Singapore Biennale 2016 announces regional artists and projects

Singapore Biennale reveals the names of a further 12 regional artists and additional projects.

Singapore Biennale 2016 (SB2016) will launch on 27 October 2016, with more than 50 participating artists from across the Asia-Pacific region.

Nguyen Tran Nam, 'We Never Fell', 2010, composite fibreglass sculptures, set of 5 140 x 50 cm (each). Collection of the Artist. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Nguyen Tran Nam, ‘We Never Fell’, 2010, composite fibreglass sculptures, set of 5 140 x 50 cm (each). Collection of the Artist. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Entitled “An Atlas of Mirror”, the Singapore Biennale 2016 (SB2016) will run until 26 February 2017, and will present the work of more than 50 artists hailing from countries across the region such as Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Back in January, SB2016 announced the names of ten participating artists, a list now joined by a further 12 artists briefly profiled below. As SB2016 writes in the press release,

this edition will draw on diverse artistic viewpoints that trace the migratory and intertwining relationships within the region, and reflect on shared histories and current realities with East and South Asia.

Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi, 'Specula', 2009, installation of Vietnamese lacquer on epoxy and fibreglass composite with iron frame, dimensions variable. Collection of the Artist. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi, ‘Specula’, 2009, installation of Vietnamese lacquer on epoxy and fibreglass composite with iron frame, dimensions variable. Collection of the Artist. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

SB2016 Artists

Jakarta-based artist and curator Ade Darmawan (b. 1974) is also Director of ruangrupa, an artist-initiated organisation that focuses on visual arts and its socio-cultural context, particularly urban environments. He creates installations, objects, digital print, video and public art. As an individual artist and curator, Ade has participated in a number of projects and exhibitions in Indonesia and internationally, while with ruangrupa as a collaborative platform, he has also participated in the Gwangju Biennale (2002), the Istanbul Biennale (2005) and the Asia-Pacific Triennial (2012).

Hemali Bhuta. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Hemali Bhuta. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Indian artist Hemali Bhuta (b. 1978) reflects on man’s role in the transformation of the natural environment and our landscape, while discussing broader issues pertaining change and instability in contemporary society.

Vietnamese Bùi Công Khánh (b. 1972) is fascinated with “social assumptions of cultural heritage”. His practice encompasses performance, painting, sculpture, installation, video and drawing. His work is based on in-depth historical research and acquired skills in traditional craft and plastic arts.

Malaysia’s Chia Chuyia works with painting, installation art, performance art and digital representation. Her recent work focuses on global environmental issues and future food. She expresses “meaning through action” in her performance art, where she questions one’s attitudes and reflects on one’s rights.

Bùi Công Khánh. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Bùi Công Khánh. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Artist, professor and President of the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts in China Deng Guoyuan has recently turned from painting to large-scale installations. This shift was spurred by his experience of the rapid transformations taking place in China in the past three decades, as well as the profound differences and affinities between China’s cultural tradition and that of the West.

Manila-based Patricia Perez Eustaquio (b. 1977) works in a variety of media, from paintings, drawings and sculptures, to the fields of fashion, décor and craft. She explores notions that surround the integrity of appearances and the vanity of objects. Her multifaceted works reveal the mutability of our perception, as well as explore the constructs of ‘desirability’ and how it influences life and culture in general.

Thai artist Sakarin Krue-On creates complex site-specific installations and video works bearing traditional Thai cultural influences.

MAP Office. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

MAP Office. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

MAP Office is a multidisciplinary platform devised by Laurent Gutierrez (b. 1966, Casablanca, Morocco) and Valérie Portefaix (b. 1969, Saint-Étienne, France). The duo works on physical and imaginary territories, using drawing, photography, video, installations, performance, and literary and theoretical texts. Their entire project forms a critique of spatio-temporal anomalies and documents how human beings subvert and appropriate space.

Pala Pothupitiye (b. 1972) was born in a traditional southern Sri Lankan craft-artists and ritualists cast, and incorporates and reinterprets the material and philosophical content of traditional art. His practice engages with issues of colonialism, nationalism, religious extremism and militarism, extending also into questions of caste, the distinction between art and craft, tradition and modernity, and a critique of Euro-centrism.

Singapore’s Melissa Tan employs paper cutting and silkscreen techniques, to explore her interest in materiality. Her work is based on nature, themes of transience and beauty of the ephemeral. Her recent projects revolve around landscapes and the process of formation. She also works in video, sound and objects.

Vertical Submarine. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Vertical Submarine. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Singaporean art collective Vertical Submarine comprises Joshua Yang, Justin Loke and Fiona Koh. Often requiring an acquired sense of humour, their practice spans installations, drawings and paintings that deal with the otherwise serious issues of policy and identity in Singapore.

Japanese Harumi Yukutake works at the intersection of craft, art and environmental design. Using glass as a primary medium, she engages with natural phenomena and human perception in her artworks.

Kumari Nahappan, 'Anahata', 2013, Saga seeds, soundscape, dimensions variable. Collection of the Artist. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Kumari Nahappan, ‘Anahata’, 2013, Saga seeds, soundscape, dimensions variable. Collection of the Artist. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

SB2016 Affiliate Projects

SB2016 also includes affiliate projects in its programme, which are presented with partner institutions across the city and respond to the Biennale’s 2016 curatorial theme. So far, the Biennale has announced four Affiliate Projects to be held by DECK and Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, LASALLE College of the Arts (ICAS).

ICAS will feature two exhibitions opening on 28 October 2016 and running until 1 February 2017. “The world precedes the eye”, curated by Ms. Bala Starr, Ms. Silke Schmickl and Ms. Melanie Pocock, will include works by artists based in Asia, responding to SB2016’s overarching theme, through a material examination of contemporary art practice in Asia. Examining matter as a resource, the artists explore materials that are unique in contemporary art.

teamLab, 'Peace Can Be Realised Even Without Order', 2012, interactive digital Installation, dimensions variable. Sound: Hideaki Takahashi. Voice: Yutaka Fukuoka, Yumiko Tanaka. Collection of the Artists. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

teamLab, ‘Peace Can Be Realised Even Without Order’, 2012, interactive digital Installation, dimensions variable. Sound: Hideaki Takahashi. Voice: Yutaka Fukuoka, Yumiko Tanaka. Collection of the Artists. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

The second event is a solo exhibition entitled “Black-Hut” by Boedi Widjaja, which will bring together architecture, modernism, memory and place. Key issues explored include Widjaja’s migration at the age of nine from Indonesia to Singapore before the beginning of the 1985, a dream he remembers from 2014, the relationship between the architecture of urban Singapore and the home of his Chinese grandfather, MoMA’s groundbreaking 1932 “Modern architecture: International exhibition”, and the ‘black box turned inside-out’ architecture of the LASALLE campus.

