More than 40 Australian artists flood to the 56th Venice Biennale



At the 56th Venice Biennale, Australian artists arrive in large contingents.

Australia has recently unveiled its new permanent pavilion in the Giardini, renewing its foothold in the most prestigious international biennial. But this is not the only place where Australian art can be found during the Biennale, as more artists will participate in a number of collateral events.

Northeast view of the new Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, with closed panels, designed by Denton Corker Marshall. Photo by John Gollings. Image courtesy Australia Council for the Arts.

Northeast view of the new Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, with closed panels, designed by Denton Corker Marshall. Photo by John Gollings. Image courtesy Australia Council for the Arts.

Australia is participating in the 56th Venice Biennale (9 May – 22 November 2015) with more artists than ever before – a record number of over forty, including those in the national pavilion, the central exhibition and a variety of collateral and satellite events.

Looking back: Australia at the Venice Biennale

National Arts Writer Michaela Boland recently wrote in The Australian about Australia’s presentations in past editions of the Biennale, citing “The Home Show” by Howard Arkley in 1999 as the last to have directed positive critical attention to the country’s pavilion. Successive iterations have seen Patricia Piccinini and Ricky Swallow as national representatives, while the 2007 pavilion was shared by Callum Morton, Susan Norrie and Daniel von Sturmer. In 2011, Hany Armanious’s exhibition resulted in “violently disappointed” comments in the guest book. In 2013, with Simryn Gill‘s show, no guest book was made available, while her artwork rotted from exposure to the weather because she had insisted that the roof of the pavilion be removed.

Boland further commented on the change of game for Australia at the major international event:

Australian artists tend to be a footnote at the Venice Biennale, the world’s biggest international art jamboree. The national pavilion has never won the big prize and only once has an Australian — video artist Shaun Gladwell — been selected for inclusion in the huge international exhibition, which is staged alongside the national pavilions from which a winner is announced each iteration. […] The 2015 Biennale promises to be, well, different.

Fiona Hall, 'Endings are the New Beginnings', 2014, painted long box clock, 150 cm high. Photo: Clayton Glen. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia. © the artist

Fiona Hall, ‘Endings are the New Beginnings’, 2014, painted long box clock, 150 cm high. Photo: Clayton Glen. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia. © the artist

2015: Game changer for Australia 

The recently unveiled AUD6 million (USD4.7 million) new Australia Pavilion at the Giardini – an austere black box overlooking a canal designed by architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall – will host Fiona Hall’s solo presentation entitled “Wrong Way Time”.

Meanwhile, no less than seven Australian artists have been invited to the central exhibition, “All the World’s Futures”, at the Arsenale – hosting 136 international artists in total – by the Biennale’s Artistic Director, Okwui Enwezor. Enwezor travelled to Australia in 2014, visiting various art spaces, galleries, artist studios and institutions, especially around the art hubs of Sydney and Melbourne. He selected the following artists for the exhibition:

  • indigenous mixed-media artist Daniel Boyd
  • sculptor Emily Floyd
  • noise and visual artist Marco Fusinato
  • up-and-coming artist Newell Harry
  • sound artist Sonia Leber
  • composer and artist David Chesworth
  • the late aboriginal painter Emily Kame Kngwarreye

A further six venues around Venice will also host the work of Australian artists, including the Gervasuti Foundation, with the official collateral exhibition “COUNTRY”, featuring more than thirty aboriginal artists alongside Italians. The Berengo Foundation in partnership with The State Hermitage Museum will feature Melbourne artist Penny Byrne in “Glasstress 2015 Gotika”, who will create a glass suit of armour for the event.

Another six artists have been invited to exhibit at Palazzo Bembo and Palazzo Mora in “Personal Structures”, a group exhibition presented by Global Art Affairs.

The Australian Pavilion, designed by Philip Cox and built in 1988, with Shaun Gladwell's work during the Venice Biennale in 2009. © cubamxc/Flickr

The Australian Pavilion, designed by Philip Cox and built in 1988, with Shaun Gladwell’s work during the Venice Biennale in 2009. © cubamxc/Flickr

The Australian invasion

Mr Tony Grybowski, Chief Executive of the Australia Council for the Arts, was recently quoted in Arts Review about Australia’s increased participation in Venice:

This is an incredible result, one that raises Australia’s international profile and demonstrates the quality of work coming from our visual arts sector. This international recognition highlights the global interest in Australian art, and marks an impressive year for Australian visual art and artists.

As The Art Newspaper pointed out, many commentators have attributed the ‘Australia invasion’ of Venice to the country’s new cultural policy, which was launched in August 2014 and seeks “to promote Australian arts abroad and grow cultural tourism in part by inviting tastemakers like Enwezor to the country.”

According to a recent report by the Arts Council, art tourism in Australia grew 19 percent in 2014, to reach 2.4 million. In 2013–14, the Council invested AUD199.2 million through funding grants and initiatives, according to its Annual Report 2013-2014 (PDF download), of which AUD9 million was dedicated to overseas activities – an increase of AUD1.4 million from the previous period of 2012-2013.

One of the art works in Hany Armanious' solo presentation in the Australia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011. © Carl Guderian/Flickr

One of the artworks in Hany Armanious’ solo presentation in the Australia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011. © Carl Guderian/Flickr

The Venice Biennale does not sponsor its participating artists: materials and production costs are not covered, and usually neither are shipping and travel expenses. Expenses run high for artists who are not backed by their representing galleries or other funding sources.

Australia’s new policies mark a new era for its contemporary art and international visibility by making it easier for artists to participate on the international stage. Arts NSW is also sponsoring six artists and six art practitioners from New South Wales at this year’s Biennale, as this opportunity

represents exposure and participation in an international arts dialogue, a chance to connect with new audiences and curators in a globally relevant context, and the opportunity to witness curatorial practices and contemporary arts practice. […] by assisting Australian artists and arts workers to be immersed in the 2015 Venice Biennale, we’re building skills that these people will return with and instil in the NSW art sector’s ecology.

Arts Review also mentions that Australian patrons, through the Arts Council, are this year extending their support to all the Australian artists exhibiting in Venice.

Fiona Hall, 'Out of My Tree' (detail), 2014, enamel painted on cuckoo clock. Photo: Clayton Glen. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia. © the artist

Fiona Hall, ‘Out of My Tree’ (detail), 2014, enamel painted on cuckoo clock. Photo: Clayton Glen. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia. © the artist

Cultural diplomacy

In 2013, there was surprise at the plethora of Chinese contemporary art exhibitions taking over Venice during the Biennale, as China was pushing its cultural strengths internationally. This year, it seems Australia is catching up, or perhaps making up for its past evasive presence.

According to Tony Grybowski, quoted in The Art Newspaper:

Cultural diplomacy is such an important part of our international relations and soft diplomacy. […] It will be a big year for Australia in Venice.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Australian artists, Australian art, biennales, biennials, contemporary art as soft power, events in Venice, the 56th Venice Biennale

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Taha Heydari decodes radical propaganda in the Middle East – in pictures



Iranian artist Taha Heydari proves that beauty can be deadly, and the deadly beautiful.

