Crude oil and glass coffins: Taiwanese artist Shih Hsiung Chou in London – in pictures



Taiwanese artist Shih Hsiung Chou reinterprets the art of painting with crude oil, glass and perspex.

“Wait Until It Dries” is an exhibition of new works by acclaimed Taiwanese artist Shih Hsiung Chou. Currently on show in Shoreditch, London, the exhibition is the first stop of an international tour which will end at the Taipei Fine Art Museum in 2016.

Shih Hsiung Chou, 'Oil Painting', 2012, oil and Glass. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Shih Hsiung Chou, ‘Oil Painting’, 2012, oil and glass. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

“Wait Until It Dries” (2015) opened at Encounter Contemporary last week in Ely’s Yard, Shoreditch, London. The show features works by up-and-coming Taiwanese artist Shih Hsiung Chou, who was a finalist in the Zabludowicz Future Map Prize (2013) and the winner of the Kaohsiung Museum Sculpture Award (2014). The exhibition runs until 6 February 2015.

Beyond brushes and canvases

The exhibition’s headlining series of works is titled “Oil Painting”, but Chou’s enigmatic creations hardly resemble one. Shunning canvases for glass and perspex, and using crude, black viscous oil instead of paint that dries, Chou’s unconventional works are at once mysterious and mischievous, fun and thought-provoking. This is Art writes:

Shih Hsiung Chou engages with art history by manipulating the notion of oil painting to his own ends, creating experiments with material and form that drastically challenge past concepts of painting.

Shih Hsiung Chou, 'Oil Painting', 2012, crude oil and perspex, 84 x 64 x 4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Shih Hsiung Chou, ‘Oil Painting’, 2012, crude oil and perspex, 84 x 64 x 4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

The works consist of clear perspex forms filled with recycled oil. The black, viscous liquid – unique in colour, texture and its remarkable reflective qualities – contributes to “ever-dynamic artwork[s] shaped by whatever or whoever is reflected in it”. Chou has stated, quoted by the exhibition press release:

I intend to give the right to the audience [...] to form their own ideas when seeing their own reflection.

Shih Hsiung Chou, 'Oil Painting', 2013-2015, recycled engine oil, perspex, steel, 165 x 65 x 65 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Shih Hsiung Chou, ‘Oil Painting’, 2013-2015, recycled engine oil, perspex, steel, 165 x 65 x 65 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Elusive reflections

Chou’s choice of material immediately brings to mind British sculptor Richard Wilson’s legendary oil installation, 20:50 (1987). But while 20:50 stuns with its magnificent scale and transfixing stillness, Chou’s smaller pieces create a dynamic intimacy with the viewer, initiating what the press release calls a “psycho-physical exchange”:

[The reflections] invite our speculation yet resist any fixed form or final explanation. The dark ‘void’ space within Chou’s work remains allusive, [...] caught up in a continuous process of regeneration. Activated by the viewer, they are fixed in a state of flux, ever present, yet unknowable. [...] Chou’s artworks are not so much objects as endless impressions, fixed in a timeless frame.

Shih Hsiung Chou, 'Oil Painting', recycled engine oil and perspex, 160 x 120 x 6 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Shih Hsiung Chou, ‘Oil Painting’, recycled engine oil and perspex, 160 x 120 x 6 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

The oil-filled spaces thus represent much more than simple reflective blank canvases, becoming a living meditation on the meaning of reality. The artist himself states in an interview with Chorus and Echo:

To be visible is to be present, to be absent is to be invisible, and visibility is a quality of light. I wanted to intercept the transmission of light on a transparent surface by using highly reflective materials to create another visibility. [The] meaning of my work is formed by the eyes of the audience… continually transforming itself.

Shih Hsiung Chou, 'Long Stay', 2012-2015, recycled engine oil and perspex, 190 x 60 x 45 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Shih Hsiung Chou, ‘Long Stay’, 2012-2015, recycled engine oil and perspex, 190 x 60 x 45 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Oil, coffins and death

Chou’s family is in the oil industry, a fact that sheds some light on his chosen medium. Francolin Press observed that “despite choosing art over the family business, [Chou's] identification with the substance, and indeed his loyalty towards it, provides the very foundation to his work.” The artist revealed:

In the environment I grew up in, many of our ordinary objects were printed with the trademark of the oil company, such as calendars and notebooks… therefore I have formed a very strong identity. [...] I feel such complete interest and identification with this material. Oil.

Shih Hsiung Chou, 'Long Stay', 2012-2015, recycled engine oil and perspex, 190 x 60 x 45 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

Shih Hsiung Chou, ‘Long Stay’, 2012-2015, recycled engine oil and perspex, 190 x 60 x 45 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Encounter Contemporary.

When asked by Chorus and Echo about the intentions behind one of his most striking pieces – a glass coffin filled with oil – Chou replied:

The coffin work was the first drawing that came into my head during this series. [...] At that moment I was considering the symbolism of a glass coffin and oil, and how they work together visually and/or symbolically. Whether it is a symbol of death, the end of the material society or the oil generation… It is too heavy for me to answer at this stage. [...] If there is anything I can say for this it is this: “death reveals human’s character, from the depth to the surface.”