Singapore’s newest photography art space DECK will present two solo shows from 19 November 2016 to 22 January 2017, including Robert Zhao Renhui’s “The Natural History of an Island”, which looks at the natural history of Singapore in a 100-year frame, based on the artist’s collection of images of Singapore’s natural landscape from the 1900s. The artist travelled around Singapore in a self-made mobile expedition vehicle, exploring and mapping out natural spaces in the city and uncovering historical narratives. The exhibition examines the various ways in which the landscape has been altered based on needs and desires from nature.

Suzann Victor, 'Rainbow Circle: Capturing a Natural Phenomenon', 2013, mixed media installation: sunlight, water droplets and modified solar tracker, dimensions variable. Collection of the Artist. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Co-commissioned with the National Museum of Singapore as part of its Art-On-Site series. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Suzann Victor, ‘Rainbow Circle: Capturing a Natural Phenomenon’, 2013, mixed media installation: sunlight, water droplets and modified solar tracker, dimensions variable. Collection of the Artist. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Co-commissioned with the National Museum of Singapore as part of its Art-On-Site series. Image courtesy Singapore Biennale.

Meanwhile Ang Song Nian’s “Hanging Heavy On My Eyes” delves into the phenomenon of regional haze spells due to increased forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia, which contribute to severe air pollution conditions. Based on the artist’s collection of average recordings of data on particulate matter (PM2.5), the exhibition recalls, as SAM writes,

the artist’s experience with the discomfort and unease of reduced and affected visibility – a result of conditions in human’s continuous bid to control, intervene and manipulate landscapes and environment aligned to narrow-minded agendas.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Gritty streets and neon lights: the urban chaos of Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama at Fondation Cartier, Paris

As the latest exhibition of Daido Moriyama draws to a close, Art Radar traces the photographer’s most recent work.

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris launched a major show of the Japanese photographer’s most recent work in February 2016. Charting some of Moriyama’s most significant oeuvre of the past decade, the exhibition brings to the fore the artist’s lesser-known colour photography as well as a new body of commissioned work.

Daido Moriyama, "Daido Tokyo", Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 2016, Paris. Photo : Luc Boegly. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, “Daido Tokyo”, installation view at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 2016, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Back in 2003, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris held Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s first major survey exhibition in France, featuring more than 200 of his photographs dating from the 1960s to the present. The show, which was organised in collaboration with the artist, included some of his most significant series of work, including Platform (1977), Light and Shadow (1981-82), Hysteric (1992), Polaroid Polaroid (1997) and Shinjuku (2002).

Twelve years on, Fondation Cartier is holding one of Moriyama’s most inspirational exhibitions entitled “Daido Tokyo” (6 February – 5 June 2016), focusing on his most recent works including a large number of colour photographs – a departure from the artist’s trademark style of black-and-white.

Daido Moriyama, "Daido Tokyo", Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 2016, Paris. Photo : Luc Boegly. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, “Daido Tokyo”, installation view at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 2016, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

For the exhibition, Fondation Cartier has also commissioned a new work entitled Dog and Mesh Tights, an immersive multiscreen projection of black-and-white photographs with a soundtrack of urban noise. The images were shot in Hong Kong, Taipei, Arles, Houston and Los Angeles between July 2014 and March 2015, and as The Guardian writes, are all

a version of Moriyama’s Tokyo: a gritty, grimy, rundown, shadowy everywhere in which even the most prosaic subject matter – electric heaters, pipes, footprints, fabric, cats, telegraph poles, shop signs – take on an air of alien otherness.

Daido Moriyama, 'Dog and Mesh Tights', 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept : Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist / Getsuyosha Limited / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Dog and Mesh Tights’, 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept: Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist, Getsuyosha Limited and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

A “snapshot aesthetic”

Daido Moriyama (b. 1938, Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture) trained as a graphic designer and started work as a freelance industrial designer in 1958. During his work, he came across photographer Takeji Iwajima in his studio and was fascinated by his practice and the world of photography, to the point of giving up his job and becoming an apprentice in his studio. Moriyama then moved to Toyo in 1961, with the hope of joining the VIVO Agency, a radical collective of contemporary photojournalists, which included, among others, Shomei Tomatsu and 
Eikoh Hosoe, who exerted a profound influence on Moriyama’s work.

Daido Moriyama, 'Dog and Mesh Tights', 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept : Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist / Getsuyosha Limited / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Dog and Mesh Tights’, 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept: Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist, Getsuyosha Limited and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

His arrival coincided with the group’s decision to disband, nevertheless he was still able to work as assistant to Hosoe, one of the first Japanese photographers to be recognised internationally. Moriyama was, like Hosoe, fascinated by the bizarre character of the underworld of Japanese street life and its urban grit, while he also learned Tomatsu’s sense of the theatrical and the erotic.

In addition to home-bred influences, Moriyama also drew inspiration from American photographers William Klein and Robert Frank and their action-oriented street photography. He adapted his style to this more dynamic approach, creating, as Fondation Cartier writes,

often out of focus, vertiginously tilted, or invasively cropped […] images [that] convey a sense of the disordered human condition.

Daido Moriyama, 'Dog and Mesh Tights', 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept : Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist / Getsuyosha Limited / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Dog and Mesh Tights’, 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept: Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist, Getsuyosha Limited and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

The chaotic everyday life of post-war Japan showed through Moriyama’s photographs, and in his first publication entitled Japan: A Photo Theater (1968), the disjunctive nature of Japan’s urban experience laid bare the artist’s fascination with the strange, the unusual and the extraordinary. Quoted by Fondation Cartier, Moriyama has said:

My underlying thought was to show how in the most common and everyday, in the world of most normal people, in their most normal existence, there is something dra- matic, remarkable, fictional. This kind of chaotic everyday existence is what I think Japan is all about.

Daido Moriyama, 'Dog and Mesh Tights', 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept : Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist / Getsuyosha Limited / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Dog and Mesh Tights’, 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept: Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist, Getsuyosha Limited and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

His unique aesthetic of capturing fleeting, secretive moments was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On The Road: Moriyama’s photographic style reflected the outsider’s point of view of the author’s rambling voice in the novel. He started to shoot pictures in any moment he felt like it, such as in a moving car, or while running, photographing in haste, as if taking pictures in secret, without looking through the viewfinder, turning the camera in all directions, even towards himself. Describing his photographic method, Moriyama has stated:

I turn to the right and photograph a poster, then, I turn around and photograph the street. Sometimes I even turn the camera on myself. I do so without discrimination and without any internal contradiction.