On show at Ethan Cohen New York until 30 May 2015, “Taha Heydari: See Something Say Something” urges a closer look at the ubiquitous propaganda imagery that penetrates our daily consciousness. 

Taha Heydari, 'Mountains', 2014, acrylic on panel. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘Mountains’, 2014, acrylic on panel. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari (b. 1986, Tehran, Iran) was trained in the art of miniature painting in Iran. In his first solo exhibition abroad, entitled “Taha Heydari: See Something Say Something”, Heydari employs his exquisite craft in tackling the grim and weighty subject of Middle Eastern radical propaganda.

Taha Heydari, 'Tetris', 2015, acrylic on board (wood), 44 x 44 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘Tetris’, 2015, acrylic on board (wood), 44 x 44 inc. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

A postmodern aesthetic

So intricate and sophisticated is the artist’s brushwork that, from a distance, the paintings appear to be complex mixed media collages. Shiny and seductive, yet anonymous and ambivalent, Heydari’s multi-layered canvases exude a postmodern aesthetic – one that embodies the flashing temporality of Youtube and video games.

Taha Heydari, 'The Smoke', 2014, acrylic on canvas, 35.4 x 45.2 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘The Smoke’, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 35.4 x 45.2 inc. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

The exhibition press release calls to attention Heydari’s unique aesthetic, highlighting his training in the art of miniature painting:

[Heydari] brings his highly-sensitised eye to the glossy post-modern palette of images generated by electronic screens.

Taha Heydari, 'Watch us', 2014, acrylic on board (wood), 45 x 47 inch. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘Watch us’, 2014, acrylic on board (wood), 45 x 47 in. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

A lurking menace 

A closer inspection reveals the menace lurking behind the glittering surfaces. Rows of faceless, bearded men ogle a female figure in Watch Us (2014), a hooded gunman executes a blindfolded prisoner in On Stage (2015), and a masked executioner beheads a boy in See Something Say Something (2015). The decapitated head is laughing; according to the press release, Heydari has depicted a

[beheading] that a brainwashed boy can only laugh at, even if it happens to him.

Taha Heydari, 'See Something Say Something', 2015, acrylic on board (wood), 47 x 47.4 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘See Something Say Something’, 2015, acrylic on board (wood), 47 x 47.4 in. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Heydari’s concern is that propaganda images are enfolded surreptitiously into everyday media channels, brainwashing people into supporting war and violence. His subject matter is the “morally toxic, deceptively banal, visual junk that feeds the region’s wars and and subliminal messages”, which are so ubiquitously deployed

that they become a kind of blurry background texture to daily life, a shifting wallpaper of the mind.

Taha Heydari, 'Doom II', 2014, acrylic on board (wood), 47.4 x 48 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘Doom II’, 2014, acrylic on board (wood), 47.4 x 48 in. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

The banality goes further: as violent computer games and drone wars enter global consciousness, painless killing is made possible through mediated screens. As written in the press release,

The result is a reality that escapes us, that happens to others, even when it happens to us.

Taha Heydari, 'Friends', 2014, acrylic on canvas, 35. 4 x 45.2 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘Friends’, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 35. 4 x 45.2 in. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

See something, say something

What Heydari does with his art is freeze the questionable imagery long enough for viewers to detect evil from within the slippery eloquence of propaganda. He warns against indifference as a response towards the proliferation of clichéd abstractions, beseeching viewers to recognise atrocity for what it is. For instance, in On Stage, a beautiful female face on a billboard looks upon a blindfolded execution with chilling impassivity.

Taha Heydari, 'On Stage', 2015, acrylic and oil on board (wood), 47 x 47 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

Taha Heydari, ‘On Stage’, 2015, acrylic and oil on board (wood), 47 x 47 in. Image courtesy the artist and Ethan Cohen New York.

The press release reads:

Always ambivalent, suggestive, mysterious, his works invite the viewer to decipher, to look again and see the shiny visual poison at work.

Michele Chan

707

Related Topics: Iranian artists, art and war, violence in art, painting, acrylic, picture feasts, events in New York

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“Hedonistic popstars and Muslim youth”: interview with Pakistani artist Faiza Butt



Faiza Butt investigates freedom and feminism through lively pointillist drawings. 

Born in Lahore and residing in London, Faiza Butt’s work marries iconic images and stereotypical representations with splashes of colour. Art Radar spoke with the artist about her first retrospective in the United Kingdom, opening on 23 April 2015 at the New Art Exchange, and what she’s learned about life from her children.

Faiza Butt, 'The Joker', 2013, ink on polyester film, 33 x 45 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘The Joker’, 2013, ink on polyester film, 33 x 45 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt (b. 1973, Lahore, Pakistan) earned her BFA from the National College of Arts Lahore with an honours in painting in 1993, and an MA with distinction from the Slade School of Fine Art, London in 1999.

According to Melanie Kidd, Director of Programmes at the New Art Exchange, Butt’s work is a “refreshing” blend of styles. Kidd told Art Radar that:

Faiza’s practice occupies a fascinating space that combines both eastern and western artistic influences creating a visual language which is both refreshing and unique. Given NAE’s interest in art and artists from around the world, particularly South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the West Indies, we were very interested in Faiza’s fusion of styles.

Butt’s work has been exhibited widely internationally and has been included in notable events, such as Art Dubai, Hong Kong Art Fair and the Venice Biennale. The artist was awarded the Berger Gold Metal for Outstanding Student of the Year at the National College of Arts Lahore and the UNESCO-Ashberg Bursary Award. In addition, Butt was nominated for the Jameel Prize (2013) and was a finalist for the Sovereign Art Prize (2009). Her work is held in public and private collections worldwide. She is represented by Rossi & Rossi, London.

Art Radar caught up with the artist to learn more about the images and topics that drive her work and how growing up under General Zia’s regime and living in London post-9/11 has shaped the themes and techniques that she employs.

You spent your formative years in Lahore. How did that experience shape your sense of identity and the choices of topics and images that you choose to use in your artwork?

I was born and raised in Lahore. The Pakistan I gained consciousness in was under the dictatorial regime of General Zia, and the eighties were a very turbulent time. I was raised against a backdrop of the calculated propagation of Islamic extremism in a previously moderate society, with Pakistan supporting the Mujahideen (later known as the Taliban) as the United States waged a war against the advancing Russians.

From a grassroots movement – my catholic school uniform had a hijab – all the way to mainstream media, everything eventually came under strict rules of censorship. The country became the “Islamic” Republic of Pakistan and Sharia law was passed. Sharia law is unsympathetic to the most vulnerable and endorses primitive methods of civil discipline. The segregation of men from women, an absence of debates around sexuality and the human condition, as well as my own placement in a matriarchal household remain concepts that underpin my practice to this day. I took in everything that was changing and mutating around me. Ever since, the need to question power and authority is part of my grain.

I clearly recall that media and popular cinema became useful tools of propaganda, and their projection and display were absorbed by my observant eyes. Lahore had no galleries or public art spaces during that time. There was no source to consult for art debates or about regional art history. There was, however, enough inspiring material such as hand-painted cinema bill boards, advertising, illustrations in newspapers and children’s comics, political propaganda material and truck art around me to satiate my quest for visual and optical information. In a way, this climate of suppression and denial heightened and sharpened my senses.