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, oil, glass, sculpture, gallery shows, picture feasts, events in London

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4 Iranian street artists to know



Art Radar brings you 4 artists to know from the streets of Iran.

Although Iran has in recent years initiated a variety of urban beautification projects featuring monumental murals in the urban landscape, most street artists still have to work underground due to state censorship and the illegal status of graffiti. 

Icy & Sot, New York. Image courtesy the artists.

Icy & Sot, 2013, New York. Image courtesy the artists.

The Iranian street art scene, though, continues to burgeon relentlessly, especially in its two main centres, Tehran and Tabriz. Art Radar profiles Iranian street artists who are making their mark.

Icy & Sot

Hailing from Tabriz, brothers and stencil artists Icy & Sot started their professional career in 2008, but have been creating work on the streets since 2005. Their graffiti addresses issues of peace, war, love, hate, hope, despair, children, society and Iranian culture. They have held numerous exhibitions worldwide and their unofficial street artworks have appeared in Iran and throughout Europe, South America and the United States.

In August 2012, the artists attended one of their exhibitions outside of Iran for the first time. “Made in Iran”, held at the Openhouse Gallery in New York City, featured their new works and site-specific installations.

Since then, Icy & Sot have been based in New York City – which provides a better platform for their creative endeavours and greater freedom of movement – leaving behind a rich underground street art scene in Iran, including their ‘protégés’ – emerging artists III and MAD.

Icy & Sot, mural along Troutman Street at Bushwick Five Points, Brooklyn, New York. Image © Wally Gobetz/Flickr, 2013.

Icy & Sot, mural along Troutman Street at Bushwick Five Points, Brooklyn, New York. Image © Wally Gobetz/Flickr, 2013.

The Huffington Post quoted Icy & Sot on working in Iran:

The worst thing in Iran is that when you get caught they will stick so many labels to you that are not even related to it, such as Satanism, for example, and you can be accused of political activities.

In Summer 2014, Icy & Sot curated a two-city exhibition entitled “New York to Tehran/Tehran to New York”, which featured Iranian artists at the TBA temporary space in New York City and American artists at the Seyhoun Art Gallery in Tehran. After the show, the artists were able to travel around Europe for the first time, leaving traces of their passing in France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, including ad takeovers, monumental street art installations and wall graffiti.

Icy and Sot, New York, 2014. Image courtesy the artists.

Icy and Sot, 2014, New York. Image courtesy the artists.

In an interview with Brooklyn Street Art, the artists said about their work:

In our opinion Street Art itself is a kind of political art, because it says something directly to the people. […] we are communicating our visions to the people with walls. […] Because the streets are for everyone but the galleries are limited and all we want is to communicate our visions to the people.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, 'Childhood Dream', 2011, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, ‘Childhood Dream’, 2011, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo

Tehran-based artist and designer Mehdi Ghadyanloo began decorating his native city’s high-rises and office buildings about eight years ago, with monumental surrealist and hyper-realist murals produced by himself and his company, Blue Sky Painters. Ghadyanloo’s graffiti blurs the lines between architecture, art and the urban environment, as well as between reality and fiction.

Ghadyanloo currently teaches a course on mural art at Soodeh University in Tehran. His art is sanctioned and supported by Tehran’s municipal government, as he told Young Persian Artists:

[…] most of my large-scale work is financed by the municipality. Some 8 years ago, the municipality set up a committee to help promote mural art in Tehran. The city is an architectural mishmash with buildings often having only one facade and the other three just left blank and grey. This doesn’t make for a beautiful city but it is a great environment for mural work. I think the municipality really felt the need to bring some cohesion or at least colour to the often confused and smog-smeared architectural face of the city.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, 'Folded Walls', 2006, Azadi Street, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, ‘Folded Walls – Future’, 2006, Azadi Street, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

But Ghadyanloo is an exception in Tehran – most street artists are relegated to the underground scene, as he explains to The Huffington Post:

Graffiti is illegal here in Iran, like in many other countries, so graffiti artists in Tehran work at night. We have [a] very good underground street artist [network].

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, 'Life Cycle', 2013, detail, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo, ‘Life Cycle’, 2013, detail, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Ghadyanloo’s murals incorporate vibrant colours and realistically rendered daily life scenes with surrealist themes in 3D effects and optical illusions. In the urban environment of Tehran, it is possible to see a man riding a bicycle vertically towards the sky, a child flying upwards with a bunch of colourful balloons, and people walking upside down on a building.

The artist has created more than one hundred artworks on Tehran’s walls so far and has more in the making.

Black Hand, 2012, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Black Hand, 2012, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

Black Hand

Black Hand epitomises the illegal aspect of mural and graffiti art in Iran. Censorship is harsh and Black Hand is compelled to keep his anonymity, as he explains to The Guardian:

I hide my identity for security reasons. Under the Iranian municipality laws, writing on walls or advertising without official permission is a crime.