Daido Moriyama, 'Dog and Mesh Tights', 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept : Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist / Getsuyosha Limited / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Dog and Mesh Tights’, 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept: Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist, Getsuyosha Limited and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Moriyama’s dilemma of working with a ‘transparent medium’ unable to convey a fixed meaning was expressed in his iconic publication Farewell Photography (1972), which questioned the very nature of representation, as Fondation Cartier writes,

expressing a nihilistic doubt in our capacity to ever fully grasp reality through its photographic representation. The artist suggests that there is no one natural reality available to express our beliefs and sensations.

In Moriyama’s images, the real and the fictional are blurred, and the only true reality is perhaps found in the act of photographing itself.

Daido Moriyama, 'Dog and Mesh Tights', 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept : Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist / Getsuyosha Limited / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Dog and Mesh Tights’, 2014-2015, slide show of 291 black-and-white photographs, 25m music by Toshihiro Oshima. Video Concept: Gérard Chiron. Image courtesy the artist, Getsuyosha Limited and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Tokyo’s urban decadence: Shinjuku

While his distinct style has been recognised for its grainy black-and-white aesthetic, Moriyama has also worked with colour photography, which he started to experiment with in the 1970s. With the arrival of the digital, his interest in colour grew until by the early 2000s he was shooting only in colour and then converting his images to black-and-white. Among his thousands of images produced between 2008 and 2015, he kept many in colour, a number of which are on show at the Fondation Cartier.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 149 x 111.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 149 x 111.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Moriyama does not consider colour and black-and-white as two opposites; rather he finds them complementary. He says, as quoted by Fondation Cartier:

The black and white tells about my inner worlds, my emotions and deep feelings that I feel every day walking through the streets of Tokyo or other cities,
as a vagabond aimlessly. The color describes what I meet without any filters, and I like to record the instant for the way it looks to me. The first one is rich in contrast, is harsh and fully reflects my solitary nature. The second one is polite, gentle, as I set myself towards the world.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

In his interview with The Guardian, Moriyama clarifies:

Black and white work is closer to what I consider the essence of photography, whereas the colour photographs are much more about the experience of being in the streets. They are an attempt to give the experience of actually encountering the overload of posters and signs and advertisements as you wander though the city.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

His colour series is mostly shot in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, a major administrative and commercial centre and home of the artist since decades. Moriyama’s relationship to his neighbourhood is visceral, as he writes in his poetic catalogue essay:

Wandering around, enveloped in the vaguely violent atmosphere, I persuade myself that it is my duty as a photographer to photograph Shinjuku without shrinking back. Why? Because no other seedy neighborhood is quite like the shambles of Shinjuku. […] For street photographers like me, those who stand on Tokyo’s asphalt with camera in hand, it would be inconceivable to look elsewhere, to ignore Shinjuku as it presents itself to us, this Pandora’s box brim-full of modern myths.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

After living there for 40 years, the photographer still finds Shinjuku enigmatic, and his obsession for it grows stronger everyday:

The fierce fixation for this neighborhood I have periodically fostered over the nearly forty years since could never be compared with any other. The more chimeric and labyrinthine it is, the more powerfully its enigmatic magnetism captures me.

Moriyama has been returning to some of the same corners over and over again, photographing them various times, like a coffee shop on a dirty street corner, which reminds him of the gritty urban atmosphere of the city – an image that he can also smell, just by looking at it.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 149 x 111.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 149 x 111.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Through his images, the photographer also attempts to capture the timeless character of Shinjuku, which according to him

appears sometimes as a giant stage backdrop, sometimes as an expanded gekiga, an eternal shantytown—even the far side, that area full of high-rise towers known as the new city center. Mysteriously, there is no sense of time: almost no trace of the passing of time can be found here, the time that every city experiences in its own way. […] this monster by the name of Shinjuku is spatially unfixed, temporally unclear. It is an uncanny creature that single-mindedly, repeatedly writhes and sloughs off its outer skin, and swallows everything in its path … except that, for some reason, it does not prey on time.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Moriyama goes on to talk about Shinjuku as a “living monster”, of which we can grasp a punching, striking portrait in his colour photographs of neons, dirty corners, posters and bizarre inhabitants:

The countless other neighborhoods that make up the huge metropolis of Tokyo sped through the gradual changes of the fifty-plus years since the end of the war and, before our own eyes, have now been reduced to white, hygienic, sterile landscapes … but Shinjuku is still there in its primary colors, a living, writhing monster.

Daido Moriyama, 'Tokyo Color', 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist / Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Daido Moriyama, ‘Tokyo Color’, 2008-2015, C-print, 111.5 x 149 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation.

Quoting himself in his essay, Moriyama recalls his early impressions of Shinjuku in a book he published, saying he “came to love this neighborhood” and “became obsessed with it. Shinjuku is imbued with a mystifying narcotic essence, and took me hostage with no possibility of escape.” And he concludes:

Light and shade, obverse and reverse, truth and falsehood: each accompanies the other. And just as blighted areas exist inside everyone’s heart, cities also need places of evil. An elusive labyrinth, a modern Babylon, scabrous, smarting, yet soothing. The fact that I am spellbound to shoot Shinjuku surely shows that we are one and the same.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

1155

Related Topics: Japanese artists, photography, video, urban, museum shows, events in Paris

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“Summer Shower”: Korean-American artist Jamie M. Lee at Bongsan Cultural Centre, Daegu

“Summer Shower” at Daegu’s Bongsan Cultural Center showcases volumes and voids in the poetic work of Korean-American artist Jamie M. Lee.

Bi-dimensional assemblages and traditional paper cut-outs explore the use of texture, space and colour, while visually representing artist Jamie M. Lee’s intimate memories and visions.  

Jamie M. Lee, "Summer Shower", 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

The Glass Box presents the works of the Korean-American artist Jamie M. Lee, who will present the exhibition “Summer Shower” at the Bongsan Cultural Center in Daegu, South Korea. The artist was the recipient of the Glass Box 2016 Art Star contest and will showcase the exhibition from 29 April to 19 June 2016.

Jamie M. Lee received her BA in Painting and Printmaking from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2001, and her MFA in Painting from Claremont Graduate University, California in 2005. She has since had a number of international solo and group exhibitions in prominent institutions such as Young Eun Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeonggi-Do, Korea; Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul; Kips Gallery, New York; Phoenix Gallery, New York; La Artcore Brewey Annex Gallery, Los Angeles; and Saatchi Gallery, London, among others.