Faiza Butt, 'Get out of my dreams', 2012, ink on polyester film, 29.7 x 42.0cm.  Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘Get out of my dreams’, 2012, ink on polyester film, 29.7 x 42.0 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

How has that experience changed as an artist living outside Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks?

I came to Britain before the World Trade Center attacks in New York, and observed the post [9/11] effects on our collective public consciousness. I believe that the association of extremism with Islam has had the most damaging and dividing effects upon people. We stand very divided in these savage times.

I was teaching in a primarily migrant (Pakistani/Bangladeshi) college in London shortly after the attacks. It was fascinating to see students adopting an identity as Muslims, a reactionary result of what they regarded as an Islamic witch hunt. It was worrying, as that reactionary affiliation – along with faith – nurtures the rise of the right on the other side. The work from my “Stars and Idols” series is from that period in my life, where I juxtaposed Muslim youth with unlikely people, such as Western hedonistic pop stars! I was trying to make the point that in this divided climate we associate and project frames in which we believe certain units of cultures and sub-cultures exist.

Britain has a very proud and clear sense of cultural and historic identity, and it remained difficult for me to “assimilate” entirely. I remained a Pakistani based abroad. It may be in a diasporic capacity, but I kept in touch with my academic allies and audience in Pakistan. I exhibited there regularly, and participated in educational and cultural events.

You consider Salima Hashmi your mentor. What techniques or subjects did you learn from her that you still include today in your work?

Amidst this grinding political social situation, the National College of the Arts served as a haven in the city of Lahore. The school cultivates deeper ways of thinking and prides itself as one of the best art schools in South Asia.

In the early nineties, I was very fortunate to be mentored by Professor Salima Hashmi. She had just successfully earned her degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States and was full of enthusiasm and energy. She was an extraordinary tutor who took great troubles to create opportunities and exposure for her students. She invited academics from international art institutions to deliver talks and workshops for us.

One of the most memorable occasions was when we were taught the ancient Renaissance technique of egg tempera. My earliest body of work was created using that method. As a woman, [Salima] was very inspiring. She represented feminism in the flesh, as she was a parent and at the same time an intelligent, professional woman. Her work spans creative disciplines, including acting, puppetry, photography, painting, curating and education. She has remained a role model, a mentor and a guide for me ever since.

Faiza Butt, 'Is this the Man 4', 2013, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘Is this the Man 4′, 2013, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

You use a pointillist technique in your work. Are there similarities to the traditional Mughal miniature technique of purdakht?  

My use of pointillism was developed during my years as a graduate student at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In the mid-nineties, the echoes from the New York art scene were still ringing strong at the art school, with its leaders like Jackson Pollock projected like rock stars who lived fast and died young! I observed that students were still very engaged in the discussion around the physicality of oil painting as a medium. I have always questioned the hierarchy of Western art history projected as the [only] art history of the world and the need to reinterpret the arts of the East.

I may be generalising paradigms here, but I was always framed as an outsider at Slade. I rejected oil painting on canvas as a method that evolved in the West and endorsed colour on paper, which is found in more of the Eastern traditions, such as Indo-Persian miniatures and Chinese watercolours.

I chose to work on paper as a reaction to the physicality of canvas and oil paint. I consider my works elaborate drawings. I observed that drawing had a place in the hierarchical order of the painting tradition, but was considered “preparatory” and not complete. I decided to create obsessive, embellished drawings that rival paintings in their ambition. The big question remained… what is drawing?

Drawing has the element of lines and painting is named after that medium! The starting point to a line is a dot. I took dots and layered them together like pixels to create saturated hues of colour. I wanted to get inspiration from painting traditions rooted in the sub-continental region. The way a miniature painting is rendered is of great interest to me, where tiny dot-like strokes are layered to get the saturation of hues. I developed a technique that was the marriage of “Purdakht” and pixels, resulting in the pointillistic method.

Faiza Butt, 'Placebo for my warrior', 2012, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘Placebo for my warrior’, 2012, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Please tell us how feminism is examined in contemporary art found in South Asia. Does it differ from the feminist themes/issues depicted outside of the region? How?  

Feminism remains an under-discussed topic in the art from that region. Whether women take the roles of goddesses in Chitra Ganesh’s work, or female torsos moulded into armour, women and their placement in history and society are not often a topic of discussion. I have addressed feminism through the shape of fetishisation of edible beauty and domesticism, where elaborate cakes and dripping wet chunks of roasted meat nestle paradoxically against hypermasculine images of men.

I must add that although my own decision to represent men in my drawings is rooted in a reaction towards the western history of the female nude, the issues surrounding feminism are different in South Asia. Where women took to burning their bras in the West, we are still struggling against Sharia law in Pakistan, which demands that a woman produce “x” number of witnesses to validate rape, or be charged with adultery herself! The need to visually examine women’s rights is vital to the artistic community in India and Pakistan. In the wake of the recent brutal rape cases in India, many platforms have been established that discuss misogyny and popular media/cinema.

I seek to demonstrate feminism through living by example. As a woman from South Asia, I am opinionated, vocal, practical, and support fairness and equality. I think one can support the movement best by being one and raising one’s daughter as one.

Faiza Butt, 'My love plays in heavenly ways', 2013,  ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘My love plays in heavenly ways’, 2013, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Please tell us more about how you choose the subject matter and imagery found in your artwork. 

There are a few running themes in my work. I discuss gender polemics, cross cultural identity and the human condition. These issues are narrated through images of children role playing war, portraits of men from diverse cultural backgrounds, homoerotic imagery and text-as-image. I use the human face as a political landscape. The drawings are rich in a kind of “human-fauna” that nestles against everyday objects, food and weaponry.

My earliest body of work, while I was in Pakistan, supported the feminist movement. I had a dominant matriarchal upbringing and it was only natural for me to be inclined that way. The earlier work shows women grouping together in domestic settings, engaged in group activities like embroidery, indoor games and prayers. Those images were directly influenced by vernacular truck art and what one could classify as urban folk art.

After my studies at Slade, discussing gender remained close to my heart, but instead of women, I used highly eroticised images of stereotypical “orientalist” Muslim men from the Western press. I took to drawing these men in great detail and, at times, regressing their hypermasculinity. The “Get Out of My Dreams” series is a perfect example of that.

Children have regularly been featured in my drawings. Being a parent was such a turning point in my thought process. I observed that children are perfect blank canvases and it is the parents who colour that consciousness in various shades, whether it be by giving them a sense of self or isolating them from others. My children are a social experiment, devoid of any straitjacket of religious or nationalistic identity. They turned out to be perfect human beings. The image of children in my work, discusses issues of nature and nurture and our instinct for territory. This concept serves as metaphor for this divided world. In a recent piece, My love plays in heavenly ways, my children are shown role-playing war amidst a blue and white porcelain background, slaying a noble beast – in this case a Chinese dragon – having mistaken it for enemy.

Where the human condition is under discussion, I used homoerotic imagery, as homosexuality remains the Achilles’ heel of social acceptance and much more so from my cultural origin. I pitch various ideas using men engaged in romantic or erotic postures. For example, at first glance the piece I’ll be safe in my own mind is an image of two bearded men locked in a passionate kiss. It was meant to be an image of a man kissing his own reflection. The idea occurred to me when I heard that the Taliban were targeting barber shops in the North Western region of Pakistan, discouraging men to shave and narcissistically propagating the image of self.

