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Young Chinese artist Li Hui lights up Netherlands: an Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on September 28, 2010


CHINESE ARTIST SOLO EXHIBITION LIGHT ART NETHERLANDS

Li Hui at work. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Li Hui at work. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Following his impressive solo exhibition last year in Mannheim, Germany, young Chinese artist Li Hui brings yet another surprise to the European art scene. In the pitch-dark exhibition space provided by The Centre of Artificial Light in Art in the Netherlands, Li Hui presents a spectacular display of four of his light works entitled “Who’s afraid of Red, Amber and Green?. The show, which runs from 16 July to 24 October this year, showcases Li’s experiments with laser and LED light.

The current show, the title of which may remind people of Barnett Newman‘s painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?, exhibits four of Li Hui’s works: Amber, Reincarnation, Cage and Everything Starts from Here. The works were selected jointly by John Jaspers (director of The Centre of Artificial Light in Art), Christoph and Cordelia Noe (co-directors of The Ministry of Art who represent Li Hui) and the artist.

In an interview with the museum, printed on the museum guide, Li Hui describes his works:

“I can imagine that if someone sees my work for the first time, it can have a very strong visual impact. Just like in Newman’s paintings, the bright colors first have to get stored in one’s brain. I also understand that there are elements in my works that might make people feel a little puzzled or even a little scared when first confronted with them. However, from what I have experienced, it is not just the visual impact, but also the ‘otherness’ or their mysticism that can have this kind of result. It is somehow similar to … Shamanism.”

Art Radar Asia spoke to Li Hui about the ideas in his works, the challenges he faces and his future plans.

Light not an intended media

Specialising in sculpture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Li Hui learnt to use stainless steel and wood but not light. In fact, he never meant to use light in all of his works, and would not call himself a light artist. It was in the process of production that he thought of light as a possible media for some of his works. He gives an example of how he came up with using LED light for Amber.

“I wanted the transparent material to glow, and I found that LED light is the only light that can produce the effect I wanted. The material is also thin enough for me to install inside the work, so I used it.”

Using LED light led to his discovery of the properties of laser light, a non-heating light which produces pure colors, and he started to experiment with it for other works. Light is not a usual medium for art in China or the world and Li says of this phenomenon,

“Light doesn’t seem like a material that can be used in art – if you do not handle it well, the outcome will be awful. Everyone can use light in their work, but light may not always be a good material to help them express what they want to express.”

"What I want to create is smoke rising from the bed softly and freely. It is a work that would evoke emotions, but this may not be obvious from photos," relays Li Hui. Reader's who are interested in experiencing these emotions firsthand can click on the image to watch a video. (Please note that the video is presented in Dutch.) 'Reincarnation' (200 x 110 cm; height variable) is a sculpture made of laser lights, fog, metal and medical bandage to create a mysterious, psychedelic, religious visual effect. In Buddhism, reincarnation means cycle or life circulation – the recurring process of our spirit being incarnated in another life after we die. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

"What I want to create is smoke rising from the bed softly and freely. It is a work that would evoke emotions, but this may not be obvious from photos," relays Li Hui. Readers who are interested in experiencing these emotions firsthand can click on the image to watch a video. (Please note that the video is presented in Dutch.) 'Reincarnation' (200 x 110 cm; height variable) is a sculpture made of laser lights, fog, metal and medical bandages. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

At this point, Li hasn’t thought about specialising in light art, and says that he would use whatever materials suit his concepts. Asked about what he is going to do next, Li says that he is interested in the spiritual and the inner world. When asked whether there are particular philosophies that Li Hui wants to convey in his works, he answers no.

“I want to create feelings which cannot be expressed in languages. There are just too many works attached [to] some kind of philosophy, but to me that’s not what art is about. You create feelings in art – if you can feel it, others will feel it too.”

