Art Radar Asia

Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

  • Photobucket
  • About Art Radar Asia

    Art Radar Asia News conducts original research and scans global news sources to bring you selected topical stories about the taste-changing, news-making and the up and coming in Asian contemporary art.
  • Advertisements

Posts Tagged ‘Women artists’

Female Middle Eastern artists trendy thanks to Shirin Neshat – Time Out

Posted by artradar on December 22, 2008


Shirin Neshat Women Without Men

Shirin Neshat Women Without Men

MIDDLE EASTERN ART BEIJING

Shirin Neshat Women Without Men Faurschou Gallery Beijing to January 18 2009

As unlikely as it seems given the current political climate, many people in the art world are now asking: is contemporary Middle Eastern art the next big thing, reports Time Out Beijing.

The present boom is founded on the unprecedented exposure that Islamic culture has received since September 11, as well as the influx of cash from Arabian royal families and governments into new art fairs and museums. However, even trendier than contemporary Middle Eastern art are female Middle Eastern artists, and photographer Shirin Neshat is a big contributor to that.

Neshat has been a resident of the United States for over twenty years, but has returned to visit her family since the 1990s when political conditions improved. In these visits she has maintained a relationship with the Eastern world and witnessed her country change from the progressive political and social system imposed on her country to the present theocratic regime.

‘For me one of the principal challenges,’ Neshat says, ‘is to imagine how the artist who is an immigrant to another country and who is immersed in the characteristics of another culture, can create works that contribute to a broader and more tolerant dialogue.’

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat

For her first exhibition in China at the Faurschou gallery, the 51-year-old will explore the themes of human passion and desire through the conditions of women and religious codes in contemporary Muslim society.  She will show her monumental film opus Women without Men consists of five video installations based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s banned book by the same name. The novel is set in 1953, the year when the democratically elected Iranian prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, attempted to avert a coup mounted by American and British forces who wanted to reinstate the Shah as an absolute ruler in order to avoid the nationalisation of the country’s oil industry.

The first thing that will strike you hopefully is a sigh of relief and then, perhaps, a cause for celebration as your faith in art is renewed. The standard at 798 will have been raised once again both in terms of the level that art can effect you and in terms of gallery presentation.

Time Out Beijing

In article in Time Magazine, she was quoted as saying that she seeks to “untangle the ideology of Islam through her art,” and this exhibition, the artist’s first in China, will present five films that reinterpret the lives of five Iranian women in 1953, the year the democratically elected prime minister was overthrown by an American-supported coup d’etat. More than a discussion of the events of this important year in Iranian history, the videos document the personal trials of women living within strict societal restrictions about religious, sexual and social behavior.

Redbox Review

Advertisements

Posted in Beijing, China, Feminist art, Gallery shows, Identity art, Iranian, Islamic art, Middle Eastern, Political, Religious art, Shirin Neshat, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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.

See (in new window)

If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive email updates direct to your inbox, subscribe to Art Radar Asia

Posted in Chinese, Feminist art, Handicraft art, Photography, Sculpture, Surveys, Thread | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »