topics I was interested in.

After I came back, I started writing for a lot of magazines, so I forced myself to think critically. Then I started to teach Malaysian art history in Singapore. I was invited to be part of a group curatorial show on Southeast Asian in February 2009 in Hong Kong. I also work as the Managing Editor of Arteri, an arts blog that looks at Malaysian and  Southeast Asian art. I was accepting a lot of opportunities coming my way in order to figure out what my true interests were. I will be joining Valentine Willie Fine Art to become their regional curator soon.

Back here, hierarchy is not as tight as in London or the US. One is able to connect with the artists and make tangible contributions. Unlike being a small fish in a huge over saturated pond, I feel I am part of a growing changing scene. I find it very inspiring and rewarding to work with people with shared experiences, who are committed to doing something great.

SXB/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artists, curators, interviews

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Posted in Asian, Cartoon, Consumerism, Curators, Design, Gallery shows, Graffiti, Indonesia, Indonesian, Interviews, Malaysian, Overviews, Painting, Pop Art, Professionals, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Themes and subjects, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Krishen Khanna traces evolution of Indian modern art: innovative interview technology used

Posted by artradar on April 12, 2010


INDIAN ARTIST INTERVIEW PODCAST

Saffronart is hosting a series of invaluable art historical documentary interviews with leading Indian artists to broaden the discourse about the evolution of modern and contemporary Indian art. The imaginative use of new interactive podcast technology is an initiative to emulate by both for-profits and non-profits.

The second interview in the speaker series  is to celebrate a retrospective by Krishen Khanna at Rabindra Bhavan, the Lalit Kala Akademi, in New Delhi, which lasted from 23 January to 5 February 2010. In it Krishen Khanna talks about his inspirations for painting and experiences regarding the development of modern Indian art.

Khanna, Bandwallaas in Practice, 2002

He begins with a personal ancedote about how he became involved in India’s art scene in the 1950s: he was formerly a banker, but his wife encouraged him to quit his job and take up painting. and discusses the artists (including F.N. SouzaS.H. RazaM.F. Husain) involved in Progressive Artist Group.

He mentions specific shows, such as Souza’s 1953 show containing a frontal nude self-portrait, which shocked the public and drew the attention of the moral police. Khanna emphasises Souza’s diverse inspirations, which ranged from Hokusai and Picasso.

Khanna, In My Studio, 2008
Khanna, In My Studio, 2008

Khanna also places the Progressive Artist Group into a historical context: he discusses the exodus of artists from India after it won its independence and how major events, like the death of Gandhi, affected  Indian artists globally. He then answers personal questions involving both his participation in the Progressive Artist Group and his relationship with its members.

Using a technique that we have not seen before the 30 minute audio is organised into searchable snippets under the following categories: Souza’s Solo Show, News of Ghandi’s Death, Progressive Artists’ Group, Nationalism in Art, The Form in Art and Drawing and Painting.

To hear the podcast click here.

AL/KCE

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Posted in Art and internet, India, Indian, Interviews, Krishen Khanna, Nationalism, Painting, Profiles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Contemporary Indian art meets tradition at inaugural ‘Sowing Seeds’ artist workshop in Rajasthan, India -interview

Posted by artradar on March 23, 2010


'Sowing Seeds' 2009 participating artists

INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WORKSHOP

The first edition of a new and unprecedented artists’ workshop in Rajasthan brings together traditional rural artists and urban international contemporary artists for approximately 12-14 days to create art and exchange ideas.

This project, called ‘Sowing Seeds’ (in Indian, ‘Beej Bonna’) is an interactive artists’ workshop and is to be held annually in an Indian countryside village every December with the aim of  facilitating the ‘rise of a new era’ in Indian visual art.

The 2009 ‘Sowing Seeds‘ program became a reality after six years of hard work, and plans for the December 2010 workshop are already underway. Art Radar catches up with the lead organizer of the programme, Mr. Vagaram Choudhary, to learn more.

Why did the camp start, and what is it intended to achieve?