Li Hui says about his work 'Cage': "There are two cages inside the work made of laser beams. Laser beams are special in a way that they look tangible while in reality they are not. The two cages appear alternatively so that a group of people who find themselves 'trapped' in the cage in one moment would suddenly find themselves outside the cage in the next. This work brings out the contrast between reality and illusion." 'Cage' (each 200 x 200 cm; height variable) is made of laser lights, mirrors and iron. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Li Hui says about his work 'Cage': "There are two cages inside the work made of laser beams. Laser beams are special in a way that they look tangible while in reality they are not. The two cages appear alternatively so that a group of people who find themselves 'trapped' in the cage in one moment would suddenly find themselves outside the cage in the next. This work brings out the contrast between reality and illusion." 'Cage' (each 200 x 200 cm; height variable) is made of laser lights, mirrors and iron. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Technological skill toughest obstacle

You may imagine Li Hui’s laboratory crammed with a lot of professional equipment to support his experiments, but in reality he has to seek technological support from others, such as LED light producers, to create his light works. In fact, technology is one of the greatest challenges in the artist’s production process.

“It is impossible to do the works in my own studio. I have to cooperate with others. I don’t have their professional equipment. It is very costly…. The most difficult [thing] is skill – I am not talking about artistic skill, but technological skill. Sometimes the problems are just impossible to solve.”

For Li Hui, every work is born from rounds of brain-storming followed by rounds of experiments in an effort to work through and predict potential problems.

“Experiments push toward the final outcome. At the initial stage of production, I may draw on the computer. Then I begin experimenting with materials. For example, I test a few shots of laser beams with smoke and find the proportion that suits what I want to express.”

Li Hui says about his work 'Everything Starts From Here': "This is a discovery in an experiment. The light beams strike through the transparent dining goblets to project a very impressive light image on the wall. Most of my works are large but this one is not because it is an experimental work." 'Everything Starts From Here' (20 x 30 x 20cm) utilises laser lights, a metal box with a crank, glass and projectors. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Li Hui says about his work 'Everything Starts From Here': "This is a discovery in an experiment. The light beams strike through the transparent dining goblets to project a very impressive light image on the wall. Most of my works are large but this one is not because it is an experimental work." 'Everything Starts From Here' (20 x 30 x 20cm) utilises laser lights, a metal box with a crank, glass and projectors. Image courtesy of Ministry of Art.

Ministry of Art dedicated to Chinese art in Europe

Art Radar Asia spoke with Christoph Noe, one of the directors of The Ministry of Art, an art advisory and curatorial company based in China which represents Li Hui, to find out more about how European opportunities are secured for Chinese or other Asian artists.

“The Ministry of Art … has a broader scope than [just being] a gallery. Our idea is to give artists the opportunity to cooperate with museums or art institutions in Europe … as a lot of the Chinese artists have already had the opportunity to exhibit their works in China or Asia, and some of them lack the opportunity to exhibit in Europe. We come in with our expertise because of our European origins and networks with European institutions. Once we are excited about a Chinese artist we can find an institution that fits very well for that artist.”

Li Hui will participate in a group show called Internationale Lichttage Winterthur 2010 in Switzerland in November. He will present another solo exhibition in June 2011 in Berlin, Germany.

CBKM/KN/HH

Related topics: Chinese artists, light art, museum shows, emerging artists

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Posted in Advisors, Artist Nationality, Chinese, Curators, Emerging artists, Events, Gallerists/dealers, Installation, Interviews, Laser, Li Hui, Light, Medium, Museum shows, Professionals, Sculpture, Spiritual, Styles, Themes and subjects, Venues, Z Artists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hong Kong a desert for new media art? New gallery I/O an oasis – interview

Posted by artradar on July 8, 2010


HONG KONG ART GALLERY CREATIVE DIRECTOR INTERVIEW

Situated on Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road, Input/Output (I/O) is not a usual kind of gallery with ink paintings, sculptures and canvases on display. Instead, being the only gallery in Hong Kong that is primarily focused on promoting new media arts, it is set to de-marginalize the “quirky” art genre through facilitating critical exchanges about it in exhibitions, workshops, talks and meetings with artists. Glass-fronted, the small gallery has been successful in attracting a wide range of visitors, from curious passers-by and tourists to students, curators, artists and professionals from various fields, to gather and have conversations about new media arts.

