30 years of Australian artist Lindy Lee – in pictures



The University of Queensland Art Museum presents a stunning 3-decade survey of Australian artist Lindy Lee’s practice. 

Entitled “Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom”, the first major survey of Lindy Lee’s work reveals a meditative, fluid oeuvre that transforms along with the artist’s philosophical pursuits. 

Lindy Lee working in studio. Photo by Lee Nutter. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Lindy Lee working in her studio. Photo by Lee Nutter. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Australian artist Lindy Lee came to prominence in the mid-1980s. Critically praised since her early years, Lee continuously reinvented and developed her art over three decades. A stunning retrospective comprising 48 works from public and private collections showcases a diverse and profoundly philosophical practice.

Entitled “Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom”, the exhibition follows Lee’s ongoing pursuit of identity, authenticity and selfhood. Her Buddhist faith and Chinese heritage are interwoven with meditative ruminations on spirituality, life and the universe. The show is curated by University of Queensland Art Museum Associate Director Michele Helmrich and runs until 22 February 2015. 

Click here to watch “Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom” from UQ Art Museum on Vimeo

Fire in darkness

Curator Helmrich chose to portray Lee’s works in a backward chronology: viewers encounter the artist’s most recent works first, as they enter the gallery. These remarkable compositions utilise fire, pyrographic techniques and flung bronze to evoke the infinity of the universe. Helmrich remarks poetically in the exhibition press release (PDF download): 

To step into a room filled with Lindy Lee’s recent artworks – those works of metal or paper whose surfaces have been ruptured so many times by fire – is to step into a world of night in which every surface glints light from fresh rain, and stars radiate in their thousands overhead.

Lindy Lee, 'Cosmos - A Life of Fire', 2014, bronze, 300 cm diameter. Collection of the artist. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Cosmos – A Life of Fire’, 2014, bronze, 300 cm diameter. Collection of the artist. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

In these works, cut metal is burned to create different patterns. The resulting pieces are comprised of fragments of glinting bronze, empty space and introspective shadows. The variety of forms and patterns pays tribute to the all-powerful might of nature, a force the artist is well aware of and celebrates through her art.

Portraits of history

The second room switches from fire to waxed canvas, dimming into rich, atmospheric colours. As a development from the earlier carbon photocopies she was first known for, showcased in the third room, Lee uses existing images of ancient figures and makes them her own. The reinvented waxed portraits feature grid formations, introspective repetition and a masterful handling of stark, minimal colours. 

Lindy Lee, 'Fire and Water', 2006, synthetic polymer paint and wax on board, archival inks on paper mounted on board, 17 panels: one 81 x 60 cm; 16 panels 40.6 x 30.2 cm each; overall 162.5 x 150.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Lindy Lee through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2013. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Fire and Water’, 2006, synthetic polymer paint and wax on board, archival inks on paper mounted on board, 17 panels: one 81 x 60 cm; 16 panels 40.6 x 30.2 cm each; overall 162.5 x 150.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Lindy Lee through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lee states in the press release that the colours call out to her. Speaking of the transformation of her work, Lee says:

The materials, especially the colours, are a kind of autobiography. Black is the constant. I started my artistic career using only black. At that time, it was the colour of loss and mourning and now it is the colour of cosmos and mystery. The most personal and poignant colour for me is the green [...] It evokes tradition on one hand, but I knew instantly when I started to use it that it was the colour of ‘the ocean of birth and death’.

Lindy Lee, 'First Principle', 2001, synthetic polymer paint, oil, wax and ink on board, 20 parts: each 41.5 x 29.5 cm; overall 166 x 147.5 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘First Principle’, 2001, synthetic polymer paint, oil, wax and ink on board, 20 parts: each 41.5 x 29.5 cm; overall 166 x 147.5 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

The flawed and the beautiful

The third room of the exhibition showcases Lee’s earliest works. The artist photocopied existing found images and printed them on different materials. She then proceeded to leave her own mark using paint, shading, gridding and repetition. Referring to these early works, which defined the artist’s artistic vision, Lee says:

I loved the flawed copy, because it was a representation of what I was; I felt split and divided, and it was supremely painful.

Lindy Lee, 'Philosophy of the Parvenu' (detail), 1990, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper mounted on board, 14 parts: each sheet 30 x 24.5 cm; overall 68 x 170.8 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2011. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Philosophy of the Parvenu’ (detail), 1990, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper mounted on board, 14 parts: each sheet 30 x 24.5 cm; overall 68 x 170.8 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2011. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Helmrich explains that Lee suffered from racism as a Chinese born in Brisbane in 1954. She was forced to assimilate when she felt lost and exiled, deprived of an identity. The curator recalls Lee telling her that “being an artist had not been a choice as much as an ongoing need or desire to find belonging and completeness.”

Lindy Lee, ''Untitled (After Jan Van Eyck)', 1988, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper on foamcore, 15 part: each sheet 42 x 29.7 cm; overall 146 x 183.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Mary Dwyer in memory of Paul Dane Tilley, 1995. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ”Untitled (After Jan Van Eyck)’, 1988, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper on foamcore, 15 part: each sheet 42 x 29.7 cm; overall 146 x 183.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Mary Dwyer in memory of Paul Dane Tilley, 1995. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

The press release quotes the artist:

The defining experience of my life is one of being fractured [...] Everything I do is related to my longing to heal the split [...] I think the fundamental and persistent question in my work is not ‘who’ am I, but ‘what’ am I – what is real?

Lindy Lee, 'Spirit of Eternal Place', 1985, photocopy and ink on paper, 34.4 x 27.7 cm (sheet). Collection of the artist. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Spirit of Eternal Place’, 1985, photocopy and ink on paper, 34.4 x 27.7 cm (sheet). Collection of the artist. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Family and heritage

The last room of the exhibition is the most immersive and dramatic. Propped up cards of Lee’s family portraits create a rich red glow in a darkened room. The repeating, duplicated images and subtle shades of red and black evoke a haunting, yet calm and reverent atmosphere. The artist is at peace and protected among her family; finally, she belongs. 