Faiza Butt, 'Moderate Fantasy Violence', 2012, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘Moderate Fantasy Violence’, 2012, ink on polyester film, 59.4 x 84.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

What images in particular do you find most illuminating? Why?

One has to understand the process behind my ideas. I scavenge images from journalistic photography. Photographs that are meant to influence the masses amaze me. I must add that the creative force that affects people instantly is not art but advertising. My initial ideas come from sources that exist outside the core of fine art. It connects with my early inspiration coming from the visual material that surrounded me in Lahore.

Once I find a photograph that I feel can be extended into a meaningful image, I start to spin the web of supporting images around it, digesting the original image along the way and giving birth to a new narrative. I believe my drawing Moderate fantasy violence is a good example of that. I took the image of Rudy Giuliani – the mayor of New York City during 9/11 – and added images of bomb explosions that replaced his eyes. He retains his artificial smile alongside these changes, creating a sinister yet comical image.

Any particular female visual artists that inspire you today? What is it about them or their work that inspires you?

I admire many artists, including Gerhard Richter’s debate around photography and painting, but among my favourite female artists is Barbara Kruger. Her role as a feminist artist, the punch in her ideas, her roots in advertising and the sincerity of her messages talk loud and clear to me.

Faiza Butt, 'God's best' installation shot "Personal Structures" exhibition, Palazzo Bembo Venice Biennale, 2013, digital print and ink on polyester film mounted on film box. Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘God’s best’ installation view at “Personal Structures” exhibition, Palazzo Bembo, Venice Biennale, 2013, digital print and ink on polyester film mounted on film box. Image courtesy the artist.

I have read that you feel that “artists have a purpose in society”. What is that purpose and how is it fulfilled?

I do believe artists are social commentators. Hardship tends to sharpen their senses. They log and document truth and side towards fairness. They are trained to look in-between the hard projections of right and wrong. I do have that sense of responsibility! My work must provoke the unsaid, the truth, and make my audience think and question. Coming from a turbulent country such as Pakistan, it is only natural for me to be politically opinionated in my work. The more hardship that the society has endured, the better the artists’ expressions. This is very evident in the amazing work coming out of Pakistan right now.

In 1995, you spent time in Durban, South Africa, as an artist in residence for the Bartel Arts Trust. What did you do during your residency and what did you learn about contemporary African art during your stay?

My residency was a wonderful opportunity to discover a country and culture that the world has heard very little about. I made the most of the studio space available. I conducted workshops with homeless people, held talks about Pakistani art at various venues and produced a show at the end of my residency. It wasn’t long after the affirmative action and the evidence of Apartheid was still very clear. It was shocking to see the immense divide between the rich and the poor, and the artistic activity concentrated with the white middle class.

Although Marlene Dumas remains one of my favourite artists, South African contemporary art appeared locked in a fossilised sense of identity. On the other hand, I researched deep into the lives and values of the Zulu culture, and learned a lot about their traditional music and dance. That knowledge was an invaluable opportunity.

Faiza Butt, "A heroes work is never done', 2012, ink and acrylics on rag paper, 2 ft x 4 ft . Image courtesy the artist.

Faiza Butt, ‘A heroes work is never done’, 2012, ink and acrylics on rag paper, 2 x 4 ft . Image courtesy the artist.

The first major survey of your work in the United Kingdom will be on display at the New Art Exchange from 23 April to 28 June 2015. Please tell us more about what will be included in the solo show and about the installation commissioned for the exhibition.  

I have been practising as an artist in the UK for the last sixteen years and my mid-career retrospective at the New Art Exchange is the biggest milestone to date. The show will travel to various public venues in the UK, and workshops and activities will be based around each venue. A number of seminal pieces were borrowed from private collections to group together my concepts.

The central piece connects with my recent work, where I use the power of text and writing as an art form. This piece will be an installation of four lighted wall panels at the scale of 2.5 by 3 metres, forming a split cube. On either side of the cube will be poetry written in English, from letters crafted out of various natural and man-made objects. The words will be readable, but they can also be appreciated as images.

The light wall panels will resemble the walls and ornamentation of the Holy Kaba, but the text illustrated will be secular poetry from my favourite poets of that region, Agha Shahid Ali and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Using the iconic power and structure of God’s house, I transform it into an advertising billboard, replacing Quranic verses with secular poetry of the leftist poets, creating an interface between sacred and secular.

 Lisa Pollman

698

Related Topics: Pakistani artists, art and activism, feminist art, art about globalisation, art and mass media, political art, women power, interviews, events in the UK

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Space age sculptures in Peter Hennessey survey in Australia – in pictures



A 10-year survey of Peter Hennessey’s work is on show at The University of Queensland Art Museum.

Australian architect and artist Peter Hennessey creates large-scale sculptures replicating objects that testify to humanity’s technological advances. They communicate the artist’s concern with issues of social justice and the political systems that dominate our lives.

Peter Hennessey, 'Where we are now (Navstar Block II-F satellite, USA)', 2014, plywood, ABS plastic and wax, overall 138 x 197 x 130 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2014. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘Where We Are Now (Navstar Block II-F Satellite, USA)’, 2014, plywood, ABS plastic and wax, overall 138 x 197 x 130 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2014. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

The University of Queensland Art Museum is holding “Peter Hennessey: Making it Real” (14 March – 12 July 2015), a major survey reflecting on the past decade of the artist’s career, and featuring a number of his large-scale sculptures that replicate technological objects and machines.

Peter Hennessey, 'Parallel cartography (Glonass-K, RUS)', 2014, aluminium composite panel, 250 x 100 x 90 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘Parallel Cartography (Glonass-K, RUS)’, 2014, aluminium composite panel, 250 x 100 x 90 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

With training in architecture and a background in new media, Peter Hennessey (b. 1968, Sydney) is interested in and inspired by the science of space exploration and comparable technological advances. His imposing sculptures allow viewers to encounter first hand what they would otherwise only see in reproductions or on the internet. Hennessey’s oeuvre is part of his effort to reverse the digitisation of the world by creating material, physical reproductions.

Peter Hennessey, 'My ejector seat (Upside down changes everything)', 2006, plywood, steel, calico, LD45FR foam, webbing, plastic and aluminium sculptural element, 240 x 120 x 170 cm. Private collection, Hobart. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Ejector Seat (Upside Down Changes Everything)’, 2006, plywood, steel, calico, LD45FR foam, webbing, plastic and aluminium, sculptural element, 240 x 120 x 170 cm. Private collection, Hobart. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

The artist’s practice goes beyond creating mere life-size, detailed replicas; it also addresses a number of key issues that revolve around social justice and dominating political systems. As curator Samantha Littley writes in the accompanying catalogue essay, there are four key themes in Hennessey’s work:

[…] our quest for knowledge and the limits we face in pursuing it; the gulf between things we ‘see’ virtually and those that we are able to experience; and the part that communication systems play in enabling geopolitical powers and creating new corporate empires.