Having been open for a year, the gallery has held several exhibitions which showcased new media works of art graduates and practitioners mostly from Hong Kong. Presenting Chinese graduate artist Lu Yang’s “A Torturous Vision” this year, the gallery has inspired debates in Hong Kong that question the definition of new media arts and how it binds science, art and technology.

Art Radar Asia spoke to Rachel Connelly, Assistant Creative Director of I/O, to find out more about the background of the gallery and its ambitions going forward.

How is I/O funded?

It’s funded privately – by sales.

Why is I/O situated on Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road?

I think when I came on board, this had already been decided. But it’s a very central location – obviously Hollywood Road is known for its art galleries. We are providing something unlike the commercial spaces that focus more on traditional arts, so we try to provide something very different. We also have the advantage of having a glass-fronted space; people that walk by are very intrigued by what we do.

What led to the establishment of I/O?

The gallery is a platform for new media arts. It is owned by a new media artist, and having realised that there are not many platforms here in Hong Kong for exhibiting new media arts, he wanted to provide a space to promote them. He’s from Hong Kong.

Why is new media art interesting to you?

Being new to Hong Kong and completely new to media, my background was non-profit art-spaces and contemporary visual arts, but not necessarily new media. New media is a new term, a new genre and I wanted to explore that.

There’re obviously a lot of new media artists in Hong Kong, and in China more so, but it is a new genre, too. To me, it’s interesting what it is that defines new media, and what makes it different from just being termed ‘sculpture’, ‘installation’ or mixed media work.

So it is also quite interesting to discover what this term means to artists. It is not our role to give the answers to these questions; our role is to create dialogue around new media art practice and provide exhibitions that ask questions about that. Coming from England, the idea of coming to Hong Kong and China, to where new media art has a great reputation outside itself, was exciting; it is something that artists are really interested in here.

Is the new media art market doing well in Hong Kong?

As I saw it, new media occupied a slightly marginalised and kind of quirky position. It needed to almost come to maturity and stand up for itself as a new genre. The way I saw to do that was to place it within contemporary arts and the conversation around art practice. So everything that is shown in the gallery needs to be asking these questions; it cannot just be about the technology.

I think in terms of the Hong Kong market, the art that is bought here is still very traditional.

What has the I/O done to promote new media arts?

Within a year, we’ve literally been in a position of educating people about new media arts, and we have done this by providing them with exhibitions that will show them examples of that. This is still very new, and so we are also telling people how it is possible to actually buy all these objects, by providing them the equipment necessary to show these works in their homes. We will also help to install it.

Last year we were kind of in a position of educating about new media – because people are still very traditional here in terms of art buying. People buy paintings and sculptures mainly.

Last year we raised a lot of interest by having a lot of different shows ranging from film works and CG animation to even the canvas … we have created a lot of interest in terms of questioning the genre.

What do you think the “traditional arts” in Hong Kong are?

It’s canvas, ink paintings, sculpture, etc.

Who are the people that I/O wants to “educate”?

It’s not really educating but promoting, getting people to be aware of what you’re doing and also to encourage people to switch their focus from more traditional arts to new media. And so it’s just the idea of making people aware that it is there – not necessarily a role, but a position that we find ourselves in, which is fine because that’s still exciting.

How does I/O decide what to show and what not to show?

It is a selective process, project-by-project. We are selecting artists from the world of new media, but then, like I said, it depends on what you see as new media or what artists within the genre, see that to be. I wanted to get away with the idea that it’s just about technology – even if that is important … it’s a new tool, which is fine, but it needs to stand up in terms of content.

'Experiments on the Notation of Shapes' by Joao Basco Paiva is an audio visual installation where architecture is translated into sound, creating a fictional sonic expression of Hong Kong's cityscape.

Is there something that I/O would not show? Are there any examples of new media art that it wouldn’t show?