Lindy Lee, 'Birth and Death' (installation view), 2004. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Lindy Lee, ‘Birth and Death’ (installation view), 2004. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Helmrich remarks about the continuity within Lee’s wide-ranging media, including carbon photocopy, wax, fire and metal:

Despite the transformative moments that punctuate Lee’s works, currents of continuity can also be observed: repetition and the grid; obsessive approaches to image making; darkness and light; form and the formless (in Buddhist terms, emptiness); and images that unfold endlessly [...] a deep current underpins the work.

From darkness to light

Apart from showcasing Lee’s diverse media and techniques, the thirty-year survey provides an insight into the artist’s life, influence and philosophical pursuits, which include Zen Buddhism. Helmrich muses that perhaps “[t]he darkness and pathos of the early works has [...] evolved into a sense of light and transcendence.” She says in the press release:

Today, Lee’s quest is for a cosmos that continually unfolds and a darkness that is, at once, light [...] While it may be too simplistic a reading, one could say that Lee began with blackness and now finds herself in a search for light; in her flung-bronze works and firestones, shiny formless forms stand in for an energy of existence, just as the faces that stared out from her earlier repeated photocopies stood for lives once lived.

Lindy Lee, 'Terrace of the Immortals', 2012, black mild steel and fire, 120 x 214.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2013. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Terrace of the Immortals’, 2012, black mild steel and fire, 120 x 214.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2013. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Helmrich also declares that Lee’s work developed almost in tandem with shifts in Australia’s psyche, reflecting “the postmodern cultural debates of the 1980s, the turn to Asia and multiculturalism in the 1990s, and an increasing openness to ideas such as those offered by Buddhism.”

Michele Chan

520

Related Topics: Australian artists, fire art, metal, wax, museum shows, events in Australia

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more Australian contemporary art

FIELD MEETING at Asia Contemporary Art Week 2014, New York – interview (part 2)



Asian Contemporary Art Week’s Director Leeza Ahmady and Associate Curator Xin Wang speak to Art Radar about their new forum.

Returning to New York from 22 October to 2 November 2014 is the 9th edition of a city-wide event on Asian contemporary art organised by Asian Contemporary Art Week’s (ACAW) Consortium members. In the second part of Art Radar’s interview, Leeza Ahmady and Xin Wang speak about their new signature program for ACAW, the FIELD MEETING.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, Letters to Chantri #1:The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving, 2014, Installation view, video 2. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, ‘Letters to Chantri #1:The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving’, 2014, installation view, video 2. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

Click here to read part 1 of this interview.

Communal studio visits

FIELD MEETING is a two-day forum hosted by the Asia Society Museum in New York on 26 and 27 October 2014. The forum was conceived and organised by Leeza Ahmady with contributions by Xin Wang. It aims to create the experience of a studio visit on a communal scale, where artists, curators and art professionals can present recent works and initiatives through lectures, performances and discussions.

Leeza Ahmady is the Director of ACAW and AhmadyArts. She is also a curator and an educator known for her work on art practices in Central Asia. Associate Curator Xin Wang is a curator and writer and has worked as a research assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Ahmady and Xin speak to Art Radar about their inspiration for FIELD MEETING, its structure, and some of the artists participating in this programme.

Manal Al Dowayan, research file for the Crash Project, 2014, mixed-media. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Manal Al Dowayan, research file for the Crash Project, 2014, mixed-media. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

You are introducing FIELD MEETING – a two-day forum bringing together artists, curators, scholars and institutional leaders active in Asian art – at ACAW this year. Could you tell us how it came about?

Leeza Ahmady (LA): Much of my curatorial work over the years has dealt with contemporary art and its history, and Xin has been trained as an art historian and has worked on museum exhibitions of contemporary Asian art. Essentially, what artists are working on now and what they’ve done in the last two to three years is a part of history.

There has been a constant chatter in the field, which I call an East-West superiority-inferiority complex, due to the lack of more world focused scholarship. More work is necessary in this area, but the fact is that there are other types of history-making that we must make room for. Art history has typically been written from the perspective of a collective of artists in a particular place engaged in one style, in a mass movement.

What about individual artists and their work in different parts of the world made in isolation from other artists? How do such artists enter history? One of our objectives with FIELD MEETING is to shift how we read artworks and what we insert into art history. For example, one general criticism Asian countries (China, India and Indonesia) are subject to is the commercial orientation of their art venues, particularly the proliferation of private museums and galleries. While this may be true, we cannot dismiss the specificities of such venues as possible grounds for the sprouting of new institutional models effective in their own right.

In terms of new models and institutional history, FIELD MEETING, in a way, is an acknowledgment of a successful model in the Middle East – in Sharjah, one of the Emirates States about 45 minutes away from another great new art hub, Dubai. I was invited to attend a programme called “The March Meeting” in 2011, which is instituted annually by the Sharjah Biennial Foundation as a quasi-public, government-founded private entity that has managed to launch a successful series of regional gatherings for art professionals.

In-Habit Project, Another Country, 2012. Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

In-Habit Project, ‘Another Country’, 2012, at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

How is FIELD MEETING structured?

Xin Wang (XW): FIELD MEETING will be hosted at Asia Society on 26 to 27 October 2014. We currently have 35 confirmed participants for the FIELD MEETING: roughly 45 individuals, as there are collectives and collaborative projects. We’ve invested a lot of efforts in communicating with the FIELD MEETING participants to encourage alternative ways of introducing their practices, not necessarily elaborating on specific projects but grounding the narrative in their creative processes, or issues and ideas they’ve been tackling.

During these two days, we will strive to have a diverse group of voices and formats, such as performances, performative-lectures, and group discussions. We are also involving New York-based art professionals to lead discussion in the Q&A sessions, so the entire experience will indeed have the dynamic structure of a studio visit.

LA: In a sense, we are also curating the audience. The idea is to fill the room with art-professionals not only from New York but also from other cities in the United States, which is very ambitious. We are very conscious of who will be attending, who is going to be in the room, do they want to be there? How can they benefit from this? Instead of passively inviting an audience, we have been busy looking at our contacts to consider all the people we know and those we don’t, drafting individual invitations to have them join the FIELD MEETING. A great percentage of the audience will be art professionals, scholars and art practitioners, because our vision has been to create opportunities for these individuals to energise and rethink their future programmes and collections.