Jamie M. Lee, 'Dreamscape', 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 44 x 57.5 in (112 x 145.5 cm). Image courtesy the artist.

Jamie M. Lee, ‘Dreamscape’, 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 44 x 57.5 in (112 x 145.5 cm). Image courtesy the artist.

Jamie Lee has played around with different media and formats, embracing painting with the same ease with which she embraces drawing and sculpture. At first sight, what appears to be a static painting, melts, molds and glides once it has completely revealed itself.

Her composite paintings seamlessly incorporate disparate elements like airbrushed acrylics, marking pens, gel media, tinted inks, multi-coloured pieces of cut-and-pasted paper, and also novel materials such as glitter, fabric paint, thread, and saturated dyes.

Jamie M. Lee, 'I still believe in miracles', 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 21 x 18 in (53 x 41 cm). Image courtesy the artist.

Jamie M. Lee, ‘I Still Believe in Miracles’, 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 21 x 18 in (53 x 41 cm). Image courtesy the artist.

In incorporating diverse media, Lee’s works take on a complexity that gives her work both structural integrity and poetic overtones. According to the artist,

Combining traditional and non-traditional materials leads to the creation of something I never imagined. The use of texture, space, color, and linear elements form a visual vocabulary. Spatial complexity and an expanded repertoire of materials increase my expressive capacity. Using these allows me to organize space in ways that convey my ideas and emotions more effectively. It also energizes my surfaces by inviting viewers’ eyes to travel over them in various ways.

Jamie M. Lee, "Summer Shower", 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

This exhibition was conceptualised as a matter of chance, when Lee witnessed the theatrical display of downpours of the summer showers during a residency near Chicago. This was interspersed with spells of radiant sunshine and clear skies, which would bring out the resplendence of nature. The artist continues:

That sight reminded me of our own lives. Like the world shining brighter after a harsh storm passes by, in our lives, as in my own life, perhaps we’ll be able to smile brighter after hard times pass.

Using a 150 centimetres by 20 metres roll of paper, the artist endeavoured to visualise the present, into which she incorporated nature. Eventually the conceptualised work grew, utilising 150 centimetres by 100 metres of paper in the current ongoing exhibition, which was first exhibited in March in Seoul.

Jamie M. Lee, "Summer Shower", 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

This exhibition amalgamates personal memories and visions through abstract and rich visualisations. Lee’s forms are organic and are achieved by bunching together radial patterns like petals and other natural shapes. These are juxtaposed with sharp geometric lines and shapes, which help to impart a sense of tension and release to her work. Like her previous works, this exhibition too has a sense of ease, which is achieved through a spontaneous working method. Lee does not use preparatory sketches, or preconceived designs; instead she is a firm believer of intuition in the creative process.

Jamie M. Lee, "Summer Shower", 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

For Lee, the process of creating this work is an “act of immersion”, a cathartic reaction to the energy and rhythm of the summer shower. Her method involves cut drawing, wherein using a knife she cuts the paper in a manner akin to drawing. The work serves as personal reminder of her self-existence in a personal journey. The curator of the Bongsan Cultural Center Jung Jong-Ku writes in the exhibition introduction:

This “act of immersion,” which I think provides a joy of liberation from primal human insecurity and isolation, is impromptu and intuitive, and the continuous and repetitive “cut-drawing” act leaves shapes of what could be flower petals or seeds overlapping one on top of another, or radial lines of “empty space” as well as supporting lines of regular thickness as if to symbolize the growth of a living organism.

Entirely hand cut, the bits of paper are carefully attached to form symbolic bonds in space. It is etched in space, and is connected through specific instances of time. The work is the labour of love, a tiringly physical manifestation, which grounds both memory and imaginary thought.

Jamie M. Lee, "Summer Shower", 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

The location, the Glass Box, consists of a glass room, which through its transparent walls blurs the distinction between the interior and exterior. It thus enables the surroundings to become a part of the work and eliminates distinction between art and life. The paper installation appears to embrace dichotomy and both fills and empties the space simultaneously.

In the daytime, sunlight streams into the room, creating shifting shadows that alter through the course of the day, depending on the position of the sun. The light-and-shadow-play becomes an inseparable part of the work. The fragility of the work is exaggerated by the structured delicacy of the paper installation. With the slightest stimulus, the paperwork sways and looms, reminiscent of a shower in the month of August.

Jamie M. Lee, "Summer Shower", 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Lee’s exhibition thrives on human interaction, which has a crucial role to play in the reception of the exhibition. The cut out void space reflects the ancient wisdom according to which to empty out is to fill. The exhibition encourages interpersonal meetings and creates a space that enables mutual bonding and sympathetic approaches. Jung Jong-Ku writes:

“Summer Shower,” which stands before us, is a play at drawing while referring to the existence and nonexistence of self and the world, and the act of repeating that physical memory is the artist’s psychological fantasy as well as the enacting “event” of reconstructing this pictorial scene. What she is trying to discuss is the happiness, the pleasure that comes with joy, and pure acts themselves which have become concealed or eliminated by reason and conceptual interpretation.

Ambika Rajgopal

1152

Related Topics: American artists, Korean artists, paper, painting, installation, memory, museum shows, events in South Korea

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Rashid Rana and Glenn Lowry on the inaugural Lahore Biennale 2017 – video

Rashid Rana, newly appointed Artistic Director of the inaugural Lahore Biennale, speaks to Glenn Lowry at MoMA in New York.

The acclaimed artist and academic spoke about his curatorial visions for the first ever art biennale of Pakistan launching in 2017.

Rashid Rana. Photo: Sameed Ali. Image courtesy the Lahore Biennale.

Rashid Rana. Photo: Sameed Ali. Image courtesy the Lahore Biennale.

The inaugural edition of the Lahore Biennale, Pakistan’s first art biennale, will take place in November 2017. The biennale is set to become the country’s largest contemporary art event ever, and renowned artist, academic, curator and Lahore native Rashid Rana (b. 1968) was named Artistic Director in March this year.

About Rashid Rana

One of the most internationally visible artists from Pakistan today, Rana gained wide exposure through an acclaimed oeuvre that encompasses photography, sculpture and digital printmaking. His work deals with issues ranging from religion to urbanisation and popular culture, and he has exhibited extensively in Pakistan and abroad. Today the artist is represented by Lisson Gallery as well as Mumbai-based Chemould Prescott Road.