Have you got a definition of new media arts? Because I haven’t. It is still being decided and that is why it’s very exciting. It is at a very raw stage. It’s what I have been saying – encouraging conversations around what new media arts are. It’s not about definite answers; it’s about discussing what the genre is. Some people think that it’s about software; some people think that it is CG animation; some people think it is interactive self-generative programs. In the case of Lu Yang she has two canvases of her series of five, and this adds to her conversation around bio-art and what that is; I was intrigued about that and wanted to have those conversations in the gallery. So in this case, canvases fall under that. Primarily, it’s about discussion.

So you think that there shouldn’t be any boundaries to art?

Art is about questioning the boundaries, whatever they are. It’s not necessarily an artist’s role. If you are asking me about censorship, that’s a different question, I don’t think there should be censorship, no.

Why does I/O choose to show Lu Yang’s “A Torturous Vision”?

From the beginning I felt that it was necessary for I/O to create a dialogue around what new media is, in order to raise it out of its slightly marginised state, to raise awareness of new media as a genre, and almost ask it to ‘stand up’ for itself, within a contemporary fine art context. It means different things to different artists here in Asia, and even more different to artists in Europe.

All our exhibitions have been trying to create a conversation to discuss what these might be. An example was an early exhibition, “New Media, New Thinking”, which was in response to a call out that I did among artists living in Hong Kong. Proposals came back from very different artists, and I chose three that seemed to all agree that new media had central main themes around interactivity, and also the use of technology.

One was quite a traditional medium actually – film, but questioning the medium itself. By placing the participant directly between the projection and projector, he is questioning the audience’s interactive role within the work.

The second piece, by Evan Roth, was a 3D graffiti app for an iPhone, who said the interactivity for his work couldn’t be any larger than the internet community that views it – he actually uploads all his work using open source software, and then it is available for you to download for free.

The third piece was animated paintings, based around German Abstract Expressionism and ink paintings, but here the artist asks you to interact just by spending time with the work, letting your subconscious unfurl.

These three different approaches interested me [as] to how new media is being used by artists today. We then showed works by Portuguese artist Joao Vasco Paiva, which used complex programming to create a self generative orchestrated score for two projections focusing on Hong Kong cityscapes.

Lu Yang was as intriguing as she falls loosely into a genre, which is much larger in China, called  ‘bio-art’ and this interested me in terms of the discussion around art and science.

What has been the reaction to Lu Yang’s “A Torturous Vision” so far?

Great. It’s intriguing; it pushes all of your buttons. It is an exhibition of extremes. All the artists inspire you in different ways. We have had different people across the board coming in, from science academics, to people visiting Hong Kong and walking past, to artists who came to hear the recent talk by the artist herself.

I/O is also running an off-site project. What is that about?

I/O Off-Site is a way of promoting new media arts in a more public context; it’s also a more commercial project. I still feel that new media arts are still very marginalised and therefore by promoting the media in public places, in interesting developers to use new media arts to show in their buildings, not only continues the conversations, but then in reality we can get media artists jobs! Artists need to survive.

How is I/O different from other galleries in Hong Kong?

We are a commercial space, but we are solely focused on the study of new media. We also run more on a project-by-project basis, as opposed to having a stable of artists that we represent…. We are solely promoting new media arts, but we also offer an events programme that runs along the side our exhibitions. That makes us very different from most commercial galleries. Non-profit organisations like AAA and Para/Site may have this, but not many others commercial galleries. But we saw it necessary to continue the conversation, not just through exhibitions but around talks, events, music programming, film screenings; all these different events are about encouraging the discourse.

What does I/O want to accomplish in the Hong Kong art scene?

The idea of promoting new media arts and artists, to get it on the map. To provide a platform solely focused on this.

What has been the development of I/O so far?

In a year, I feel that in terms of people knowing about us, what we do through our exhibitions and events programme, we have achieved a lot. We are trying different things and providing programs of varying interests. This year we’ll go into our Off-Site project – that’s a whole other exciting year to come.

How is I/O going to develop?

The first year we worked with primarily artists that lived in Hong Kong; the second year is about exploring further into China and Asia. Off-Site projects will be more of a focus too, and this will be artists from all over the world. Future development will be concentrating on taking new media outside the traditional white cube.