In April 2014, the artist organised an exhibition of his own work that took place in an abandoned house in central Tehran which was under the protection of the Historical Preservation Society for its unique architecture, but which the authorities had decided to demolish anyway.

Black Hand, mural next to Hasheminejad Hospital, Center for Kidney Patients, 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

Black Hand, 2014, mural next to Hasheminejad Hospital, Center for Kidney Patients. Image courtesy the artist.

Black Hand is considered Iran’s Banksy by many, and has revealed that he takes inspiration and is heavily influenced by the UK artist’s style and artistic philosophy. Like Banksy, Black Hand engages with social and political issues. His art is provocative but is not meant as protest – rather, as a way to find peace. In the same interview with The Guardian, Black Hand goes on to explain:

I work on the issues that are happening in my country. We wake up with them, we live with them and we sleep with them. Art aside, being able to express these issues by itself can help you find peace. I love life and I love living next to other people. People’s relations with each other fascinate me and I want to work on humans more than anything else. My aim is to communicate with other humans.

Black Hand, 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

Black Hand, 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

Black Hand works quickly and chooses his locations wisely, usually where people will see his murals before the municipal government covers them up only a few hours after completion. Banksy’s stencilling technique, says Black Hand, helps him complete his work in a very short period of time.

An example of his art, which went viral on social media, is a mural of a woman holding up a bottle of dishwashing liquid as if it were a sports cup. Black Hand painted it after the Iranian government barred women from sports stadiums in June 2014. Two weeks later, the municipal government had defaced it, painting over it in bright blood red.

Another artwork that went viral addresses the legal trade of kidneys in Iran, depicting an auction for a kidney on a wall. This work was erased the morning after it was created.

GhalamDAR, 'Segregation #2', 2014, Karaj, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR, ‘Segregation #2′, 2014, Karaj. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR

GhalamDAR started his career at fifteen, and from 2011 to 2014 he teamed up with the Elf Crew, one of the first graffiti groups to emerge in Iran. He has a distinctive style that sets him apart from the rest of his fellow street art practitioners. Rather than being influenced by the mainstream graffiti styles coming in from the West, he takes inspiration from traditional Iranian art forms such as calligraphy (khattati or khoshnevesi) and miniature painting (negargari).

GhalamDAR’s art exemplifies a new direction in Iranian street art, positioning street art within the context of Iranian art history.

GhalamDAR, 'Conflict', 2014, Tehran-Karaj Highway. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR, ‘Conflict’, 2014, Tehran-Karaj Highway. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR, 'Hidden Sun', 2014, Tehran-Karaj Highway. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR, ‘Hidden Sun’, 2014, Tehran-Karaj Highway. Image courtesy the artist.

As GhalamDAR told Ajam Media Collective (AMC), he hopes that more artists will start engaging with Iran’s cultural products:

In this modern period, we are able to take our own elements, visual culture, our own literature for inspiration. We have had a lot of artistic circles throughout the last century that have experimented with traditional forms. We could do it [with graffiti], but most prefer to emulate. In my opinion, we still don’t have an authentic Iranian street art movement; right now most of us are just replicating what is being produced in the U.S. and Europe.

He goes on to explain that his art does not emulate, but takes inspiration from, transforms or re-interprets past artistic forms. In doing so, the artist brings his work into the realm of pop-art by “cartoonifying” human figures and isolating them from their traditional literary and visual contexts.

GhalamDAR, 'Segregation #1', 2014, Karaj. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR, ‘Segregation #1′, 2014, Karaj. Image courtesy the artist.

The recent urban beautification projects initiated by the Iranian government that sanction some street artists and their works have helped artists like GhalamDAR to feel less threatened by the illegal nature of their practices. Finding locations around the city has become easier and people’s responses to street art are less negative than before. He told AMC:

Sometimes we talk to the residents in a particular area to ask them if we can paint there. I show them my ID and tell them that I’m a university art student. I remember once in a while they would come out to see what I was painting, but after a while they stopped being suspicious of our work and didn’t mind us.

GhalamDAR, 'Dancing with chaos', 2014, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR, ‘Dancing with chaos’, 2014, Tehran. Image courtesy the artist.

GhalamDAR believes that the “gallerisation” of street art does not necessarily alter the message or form of graffiti:

[…] street art is a package that encompasses a variety of practices like design, decor, and fashion – it’s something that doesn’t have limitations any more. The nature of graffiti is changing, but the core of it all – writing on the walls – shouldn’t be lost either.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Iranian artists, street art, graffiti, public art, calligraphy, profiles, lists, art in Iran

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Fair season: Galleries prepare for Art Stage Singapore and India Art Fair 2015



Art Radar catches up with 6 international galleries participating in the first art fairs of the 2015 fair season in Asia.

The art fair season in Asia ushers in a new exciting year for contemporary art, starting with Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair taking place back-to-back during the last week of January 2015. Art Radar caught up with 6 galleries hailing from different corners of the world to find out about their participation in both fairs and what draws them to Asia.