“Nowadays in India, contemporary artists tend to work in big cities and display their work in urban galleries. Therefore, Indian village people have few opportunities to interact with contemporary art and artists. In rural areas, there are artists who are traditionally sound but their awareness of creating contemporary art is lacking due to a scarcity of contemporary cultural knowledge. Thus, many rural artists lose their talent when they work only for commercial purposes. We hope these artists and communities can learn and enrich themselves through this camp. We are trying to sow seeds between the rural and contemporary art worlds… Our main motto to is to explore this idea on fairly nonprofitable grounds.”

 

“As an alternative art space in India, we have accepted the challenge of organizing and welcoming different art forms that would help develop traditional Indian artists and society, as well as the emerging contemporary artists.”

Who started the camp?

“This camp was planned by a small group of artists from Rajasthan, in northwestern India. The first ‘Sowing Seeds’ project was handled by myself,  [Mr. Vagaram Choudhary.]”

What are the main objectives of ‘Sowing Seeds’?

We have 5 main objectives. They are:

  • Create meaningful connections and interactions between rural and contemporary artists
  • Develop interrelationships among artists from different geographical locations, creating an environment with varied social, religious and cultural perspectives
  • Develop contemporary art ideas using traditional materials and emerging techniques so that it could connect artists to the current global art scenario
  • Foster collaboration, encourage experimentation, exchanges and dialogues among practicing and emerging artists
  • Serve as a platform for regional and international exposure

Corina Gertz, from Germany. Created during Sowing Seeds 2009.

Is the program associated with a gallery?

“Yes, we are in partnership with the Kaman Art Gallery in Jodhpur. The gallery owner, Mr. Mitendra Singh, provided 40% of the financial support for this camp and also space for the exhibition. The remaining sum was financed by a group of artists.”

How are participating artists chosen?

“We released an open application for artists to participate in this camp. This was done online. We received 128 responses from all over world. Out of these, we selected 80 prospects. We appointed 3 senior artists as the jury, and they selected our final 13 participating visual artists and 1 performance artist.”

Do the artists create art individually, or in groups?

“Each artist works in conjuntion with village people, local sculptors, carpenters, tailors and other craftspeople help to create his or her work.”

What are the future plans for the programme?

“We plan to organize one camp a year in different village locations in the province of Rajasthan, India. If the opportunity was presented, we would ideally like to send a villager artist in an exchange programme to another country to learn new technological art techniques and ideas. This would greatly help these artists nurture their creative side.”

Aditi A. Kulkarni, from India. Created during Sowing Seeds 2009.

When and where is Sowing Seeds 2010, and how many participants will be invited?

“Sowing seeds 2010 will be held at a village near Mount Abu, in the Indian province of Rajasthan, from December 12-25, 2010.”

This year we will invite 15 artists:

  • 6 Indian visual artists
  • 6 visual artists from anywhere in the world
  • 1 art critic from anywhere in the world
  • 1 performance artist from anywhere in the world
  • 1 senior artist from anywhere in the world

Rajesh Pullarwar, from India. Created during Sowing Seeds 2009.

Who were the participating artists in 2009, and where were they from?

In no particular order:

Terue Yamauchi, Japan Maria Rebecca Ballestra, Italy Lucrecia Pittaro, Argentina
Judit Hettema, Netherlands Corina Gertz, Germany Bhupat Dudi, India
Aditi A. Kulkarni, India Vagaram Choudhary, India Rajesh Pullarwar, India
Nilesh Shidhpura, India Chiman Dangi, India

Can you describe the activities that artists participate in while completing the workshop?