Peter Hennessey, 'My Lunar Rover (You had to be there)', 2005, plywood, steel, canvas and Velcro, 298 x 206 x 396 cm. Private collection, Melbourne. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Lunar Rover (You Had to Be There)’, 2005, plywood, steel, canvas and Velcro, 298 x 206 x 396 cm. Private collection, Melbourne. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, 'My NICU', 2006, plywood, wax, silicone, plastic, dimensions variable. Installation view at University of Queensland Art Museum. Collection of the artist. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist and UQ Art Museum.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My NICU’, 2006, plywood, wax, silicone, plastic, dimensions variable. Installation view at University of Queensland Art Museum, “Peter Hennessey: Making it Real”, 2015. Collection of the artist. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist and UQ Art Museum.

From space exploration to mapping the world

The themes in the exhibition are each reflected through four bodies of work:

  • objects that consider the social, political and conceptual implications of the Space Race in historical and contemporary terms
  • artworks that emphasise technology’s fallibility and bring us face to face with mortality
  • works that capture the choreography of explosions and uncover their role in constructing our world
  • recent sculptures that examine the reach of the Global Positioning System (GPS)
Peter Hennessey, 'My Mission Control', 2005, plywood with two-channel video. Installation view at UQ Art Museum, "Peter Hennessey: Making it real", 2015. Image courtesy the artist and UQ Art Museum.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Mission Control (The act of observation changes the object observed)’, 2005, plywood, steel and two-channel video, silent, 120.0 x 180.0 x 110.0 cm; video 5 min 24 sec. Installation view at University of Queensland Art Museum, “Peter Hennessey: Making it Real”, 2015. Private collection, Adelaide. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist and UQ Art Museum.

Peter Hennessey, 'My Voyager', 2004, plywood and steel, height 650 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Mim Stirling. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Voyager’, 2004, plywood and steel, height 650 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Mim Stirling. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

The ‘space race’ works include sculptures such as My Voyager (2004), a model of the Voyager 2 probe launched by the United States government into space in 1977, still in orbit today. In an interview with Art Collector, Hennessey explains that the work looks at notions of

idealism versus pragmatism, as well as using the idea of communications with aliens to question our current treatment of the aliens in our own communities.

Part of this body of work is also My Lunar Rover (You Had to Be There) (2005), a plywood and steel replica of the moon buggy that carried the NASA astronauts around the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Peter Hennessey, 'My Humvee (Inversion therapy)', 2008, plywood, automotive enamel paint, aluminium and steel, 500 x 210 x 180 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation, 2008. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Humvee (Inversion Therapy)’, 2008, plywood, automotive enamel paint, aluminium and steel, 500 x 210 x 180 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation, 2008. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

During his reflections on technology’s fallibility and its relationship to ideas of mortality, Hennessey created one of his most important – and one of his favourite – works, My Humvee (Inversion Therapy) (2008). It is a recreation, a parody, of the US military carrier – the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle – which inspired its civilian spinoff, the Hummer, a huge consumer of oil which is the resource that the Humvee was sent to war zones to protect.

Peter Hennessey, 'My Burnt Frost (Explosion event III)', 2008, C-type photograph, 80 x 100 cm. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Burnt Frost (Explosion Event III)’, 2008, C-type photograph, 80 x 100 cm. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Historically and politically charged incidents provide food for thought for the artist, who has produced works inspired by “explosion events” by re-enacting them. My Burnt Frost (Explosion Event III) (2008) references the 
US Navy’s destruction of a damaged spy satellite, USA-193 (NROL-21), said to be carrying 450 kilograms of toxic hydrazine, on 21 February 2008. In My Hell’s Gate (North of The River IV) (2010), Hennessey re-staged a miniature replica of the 1885 demolition of submerged rock in an area of the East River, New York City, known as Hells Gate.

Peter Hennessey, 'My Hell's Gate (North of the river IV)', 2010, C-type photograph, 100 x 100 cm. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘My Hell’s Gate (North of The River IV)’, 2010, C-type photograph, 100 x 100 cm. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, 'Overlooked (Street View capture apparatus)', 2014, plywood and ABS plastic, 190 x 145 x 145 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘Overlooked (Street View Capture Apparatus)’, 2014, plywood and ABS plastic, 190 x 145 x 145 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Recently, Hennessey has also turned to exploring the technology of GPS and its effects on people and society. With his recent series “Here Be Dragons / Hic Sunt Dracones” (2014), he comments on the pervasive reach of satellites.

The explanation (Cockpit Voice Recorder) (2014) and The Wait (Flight Data Recorder) (2014) continue with notions of mortality, technology’s reliability, as well as its ability to allow us to locate ourselves. The sculptures were created while the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 unfolded in March 2014.

Peter Hennessey, 'The explanation (Cockpit voice recorder)', 2014, plywood, ABS plastic and wax, 17 x 34 x 20 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘The Explanation (Cockpit Voice Recorder)’, 2014, plywood, ABS plastic and wax, 17 x 34 x 20 cm. Collection of the artist. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Talking to The Sydney Morning Herald, the artist said:

The black box is almost like a talisman. It was interesting how important finding that object became – there are still people searching for it. They are potent objects. This box suggests both our feeling that we can know everything – but how that breaks down. We have these satellites, we have this imaging of streets down to the postbox level, yet we couldn’t find this thing. It’s gone into that spot of ‘here be dragons’. It reveals to me just how much we don’t know. It is just an illusion of omniscience.

Peter Hennessey, 'Where we are now (Navstar Block II-F satellite, USA)', 2014, plywood, ABS plastic and wax, overall 138 x 197 x 130 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2014. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, ‘Where We Are Now (Navstar Block II-F Satellite, USA)’, 2014, plywood, ABS plastic and wax, overall 138 x 197 x 130 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2014. Photo: Andrew Curtis. Image courtesy the artist, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and GAGPROJECTS/ Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide.

Peter Hennessey, 'Celestial Kingdom (BeiDou-1A Satellite, CHN)', 2014, aluminium composite panel, 152 x 111 x 6 cm. Installation view at UQ Art Museum, "Peter Hennessey: Making it real", 2015. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist and UQ Art Museum.

Peter Hennessey, ‘Celestial Kingdom (BeiDou-1A Satellite, CHN)’, 2014, aluminium composite panel, 152 x 111 x 6 cm. Installation view at University of Queensland Art Museum, “Peter Hennessey: Making it Real”, 2015. Collection of the artist. Photo: Carl Warner. Image courtesy the artist and UQ Art Museum.

Between images and experience

Through his sculptures, Hennessey explores “the space between images and experience” – our relationship with images and the resulting connection to issues of our modern times. In the article on Art Collector, the artist says about his work and the objects it relates to:

These are objects which are familiar but which we cannot have a physical relationship with. We cannot stand next to them – we must experience them virtually via the media, TV, print and so on – and what is lost in such a relationship? Also, each of these objects has a particular symbolism or political resonance. […] I choose objects not just because of their pure mediated and physically inaccessible existence. I choose [them] based on a perceived symbolic value that resonate to larger issues.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

700

Related Topics: Australian artists, art and technology, sculpture, museum shows, events in Australia, picture feasts

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5 innovative art apps to sample



The art world is embracing the digital age, and so should you. Art Radar recommends 5 art apps to sample. 