Art Radar Asia recently published an overview of young Chinese artist Lu Yang’s controversial bio-art exhibition “A Torturous Vision” – read it here.

CBKM/KN

Related topics: business of art – promoting art, new media art, venues – Hong Kong

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Young Chinese artist Lu Yang brings anti-humanist elements to the Hong Kong art scene

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


CHINESE ART HONG KONG ART GALLERIES BIOLOGICAL ART

Chinese artist Lu Yang has shocked and electrified the Hong Kong art scene with her recent solo new media exhibition, “A Torturous Vision“, held at Input/Output (I/O).

Lu Yang's exhibition "A Torturous Vision" was presented by Input/Output in Hong Kong from April to June this year.

Lu Yang's exhibition "A Torturous Vision" was presented by Input/Output in Hong Kong from April to June this year.

Showcasing her latest music video work Dictator, Lu Yang takes the audience onto a mind-boggling journey that aesthetically explores the biology of control systems in living frogs and amphibians. Progressing from her previous work Happy Tree, which shows living animals being treated with a centrally controlled pulse of electricity in a small tank, Lu Yang extracts some footage from the work and transforms them into highly aesthetical and technical forms that are presented with the accompaniment of sound composed by Wang Changcun.

Lu Yang's 'Dictator' and 'Happy Tree' in I/O gallery's latest bio art show.Lu Yang’s ‘Dictator’ and ‘Happy Tree’ in I/O gallery’s latest bio art show.

“This work was created after I determined Happy Tree would not be exhibited again, and I had to find another way to complete the work besides including living animals. At that time Happy Tree remained incomplete in my mind, and I felt there were a number of possibilities related to the work that still needed to be pursued. I also felt there was a need to complete the work, so I chose to create a music video, but I must say apologetically, that I used the same electrical current to create the video track.” Lu Yang, quoted taken from an interview with Robin Peckham.

Despite Lu Yang’s vow to never again exhibit Happy Tree, she has been persuaded by I/O to show it again alongside Dictator and another video showing the process of applying electricity to frogs. On top of the three video installations, the exhibition also presents canvases showing two of the four projects with which Yang cooperated with science teams, including Zombie Music Box – Underwater Frog Leg Ballet and Ultimate Energy Conversion – Instruman.

Lu Yang is a graduate from the China Academy of Art in the Master of Arts New Media department. Although she is not the first to exhibit bio (biological) art in Hong Kong, nor the first to explore bio art in China, where the art form is growing among young graduates, she has radically challenged the boundaries of art set by Chinese philosophy with her anti-humanistic approach.

The artist expressed to Art Radar Asia that there are certainly boundaries that she sets for her art, but that these boundaries cannot be marked with tapes or frames. Asked how she draws the line between science exploration and science exploitation, Lu Yang made the following reply:

“Since I have not had another professional background for science, I just understand it through self-learning and I create works in between arts and science by combining them. However, my arts are not always in this format; I still have many other different works. My limited abilities in science prevent me from investigating it professionally, but the ultimate goal of science is to serve and explore for mankind, while art challenges certain questions.”

Lu Yang's canvas work 'Ultimate Energy Conversion – Instruman'.

Lu Yang's canvas work 'Ultimate Energy Conversion – Instruman'.

In Hong Kong, where new media art is marginalized and considered quirky, the gallery was established a year ago to become the only art space in in the region that is primarily focused on the genre.

“The only way to raise it [new media art] out of it [the state of being marginalized and considered as quirky] is to engage in dialogues about it.” Rachel Connelly, Assistant Creative Director of I/O

Asked why the gallery decided to show Lu Yang’s work despite its ethical controversy, Connelly says that since the work inspires people to reconsider their identity and know more about themselves, the topic is rich and interesting enough to make the ethical concerns relatively less important.

“A Torturous Vision” has attracted a great range of visitors from tourists and interested individuals to students, architects and engineers. It has provoked conversations and discussions among visitors, – just what Rachel Connelly wanted and expected – while exploring different topics such as the definition of new media art and bio art versus science.

CBKM/KN

Related Topics: Chinese artistsgallery shows, venues – Hong Kong

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