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Posts Tagged ‘Thread art’

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

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


TAIWANESE CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW

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

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

Taiwanese contemporary artist Tsong Pu.

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

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

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

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

White lines on top of grey color.

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

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

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

They were your teachers in Taiwan before you left?

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

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

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

Like performance art, or…?

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

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

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

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

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

Like stitched, or just placed? Like thread art?

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, so it was a collaboration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this series

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

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

KN

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, interviews, painting

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Posted in Artist Nationality, Conceptual, Domestic, From Art Radar, Interviews, Painting, Profiles, Taiwanese, Technology, Tsong Pu | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thai installation artist Surasi Kulsowong promises Good News at Para/Site Hong Kong – review

Posted by artradar on June 11, 2009


Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

THAI ARTIST SHOW REVIEW

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, as new curator for the well-regarded Hong Kong non-profit Para/Site art space, explained his mission for the space in January 2009 to Claire Morin for Time Out:

“I want to refocus Para/Site … with more artists from Asia,” he says. “I also want Para/Site to become a social space, a space where things are actually happening, not just exhibited… I want the public to appropriate Para/Site and become a part of Para/Site.”

Since then he has made firm headway. In January 2009, to the amuseument and confusion of locals, the eccentric Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, aka Bread Man, was guided around Hong Kong’s Graham Street market with baguettes wrapped around his head. This performance was followed by a rendition of his Finger Dolls piece inspired by his relationship with his supportive but now aged Mother (click here Tatsumi Orimoto review and video clips).

With his latest show, Fominaya has initiated an even more bemusing and irresistible experience for neighbourhood residents. In his first solo show in Hong Kong, Thai artist Surasi Kulsowong presents a site-specific show which seems to lie somewhere at the intersection between an exhibition, an experience and a grand game.

According to the publicity material the gallery is transformed into a playground by being filled

with five tons of thread waste into which a gold necklace with the Chinese word for ‘Fortune’ is hidden each week and made available to lucky members of the audience who find it.

When we visit, the feather-soft cotton waste laid out thicker than a mattress looks so inviting that we do not waste a minute in kicking off our shoes and wading into it. Not only pleasurable as a sensual experience, the show tickles the intellect with its playful turning-upside-down of the usual notions of money, gold, waste and value.

We are invited to consider whether waste products might have more value than first meets the eye. We are teased into questioning the meaning of value which, in this show, extends beyond measurable monetary value to include sensory stimulation, new experiences, social connection and plenty of laughter.

When we visit the show we see a young child who rolls around giggling on her back while her Filipino nanny chuckles and rummages on her hands and knees. The previous week the hidden gold was discovered by an elderly gentleman who is a patient in the neighbouring hospital. He came in his pyjamas with his nurse and told the staff that he planned to give the gold to his daughter. 

106

Good News is Coming

Alluring to a group of people far beyond seasoned gallery-goers, the show is full of wonder, fun and reward.  Yes  “it  can be appreciated on many levels” confirms Fominaya as he shows us some of the wall-hung images made to accompany the show.

In one, a Fortune magazine cover is recreated and a headline “Good News is Coming”, from another financial article, is appropriated and pasted onto it. What does this mean? On one level, the artist is providing us with a message which, like the cotton under our feet, is soothing and playful. But on another we are roused to consider the extent to which we accept the content and power of the media messages we are exposed to.

Kulsowong’s installation is inspired by the gloom of the global recession which he aims to counter with messages of hope and experiences of  happiness. Leaving with soothed soles and a smile, we take away much more than that. The Fortune cover and the heap of textile waste prod us with powerful questions about what we can do to create our own messages of hope.

Surasi Kulsowong

Surasi Kulsowong

The exhibition is accompanied by a specially conceived art edition called Good News is Coming (With Warhol’s Flowers), 2009, the proceeds of which will fund Para/Site’s activities. Contact Para/Site to buy.