"We Are Asia" was the much-touted theme of Art Stage Singapore 2012, and the was reflected in the fair's curatorial outlook. Image courtesy of Artitude.

“We Are Asia” was the much-touted theme of Art Stage Singapore 2012, and was reflected in the fair’s curatorial outlook. Image courtesy Artitude.

Art Stage Singapore (22 – 25 January 2015) has in recent years cemented its status as one of the most important fairs in Asia, featuring contemporary Asian art with a special focus on Southeast Asia. In 2015, the fair returns for its fifth edition, with a three-to-one ratio of Asian and Western galleries including big names such as Arndt, The Drawing Room, Mizuma Gallery, Pearl Lam Galleries, Opera Gallery, Galerie Perrotin and White Cube, among others.

The slightly more seasoned India Art Fair (29 January – 1 February 2015), this year at its seventh edition, has also become an important event in the Asian region, with a strong focus on South Asia and a majority of the participants hailing from the Subcontinent. Among its exhibitors are galleries such as Aicon Gallery, Chemould Prescott Road, Galleria Continua, Experimenter and institutional participants such as the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Asia Art Archive.

Art Radar caught up with six international galleries participating in both the Singapore and the New Delhi art fairs to find out about their expectations, opinions and the importance of being present in Asia now.

Hema Upadhyay. Image courtesy Chemould Prescott Road.

Hema Upadhyay, ‘Universe Revolves On (IV)’, 2008, mixed media collage of STPI handmade paper, modified clay slip, photographs and paint, 193 x 151.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist, STPI and Chemould Prescott Road.

Shireen Gandhy, Director and Owner | Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai

This year you will be attending two back to back art fairs in Asia: both Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in late January. Have you participated in either (or both) of the fairs before?

[We] have participated in the India Art Fair, being an Indian gallery. It is our first [time at] Art Stage Singapore.

What made you decide to apply or re-apply this year?

We are the primary gallery of an artist, Hema Upadhyay, who had worked with STPI (Singapore Tyler Print Institute) on a body of work. We thought it would be a good opportunity to avail of a booth and show the work during Art Stage Singapore.

Hema Upadhyay. Image courtesy Chemould Prescott Road.

Hema Upadhyay, ‘Universe Revolves On (XV)’, 2008, mixed media collage of STPI handmade paper, charcoal, photographs and screen print, 190.5 x 281.3 x 42.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist, STPI and Chemould Prescott Road.

What are your expectations for this year’s fairs in Singapore and in India? What will you be presenting at both? What do you think are the main differences between the two fairs and the advantages of attending both?

Never having done Singapore, it is difficult to judge – but it is a focused booth, so we hope that we get good traction from being there with Hema’s work.

With India Art Fair, the booth is large and ambitious and we plan to show a large part of our programme with our very strong artists – Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, Atul Dodiya and several others. We also have a solo booth by Reena Kallat. We are looking forward to getting a good deal of traction as our programme is robust and we hope the collectors will respond to what we have brought there.

What are the challenges of preparing to attend two fairs back to back in two different locations?

Singapore has been easy as the work is in Singapore, with STPI. With the India Art Fair, we have had to fine tune our booth as the works are complicated and far more challenging in how we will present them. Logistics, luckily, in India are less [problematic] as we hire a truck and don’t need the lead time. So in that sense having a booth in both these cities has not been a logistical nightmare or challenge as such!

M. F. Husain, 'Untitled (MENAXI)', not dated, oil on canvas, 29.5 x 22 in. Image courtesy Aicon Gallery.

M. F. Husain, ‘Untitled (MENAXI)’, not dated, oil on canvas, 29.5 x 22 in. Image courtesy Aicon Gallery.

Harry Hutchison, Associate Director | Aicon Gallery, New York/London

This year you will be attending two back to back art fairs in Asia: both Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in late January. Have you participated in either (or both) of the fairs before?

We have participated in the India Art Fair since its inception and this will be our second time at Art Stage Singapore.

What made you decide to re-apply this year?

As we are primarily a gallery that focuses on South Asian art, India is particularly important for us, hence our continued support of the IAF in Delhi. We exhibited at Art Stage in 2014 and were very impressed with the collectors they brought in, and look forward to taking part once again.

What are your expectations for this year’s fairs in Singapore and in India?

We have built up a client base in both the regions, so we are expecting good things to come from the fairs. But the aim of art fairs is to also meet new clients and for that to happen there is always an element of luck.

Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi, 'Lyre or Lute', 1987, acrylic and tempera on canvas, 44 x 53 in. Image courtesy Aicon Gallery.

Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi, ‘Lyre or Lute’, 1987, acrylic and tempera on canvas, 44 x 53 in. Image courtesy Aicon Gallery.

What will you be presenting in Singapore and in India?

Some of the artists will be represented at both fairs, but we will exhibit different canvases by these artists - M.F. Husain and Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi, for example. We are also bringing a number of site-specific pieces for each fair: Abdullah Syed has created a dome made from prayer caps for Singapore, and Adeela Suleman has been working on some magnificent steel sculptures for Delhi.

What would you say are the main differences between the two art fairs? What are the advantages of attending both?