Rana is also a respected academic who teaches at Beaconhouse National University. Upon his appointment as the artistic director of the Lahore Biennale in March, he said in a statement issued by the Biennale Foundation:

This biennale will set out to challenge the parameters of both the biennale format and the discipline of art itself, seeking to imagine possible futures and potentials in subversive yet expansive ways. Further, by attempting to engage residents of the city directly, this biennale aims to create a network where participation and power are diffused, creating a horizontally, as opposed to vertically, structured system.

Click here to watch Rashid Rana in conversation with Glenn Lowry at MoMA on Youtube

An open and collaborative curatorial approach

Earlier this month Rana spoke at the Museum of Modern Art in New York about his plans for the inaugural biennale. In conversation with MoMA Director Glenn Lowry, Rana shed light on his personal art practice, his previous curatorial projects and his ambitions for Lahore’s upcoming flagship biennale. For Rana, the proliferation of biennales in the world and recently in Asia poses a conceptual and formal challenge that he is determined to overcome:

I think still there are ways in which one can go about in dealing with the biennale. In a way you don’t have to try hard to make it different. One has to just [focus] on the context under which [the event] is taking place. And that’s where the relevance lies.

According to Rana, who professed never having planned on becoming a curator, the biennale will be his third curatorial project. On his specific upcoming plans, Rana outlines an open, collaborative and horizontal approach:

I would like the curatorial premise to be part of a larger discourse. It will not be the case that I write a curatorial note, pass it on to the artists and they produce a work that is ‘important to Pakistan’ […]. I would like to engage more minds, include the curatorial premise as part of a larger debate, through a symposium or something along those lines, and also make use of cyber space and the internet so as to engage the academia, etc. The biennale may be located in Lahore, but I’d like to transcend and escape the location.

Plotting Lahore within the Asian art ecosystem 

When asked to comment on the Pakistani art scene, and Lahore in particular, Rana states that the upcoming biennale comes into play at a critical juncture for the local art environment:

Between the strong, over-nourished art academia from Pakistan and the phenomenon of contemporary art [practice] from Pakistan, there is a void. So there is a need for the biennale [to fill that void]. The city deserves an event of that ambition and of that scale, especially in the absence of any institutional or governmental support.

Hassan Khan, 'Various works and interventions', 2014-2015. Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. Installation view at Sharjah Biennial 12. Photo by Deema Shahin. Image courtesy the artist, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris and the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Hassan Khan, ‘Various works and interventions’, 2014-2015. Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. Installation view at Sharjah Biennial 12. Photo by Deema Shahin. Image courtesy the artist, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris and the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Lowry then asked how Rana planned to differentiate the Lahore Biennale from other Asian platforms such as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the Sharjah Biennial and the Dakha Art Summit. Rana responds:

In my mind, as an artist, whenever possible I like to defy political borders. So I would like to believe that if a subcontinent has one biennale in the south, then we need one in the north. So I don’t see it necessarily a Pakistani thing – it’s a north subcontinent thing. With Lahore, with the kind of histories that it has […] it will take on its own shape in relation to the existing models that we have.

In another statement quoted by Art News, Rana says:

The world currently has a very limited view of Lahore […]. The city is a complex urban space undergoing rapid, and sometimes unexpected, transformation. Being true to the spirit of the city of Lahore will make this a very different kind of biennale.

Michele Chan

1149

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“What happens now?”: Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab 2016

The Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab: What happens now? announces the artist list for its inaugural edition.

Thirteen artists will spend two weeks in June 2016 developing their ideas in an intensive laboratory setting at Melbourne’s historical Queen Victoria Market.

Will Foster (A Centre of Everything), Matthias Einhoff, Lars Hayer and Alex Head (with Lena Obergfell & Saubin Yap), Wasteland Twinning (Wasteland Twinning Ceremony Sydney and Kuala Lumpur, 2012). Image courtesy of Wasteland Twinning Network e.V. Photo: Robin Taylor.

Will Foster (A Centre of Everything), Matthias Einhoff, Lars Hayer and Alex Head (with Lena Obergfell & Saubin Yap), Wasteland Twinning (Wasteland Twinning Ceremony Sydney and Kuala Lumpur, 2012). Image courtesy of Wasteland Twinning Network e.V. Photo: Robin Taylor.

Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab

The inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab takes place this year, comprising an artists’ lab summit in June 2016 co-convened by Claire Doherty and David Cross and the realisation of temporary commissions in October 2016 as part of the Melbourne Festival.

Curated by Natalie King, the Lab explores the possibilities of transformation of public spaces through the historical platform of the Biennial Lab site. The title “What happens now?” was derived from a Jenny Holzer paste-up programme throughout New York City in 1979. According to the press release, Holzer’s slogan anchors the curatorial framework while “offer[ing] an open ended inquiry and the prospect of imagining new possibilities”:

By asking about “now,” we can interrogate the multi-layered and deeply condensed history of the Biennial Lab site: Queen Victoria Market (QVM). QVM has long been a communal meeting place. It was a gathering place first for the clans of the Kulin Nation, for the “suburban swagmen” of late 1880s Melbourne, for market gardeners, customers, and the community.

Hiromi Tango, 'Amygdala (Fireworks)', 2016, neon and mixed media, performance. Image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney.

Hiromi Tango, ‘Amygdala (Fireworks)’, 2016, neon and mixed media, performance. Image courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney.

Selected artists

An open call was held last month to recruit participating artists, and thirteen artists were selected from over 150 applications. The artists will spend two weeks in June developing their ideas in an intensive laboratory convened by Claire Doherty MBE and Professor David Cross from Deakin University. The list of artists is as follows:

The selection panel comprised a curatorium that included Natalie King, David Cross (artist, curator, Head of Art and Performance, Deakin University), Jefa Greenaway (architect, Director, Greenaway Architects and Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria), Veronica Kent (artist, The Telepathy Project), Djon Mundine OAM (curator, activist and writer), Fiona Whitworth (QVM) and Lynda Roberts (City of Melbourne).

International affiliates included Claire Doherty (Director, Situations UK), Khairuddin Hori (artist and former Deputy Director of Artistic Programming, Palais de Tokyo, Paris) and Hou Hanru (Director, MAXXI, Rome).

Kiron Robinson, 'Hello. You've made it', 2015, neon, 15 x 75 cm. Image courtesy Christo Crocker. Kiron Robinson courtesy Sarah Scout Presents.

Kiron Robinson, ‘Hello. You’ve made it’, 2015, neon, 15 x 75 cm. Image courtesy Christo Crocker.
Kiron Robinson courtesy Sarah Scout Presents.

The magic of the encounter

The Lab will also include an amplification programme inviting the wider community to participate in public conversations. Ultimately, the programme re-imagines the market site as a microcosm and incubator for alternate patterns and possibilities, offering a platform to “listen to the murmurings of Melbourne”.