The age of technology offers infinite new possibilities for art. Whether you are a collector, art student or a newcomer to the art scene, start exploring the digital art world by sampling the 5 apps listed below.

Screenshots of the CURATE app by curate space llc. Image from iTunes.

Screenshots of the CURATE app by curate space llc. Image from iTunes.

1. e-flux 

Fans of the cutting-edge publishing platform e-flux should definitely try out its savvy app. Access current and past content on your iPad, browse new exhibitions and shows, and store essays and announcements to read offline. The monthly journal features writings by the most engaged contemporary artists and thinkers, covering art, architecture, urban planning, design, cultural studies, critical theory and politics – don’t miss out!

2. Apollo Muse

For the more visually-minded, check out premium arts, design and technology app Apollo Muse, which offers stunning visuals in addition to text. Designed for the iPhone, Apollo Muse curates content from global art and design communities into one easy-to-manage, beautifully designed interface. The app was launched by Apollo TV, which brands itself as “the first global art, design and technology media channel [...] celebrating visionary artists and designers across multiple disciplines”.

3. artCircles

Unleash your inner curator with artCircles, where you can not only discover new art, but create and share galleries with friends. The winner of a number of app awards, the multi-functional artCircles is fun and interactive, offering a dynamic new way to navigate the world of art. Some of its features include:

  • Specially curated art collections chosen by notable figures
  • Search functions organised by curators, colours, and inspirational words
  • Galleries where users can create their own shareable collections
  • The opportunity to purchase pieces of art directly from users’ iPads
Screenshots of the Impasto Art app. Image from iTunes.

Screenshots of the Impasto Art app. Image from iTunes.

4. Impasto Art

Move away from smart phones and tablets towards luxurious home-viewing with Impasto Art. Freshly launched last month, the app offers free-of-charge streaming services that enable the enjoyment of some of the world’s finest masterpieces – in full-size, high-resolution quality. The press release explains how the app works:

By using the Impasto Art smart phone application you can easily show art images in superior quality on a TV screen. Depending on the size of the TV screen and original work, a painting or drawing can often be shown in the same size as the original. Together with the Full-HD and Ultra-HD resolutions of modern TV sets, this allows for an unprecedented viewing experience. Anybody can now enjoy a Van Gogh, Cézanne or Rembrandt in superb quality in the kitchen, living room or office.

The artwork, encompassing paintings, sketches, and photographs, is made available by the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands and the J. Paul Getty Museum in the United States. Currently 150,000 works strong, Impasto’s compilation will continue to grow as museums around the world digitalise their collections. The broad selection of classical masterpieces will soon be complemented by popular contemporary art works.

Click here to view a video about the CURATE app on Vimeo

5. CURATE

CURATE is an innovative app launched in September last year that allows for instant visualisation of how a work will look on a specific wall. Users only have to take pictures of the artwork and wall in question and upload it to the app; the technology will then create a scaled visual of the artwork in situ. The press release explains:

Using innovative technology, CURATE eliminates one of the biggest impediments to purchasing art: answering the question, “How will it look on my wall?”

Leading galleries, including David Zwirner, Galerie Perrotin, Kavi Gupta, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Richard Gray Gallery were among the launch galleries for CURATE. The unique tool was developed to streamline relationships between galleries, advisors and collectors. The press release explains:

Member galleries can take advantage of automated image uploading and customised and private showings for select clients. The private online showings enable galleries to control which collectors see certain works, allowing for discreet use of the technology.

Michele Chan

701

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Gillman Barracks might be in trouble as galleries leave



Singapore’s famed art cluster at Gillman Barracks loses one third of its tenants.

The fairly new Gillman Barracks has not yet had time to fill up all of its space, and already is losing some of its most prized local and international tenants. Nevertheless, Singapore’s art scene continues to grow at a staggering pace.

Block 9, Gillman Barracks. © Jacklee/Wikimedia Commons, 2013

Block 9, Gillman Barracks. © Jacklee/Wikimedia Commons, 2013

The ambitious Gillman Barracks opened on 15 September 2012 to optimistic fanfare, having been in development since 2010. It was the result of a SGD10 million (about USD7.3 million) investment from Singaporean governmental agencies like the National Arts Council (NAC) and the Economic Development Board.

Located on the grounds of an old colonial military complex amidst lush greenery, the arts cluster comprises 14 renovated colonial barracks housing 17 international galleries, the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) and three restaurants.

The complex launched with 13 galleries, including international ones such as:

The only local tenant who dove into the new venture at the time was FOST Gallery, although others were also invited.

NTU CCA launched in 2013, while Pearl Lam Galleries and Singapore’s Yavuz Gallery joined the ranks in 2014. Kaikai KikiTakashi Murakami’s venture, did not open although it had announced that it would. Yeo Workshop also launched in 2013, as well as ARNDT from Berlin.

Installation view at Pearl Lam Galleries Singapore. Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

Installation view at Pearl Lam Galleries Singapore. Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

Low footfall, lack of infrastructure

Recently, the rumours that some of the tenants at the site would depart after their leases expire in May 2015 were confirmed. Four galleries located in Block 47 on Malan Road – Equator Art Projects, Space Cottonseed, Tomio Koyama Gallery and Silverlens – which amount to nearly a third of Gillman Barracks’ presently occupied spaces, have cited poor sales, low traffic and a slow start as reasons for their decision.

Malan Road is the innermost area of Gillman Barracks and perhaps the most affected by the low sales and number of visitors. But even The Drawing Room, located in the more desirable portion of the complex on Lock Road, has declined to renew their lease. Sidd Perez, the gallery’s Curatorial Associate, told Art Asia Pacific that opening a permanent space in Singapore was simply too much for maintaining the gallery’s international operative standards:

Not renewing the lease is primarily a business decision. A three-year programme was ample time to get to know what Singapore can provide.

From Block 47, Future Perfect might also leave its space, but it will not be announced until later this year. Curator David Teh revealed to Art Asia Pacific the impossibility of keeping the location in Malan Road, adding that:

We’d be happy to relocate within Gillman Barracks, but we’ll have to see whether there are suitable spaces.

A lack of infrastructure and the slow, unrelenting construction work that took place well after the launch of the site – failing to deliver – were also cited among the reasons for leaving. In the heat of Singapore, the promised shaded walkways that never materialised and the art programmes that took place during the day also did not help. An anonymous gallerist, quoted by The Art Newspaper, said:

Promises were made by the developers, and they were not met. […] we were operating in a ghost town/construction site for most of the past three years. Audiences would come once, and not return due to lack of basic infrastructure to the development—difficult public access and transportation, no walkways and places to sit, nowhere affordable to eat, or have an iced coffee.

David Teh further told Art Asia Pacific about the necessity to provide a better commercial platform for art from the Southeast Asian region, as local collectors are still risk-averse, while galleries cannot afford the sky-high rents.