Let’s be honest here – Singapore is a little more organised than India! The main difference is the logistics between the two fairs: Indian customs are notoriously fond of red tape. The advantage of attending both fairs is simply to keep expanding our collector base.

What differences in collectors, visitors, participating galleries and programmes do you expect at the two fairs?

Having done the India Art Fair from the beginning, we know what to expect. Singapore is more of an unknown, but has a number of prestigious international galleries and they are building Art Stage into something great. The collectors at all art fairs these days are knowledgeable and come prepared with the right questions to ask.

What are the challenges of preparing to attend two fairs back to back in two different locations?

As we send different works to each fair, it’s not really a problem. However, it is tiring for our staff, who hop from Singapore to Delhi having travelled all the way around the globe from New York.

Christiaan Lieverse, 'Morpheus Mist', mixed media on canvas, 180 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Villa del Arte.

Christiaan Lieverse, ‘Morpheus Mist’, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Villa del Arte.

Bert van Zetten, Director | Villa del Arte Galleries, Barcelona/Amsterdam

This year you will be attending two back to back art fairs in Asia: both Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in late January. Have you participated in either (or both) of the fairs before?

Yes, we have participated in both fairs before. It is important for us to be present in the Asian art circuit since it is constantly growing and evolving and, therefore, it offers a great opportunity not only to showcase our artists abroad, but also to soak up the culture and artistic trends present there.

What made you decide to re-apply this year?

Art Stage Singapore and India Art fair are excellent fairs. They’re both edgy and they’re committed to a very high-profile artistic understanding. Besides, we’ve had very good experiences in the past years, so we’re looking forward to going back.

What are your expectations for this year’s fairs in Singapore and in India?

We have great expectations for this edition of Art Stage Singapore and India Art Fair. As mentioned before, we’ve had very positive feedback from the fairs and their visitors in the past and even if we have high expectations, it is very likely that we will meet them.

What will you be presenting in Singapore and in India?

We’ll be exclusively presenting two new works by Jean-François Rauzier – one of them features La Alhambra of Granada and the other La Mezquita de Córdoba. Both of the works depict perfectly the magnificent Arabic beauty of these two monuments. Besides these pieces, we’ll be showing the Asian series, in particular, the piece Beijing Market, since Jean-François got really inspired by and awakened by this city. David Datuna’s Singapore flag will be present at Art Stage Singapore as well.

We’re also excited about our collection for India, where we will be showing pieces by Montse Valdés, Christiaan Lieverse, Jean-François Rauzier, Victoria Kovalenchikova, Martí Bofarull and Gavin Rain. All of them are outstanding artists, so we are convinced that we have excellent collections for both fairs.

Jean-François Rauzier, "Asian Series", 'Beijing Market', lightbox, 150 x 250 cm. Image courtesy Villa del Arte.

Jean-François Rauzier, “Asian Series”, ‘Beijing Market’, lightbox, 150 x 250 cm. Image courtesy Villa del Arte.

What would you say are the main differences between the two art fairs? What are the advantages of attending both?

Art Stage Singapore focuses on Asia: Asian subjects, artists, curators. The Eastern flavour is very palpable in this fair. India, on the other hand, stands for more general high quality contemporary art. Both of them are a good opportunity to explore new options, new collections, new artists.

What differences in collectors, visitors, participating galleries and programmes do you expect at the two fairs?

Since we’ve already been to both countries, we have experienced the differences between them. Basically, India and Singapore are very different places and have very different cultures. As a consequence, the character of the fair, its visitors and collectors are also different.

What are the challenges of preparing to attend two fairs back to back in two different locations?

In 2006, after concentrating our focus on Spain, we participated in our first international art fair. Following this success we have since continued our international trajectory with numerous exhibitions, boutique fairs and renowned art fairs all over the world.

This constant travel has become part of our essence as a gallery since the international presence has brought us where we are now. Even if being in two different fairs at the same time can be a little tricky with the shipments and the logistics in general, we’re always happy to give it a try.

Ram Kumar, Untitled, 1960, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 55. Image courtesy Sanchit Art Gallery.

Ram Kumar, Untitled, 1960, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 55 cm. Image courtesy Sanchit Art Gallery.

Sanchit Joshan, Director | Sanchit Art Gallery, New Delhi/Agra

This year you will be attending two back to back art fairs in Asia: both Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in late January. Have you participated in either (or both) of the fairs before?

​Yes, we have participated in both the fairs earlier. We have been participating in India Art Fair since 2013 and Art Stage Singapore since 2014.​

What made you decide to re-apply this year?

​India Art Fair is the country’s leading art fair and it is important for any active gallery to have its presence there since everyone from the art world makes it a point to visit this fair. It provides good visibility and opportunities.

Art Stage, on the other hand, has a distinctly international and particularly Asian flavour. Apart from some leading western galleries, the fair also has the best Asian galleries and that brings a varied set of visitors to the fair as compared to India Art Fair. We feel that exposing our artists to such audiences will enhance their international appeal.​

What are your expectations for this year’s fairs in Singapore and in India?