Many institutions in the United States are beginning to show and collect art from various regions of Asia. The question is, who are they collecting? And how are they accessing such works? Mostly through biennials and art fairs, I think, which are just fine entry points where surface connections are made – but curators and museum directors generally build their collections through long-term exchanges, research and engagement with artists’ overall practice. That’s how careers are nurtured, and great art becomes part of the public realm.

Haig Aivazian, To Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the Matter Neither Reflected Nor Absorbed Light, 2013, Lecture performance. Courtesy the artist.

Haig Aivazian, ‘To Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the Matter Neither Reflected Nor Absorbed Light’, 2013, lecture performance. Image courtesy the artist.

How did you select the artists for ACAW 2014? You mentioned that you’ve known many of these artists previously. Were there specific regions you were looking at or any specific criteria?

LA: For me, the selection has been through my research travels to various parts of Asia, or when I have launched an exhibition or participated in conferences and biennials, even art fairs. Colleagues and venues that I approached, knowing they are doing great work, have recommended some of the presenters.

One of our keynote presenters, Haig Aivazian, is based in Lebanon. I first met him when he was one of the curators of the Sharjah Biennial in 2011. Then I saw his works in different settings and realised that he was an artist too. When I researched his work further, I discovered that he often presents performance-lectures incorporating very elaborate research and speculations about a particular event at a specific time. We are very excited that he will present a one-hour iteration of his piece To Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the Matter Neither Reflected Nor Absorbed Light for the first time in New York, as a commission for the FIELD MEETING.

Sun Xun, A Footnote to Time, 2012, Installation: wall painting, ink and color on paper, mixed media. Supported by Edouard Malingue Gallery. Courtesy the artist.

Sun Xun, A Footnote to Time, 2012, Installation: wall painting, ink and color on paper, mixed media. Supported by Edouard Malingue Gallery. Courtesy the artist.

So the selection is more organic?

LA: Oh absolutely. The criteria are very open and representational of what is actually going on in the scene. Many of the FIELD MEETING participants only live in Asia part-time, some live in multiple continents and many are based in New York or elsewhere in the world. This is why we are listing the cities where each participant is living next to their names; it is telling a story all on its own.

XW: There are multiple elements at play that inform our selection. Some we already talked about, such as this discontentment with the clichés and skewed representation. There is also this tendency, when it comes to interpreting works of art from unfamiliar areas, to contextualise them in related political and cultural contexts – a very constructive method that can also reduce artists to mere footnotes. In fact, artists can and do challenge how those political and cultural situations are understood in the first place.

A good example would be Sun Xun, an artist still relatively young but extremely prolific and already a fixture in important international exhibitions, who makes use of animation videos, mural paintings and installations to create his own narratives of China’s recent history and, more abstractly, the fabrication of history. In a recent conversation, he came up with this provocative proposition: how does an artist make use of the Cultural Revolution as material without being political, or without the typical associative connotations? I won’t give away more than this, but what he will share at the FIELD MEETING will surely inspire alternative ways in thinking not only about his practice, but also about the contemporary situation in China with all kinds of ideological residuals and anachronistic properties.

Li Shurui, Sharp (detail), 2014, mixed-media installation. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Li Shurui, ‘Sharp’ (detail), 2014, mixed-media installation. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

Could you tell us more about the artists in FIELD MEETING, and why you find them interesting or relevant?

LA: We’ve invited Umer Butt, a gallery owner whom I met a few years ago in New York for a show he was curating at Thomas Erben Gallery. At the same time, there was a high profile exhibition on modern and contemporary Pakistani art at Asia Society. He shared his views and criticism of that exhibition openly. His cause is to look at other kinds of work that are not necessarily political or culturally relevant by artists in Pakistan: artists who are essentially formalists.

I am interested in why and from what aspect of the local culture this is embedded in. It’s time for all of us to ask what is specific about this – why is it relevant? How is it framed within the global practice of art history, modern and contemporary?

FIELD MEETING is also an opportunity for institutions and professionals to delve beyond the business-as-usual and to encounter artists whose works involve ongoing processes that challenge typical modules of exhibition making. Complex, research-based art projects may require new forms of representation and engagement beyond institutional settings. For example, one of the FIELD MEETING artists, Tintin Wulia, investigates the concept of borders in her practice, creating a series of installations, performances, and residencies involving the passport: passport making, collecting, distribution and restrictions. In her latest iteration, the passport is distributed in the form of an arcade game to be installed in a mall.

XW: Through the physical and symbolic constructs of the passport, she contemplates related concepts such as border control and nation-building policies.

I also would like to contextualise the selection a little bit in conjunction with the limitations of showing contemporary art from Asia in New York, or more broadly in the United States and “the West” in general. New York is already an incredibly cosmopolitan place, yet we continue to have quite skewed representations and entrenched ways of interpreting creative energies from this vast and often problematically-defined region. Many exhibitions provided seminal scholarship that broke the ground for further research, yet most of the time they seem to be playing — rightfully so — this catch-up role to update the audience here about what has happened years or decades ago. These historical retrospectives are enormously important, but there is also the recognisable void of making visible the happenings—not just individual practices—that are constantly evolving and often quite actively in dialogue already with global contemporary art.

In addition to this problem, we have uninspired commercial art filtered through the market that continues to cause real damage. I have had friends and mentors from the academia, intellectuals who don’t specialise in contemporary Asian art or follow the scene as closely but are nevertheless informed and curious enough, gradually losing interest, because too often they run into terrible, derivative “contemporary Asian art” in New York. These people aren’t the globe-trotting types that jet-set from private collections to biennials to major art fairs, nor can they afford to do the “field work” such as visiting artists’ studios on a regular basis, but their critical voice and response are undeniably valuable for the discourse.

Many artists are consciously evading dichotomies, such as Asia versus the rest of the world, particularly the West; yet clichéd frameworks like that are still being imposed on them as interpretive devices, as if Asian art has to be compartmentalised in a politically-correct, well-defined manner so that people won’t worry about saying the wrong things or not picking up on certain references. This, unfortunately, limits the way we think about not only contemporary art and culture from Asia but also global contemporaneity.

Patty Chang, Invocation of a Wandering Lake, 2014, video still. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Patty Chang, ‘Invocation of a Wandering Lake’, 2014, video still. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

Could you give us an example of how interpretive devices placed on contemporary Asian art and culture affect what and how the works are being shown in United States and in Europe?