Artist details

Surasi Kulsowong was born in 1965 in Ayutthaya. He lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is best known for his One Dollar Markets in which the artist, inspired by Asian floating markets, creates a market within an art space to reflect on the nature of consumer society and expand the meaning of the art space.

He has exhibited internationally with solo shows in Tate Modern and Palais de Tokyo. He has participated in the Gwangju Biennial, 50th Venice Biennale, 2nd Guangzhou Triennial, amongst others.

Related links:

Frieze review 2004 of  work 10SEK  – the writer notes the disarming way that Kulsowong cuts through social reserve by playing with money as a notion and a physical object.

New York Times review 2001 – looks at how Surasi uses space in his installation in Chelsea at his New York debut

Culturebase article – more details about his market artworks

Para/Site website

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Posted in Art spaces, China, Connecting Asia to itself, Curators, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Installation, Nonprofit, Participatory, Recession, Thai, Thread | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Women emerge onto the Beijing art scene – International Herald Tribune

Posted by artradar on August 9, 2008


Li Shurui Seeing mountains, seeing water

Li Shurui Seeing mountains, seeing water

 

FEMALE ARTISTS BEIJING SURVEY

Gun shot by China’s first female star artist

On a February day in 1989, a young woman walked into a show at the National Gallery of Art here, whipped out a pellet gun and fired two shots into a mirrored sculpture in an exhibition called “China/Avant-Garde.” Police officers swarmed into the museum. The show, China’s first government-sponsored exhibition of experimental art, was shut down for days.

The woman, Xiao Lu, is an artist. The sculpture she fired on was her own, or rather a collaborative piece she had made with another artist, Tang Song, her boyfriend at the time. Why she did what she did was not immediately clear, but that did not matter.

She had set off a symbolic explosion.

Rebel or hero

The international press saw a rebellion story. China’s political and cultural vanguard claimed a hero. The government reacted as if attacked. The art critic Li Xianting has described the incident as a precursor to the Tiananmen Square crackdown four months later. Whatever the truth, Xiao made the history books. She was a star.

Chinese contemporary art dominated by men since 1989

She is the first and last Chinese woman so far to achieve that status in the art world here. Contemporary art in China is a man’s world. While the art market, all but nonexistent in 1989, has become a powerhouse industry and produced a pantheon of multimillionaire artist-celebrities, there are no women in that pantheon.

Women solo shows rare

The new museums created to display contemporary art rarely give women solo shows. Among the hundreds of commercial galleries competing for attention in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere, art by women is hard to find.

Art by women innovative

Yet the art is there, and it is some of the most innovative work around, even as visibility remains a problem. On a monthlong stay, I visited several women who live and work in and around Beijing and have important careers, although none of them top the auction charts and few are represented by prestigious galleries. An alternative list of women doing strong but little-noticed work would be long.

 Lin Tianmiao prominent

If any woman qualifies as a power artist on the current male model, Lin Tianmiao probably comes closest. She was born in 1961, and like many artists of her generation who were raised during the Cultural Revolution but came of age professionally in its rocky aftermath, she had a difficult start.

In the mid-1990s, with money scarce, censors watchful and no gallery or market structure in place, she and her husband, the conceptual artist Wang Gongxin, lived and worked in cramped Beijing apartments where they mounted one-night shows that doubled as rent parties.

Lin’s work reflected these hand-to-mouth conditions. It was made from used household utensils – teapots, woks, scissors, vegetable choppers – that she laboriously wrapped in layers of cheap white cotton thread to create inventories of domestic life that looked both threatening and precious.

With the market boom, her career took off, and her work grew in scale and formal polish. Her floor-to-ceiling installations of self-portrait photographs anchored by braids of white yarn are fixtures in international shows. She and Wang live in one of Beijing’s many gated high-rises for urban professionals; their joint studio is an antiques-filled farmhouse on the outskirts of the city, where, with a small staff of seamstresses, Lin produces ghostly – and expensive-looking – soft sculptures swelling with egg- and breast-shaped forms in pristine white silk.