​Our expectations are to have a commercially successful exhibition as we are taking two of India’s best known masters – Ram Kumar (India Art Fair) and Satish Gujral (Art Stage Singapore).​

Satish Gujral, Untitled, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 86.3 x 114.3 cm. Image courtesy Sanchit Art Gallery.

Satish Gujral, Untitled, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 86.3 x 114.3 cm. Image courtesy Sanchit Art Gallery.

What differences in collectors, visitors, participating galleries and programmes do you expect at the two fairs?

​In India, we find mostly Indian collectors – although the fair authorities are working hard to attract international attention. With Art Stage, it already has a lot of international attention being in Singapore. The visitors at Art Stage are a more varied mix as Singapore has a lot of professionals from all over the world working there.

Art Stage also has certain curated platforms, which is an initiative appreciated by many, while India Art Fair has a strong platform for discussions and talks.​

What are the challenges of preparing to attend two fairs back to back in two different locations?

​Many challenges! Firstly the logistics: too much of inventory has to move rapidly without much gap. So there has to be absolute precision. Secondly, our presence has to be at both places without a break, so it becomes a bit hectic. Usually there is a bit of a gap between the two fairs, but this time they are almost back to back. We hope that at the end of both we’ll be very relieved with the outcome.​

Calman Shemi, 'Kaleidoscope', car colors on aluminium, 120 x 120 cm, at India Art Fair 2015. Image courtesy Bruno Art Group.

Calman Shemi, ‘Kaleidoscope’, car colors on aluminium, 120 x 120 cm, at India Art Fair 2015. Image courtesy Bruno Art Group.

Motti Abramovitz, CEO & Owner | Bruno Art Group, Tel Aviv/Grand Turk (USA)/Singapore

This year you will be attending two back to back art fairs in Asia: both Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in late January. Have you participated in either (or both) of the fairs before?

Bruno Art Group joined Art Stage Singapore in 2014, and attended India Art Fair in 2013 and 2014.

What made you decide to re-apply this year?

Regarding Art Stage Singapore, Bruno Art Group is pleased to join this fair for the second time since it takes place in Singapore, where we have our Bruno Gallery. We are happy to offer our collectors and friends the possibility to enjoy our art at this main event in the city.

Bruno Art Group is really proud to join the India Art Fair for the third time since our relationships with India are increasingly positive. In the past three years, Bruno Art Group has showed its art five times in Delhi. In 2014, we had an exhibition in Delhi [entitled] “Israeli Pop Art” that amazed us with the great response we had from the public and institutions.

What are your expectations for this year’s fairs in Singapore and in India?

To improve the results of the previous years and to develop relationships, ventures, connections.

Roy Yariv, 'Gate', acrylic on canvas, 124 x 200 cm. Image courtesy Bruno Art Group.

Roy Yariv, ‘Gate’, acrylic on canvas, 124 x 200 cm, at Art Stage Singapore 2015. Image courtesy Bruno Art Group.

What will you be presenting in Singapore and in India?

At Art Stage Singapore, Bruno Art Group will present international artists Yaacov Agam, Zhang Dali, Suh Jeong Min, Roy Yariv and Andy Warhol.

At India Art Fair, Bruno Art Group will present international artists Raphael Abecassis, Yaacov Agam, Dganit Blechner, Simona Bocchi, Uri Dushi, Charles Fazzino, David Gerstein, Slava Ilyayev, Suh Jeong Min, Yuval Mahler, Anu Malhotra, Arnaud Nazare-Aga, Ophear and Calman Shemi.

Our artist Uri Dushy will also be present in person at the Bruno Art Group booth at India Art Fair.

What would you say are the main differences between the two art fairs? What is the advantage in attending both?

Bruno Art Group is really boosting its presence in Asia, so it’s important for us to be active on these main stages of the art world in Asia – Singapore and Delhi. Singapore and India are of course different, but for Bruno Art Group they are part of a common wider project.

What differences in collectors, visitors, participating galleries and programmes do you expect at the two fairs?

It seems that Art Stage is a more intimate fair, targeting a certain niche of art collectors. India Art Fair is larger and attracts a wider range of art lovers.

What are the challenges of preparing to attend two fairs back to back in two different locations?

Logistics and communication are the aspects where we have to concentrate more.

JeeYoungLee, 'Nightscape', 2012, Inkjet print, 120 x 96 cm. Image courtesy Opiom Gallery.

JeeYoung Lee, ‘Nightscape’, 2012, Inkjet print, 120 x 96 cm. Image courtesy Opiom Gallery.

Eve Janprasert, Director | Opiom Gallery, Opio (France)

This year, you will be attending two back to back art fairs in Asia: both Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in late January. Have you participated in either (or both) of the fairs before?

We only opened a year and a half ago, so this is our first time participating in both of these fairs.

What made you decide to apply this year?

Both the quality of the exhibitors and the collectors have made Art Stage and India Art Fair essential shows in Asia.

What are your expectations for this year’s fairs in Singapore and in India?