In a provocative manifesto published in 2013 entitled New Rules for Public Art, Doherty outlined her principles of public art:

Believe in the quiet, unexpected encounter as much as the magic of the mass spectacle. It’s often in the silence of a solitary moment, or in a shared moment of recognition, rather than the exhilaration of whizzes and bangs, that transformation occurs.

Michele Chan

1148

Related Topics: Australian artists, public art, curatorial practice, events in Melbourne

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Internal landscape, external world: Nepal’s Govinda Sah – artist profile

London-based Nepali artist “seeks the sacred” with canvases of luminosity and “cosmic explosions”.

Govinda Sah’s third solo show in London deftly explores Eastern metaphysical traditions alongside humanity’s interconnectedness with the universe.

Govinda Sah 'Azad', 'Wondering Cloud', 2016, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Govinda Sah ‘Azad’, ‘Wondering Cloud’, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Mixed media artist Govinda Sah, also known as ‘Azad’, uses three-dimensional objects such as beads and hair and “carefully textured layers of paint” to bring the cosmos to life.

Govinda Sah (b. 1974) was born in the city of Rajbiraj in south-eastern Nepal. The artist was nicknamed Azad, which means ‘freedom’, after his independent nature. Despite his parents prompting him to study science or engineering, Sah left home as a teenager and spent four years in India as a sign painter. After returning to Nepal, Sah completed his BFA at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu (2003) and then went abroad to earn an MFA from the University of Development Alternative in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2006) and an MFA from London’s Wimbledon College of Arts (2008). After graduating with his second MFA, Sah decided to stay on in London, where he remains to this day.

Govinda Sah 'Azad'. Photo: Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Govinda Sah ‘Azad’. Photo: Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

The artist’s work is currently being shown in “Boundless Possibilities” at the October Gallery in London until 25 June 2016 and has previously been exhibited at Abu Dhabi Art, Art Dubai and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Sah’s mixed media creations, as written in the press release for the “Boundless Possibilities” solo show, take an intimate look at “celestial realms” which “possess their own unique luminosity”. In addition to a tension found between light and darkness in the artist’s work, is a sense of physicality as Sah stretches the limitations of the canvas with holes, smoke and fire.

Govinda Sah 'Azad', 'Above the Mountains', 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Govinda Sah ‘Azad’, ‘Above the Mountains’, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Growing up in the Himalayan country of Nepal, Sah was influenced by a combination of what Robert Beer, a British scholar of Tibetan Buddhist art, calls a “unique fusion of Hindu and Buddhist Tantric traditions”. According to the artist’s website, these spiritual traditions appeared in his earlier work and led to a research project while he was at university:

His MA thesis was entitled “Can clouds re-establish the symbolic interpretation of spirituality and sublime contemporary art?” The paper examined how artists from JMW Turner to contemporary artist Anish Kapoor have used clouds to represent spirituality or the sublime. His choice of subject matter began with landscape and temples from his country, Nepal and even included a three month solo cycle tour of Nepal.

Govinda Sah 'Azad', 'Mind or Matter' (detail), 2016, mixed media on canvas, 140 x 120 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Govinda Sah ‘Azad’, ‘Mind or Matter’ (detail), 2016, mixed media on canvas, 140 x 120 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Beyond the age-old traditions of the East, as the artist told Art Radar, a particular connection and interest in the environment and vast universe itself manifests throughout the artist’s oeuvre:

I am connected to both the internal and external world and I like to feel it and to sense it. Our bodies are part of nature and also part of the universe, the stars. So at one level, something can be very small and yet also connected to something infinite.

I have often used the familiar existence of clouds in the sky as a reversible lens to examine both the world of infinitesimally small things – droplets of water vapour uniting to form huge cloud formations – and, at the other extreme, to explore  imagined manifestations like vast clouds of intergalactic dust which are seedbeds for distant stars.

Govinda Sah 'Azad', 'MatterNothingMatter' (Detail 2), 2015, mixed media on canvas, 160 x 180 cm. Photo: Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the artist and the October Gallery London.

Govinda Sah ‘Azad’, ‘MatterNothingMatter’ (Detail 2), 2015, mixed media on canvas, 160 x 180 cm. Photo: Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the artist and the October Gallery London.

Sah’s interest in the interconnectedness of self and the environment manifested as a three-month long solo cycle trip in Nepal. As the artist relayed to Art Radar, “The 21st Century is the Century of Art and Peace” tour was a once in a lifetime experience that brought together people and art, with exhibitions and art lessons, all in the name of peace:

The cycle tour was related to people as well as myself. Nepal is great place for many reasons, two of which are that the people are very peaceful and the natural environment is very beautiful. However, since the 90s, it has been involved in the Maoist civil war and now there is still sectoral conflict as well as terrifying natural events like earthquakes and aftershocks.

I think my art and my actions hold a mirror to my country and the events happening there. When I look back, after burning the paintings which were created during the cycle tour in 2000, I reflected that the tour produced a very strong reaction in Nepal and the art world in Nepal. People are taking the role of art seriously. On one hand, many monuments, historical temples and palaces were destroyed by the earthquake and on the other hand, the artists who burnt their peace paintings were crying out for peace.

Govinda Sah 'Azad', 'Reflection', 2016. mixed media on canvas, 120 x 110 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Govinda Sah ‘Azad’, ‘Reflection’, 2016. mixed media on canvas, 120 x 110 cm. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

Now, almost two decades later, Sah continues on amidst societal and environmental upheaval. As the artist told Art Radar, his work will continue to uncover and illuminate, while seeking to reveal the truth:

Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha and the brave Ghurkha.  It is a kingdom of nature, although it is also experiencing social and political corruption. It is also affected by global warming and climate change. As an artist, I am trying my best to reflect my emotional reaction to these changes through the making of art. It is hard to say how many minds have changed, but I’m sure my work has touched many hearts.

Lisa Pollman

1151

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30 Years of Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester

For its 30th anniversary programme, CFCCA Manchester holds a number of exhibitions of some of China’s most celebrated artists.

Launched in February 2016 and running until July, the “30 Years of CFCCA” exhibitions programme features high-profile artists from Greater China.

Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) exterior by Arthur Siuksta (2015). Image courtesy CFCCA.

Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) exterior by Arthur Siuksta (2015). Image courtesy CFCCA.

In February 2016, coinciding with the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, Manchester’s Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) launched a six-month programme of exhibitions for its 30th anniversary. The anniversary programme invites artists from CFCCA’s history, who have become internationally acclaimed, to return to Manchester to exhibit new work.