Fort Canning Arts Centre façade. © Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris

Fort Canning Arts Centre façade. © Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris

Singapore’s art scene still growing

Although such a great number of galleries will be leaving Gillman Barracks, others will soon be opening and will be announced in May, according to Singapore’s Economic Development Board, who built the site. Meanwhile, Ota Fine Arts, which was originally situated in Block 47, has moved to a better and larger location on Lock Road, and ARNDT is also expanding its space. Kow Ree Na, responsible for the site at the Singapore Economic Development Board, told The Art Newspaper:

We expect some turnover due to business decisions. We value the contribution of our galleries in defining Gillman Barracks as Singapore’s contemporary art enclave, and look forward to continue working together with them in a variety of ways. […] We will be announcing further plans to develop Gillman Barracks in due course.”

Despite the wavering success of the Barracks, Singapore’s art scene is still building up to reinforce its status as a art hub in Southeast Asia. In May 2015, the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris – the first Asia-Pacific expansion of the Pinacothèque de Paris - will open at Fort Canning Arts Centre (PDF download). In November 2015, the long-awaited National Gallery Singapore will launch, housed in City Hall and the former Supreme Court, focusing on South­east Asian art, includ­ing Singa­porean art from the nineteenth cen­tury to the present day.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

699

Related Topics: art spaces, art districts, Singapore art scene, Southeast Asian artists

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What is… collage? Art Radar explains



As part of our “What is…?” series, Art Radar looks at collage, an art form emblematic of today’s multicultural, interdisciplinary age.

Art Radar traces the use of collage in modern and contemporary art, and introduces a selection of Asian and African contemporary collage artists.

Yutaka Inagawa, 'PICTORIAL OFFERING: Inhabitable (painful-ema)' (detail), 2014, lambda print on paper, 100x100cm, edition 7. Image courtesy the artist, from yutakainawaga.com.

Yutaka Inagawa, ‘PICTORIAL OFFERING: Inhabitable (painful-ema)’ (detail), 2014, lambda print on paper, 100 x 100 cm, edition of 7. Image courtesy the artist, from yutakainawaga.com.

What is collage?

Collage: A brief history

Collage (from the French: coller, ‘to glue’) is an assemblage of multiple objects, images, and ideas – a union that transforms a selection of parts into a new work in its own right. A book review on Cutting Edges: A Few Reflections on Contemporary Collage at Art Nectar defines the medium thus:

Collage is, by definition, a pastiche of multiple sourced ideas fused to create something new. Collage is a sum greater than its parts. It is a collection of minuscule slices of the whole wide world, chosen randomly or carefully because [...] they speak in some way to the artist’s soul. They transform into a brand new statement or aesthetic.

Pablo Picasso‘s Still Life with Cane Chair (1912) is generally regarded as the first collage: the artist pasted a patch of oilcloth onto the canvas of the piece. According to AnOther Magazine the term ‘collage’ was coined by Picasso and Georges Braque. The article states that the medium gained popularity as a reaction to the First World War:

[...] collage allowed artists to interact with existing materials – anything from newsprint and magazines to maps, tickets and propaganda and photographs – to rip them apart and reassemble them, creating visually dynamic hybrids.

Wangechi Mutu, 'Perhaps the Moon Will Save Us' (detail), 2008, blankets, plastic pearls, aluminium foil, animal pelts, clothing, photo collage, packing tape, ink, paint, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Wangechi Mutu, ‘Perhaps the Moon Will Save Us’ (detail), 2008, blankets, plastic pearls, aluminium foil, animal pelts, clothing, photo collage, packing tape, ink, paint, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Types of collage

Collage was subsequently attached to the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Cubomania, for example, is a Surrealist method whereby an image is cut into squares, which are then reassembled automatically or at random. Collage was also widely used in Pop Art and Nouveau Réalisme. The following are some common categorisations of the medium:

  • Decoupage, which involves decorative paper cut-outs, e.g. Matisse’s Blue Nude II (1952)
  • Collage in painting, e.g. Picasso’s Still Life with Cane Chair (1912)
  • Wood collage, e.g. Kurt Schwitter’s Merz Picture with Candle (c.1920s)
  • Three-dimensional collage, which uses three-dimensional objects
  • Photomontage, which involves combining several photographs into a composite photograph
  • Digital collage, which involves the use of computer tools 

Collage: A contemporary aesthetic

Writing in 1948, Clement Greenberg dubbed the medium “the pasted paper revolution”, describing it as “the most succinct and direct clue to the aesthetic of genuinely modern art”. Arguably, the collage also represents the aesthetic of the contemporary world. Pavel Zoubok, a New York dealer whose gallery deals exclusively with collage works, was quoted by Art News as saying:

We live in the age of not only digital culture but of multiculturalism. [...] We live in the age of interdisciplinary theory and studies. Everything about the way we function now is sort of innately collaged.

Dawn Ng, 'Mamashop', 2012, archival inkjet, print collage, 120 x 161 cm, edition of 3 + 1 AP. Image courtesy Chan Hampe Gallery and the artist.

Dawn Ng, ‘Mamashop’, 2012, archival inkjet, print collage, 120 x 161 cm, edition of 3 + 1 AP. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Gallery.

Thanks to the proliferation of images, mass reproduction technologies and new media, the collage is successfully reinventing itself. Apart from the explosion of raw material to choose from, new methods of digital collaging offer creative possibilities and innovative crossovers that were previously unimaginable. Even artists dedicated to traditional paper collage are starting to include digital elements; curator Charles Wilkin says in a Hyperallergic interview:

Working digitally gives you the ability to manipulate every aspect of the collage. [...] Up until recently there seemed to be a strong division among collage artists on the paper vs. digital topic but lately I’m seeing more and more artists mixing the two, which is great. Collage has historically been a medium that embraces technology, I mean where would those Punk Rock flyers of the 1970s and 1980s be without a Xerox machine? So from my perspective the blend of both hand work and digital technology seems like a natural evolution of the medium.

8 contemporary collagists from Asia and Africa

Below is a selection of eight contemporary artists from Asia and Africa who work across different forms of collage to create striking visual narratives.

Kara Walker, 'Darkytown Rebellion', 2001, cut paper & projection on wall, 180 x 396 inches. Installation view at Brent Sikkema Gallery, New York, 2001. Photo by Erma Estwick. Image courtesy the artist, from sikkemajenkinsco.com.

Kara Walker, ‘Darkytown Rebellion’, 2001, cut paper and projection on wall, 180 x 396 in. Installation view at Brent Sikkema Gallery, New York, 2001. Photo by Erma Estwick. Image courtesy the artist, from sikkemajenkinsco.com.

1. Kara Walker

With her signature black cut-paper silhouettes, which fill entire rooms, acclaimed African-American artist Kara Walker (b. 1969, California) is one of the most well-known artists working with collage today. For Walker, the simplified human silhouettes in the cut-outs resonate with racial stereotypes; she employs primitive decoupage to create powerful, provocative explorations of race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity. Walker says of her art, quoted in her website:

I was really searching for a format to sort of encapsulate, to simplify complicated things… And some of it spoke to me as: ‘it’s a medium…historically, it’s a craft…and it’s very middle-class.’ [...] and because the shadow also speaks about so much of our psyche.

Wangechi Mutu, ‘The End of Eating Everything’, 2013, animated video, 8’10”, edition of 6. Image courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery New York and Dak’Art 2014.