We hope to give our artist JeeYoung Lee exposure to a yet untapped pool of collectors, as well as respond to existing demands.

What will you be presenting in Singapore and in India?

Both booths will be solo shows featuring photographs by Korean artist JeeYoung Lee’s series entitled “Stage of Mind”.

JeeYoung Lee, 'Loveseek', 2014, Inkjet print, 130 x 87 cm. Image courtesy Opiom Gallery.

JeeYoung Lee, ‘Loveseek’, 2014, Inkjet print, 130 x 87 cm. Image courtesy Opiom Gallery.

What are the challenges of preparing to attend two fairs back to back in two different locations?

It is almost impossible to ship the same artworks from Singapore to India due to the short time frame between both fairs. We are therefore exhibiting two different sets of photographs.

As a young gallery, what made you choose to present a young Asian artist at both art fairs? What is the importance of promoting Asian art right now? Do you expect to have an important and engaged audience at both fairs for your presentation of artwork?

The fact that she is a Korean artist didn’t particularly influence our choice, even though I am always amazed by the creative drive of this country! In fact, JeeYoung Lee’s work has had such a broad echo in 2014 that it seemed important to us to continue what we had triggered with her first solo show.

We know for a fact that Lee’s work always gets very positive reactions: at first sight, it is colourful, fun, and people are amazed by the incredible work it requires to create these installations. Yet, if you dig further, you soon realise that her body of work is deeply personal and culturally branded as she sometimes depicts Korean proverbs or sayings, which she renders through the prism of her own life experience.

The series is entitled “Stage of Mind” as each and every scene can be interpreted as an illustrated facet of her memory. It is her own catharsis. Still, it transcends cultural borders as every onlooker views it from his personal/cultural angle and consequently reads it differently from his neighbour. Whether in Singapore, which is very multi-cultural, or in India, we are confident of the fact that Lee’s body of work will resonate with the audience – in each person, in its own way!

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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“Ataraxy”: Singaporean painter Ruben Pang and the art of introspection – in pictures



Ruben Pang stuns with his ethereal portraits, delving deeper into introspection and the artistic subconscious.

Singaporean artist Ruben Pang’s new series of paintings retains the vibrant etherealness of his previous works while venturing into darker waters.

Ruben Pang, 'Aneurysm', 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 60 x 75 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Aneurysm’, 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 60 x 75 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Entitled “Ataraxy”, Ruben Pang’s fifth solo exhibition, runs until 8 February 2015 at Chan Hampe Galleries in Singapore. The young artist returns to his hometown after a busy stint abroad; his recent international shows include “Aestheric Portraiture” (2013), a solo exhibition at Primae Noctis Art Gallery in Lugano, Switzerland, and “DEEP S.E.A.” (2013), a group exhibition held at Primo Marella Gallery in Milan.

Between abstraction and representation

Ruben Pang (b. 1990, Singapore) adheres to a unique artistic process: he does not begin a painting with any premeditated final image in mind. When Art Radar interviewed the artist in 2013, he explained that chance was a crucial part of his process, and that if he committed to a composition prematurely, the final composition would lack vitality. According to his artist statement,

Without a preconceived image of the final composition, Pang’s artistic process evolves throughout the painting’s genesis, removing the boundary between abstraction and representation. This approach allows the motif to surface spontaneously, which Pang describes as “visual syncopation, like searching for a melody in white noise”.

Ruben Pang, 'Colossal, 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 60 x 75 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Colossal’, 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 60 x 75 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Methodologically, Pang alternates between layering and sanding down paint “in search of a point of opportunity”. He uses oil paint and alkyd resin on aluminium panels for greater flexibility, and paints and scratches away the material using brushes, knives, sandpaper as well as his own hands.

Introspective phantoms

The results of such an organically spontaneous process are vibrant, captivating canvases that shimmer with a ghostly vitality. His previous signature portraits consist of blurred, dissolving figures that are hauntingly alive in spite of barely recognisable features. In this new series of works, Pang experiments with giving his phantoms a more solid, defined form while delving deeper into their consciousness.

Ruben Pang, 'Birdwatcher', 2014, acrylic, alkyd, oil and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 77 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Birdwatcher’, 2014, acrylic, alkyd, oil and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 77 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

According to the exhibition press release, Pang is using his paintings to explore the introspective creative process of artistic minds:

In each painting, various artistic personalities find themselves in psychodramatic scenarios with their subconscious drives, personified through figures in constant change, [...] surgically reconfigured and twisted into conversations with one another and their surroundings.

Ruben Pang, 'End of the Road (After Rudyard Kipling, If: A Father's Advice to His Son)',  2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 122 x 150 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘End of the Road (After Rudyard Kipling, If: A Father’s Advice to His Son)’, 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 122 x 150 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, 'Holding it Together, 2014, acrylic, alkyd, oil and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 77 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Holding it Together, 2014, acrylic, alkyd, oil and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 77 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

The artistic subconscious

In Holding It Together (2014), for example, we see a compulsive method actor juggling multiple states of mind. Passenger (2014) depicts a floating figure hovering in the elusive dream state between sleep and wakefulness, while in Building the Triad (2014) three musicians contort around each other, trampling a fourth who is caught in the invisible waves of a tremouring tuning fork.