CFCCA began in 1986 as a Chinese cultural festival held in Manchester’s Chinatown and organised by artist Amy Lai. The ‘Chinese View Arts Association’ has evolved throughout three decades across three venues and two name changes, from Chinese Arts Centre to its current Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art.

CFCCA has dedicated itself to representing Chinese arts and culture in the United Kingdom since its inception, and is today one the country’s leading organisation for the promotion of and research on Chinese contemporary art.

Xu Bing, 'Book from the Ground'. Photo: Arthur Siuksta. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Xu Bing, ‘Book from the Ground’. Photo: Arthur Siuksta. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Revisiting the 21st Century

The exhibition programme has so far featured renowned artists whose new works explore developments, important events and social trends of the 21st century.

Xu Bing’s Book from the Ground (5 – 28 February 2016), a book written entirely in symbols and emoticons, reflects today’s increasingly digitalised communication. From 4 to 27 March, Cao Fei presented La Town, the story of a post-apocalyptic metropolis made entirely from the filming of sets and miniature models.

Tsang Kin-Wah portrait. Photo: Kenji Morita.

Tsang Kin-Wah portrait. Photo: Kenji Morita.

Hong Kong artist Tsang Kin-Wah mixes language with floral patterns, typically presented as large-scale wallpaper prints or immersive projections, such as in his exhibition “THE INFINITE NOTHING” at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. His new installation First trumpet in the new millennium, on display at CFCCA from 8 to 24 April, addressed one of the major world events of the 21st century to date – the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September 2001.

Tsang Kin Wah, 'The First Trumpet in the New Millenium', 2015, screenshot. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

Tsang Kin Wah, ‘The First Trumpet in the New Millenium’, 2015, screenshot. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

The artist took YouTube footage of the event and used it to compose a black and white video that depicts, according to the press release, “a chaotic and impermanent world where creation and destruction take place at the same time”. Tsang considers how the 2001 attack heralded a “new era” – the new millennium.

Tsang’s first exhibition at CFCCA took place in 2008. Entitled “What are you looking at?” it was a provocative show that used design and text to engage with issues of consumerism, sexual desire and transaction.

Lee Mingwei, 'Between Going and Staying', MOCA Taipei, 2007. Photo: Lee Studio.

Lee Mingwei, ‘Between Going and Staying’, MOCA Taipei, 2007. Photo: Lee Studio.

The Ephemerality of Existence

Launched on 6 May and still ongoing until 29 May, Lee Mingwei’s installation Between Coming and Going explores the ephemeral nature of existence and the particular experience of “finding oneself suspended in a moment between place, time and history”. The installation was inspired by Octavio Paz’s homonymous poem and consists of a dimly lit room in which fine black sand continuously falls from a broken lightbulb suspended from the ceiling.

Lee Mingwei, 'Between Going and Staying', MOCA Taipei, 2007. Photo: Lee Studio.

Lee Mingwei, ‘Between Going and Staying’, MOCA Taipei, 2007. Photo: Lee Studio.

The room quietly fills with black sand, while a melody of an Asian cello-like instrument called a MaToChin plays in the background. The dim lights, the soft movement of the sand and the music create a space for contemplation, inspiring visitors to reflect on the fleeting nature of a moment in time.

In 2013, Lee presented The Living Room and A Quartet in Galleries 1 and 2 at CFCCA. The immersive installations encouraged the audience to develop a personal relationship with the work through their interactions with the space.

Gordon Cheung, 'Chairman Mao goes to Anyuan', 2016. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

Gordon Cheung, ‘Chairman Mao goes to Anyuan’, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

China: a 21st century global superpower

Also launched on 8 April alongside Tsang Kin-wah’s installation, Hong Kong artist Gordon Cheung’s exhibition runs until 19 June and comprises a series of new works that examine the relationship between civilisation and conquest. Cheung appropriated Chinese propaganda posters, glitched by using a computer algorithm. The fragments of the posters represent the accelerated transition of time from era to era, mirrored by China’s changing ideologies as depicted in the images.

Gordon Cheung, 'Tempering red hearts', 2016. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

Gordon Cheung, ‘Tempering red hearts’, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

As CFCCA explains, Cheung addresses in particular

the social, moral and political climate surrounding China’s emergence as a 21st century global superpower, and the Western anxieties relating to this shifting global landscape.

Cheung first worked with CFCCA when he took part in the ‘Breathe’ artist-in-residence programme. In 2008, CFCCA held his solo exhibition “Death by a Thousand Cuts”.

Gordon Cheung, 'To Go on a Thousand Li March to Temper a Red Heart, 1971', 2016. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

Gordon Cheung, ‘To Go on a Thousand Li March to Temper a Red Heart, 1971’, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and CFCCA.

susan pui san lok, 'RoCH Fans & Legends'. Photos: CJ-11. Image courtesy CFCCA.

susan pui san lok, ‘RoCH Fans & Legends’. Photos: CJ-11. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Exploring popular culture through wuxia

susan pui san lok contributed artistically and critically to CFCCA’s development throughout the 1990s and first exhibited at the institution with Retrospectre/Un-(part 6) in 1996, while in 2006 she presented her work Golden (Years). From 3 June to 3 July, the artist will present a new body of work entitled RoCH Faans & Legends, commissioned by QUAD and CFCCA, in partnership with the University of Salford and Animate projects.

susan pui san lok, 'RoCH Fans & Legends'. Photos: CJ-11. Image courtesy CFCCA.

susan pui san lok, ‘RoCH Fans & Legends’. Photos: CJ-11. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Featuring single and multi-channel moving image works, the exhibition takes place both in the gallery and online. RoCH (Return of the Condor Heroes) draws on adaptations of the classic wuxia epic The Condor Trilogy (1957-61), published in the late fifties by Hong Kong author Louis Cha. Wuxia (‘martial hero’) is a genre of Chinese fiction recounting the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. Through her oeuvre, the artist explores some of the genre’s recurring tropes, fantasies, landscapes and archetypes as well as its presentations in popular culture.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

1150

Related Topics: Chinese artists, Hong Kong artists, Taiwanese artists, museum exhibitions, installation, film, video, events in Manchester/UK

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Dreaming in plastic: Vietnamese artist Trân Trong Vû – artist profile

Three-dimensional installations invite audience to participate in maze of illusions. 

Vietnamese diaspora artist Trân Trong Vû paints on sheets of plastic to create an “invisible and ambiguous labyrinth” examining the traumas of the past and rapid modernisation in his homeland.