“Rural + Contemporary,” was the theme for the ‘Sowing Seeds’ camp  held between 12th to 22nd December 2009, in which participating artists from Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, France, and India got first-hand experience living in the remote Indian Sar village, in Rajasthan. This colourful, dusty, dry village with day and night temperatures fluctuating between the extremities had the perfect ambience for a camp that could provide fodder to the creative minds. Indeed, a wonderful opportunity had been presented to the visiting national and international artists to unleash their creative spirit. There was ample material locally available to experiment with. But the real challenge and learning happened while creating artworks that would reflect the theme of the camp – “Rural + Contemporary…”

“Local raw materials such as clay, paper, cow dung cakes, mud, wood, pottery pieces, cloth, threads, jute ropes, metal plates, powdered colours, etc., were innovatively used to bridge the communication gap between the ideating contemporary artists and the local people. Initial feelings of insecurity and apprehension gave way to a budding and blossoming friendship, thereby opening channels of interaction and understanding between cultures alien to each other. The villagers responded with overwhelming love and affection, providing tireless technical labour and assistance, tailoring the artistic creations effortlessly…”

“Every day was a new day, where the artists would be off to the village and nearby areas for realizing their artworks; the evenings would be delightfully graced with local cultural entertainment such as folk song and dances, and the late nights would be spend resting on a cot in inviting tents under the open sky. Deeply cherished moments were the ones around the bonfire where discussions of culture flowed in from people across continents in the cold mornings and nights. It never ceased to amaze each artist as to how a simple parallel world existed side by side to their seemingly advanced world!”

“…This camp beautifully brings out the understanding and the sensitivity of the various artists to the responses and nuances of the human mind such as emotions, fears, thoughts, relationhips, such as bonding with people and nature, the problems faced by humanity, and the causes which can enhance or destroy the human existence.”


Interested parties are encouraged to contact Mr. Vagaram Choudhary and check out Sowing Seeds for more information on this intercultural arts program.

EW/KCE

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist-run, Courses, Globalisation, India, Indian, International, Interviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Art loans can offer liquidity to your collection

Posted by artradar on November 4, 2009


ART LENDING INDUSTRY: ARTTACTIC PODCAST REVIEW

On October 13th, ArtTactic published there latest edition of the ongoing podcast series dedicated to art market topics. The new podcast titled “Art Lending Industry is an interview with Andrew Rose, the president of Art Finance Partners based in New York City. Highlights from the interview include detailed information about the array of available loans through Art Finance Partners, Rose’s opinions about how the recession has affected art lending, and a status update on the current state of the art market.

logo

Art Finance Partners is a specialty finance company that provides innovative credit and advisory solutions to owners of "unconventional" assets, such as fine and decorative art, antiques and collectibles.

Types of Loans

“Bridge Loan to Sale”– Advance in funds against and art asset that will be sold. Used to get cash before sale transaction happens. The duration is typically 12-18 months with renewal provision.

“Acquisition Financing”- Upfront loan given to buy artwork, paid back overtime. Similar to real estate loan/mortgage.

“Working capital line”– Used by dealer or collector to finance inventory or collecting needs. The duration is 12 months with the option to renew.

The advantages to employing art loans to your personal art investment strategy are two fold. They offer liquidity between auction cycles (bridge loan to sale), and allow you to defer payment which frees up capital increasing yearly collection budgets (acquisition financing).

How the recession has affected art lending

When asked how the recession has affected art lending, Rose’s response was upbeat.

“Every business is facing the same liquidity crisis at the moment.” He continued to state, “we are seeing a fair amount of demand. Surprisingly in this market we haven’t seen the for-selling that one may have expected in this recession.”

How are artworks valued and has the current recession depreciated these values

Art Finance Partners utilizes basic valuation strategies when determining the value of the artworks lent upon. Their strategy consists of referencing established auction prices for comparable artworks through online databases like ArtNet or AskArt. In the case of a rare artwork, they consult their database of private sales, or get the opinion of an appraiser or art dealer.

Art Valuation Facts:

Loan to value ratio: 40-50%

General value of artworks down 20-30%; ultra contemporary artworks down 50%

Andrew Rose ends the interview stressing that good quality artworks sell well. Although trends and tastes change, Rose reiterates: “there will always be demand for very good quality international artwork on the international market.”

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SF/KCE

Posted in Acquisitions, Advisors, Business of art, Collectors, Interviews, Recession, Resources, Services | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by artradar on August 6, 2009


SERBIAN PHOTOGRAPHY PERFORMANCE ART

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contributed by Erin Wooters

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