XW: Throughout this year, there have been panels after panels organised by influential platforms—such as Frieze—that discuss the quarter-centennial of the internet and its lasting impact on art-making. Of course there’s the Net Art to post-internet art narrative largely confined to what took place in Europe and the United States.

In all these discussions, what’s routinely ignored is that the “world wide web” hasn’t been world-wide at all for all those 25 years, and it’s equally naïve to consider the platform as perfectly free, democratic and flat. Different regions in Asia came on board at different times, and when the internet interacts with the local vernacular, politics, or interesting issues such as censorship, there are very different implications and coping strategies, and these factors play certain roles in the way artists engage with new media and this sense of connectedness. Are late comers necessarily at a disadvantage? The IT adventurers will show you it’s quite the contrary, and the art world should take notes from that.

Related to this, we also have artists working with a variety of subcultural currents and phenomena. The practice of Lu Yang, a Shanghai-based artist born in the 1980s, has been heavily informed by anime, video games, and other Japanese cultural imports that left indelible marks on the collective memory of my generation, the so-called millennials, if you will. She’s not just appropriating elements but her entire practice is immersed in these fascinating virtual realms full of quirky specificities. So some of her pieces are actual video games from larger installation series that have the same polish as industry products, but at the same time feature highly provocative content and social critique. Works like these easily fall into the cracks between established narratives and categorisations.

Subculture is simply too elusive and volatile for “serious” scholarly investigations, yet artists are increasingly free to respond to specific strands in the cultural fabric, which should be differentiated from “pop” in the abstract and already historicised sense. We have also invited Cao Fei, an already established artist working with moving images, who took intriguing turns in recent works that are born of a fascination with the thriving genre of zombie apocalypse in films and TV series. Existing as or among the walking dead seems eerily relevant to certain aspects of reality in today’s China, which can easily be dramatised into a post-apocalyptic land as a result of pollution and apathy.

Click here to read part 1 of this interview.

Christine Lee

516

Related topics: curatorial practiceAsia expandsinterviews with directorsinterviews with art curators

Related posts

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on Asian art events

Is African art the next big thing in Hong Kong?



Art Radar spots a new trend in the Hong Kong art scene: African contemporary art. 

A few exhibitions on African contemporary art have cropped up recently in Hong Kong. Art Radar speaks to three Hong Kong gallerists and art critic John Batten on a possible new trend.  

Nic Crooks, 'Face Out', 2014, mixed media painting on board, 94 x 94 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Nic Crooks, ‘Face Out’, 2014, mixed media painting on board, 94 x 94cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Hong Kong has quickly become a top global art hub: its auction market is the third largest by sales after New York and London. As the art scene matures, gallerists venture into braver territories, introducing Hong Kong audiences to a wider range of material. Art Radar has spotted three recent exhibitions on African contemporary art, presented by Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong, Axel Vervoordt and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery, respectively.

Is African art the next big thing in Hong Kong? John Batten, a veteran Hong Kong arts scene watcher, says that interest would still likely be “market-driven rather than aesthetic-driven”. Gallerists are optimistic, however, and will continue to introduce African artists to an eager Hong Kong audience. Art Radar spoke to three gallerists in Hong Kong on their recent exhibitions on African contemporary art.

Raja Oshi, 'Untitled', 2014, oil on canvas, 87 x 87 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Raja Oshi, ‘Untitled’, 2014, oil on canvas, 87 x 87cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery - Lee Garakara, Founder and Creative Director

Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery was originally based in Durban, South Africa. What made you decide to relocate and bring African art to Hong Kong?

Most of my personal influence and inspiration stems from the need to expose African contemporary art to a greater audience. I strive to tell the African story via art and their makers.

The reason for coming to Hong Kong would be the idea of showcasing African art on what is or has become a world stage. As I was researching locations to use as a platform for exposure, Hong Kong stood out in numerous ways – its biggest attraction being the rise in activity in the local art market in the form of art fairs, auction houses and international galleries.

Through further observation, however, I noticed that most Hong Kong galleries predominantly show Asian and European art. The little African art that has been shown is from well-established artists represented by major American and European galleries. This trend has created an obvious void which has positively opened up new possibilities and opportunities in promoting African art.

What African artists has Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery showcased in Hong Kong so far? How has the response been?

So far, we have shown Nic Crooks, Raja Oshi, Grace Kotze and Jessica Draper. The responses have been fantastic. Through formal and informal talks, I would ask people if they had any idea what African contemporary art looked like. Most people admitted to not being aware of African contemporary art at all. After introducing them to artists such as Nic Crooks and Raja Oshi, their responses have been overwhelming. I have since been invited to present in various talks in Hong Kong.

Grace Kotze, 'Thoughts of flight', 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Grace Kotze, ‘Thoughts of flight’, 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 80cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

What’s up next for Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery?

The next exhibition, “URBAN A:”, is scheduled for May 2015. On this project, I am collaborating with a Cape Town-based gallery and will feature a group of 12 African contemporary artists from South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Do you think African art is likely to become a trend in Hong Kong?

Yes, I think over the next few years the market in Hong Kong will become well accustomed to African art, as well as various African galleries and curators from the continent. I hope to be part of the process of forging a healthy relationship with collectors, institutions and engaging with the general public in Hong Kong.

Robin Rhode, 'Birdman', 2014, mounted c-print, 75 x 115 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Robin Rhode, ‘Birdman’, 2014, mounted c-print, 75 x 115 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong - Ms. Li Yan, Director

Congratulations on the current exhibition – we are loving the captivating work of Robin Rhode. Could you tell us a little about him?

Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong is currently presenting “having been there”, a solo exhibition by South African artist Robin Rhode. Rhode’s works have also been showcased in our summer group shows and New York galleries. He is a multidisciplinary artist who has received extensive critical acclaim and is a rising young talent in the contemporary art market. His work reflects not only his mixed identity, but also gives insight into post-Apartheid South Africa.

What other African artists has your gallery showcased?

Kader Attia just joined our gallery this year. He is an artist who grew up between Algeria and the suburbs of Paris. He has taken his experience of living as part of two cultures as a starting point and developed a dynamic practice exploring the wide-ranging influence and impact of Western colonialism on non-Western cultures.