Feminist?

Critics have noted affinities in her art to the “women’s work” aesthetic of certain Western feminists. Lin, who lived in New York in the late 1980s, would not disagree. And she acknowledges that women are treated like second-class citizens in China – like “inactive thinkers,” as she puts it.

Yet she is cautious about applying the term feminist to herself or her work. Why? The concept is too Western. It is too vague. China is not ready for feminism. China has its own brand of feminism. You hear variations on these reasons often, just as you do in the West.

Yin Xuizhen

Yin Xuizhen is Lin’s near-contemporary. Both are of the “apartment art” generation and worked with homely, personal materials. For a 1995 installation, Yin unraveled the woolen yarn from secondhand men’s and women’s sweaters and used it to knit new sweaters that merged the genders. She sealed her own clothes, including items dating to childhood, in a suitcase, as if to preserve the past and make it portable. She also began gathering architectural scraps from the streets of her native Beijing, as if to document and memorialize a city being destroyed around her.

The threat of destruction pervades her recent large-scale work too, though now the implications are global. For a continuing piece called “Fashion Terrorism,” she created a miniature airport baggage claim with mysterious parcels stalled on a carousel. They may hold the possessions of immigrants in transit; they may hold weapons. We cannot know.

Halves of art world couples

She, like Lin, is married to an artist, Song Dong, a video maker and conceptualist with a strong international reputation. In fact, a fair number of successful female artists in China are halves of art-world couples.

Lu Qing

No artist in China has a more powerful spouse than Lu Qing does. She is married to the artist-architect Ai Weiwei, who was a consultant on the design for the 2008 Olympic Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest.

Yet it is hard to think of an artist whose work is more different from his.

Ai is a conceptualist who specializes in controversy and confrontation. For one piece he smashed ancient Chinese pots. For another he disassembled antique furniture to make it unusable. On the fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, he photographed a young woman standing in front of Mao’s portrait in the square and provocatively flipping up her skirt.

Lu was the woman in that picture. But her art is the opposite of exhibitionistic.

Slow art is performance and meditation

Since 2000 she has made a single new work annually. At the beginning of each year she buys a bolt of fine silk 25 meters long, or 82 feet. Over the next 12 months, using a brush and acrylic paint, she marks its surface with tight grid patterns.

The results look like a cross between Agnes Martin’s grid drawings and traditional Chinese scroll painting, historically a man’s medium.

Some years she fills the cloth. Other years, when she can bring herself to work only sporadically, she leaves it half empty. In one year at least, she painted nothing. But completion in any ordinary sense is not the goal. Whatever state the roll is in at year’s end, that is its finished state. She packs it away and buys a new bolt.

This is private, at-home work. “I don’t think what I’m doing is art,” Lu said. “In fact, it makes me forget what art is about.” Like Lin’s early wrappings and Yin’s knitting, this is art as performance and meditation.

Few if any of China’s lionized male artists are doing work as slow, private and hermetic. And by no means all women are.

Xing Dangwen

In the 1990s the photographer Xing Danwen, born in 1967, documented the rough-and-tumble life of artists in the squatter settlement here called the East Village. Her 1995 photographic series “Born With the Cultural Revolution” examined the status of her generation of women: heirs of a Maoist principle of gender equality now living in a market economy that undermines that equality.

What has been gained and lost in the transition between old and new ways of social thinking, between collectivism and individualism, is the subject of her recent “Urban Fiction” series.

Here Xing digitally inserts miniature vignettes of domestic violence and isolation into photographs she has taken of tabletop models of Beijing high-rises. The original models were made by real estate developers to sell new apartments like the spacious but unpalatial one that Xing lives in. Many of the tiny figures in her narratives have her face.