Wangechi Mutu, ‘The End of Eating Everything’, 2013, animated video, 8 min 10 sec, edition of 6. Image courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery New York and Dak’Art 2014.

2. Wangechi Mutu

Dubbed “the queen of wild collage”, Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Kenya) is another renowned African collage artist. Her large, lush creations feature everything from plants to packing tape and magazine photographs, and the resultant works are stunning yet confrontational reflections on consumerism, colonisation, gender, race and war. The singer Santigold, who collaborated with Mutu in an animated short entitled The End of Eating Everything, praised the artist in an interview for her “explosive renewal” of artistic expression at a time of vapid materialism. Speaking about her creative process in an interview, Mutu said:

In most cases I start off with a sketch. But I’m also thinking about real images: out of National Geographic, out of fashion magazines, out of The Economist, out of Time. I’m making a sketch, but I’m using the existing images that have been put out in the world. I love magazines because they’re so dispensable, and they’re so quickly consumed. In that way they’re quite honest. They’re unashamed about how small an amount of time they’re trying to keep our attention. They’re the fecal matter of culture.

Aboudia, 'Untitled', 2013, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 125 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist, from saatchigallery.com.

Aboudia, ‘Untitled’, 2013, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 125 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist, from saatchigallery.com.

3. Aboudia

Hailing from the Ivory Coast, Aboudia (b. 1983, Côte d’Ivoire) creates massive, richly layered paintings with fascinating collage elements. Using photographs, street graphics, comic strips, newspaper cut-outs and advertising leaflets to adorn his canvases, Aboudia’s urban landscapes and portraits are vividly enriched by “Basquiat-like faces and Abstract Expressionist graffiti trails”. The disparate fragments come together to form a “claustrophobic and oppressive yet brutally energetic” aesthetic that corresponds to the artist’s experience of trauma and violence in his own city. Aboudia’s Saatchi profile reads:

Cars and skyscrapers, working TV sets, pasted photographs of traditional African sculptures and written sentences reminiscent of street art deliver a visual symphony whose beat is the rhythm of contemporary urban life. The rich synthesis of various painting traditions such as North American Pop and Abstract Expressionism sit comfortably next to graffiti on mural size canvases that fervently demand the viewer’s attention.

Alfred Tarazi, 'A Nation's Inflation 5 Ll (Arabic)', 2011, digital pigment print mounted on Dibond. Image courtesy the artist and The Running Horse, Beirut.

Alfred Tarazi, ‘A Nation’s Inflation 5 Ll (Arabic)’, 2011, digital pigment print mounted on Dibond. Image courtesy the artist and The Running Horse, Beirut.

4. Alfred Tarazi

Celebrated Lebanese artist Alfred Tarazi (b. 1980, Beirut) uses collage as a tool to outwit time and re-create narratives of the Lebanese civil war. His digital collages of superimposed pre- and post-war images, which include personal and collective memories, re-enact past situations in an attempt to make sense of conflict and trauma. Working across a variety of media, including photography, sculpture, mixed media installation as well as digital collage, Tarazi forces the viewer to confront the past and re-evaluate his or her relationship with it.

Maitree Siriboon, "Lotus Disco", 2014, installation view at Whitespace Gallery. Image courtesy Whitespace Gallery Bangkok.

Maitree Siriboon, “Lotus Disco”, 2014, installation view at Whitespace Gallery. Image courtesy Whitespace Gallery Bangkok.

5. Maitree Siriboon

Thai artist and founder of Whitespace Gallery Bangkok Maitree Siriboon (b. 1983, Ubon Ratchatani) creates stunning, ethereal mirror mosaics that are beautiful examples of the three-dimensional collage. Born and raised in Isarn, located in the north-eastern region of Thailand, Siriboon was inspired by the rural and pastoral landscapes from his childhood. By combining personal memory with a unique imagination along with the traditional mirror collage technique, the artist creates mesmerising structures with a singular aesthetic.

Yutaka Inagawa, 'PRINT-CLUB2' (photo manipulation booth), 2014, lambda print on paper, 100x160cm, edition 7. Image courtesy the artist, from yutakainawaga.com.

Yutaka Inagawa, ‘PRINT-CLUB2′ (photo manipulation booth), 2014, Lambda print on paper, 100 x 160 cm, edition of 7. Image courtesy the artist, from yutakainawaga.com.

6. Yutaka Inagawa

Japanese multimedia artist Yutaka Inawaga (b. 1974, Tokyo) is the author of a diverse body of work encompassing photomontage and digital collages. His unique visual language stems from his fascination with the notion of deceptiveness and integrity in digital photo manipulation. Digital cut-outs are transformed into intricate montages, and sprawling wall-based installations feature materials as diverse as personal snapshots, screen-print, felt, Lambda prints, fabrics and everyday objects. The press release for his London recent exhibition, entitled “The Invasion of Cyberspace”, explains:

Snapshots are used to epitomise the real, photo manipulation becoming the embodiment of forgery, whilst his paintings function as credible fiction. The so-called real world gains deceptiveness as a fake, the end product a unique paradoxical juxtaposition.

Paul Chan '1st Light', 2005, projected digital animation; artist-authenticated computer, software, and animation. 14 min, color, silent. Installation view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Image by Art Radar.

Paul Chan, ’1st Light’, 2005, projected digital animation; artist-authenticated computer, software and animation. 14 min, colour, silent. Installation view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Image by Art Radar.

7. Paul Chan

US-based artist Paul Chan (b. 1973, Hong Kong), recent winner of the 10th Hugo Boss Prize, combines collage with light projection and digital manipulation to create sophisticated, immersive multimedia works. His defining series The 7 Lights (2005-07) takes the medium of the collage to new dimensions: the poetic play on light and shadows, silence and sound transforms the animated collage into enigmatic encounters with absence and presence. Chan’s Guggenheim profile reads:

In his series The 7 Lights (2005–07), Chan transforms entire rooms with his large-scale projections of animated paper silhouettes, inviting the viewer into progressively hallucinatory, apocalyptic worlds.

San Zaw Htway, 'Blue Moon on the Highway - Recycling Myanmar's Dignity', coffee-mix bags, shopping bags. Image from artraker.org.

San Zaw Htway, ‘Blue Moon on the Highway – Recycling Myanmar’s Dignity’, coffee-mix bags, shopping bags. Image from artraker.org.

8. San Zaw Htway

Returning to the basics of the collage, Burmese collage artist and former political prisoner San Zaw Htway (b. 1974, Burma) employs only the most humble materials. He started making art while in prison on political grounds; with no access to paints, brushes, canvas or paper, the artist created collages from recycled materials and garbage, including food wrappers, cake boxes and plastic bags, among others. Speaking about his work when he won the 2014 Artraker Award for Impactful Conflict Art, Zaw Htway said:

I created collages using materials from the prison’s garbage, and exchanged food rations with guards to obtain prohibited items like scissors and glue. I want [my work] to raise awareness about the lives of political prisoners in Burma, and to prove that torture, violence and oppression can break a person’s body but cannot take away the spirit within.

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: African artists, Thai artistsJapanese artists, Hong Kong artists, Lebanese artists, Burmese artists, collage, mixed media, definitions

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