Robin Rhode, 'Fountain' (detail), 2014, mounted c-print 15 parts, each 19.69 x 19.69 inches, 50 x 50 cm 20.5 x 20.5 x 1.5 inches (framed), 52.1 x 52.1 x 3.8 cm. Overall Dimensions 108.86 x 108.86 x 1.5 inches, 276.5 x 276.5 x 3.8 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Robin Rhode, ‘Fountain’ (detail), 2014, mounted c-print 15 parts, each 19.69 x 19.69 inches, 50 x 50 cm 20.5 x 20.5 x 1.5 inches (framed), 52.1 x 52.1 x 3.8 cm. Overall Dimensions 108.86 x 108.86 x 1.5 inches, 276.5 x 276.5 x 3.8 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

How has the response been to African contemporary art?

The response to the Rhode exhibition has been resoundingly positive, as reflected by strong media attention and public attendance for the show. We have seen that the audience is very interested in the ways Rhode blurs the line between performance and visual arts, creating a theatrical experience, the pinnacle of which was the artist’s live performance at the gallery during the exhibition’s opening. The audience is also drawn to the artist’s clever use of photography as an art form as well as a tool to capture motion and to present an investigation of time and motion.

Do you think African art is likely to become a trend in Hong Kong?

We witnessed a tremendously positive response to the Robin Rhode exhibition, which is open until 1 November 2014. This is a strong indication that the Hong Kong audience is eager to welcome artists from around the world. We will continue to seek and support global talents to promote their work to an international audience, utilising our Hong Kong space as an important link between collectors and artists around the world.

El Anatsui, 'Intimation', 2014, aluminum and cooper wire, 261 x 332 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

El Anatsui, ‘Intimation’, 2014, aluminum and cooper wire, 261 x 332 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Axel Vervoordt Gallery - Mi Jeong Kim, Gallery Manager

Axel Vervoordt Gallery represents a wide range of contemporary artists from all over the globe. What prompted you to showcase the work of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui?

We brought works by El Anatsui for the inaugural exhibition entitled “El Anatsui: Theory of Se” at our newly opened space in Hong Kong in May 2014. He is one of the most celebrated contemporary artists from Ghana. Although his work is lesser known to Hong Kong and Asia in general than in the United States and European countries, it is important for us to introduce such a significant artist to broader audiences.

In what ways did Anatsui’s work catch your eye?

Anatsui’s work is rich in interpretation touching upon the history of colonialism and consumerism. It is environmentally conscious and constantly challenges the conventional notions between sculpture and painting – critical matters speaking to global audiences.

Installation view of "Theory of Se". Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Installation view of “Theory of Se”. Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

How has the response been? 

We have held two solo exhibitions for the artist so far: the first in our gallery in Antwerp, Belgium and the second in Hong Kong this year. We received a great deal of media attention from all over the world; there has been growing interest in and outside of Hong Kong.

Do you think African art is likely to become a trend in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong art market is becoming no less international than New York and London. It is possible for African art to become a trend, considering the diversity of galleries and collector groups in Hong Kong.

Michele Chan

518

Related Topics: African contemporary art, events in Hong Kong, gallery shows

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on African contemporary art

Shanghai: A September of art fairs



Shanghai played host to four different contemporary art fairs in each week of September 2014.

The arrival of four art fairs in the month of September 2014 – on the heels of the opening of two new museums, the Yuz Museum of Contemporary Art and the Long Museum West Bund – suggests that a tactical cultural renaissance in Shanghai is progressing on more than one front.

West Bund Art and Design 2014, general view. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

West Bund Art and Design 2014, general view. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

The contemporary art fair is an international phenomenon. Leading players such as Art Basel (founded in 1970) and Frieze (founded in 2003) draw an international art public travelling with an aim: to experience international art and culture from a metropolitan perspective. These fairs support galleries with spectacular commissions and public displays, and by fostering a panoply of associated new exhibitions across the host city, thus making it the place to be, at the time, to live and breathe contemporary art.

Art fairs focus and inspire the existing art map of their city. For the group of internationally-minded art cognoscenti, the fairs are on a circuit of compelling events where the emergence of new art can be more than just seen: it can be sensed and experienced, discussed and checked against the pulse of a city context. More than the sums of their parts, leading art fairs have become cultural events in their own right.

Art Radar visited four art fairs in Shanghai in September 2014.

Zhu Lanqing, 'A Journey in Reverse Direction' (detail), 2011-12, installation view at Minshing Museum, "Contemporary Photography in China 2009 – 2014". Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Zhu Lanqing, ‘A Journey in Reverse Direction’ (detail), 2011-12, installation view at Minshing Museum, “Contemporary Photography in China 2009 – 2014″. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Photo Shanghai | 4-7 September 2014

September got off to a dazzling start with Photo Shanghai, a new fair dedicated to photography. The fair attracted 42 galleries of consistent quality: local, national and international, from cities such as London, Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo. There was a sense of ambitious spectacle, despite the fair being implicitly for the entry-level collector. Affordable images were available and all works fell in the price range of USD1250 to USD175,000.

Large format contemporary works punctuated the forceful monochrome icons of historic process photography. The works linked emerging Asian photography with well-established names and images. Three of the highest priced works were snapped up on the opening evening. Collectors visited from eighteen countries, and a series of talks and tours provided a context for them and embedded the relevance of the fair in Shanghai and the Chinese art world.

The presence of additional, specially curated new media events linked the fair to current and recent shows in the city, such as K11’s “Metamorphosis of the Virtual 5 + 5” (5 July – 31 August 2014) and Chronus Art Centre’s “Jeffrey Shaw and Hu Jieming Twofold Solo Exhibition” (9 May – 28 November 2014).

Minsheng Art Museum was on board as well with “Contemporary Photography in China 2009 – 2014 (1 September – 15 October 2014), portraying images of ‘a liquid society’. The exhibition identified three thematic areas that give order to and make sense of a wide range of images. The show was profound, seemingly unaffected by the marketing perspectives of its commercial partnership.

The OCAT exhibition of Roger Ballen and Daniel Lee, entitled “Metamorphosis Mirror (13 July – 14 September 2014), also reinforced a sense of the relationship between photography and fine art. Additionally, Ballen’s work was well represented across several galleries. Long Museum West Bund’s anticipated show of Vic Muniz‘s work (23 September – 1 November 2014) also suggested that the photographic image was being taken seriously as art in Shanghai. It was no surprise that the fair was popular.