Trân Trong Vû, "Viva La Politica" installation shot, 2006, paintings on transparent plastic, 100 x 300 cm/sheet. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû, ‘Viva La Politica’, 2006, paintings on transparent plastic, 100 x 300 cm/ sheet. Image courtesy the artist.

Paris-based painter Trân Trong Vû is the son of a revolutionary poet and writer Trân Dân, who was active during Vietnam’s anti-colonial period (1945-1954) and was subsequently jailed for his “radical” beliefs. Trân Trong Vû came of age during a particularly chaotic period, between French colonial rule and war with the United States. His work often depicts expansive blue skies and floral motifs. Behind this riot of colour, Vû seeks to uncover the soul of what is it to be Vietnamese in the 21st century.

Trân Trong Vû. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû. Image courtesy the artist.

Vû was born in 1964 in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he was first a student (1982-1987) and then a teacher (1987-1989) at the Fine Arts College of Hanoi. Following his position as a drawing teacher, the artist was invited to be a student at the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris in 1989, where he decided to remain once his studies were completed. In 2011, Vû was awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Award for established artists.

Trân Trong Vû, “The exponents without number” installation , 2014, paintings on transparent plastic, 100 x 270 cm/each. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû, ‘The Exponents Without Number’, 2014, paintings on transparent plastic, 100 x 270 cm/ each. Image courtesy the artist.

The artist’s work is found in collections at the Singapore Art Museum, the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts and Arizona State University Art Museum (ASU), where Vû’s work was shown for solo exhibition “Blue Memory: Paintings by Tran Trong Vu”. According to ASU Senior Curator Heather Sealy Lineberry, Vû examines the dramatic changes that have occurred in his home country, particularly since the country’s sweeping economic reforms known as doi moi in 1986 and the normalisation between Vietnam and the United States in 1995:

Vu’s striking paintings of schematic figures on suspended sheets of plastic explore what it means to be Asian and Vietnamese within the context of an increasingly westernized global culture.

Trân Trong Vû, "Luggage without destination" installation, 2011, painting on transparent plastic sheet and two bags. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû, ‘Luggage Without Destination’, 2011, painting on transparent plastic sheet and two bags. Image courtesy the artist.

Aside from the vast changes happening in Hanoi, Vû honed in on his “Vietnameseness” by living outside of his homeland, where contemporary artists have seen limited funding and artwork is often subject to government censorship. The opportunity to show his work on the international stage came early in Vû’s career, when he was chosen to exhibit in Hong Kong at the Plum Blossoms gallery in 1991.

Vû’s entry onto the contemporary art scene took on a dramatically different form than many of the artists at home, who often depicted bucolic scenes harkening back to Vietnam’s colonial narratives, with women in flowing ao dais and the lush countryside in an effort to catch favour from the burgeoning tourist trade. The artist’s fresh take on Vietnam and in wider context, Asia, provided images that harkened back to propaganda-like imagery with carbon-copy, “schematic figures.” His installation “Luggage without destination” is a not so subtle rift on living apart from his country, with just his memories as “baggage”.

Trân Trong Vû, "Subject & Object" installation, paintings on transparent plastic sheets, 100 x 270cm/each. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû, ‘Subject & Object’, paintings on transparent plastic sheets, 100 x 270 cm/ each. Image courtesy the artist.

As Nora A. Taylor, of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago noted in an article called “Raindrops on Red Flags: Tran Trong Vu and the Roots of Vietnamese Painting Abroad”, this self-imposed separation from Vietnam afforded artists like Vû with a “freer definition of identity” beyond what their peers at home conceived as more “marketable” images:

As foreigners pour into Vietnam to buy art, Vietnamese artists are increasingly putting the nation onto the canvas – or at least what passes as that nation in the eyes of foreigners. But as artists within Vietnam use art as a vehicle for iterating self-consciousness, Vietnamese artists abroad challenge their account of Vietnamese identity and argue that the nation extends itself beyond the borders of Vietnam. As they see it, to be Vietnamese is not merely to live in Vietnam, if it is even that: it is also to be part of a more global expression of Vietnameseness that is not confined to the borders of Vietnam, the country, but rather is part of a new and freer definition of Vietnamese identity. These artists insist that only when they are abroad can they truly be themselves and truly be Vietnamese.

Trân Trong Vû. "The illusion of war" installation, 2009, painting on transparent plastic sheets, 100 x 270 cm/each. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû, ‘The Illusion of War’, 2009, painting on transparent plastic sheets, 100 x 270 cm/ each. Image courtesy the artist.

This idea of plumbing the depths of the Vietnamese soul through the contextualisation of contemporary narratives is the raison d’être of Vû’s creations. For example, in the artist’s “The illusion of war” installation, South and North Vietnamese soldiers take aim at the audience, with a lively profusion of flowers filling a maze-like space. Are they flowers or bullet holes? It is unclear. What is crystal clear, however, through this installation, is the very real confusion felt by South and North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War, with people from the same country killing each other with foreign-supplied ammunitions.

Vû explained the reason why he employs large transparent sheets of plastic and how this medium allows the public to participate in his installations in his artist statement:

Unlike most artists, I consider painting only as means of work, it is never my objective in itself. I paint on transparent plastic to insert images in space. Hung in the open air, the painting on this material will become an illusion. In other words, my plastics give a new life to space. It must to be read through the images, the words and the signs left by the transparent plastics. The place, metamorphosed in many trompe l’oeil, creates a play of hide-and-seek between the figures and the transparencies.

Trân Trong Vû, 'The blue country', 2016, oil on canvas, 130cm x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Trân Trong Vû, ‘The blue country’, 2016, oil on canvas, 130cm x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

In addition to his paintings on plastic, Vû also works with oil on canvas. Here, brilliant blue skies and the natural world pulse with life, with the ubiquitous Asian everyman quietly standing witness. A recent departure for the artist has seen the artist “working with writing” since 2011, much like his father before him. As Nora A. Taylor noted in “Raindrops on Red Flags”, Vû continues to struggle with both the past and the present, negotiating a path between outsider and native son, transparency and illusion:

The concept of censorship and silence is obviously a very personal one for Vu considering the lifelong struggle his father endured as a banned writer in Vietnam. Tran Dan was essentially in exile in his own country. Now his son, literally in exile, is at last able to speak out against those injustices. And yet, he can only do so (or chooses to do so) in very abstract ways. Like his father, Vu did not seek a voice: rather, he left Vietnam in search of anonymity. Like Bui Xuan Phai, who said that a painter paints not to speak but to remain silent, Vu and his father choose to remain silent.

Lisa Pollman

1153

Related Topics: Vietnamese artists, identity art, installation, profiles, art and the community

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