Women’s art not confined to women’s issues

Clearly art by women in China is not confined to “women’s issues” like family and home. Much of it is about excavating a personal past and bringing it into the present, and about examining that present and how it is being lived.

In 2000 Cui Xiuwen used a hidden camera to film a group of women, most of them prostitutes, talking, applying makeup, calling clients and counting cash in the bathroom of a Beijing karaoke bar.

The video, titled “Lady’s Room,” was censored when it appeared in the 2002 Guangzhou Triennial, presumably because it presents realities – women as active agents in consumer eroticism – that contradict a spectrum of cultural ideals about gender, from a view of the sexes existing in harmonious balance to one of women as subservient. As the artist herself says of the video, “You can feel that it is a situation before a battle.”

More recently, Cui, who is in her late 30s, has produced highly finished photographs and paintings of adolescent girls dressed in uniforms of the Young Pioneers, a youth organization. Sometimes bruised and bloodied, they pose in what looks like the Forbidden City.

And most recently, she has made pictures of older girls floating like somnambulant angels above Beijing rooftops. The theme of childhood and maternity recur almost obsessively, as they do in Lin’s new sculpture.

Xiong Wenyun

Xiong Wenyun, born in 1953, is on a different track. She has a cramped studio in the 798 District, a once-hot art neighborhood now overrun by second-tier galleries and tourists, but her best-known work, the 1998 photographic series “Moving Rainbow,” was shot far from Beijing and its art world.

For this project she traveled a bleak logging road that runs through westernmost China into Tibet. She photographed people she encountered, and talked to them about commercial development that threatened their way of life. She also took photographs of truck caravans and of shack-like truck stops that lined the route, after adorning both with fabric hangings keyed to the colors of Tibetan prayer flags.

Since Xiong finished her project, China has improved the trucking road and added a mountain tunnel to make Tibet more accessible to Chinese settlers and tourists. It has also prohibited logging in the region. As a result, the caravans and many of the truck stops that Xiong turned into temporary art installations are gone; her documents are what remains of them.

Xiong is well aware that “Moving Rainbow,” with its blend of activism, anthropology and abstraction, is an anomaly in new Chinese art, much of which, in addition to being only obliquely political, is product-oriented and studio-bound.

Li Shurui much noticed

Not all of it is, though. A much-noticed young artist, Li Shurui, born in 1981, began her career while still an undergraduate with an ambitious outdoor installation. It consisted of a long line of fabric cubes that stretched across a lake in Yunnan Province inhabited by a matriarchal ethnic minority.

Although she has since become best known for her paintings – air-brushed, semi-abstract images of music club interiors executed in a pleasing internationalist mode – she stood out in a recent gallery group show for an installation that suggested a cross between a Minimalist environment illuminated by fluorescent lights and an open elevator stuck between floors.

Some people spoke of savvy references to certain Western art; others noted a resemblance to the shot-up sculpture that caused so much fuss in 1989.

Why Xiao Lu pulled the trigger

A few years ago Xiao revealed that the primary motivation behind the shooting had not been aesthetic or political, after all, but emotional. She was expressing anguish over her relationship with Tang, which was going sour. What she was firing at was not the sculpture per se, which was made from two telephone booths and titled “Dialogue,” but at her own image in its reflective surface.

For some people, the significance of her action was diminished with that revelation, although to anyone viewing it through a Western feminist eye – meaning with the understanding that the personal is political – its significance increased.

As for feminism, Li, who is married to the painter Chen Jie, acknowledges the force of male chauvinism in the art world, both in China and elsewhere. But, she says, she is still too young, still too much in the stage of discovering herself, to figure out whether she considers herself a feminist or not.

It may say something about her present and future thinking, though, that when asked to name a cultural role model, she pointed neither to other artists nor to contemporary politics, but to the deep past: to the seventh-century empress Wu Zetian, who through a combination of brains, beauty, unsparing ambition and tenacious hard work, became China’s first and only female sovereign.

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