Wang Xieda at James Cohen Gallery at SH Contemporary. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Wang Xieda at James Cohan Gallery at SH Contemporary. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

BolognaFiere SH Contemporary | 12-14 September 2014

Less than a week after Photo Shanghai, the cavernous halls of the Shanghai Exhibition Centre were reordered to accommodate SH Contemporary, an annual event that has run since 2007. Against the pizzazz of top quality photography and great organisation, the contemporary art show was a diffident affair. Rather than employing the central hall, the show stretched out into over 12,078 square metres through the wings of the building. This left the heart of the complex for special projects, but none were forthcoming. The imposing vacant space acted as a foil for Candida Höfer’s portentous empty interiors presented by Matthew Liu Fine Arts, who unintentionally held the space almost single-handedly. The vast desolate area overpowered other displays, such as Michael Wolf’s crowded large format photos of Hong Kong.

The SH Contemporary organisation did not appear to have done much after the show: no market report on footfall or sales was available. There were, inevitably, some fantastic things to see, such as ShanghART’s showing of Wu Yiming; but overall the show didn’t bring anything that would compel a detour to Shanghai to see new art.

Installation view of Zhu Jinshi at Pearl Lam Galleries' space at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Installation view of Zhu Jinshi at Pearl Lam Galleries’ space at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Art in the City | 11-14 September 2014

Art In the City is a new initiative: an exhibition and an art app highlighting the exhibitions of participating galleries. It was described by Massimo Torrigiani –one of its founders who was previously with SH Contemporary – as a “curated selling exhibition developed with the galleries – not like a fair.” In fact, sales at Art in the City were restrained, but the ambition to spotlight Shanghai’s galleries in an ‘ongoing project’ is promising.

The event connected fifteen of Shanghai’s leading commercial galleries, of which several were represented at both Art in the City and SH Contemporary. Usually, the geographic separation of galleries in Shanghai makes a survey view of the city a daunting and exhausting trek, so there was some sense in creating this unified platform in K11’s sumptuous central location beneath their attractive shopping mall.

The exhibition was dominated by an insistent livery, a pseudo-Parisian street scene, produced by Kokai Studios. The jaunty graphic created an air of lightness, rather at odds with the intensity of much of the art. As with SH Contemporary, one looked for jaw dropping effects, larger than the pervading theme of the context. Pearl Lam Galleries delivered this, possessing their space with a single staggering painting by Zhu Jinshi.

Nam June-Paik, 'Eskimo Man', 1995, at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Nam June Paik, ‘Eskimo Man’, 1995, at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Elsewhere, there was a feeling that the works were drawn from stock, so there were few surprises if one was familiar with Shanghai’s gallery scene. This left it to the curation of the spaces to invent new perspectives for the work. Some, such as 55, Hakgojae, Aike-Dellarco and BANK, pulled this off very well. Hakgojae’s deployment of Nam June Paik’s Eskimo Man (1995) – with his jolly, antenna-like umbrella and body assembled from retro radio hardware – harmonised with the street theme and invited thinking about the character of the visiting collector and the audience in the venue.

Yutaka Sone and Rirkirt Tiravanija, 'Titles', 2014, at West Bund Art and Design 2014. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Yutaka Sone and Rirkrit Tiravanija, ‘Titles’, 2014, at West Bund Art and Design 2014. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

West Bund Art and Design | 25-29 September 2014, 1-26 October 2014

The much-anticipated West Bund Art and Design fair appeared after a week’s hiatus, occupying a novel venue close to the aforementioned new Shanghai museums. The stunning exhibition hall certainly looked like a contemporary art fair, where Frieze and Art Basel have set the bar quite high. With a total of 25 galleries, the new venture included some significant ones such as Hauser and Wirth and Pace, who do not have spaces in Shanghai.

Overall sales were reported as being positive, although few foreign collectors were compelled to make the journey to this cultural peninsula of Shanghai. Mathieu Borysevicz, the director of BANK, observed that, “Demographically speaking, most [buyers] were top Chinese veterans and young collectors.” Some local galleries reported healthy sales: Pearl Lam consigned Jim Lambie’s Metal Box Hyacinth Orchid to the Long Museum for USD255,000 and sold several of Ren Ri’s bee sculptured honeycomb in Plexiglas cubes, as well as paintings by Zhu Jinshi. Shi Zhiying, presented by Beijing’s White Space, reportedly sold out. Hauser and Wirth sold works by Thomas Houseago, Zhang Enli, Sterling Ruby, Christopher Orr, Wilhelm Sasnal and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski. Elsewhere, sales were only described as “quite positive”.

For the general public, the isolation of the venue conspired with the self-assured art to give an impression of elitism. There was no counter-effort to engage, educate or share, particularly towards fostering the interest of young people.

Installation at West Bund Art and Design. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Installation at West Bund Art and Design. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Meanwhile, London’s Frieze art fair is discussed and embraced as a ‘festival’ because of its engaging programme, at a tangent to the core purpose of showing and selling art. Both collectors and the public want a sense of event that creates new trends rather than follows them: contemporary art as a live experience, not as a stock report.

The art fair is an opportunity to bring together new, challenging and exciting work in extraordinary places. It is one element of a robust art sector that connects people with their shared culture, and public interest urges artists to make even better artworks. Who knows who the patrons, philanthropists and collectors of an emerging generation will be?

Andrew Stooke

517

Related Topics: Chinese art, promoting art, art fairs, round up, art and the community, events in Shanghai

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on art fairs in Asia

Apply now and study art writing with Art Radar!



Want to learn how to be a published art writer? Look no further! Get your application in today to secure the low course fee of USD687.

The increasingly international art world is becoming more difficult to navigate by the minute. In our online art writing course, we’ll help you to identify art world trends, analyse the art market and discover great art – and then teach you how to write about your findings in a clear, concise and compelling way.

Art Radar Institute tutor Kate Nicholson interviews an artist at ARCO Madrid.

Art Radar Institute tutor Kate Nicholson interviews artist Marisa González at ARCOmadrid 2012.

What is Art Radar‘s Certificate in Art Journalism & Writing 101? 

The Certificate in Art Journalism & Writing 101 is the first of four certificates in our art journalism diploma programme. The 101 course puts you behind the writer’s desk. Through one-on-one mentoring with an experienced editor, you will learn all you need to know about art writing, from conducting interviews to publishing online. You will also build a portfolio of your own writing to be published here on Art Radar.

How much does the course cost?

The current fee for our 101 art writing certificate is a super low USD687, which covers all training costs for the 13 week course period.

But what does this fee get you?

Benefits of the 101 art writing certificate course include:

    • up to two published articles (researched and written entirely by you!) that you can show prospective employers or graduate school admissions staff
    • a physical certificate to include in your resume
    • increased job options within the art world – our writers have gone on to work in top auction houses, physical and online galleries and other art organisations
    • access to important art world professionals – as you progress through the course, you may have the opportunity to create useful longer-term relationships with leading art world figures

You’ll also receive hands-on direct personal support, including:

    • support through email, Skype and Google Chat for immediate issues
    • video meetings with your editor via Skype or Google Chat
    • one-on-one written feedback from an experienced art editor on course assignments and on the article that you write

Along with this unprecedented level of personal support, you’ll receive a six-module training course delivered by email. And all for a fantastic price!

Dominica Yang, Chair of The Friends of the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (right), presenting CUHK student On Ki Angel Choi (left) with her Art Radar Institute art writing scholarship award.

Dominica Yang, Chair of The Friends of the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (right), presenting CUHK student On Ki Angel Choi (left) with her Art Radar Institute art writing scholarship award.

Art Radar Alumni

Here’s what some of our past students have said about the course:

Before taking this course, as a reader, I thought the posts published on Art Radar were quite simple, so it should be very easy to write them. However, it was not. There is a lot to writing a good post. I had to do online research, material study and analysis, writing (endless drafts), revision, formatting, proof reading and promotion. It was difficult and complicated, but I really enjoyed the process, especially when my posts were published. Can’t believe I can write something like a journalist!

 Phyllis Wong, Hong Kong

I can highly recommend this course! An invaluable experience, I must say, as it has certainly helped me improve as a writer and continues to contribute to my art career. I am currently in the MA Fine Art course at Chelsea College of Arts, London (where the Art Radar writing experience will help with my thesis), and besides, this experience has helped to open up other opportunities as well. The funny thing is, I applied to the Art Radar course as a self-prescribed solution to be a better writer, and ended up really enjoying it so much that I still write about art in my own personal blog, for fun – and because it gets me going to art exhibitions on a weekly basis.

Kelise Franclemont, London

How to apply

To apply for Art Radar‘s Certificate in Art Journalism & Writing 101, you’ll need to send us:

  • a copy of your resume/CV
  • a cover letter explaining why you’d like to be a part of this certificate programme and of Art Radar

This should be accompanied by two writing samples. A writing sample can be on any subject and could include:

  • a one-page extract of a thesis or university essay
  • a previously published article
  • a blog post
  • an email
  • a letter
  • a speech
  • creative fiction (excluding poetry)

Application fee

All applicants to our course must pay an application fee of USD35, which will be deducted off the cost of the course when you make payment. This fee must be paid via PayPal using your credit card or PayPal account before we will accept your application to the course. You’ll be provided with the link to the application processing fee payment page in the online application form.

Apply online now!

Got your materials together? You’re ready to apply online.

Click here to fill out an online application form.

 

 

Jobs and opportunities | CEO for Biennale of Sydney, Assistant Curator for Venice Biennale in Hong Kong…and more



Looking for new career options in the arts? Art Radar Opportunities is a convenient archive of openings in the visual art world. 

Every week we add new positions suitable for a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience. Whether you’re an artist or an aspiring curator, a market analyst or a scholar, Art Radar Opportunities has listings that’ll pique your interest.

 

Reader offer! We’re offering free job listings to all of our readers. If you’d like to advertise your opportunity to 20,000 visitors a month, contact our page coordinator on stories.artradar@gmail.com with “codeopportunities” in the subject line.

 

New this week!

___________________________

JOB Sydney Chief Executive Officer | Biennale of Sydney – apply by 26 October 2014

The position is responsible for identifying new sources of revenue and maintaining and expanding existing funding relationships. Candidates will have a strong reputation and track record in running a complex arts organisation, with experience in reporting to a Board and working with government funding bodies. MORE HERE

______________________________

FELLOWSHIP Minneapolis | A.W. Mellon Fellow for Japanese Art | Minneapolis Institute of Arts – apply by 31 October 2014

This is a one-year benefited fellowship with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that could be extended to two years, with a stipend of USD56,000 per year. The main purpose of this Fellowship is to research and catalogue the MIA’s collections of Japanese and Korean ArtMORE HERE

______________________________

JOB Hong Kong | Assistant Curator, Venice Biennale | West Kowloon Cultural District Authority – apply by 31 October 2014

M+ is the new museum for visual culture in Hong Kong, as part of the West Kowloon Cultural District, focusing on 20th and 21st century art, design, architecture and the moving image. They are seeking an assistant curator for the Venice Biennale, who will be employed on a one year contract. MORE HERE

______________________________

RESIDENCY Mexico | Arquetopia International Artist Residency – apply by 2 November 2014

Arquetopia’s Artist-in-Residence programmes offer important professional opportunities for emerging and mid-career, national and international contemporary artists, designers, curators, researchers, and art educators aged 25 and over. MORE HERE

______________________________

OPEN CALL New York | Vertigo-ArtSalon 2014 – apply by 15 November 2014

​Open Call for artists to apply for participation in the upcoming international art exhibition “Vertigo-ArtSalon 2014″ in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York. MORE HERE

 

Did you know that Art Radar runs its very own online art writing course? Click here to find out more about Art Radar‘s Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.

 

Looking for more opportunities in the contemporary art world? For Art Radar’s complete list of jobs, internships, residencies, courses and open calls, click here.

 

Closing this week!

______________________________

INTERNSHIP Hong Kong | Sage Gateshead Internships 2015 | Sage Gateshead and Arts Development Council – apply by 24 October 2014

“Sage Gateshead Internships 2015” are under the Cultural Internship Scheme, which was launched by the ADC in 2009 with funding support from the Home Affairs Bureau. The Scheme aims at supporting promising local arts practitioners to receive professional training in famous world-class art venues and institutes annually. MORE HERE

 

This is just a sample of art world opportunities we gather each week. If you’d like to see more, click here to sign up for more information on how to get full access and feeds of opportunities.

 

UK’s largest exhibition of Chinese art at Asia Triennial Manchester – in pictures



“Harmonious Society” unites more than 30 contemporary Chinese artists over 6 venues in Manchester.

The exhibition, organised by the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester, brings together over 30 renowned Chinese artists, responding to Asia Triennial’s theme “Conflict and Compassion”.

Wang Yuyang, 'Breathing Books', 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Wang Yuyang, ‘Breathing Books’, 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Harmonious Society” was launched on 27 September and runs until 23 November 2014. Organised by the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), it is spread across six venues in Manchester. Lead curator Jiang Jiehong’s ambitious project is laid out much in the same guise as a biennial or triennial exhibition and responds to the overall theme of the Asia Triennial Manchester 2014 (ATM), “Conflict and Compassion”.

Jin Feng, 'Chinese Plates', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Jin Feng, ‘Chinese Plates’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

The exhibition re-examines the ‘conflicts’ and ‘harmony’ of Greater China, as well as that of Asia and the world. It contextualises these amidst the unprecedented political reform, economic development and rapid urbanisation that Mainland China has seen in the past three decades. 

The curatorial vision identifies a ‘harmonious society’ (和谐社会 hexie shehui) that presents no conflict and extends its cultural and philosophical connotations to be perceived in a global context (天下 tianxia).

Luxury Logico 'Solar, Manchester', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Luxury Logico ‘Solar, Manchester’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Yuan Gong, 'Losing Control', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Yuan Gong, ‘Losing Control’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

As Jiang explains:

‘Harmonious Society’ is almost an ‘automatic’ response to the current ATM focusing on ‘conflict and compassion’. [...] When translated in Chinese, as ‘nothing happened under heaven’ (天下無事 tianxia wushi), it then has its philosophical extension and the potential to be rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Beyond nationality, all the works and artists are connected under ‘tianxia‘ together to embrace the ‘harmony’.

Liu Jianhua, ;Boxing Times', 2002. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Liu Jianhua, ;Boxing Times’, 2002. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Zhao Yao, 'Wonderlands', 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Zhao Yao, ‘Wonderlands’, 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Curating the city

The exhibition first originated exclusively for the CFCCA, but eventually developed into six venues during the curatorial process. The uniqueness of this project lies in the production of several new site-specific works for the show. Jiang said that the works were

required to respond not only to the notion of ‘Harmonious Society’, but also the institutional and non-institutional spaces and their historical, cultural and religious connotations. It is the challenge of ‘curating the city’.

Yang Zhenzhong, 'Long Live the Great Union', 2013. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Yang Zhenzhong, ‘Long Live the Great Union’, 2013. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Jiang further explains that the title of the exhibition is derived from a political slogan, but that it is in no way directed to a simplistic reading of the show as politically critical. He warns against the interpretation of Chinese art as directly related to politics, as championed by some individual artists and curators.

We believe, politics can be discussed in art (not just Chinese art, but also British, American and European art), but it is never the core of contemporary art, whilst contemporary art can really do very little about political struggles, such as the recent Hong Kong crisis. Evidenced in our show, Chinese art is much more than this, with its own creative energy and a sense of humour.

TOF Group, 'The Ideal Field for the Perfect Battle', 2014. Image courtesy CFCCA.

TOF Group, ‘The Ideal Field for the Perfect Battle’, 2014. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Li Wei, 'A Decorative Thing', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Li Wei, ‘A Decorative Thing’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Artists in harmony

The artists, across the six venues (PDF download), include:

At the CFCCA:

Zhang Hui and Dan'er, 'Mobile Sculpture', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Zhang Hui, ‘Mobile Sculpture’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

At the National Football Museum:

At the Manchester Cathedral:

Wang Sishun, 'Harmonious Society', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Wang Sishun, ‘Harmonious Society’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

At Artwork:

Leung Chi Wo, 'Untitled (Love for Sale)', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Leung Chi Wo, ‘Untitled (Love for Sale)’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

At the John Rylands Library:

Annie Lai Kuen Wan, 'Lost in Biliterate and Trilingual', 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Annie Lai Kuen Wan, ‘Lost in Biliterate and Trilingual’, 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

At the Museum of Science and Industry:

Chang Huei-ming, 'The Last Rose', 2010. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Chang Huei-ming, ‘The Last Rose’, 2010. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Yao Jui-chung, ‘Long Long Live’, 2013. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Yao Jui-chung, ‘Long Long Live’, 2013. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Discussing China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

Although curatorial endeavours that bring together such diverse artistic practices from contemporary China could be controversial, the response to the exhibition so far has been very positive. The curator tells Art Radar:

The responses that I hear are all quite positive, or maybe colleagues are just being polite and sympathetic to me.

Lee Kit, 'I don't owe you anything', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Lee Kit, ‘I don’t owe you anything’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Jiang has curated an exhibition that is, as he says, “specially tailored for Manchester”. There have been other major surveys of Chinese contemporary art in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, but “Harmonious Society” distinguishes itself by its six venues and more than sixty percent new works.

Samson Young, 'Muted Situations', 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Samson Young, ‘Muted Situations’, 2014. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Jiang explains that:

Unlike other large survey shows, it is neither introductory, nor representative of some decades of Chinese contemporary art. Instead, it encourages cutting-edge practice, in-depth discussions and latest artistic responses on the most current issues. It is not a project to represent Chinese art, but to discuss China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

There have been good shows of Chinese contemporary art in the West, but very few. Many of those are just a selection of ‘good examples’, and some are worse, such as, for example, Chinese art exhibitions outside the Arsenale at last Venice Biennale (2013) and the ‘official’ Chinese Pavilion itself, which in my view, are crimes.

Zheng Guogu, 'Brain Lines', 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

Zheng Guogu, ‘Brain Lines’, 2014. Photo: Tristan Poyser. Image courtesy CFCCA.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

510

Related Topics: Chinese artists, Hong Kong artists, Taiwanese artists, museum shows, triennials, triennales, curatorial practice, events in Manchester, picture feasts

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on the Chinese contemporary art exhibitions