Ruben Pang, 'Passenger', 2014, acrylic, alkyd, oil and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 110 x 166 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Passenger’, 2014, acrylic, alkyd, oil and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 110 x 166 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, 'Building the Triad', 2014, oil, alkyd and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 140 x 192 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Building the Triad’, 2014, oil, alkyd and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 140 x 192 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

The exhibition press release states that the musicians in Building the Triad are in search of “that elusive plum that borders dissonance and harmony”. Pang explains further in an interview with Singaporean art magazine Muse:

[...] Building the Triad is about the trials of a musician. It’s a single figure split into four levels of consciousness trampling over each other in a clumsy attempt to align themselves with a tuning fork – they are chasing melody, finding music.

From chaos to “Ataraxy”

With canvases almost seething with chaos and disorder, Pang’s exhibition is paradoxically entitled “Ataraxy” – a word referring to a state of serene calmness and tranquillity. Perhaps the artist is projecting the calmness after the storm, or perhaps he refers to another kind of serenity – the trance-like, meditative state attained during the most intense and profound creative endeavours.

Ruben Pang, 'Binary Stars', 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminum composite panel, 112 x 140 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

Ruben Pang, ‘Binary Stars’, 2014, oil, alkyd, acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel, 112 x 140 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chan Hampe Galleries.

During such artistic processes, dissonance and entropy coexist with a unique harmony – a soft ‘hum’ of acute concentration and latent creative energy. Pang’s canvases, at once electric and ethereal, capture this coexistence. As Muse writes:

Pang [...] expertly evokes the mental endurance that artistic work requires. [...] We can begin to better appreciate the contemplation, journey, sense of arrival and transformation that artists undergo as part of their vocation.

Michele Chan

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From uranium glass to salt: Ken + Julia Yonetani address environmental issues through art – interview



Collaborative couple Ken and Julia Yonetani contemplate environmental and societal issues using challenging media.

Australian residents Ken and Julia Yonetani use unusual materials such as uranium glass to provide thought-provoking contemporary installations, rich with layers of meaning and texture. Art Radar finds out more about the artistic duo’s current exhibition in France and how they sculpted a tonne of salt into a three dimensional “still life” masterpiece.

Ken and Julia Yonetani. Image courtesy the artists.

Ken and Julia Yonetani. Image courtesy the artists.

Ken Yonetani (b. 1971) was born in Tokyo and holds an MA in Visual Arts from the School of Art, Australian National University, and a PhD in Visual Arts from the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Once a financial broker, he began his career as an artist when he became an assistant for pottery master Toshio Kinjo, son of well-known Japanese potter Jiro Kinjo.

Julia Yonetani was also born in Tokyo. She earned her MA at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, and holds a PhD in History from the Australian National University.

The couple‘s work has been exhibited widely in Australia and has appeared in both solo and group shows in Berlin, France, London and Tel Aviv, including at the Singapore Biennale 2013 and the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). Their work can also be found in select private collections, including Art Bank, Artist Pension Trust (APT), the Balnaves Foundation and the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. The Yonetanis reside in Australia.

Art Radar spoke to the artists to find out more about how their installations seek to connect people with their environment and how they use the anxiety surrounding contemporary issues to drive their creativity.

You just completed installing your first solo exhibition in Europe. Could you tell us more about it?

Our first large-scale solo exhibition in Europe, at the Abbaye de Maubuisson Centre for Contemporary Art in France, opened at the end of November 2014. This survey show includes both new and existing work, spanning a floor space of over 600 square metres, exhibited in the context of the Abbaye’s magnificent thirteenth century Cistercian architecture.

New work produced for this show includes The Last Supper, created especially in response to the religious history and aesthetics of the site, and Three Wishes, a piece that we recently developed after our Asialink art residency, also inspired by the site and history of the Abbaye. The exhibition also features The Five Senses, Grape Chandelier and Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations.

The title of our solo exhibition in Paris is “Un autre rëve” or “Another Dream”. This title comes from the Japanese “Konna yume wo mita”, a phrase that was used by the famous novelist Natsume Soseki and then again by Japan’s master film-maker Akira Kurosawa in his film Dreams.

How has the installation been received by the audience?

The show has been very well received. Many of the works we are showing in this exhibition are inspired with a European aesthetic, in a very contemporary way, drawing on histories of imperialism, consumerism and materialism. The works are made from unusual materials, including salt and uranium glass. People have expressed their amazement at the materials we use and they are also interested in the concepts. The exhibition closes in August 2015.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, "The Last Supper installation" at  Abbaye de Maubuisson Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, salt, 9 meters x 0.75 meters x 1.25 meters. Image courtesy the artists. Photograph by Catherine Brossais.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, ‘The Last Supper’ installation at Abbaye de Maubuisson Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, salt, 9 x 0.75 x 1.25 m. Image courtesy the artists. Photograph by Catherine Brossais.

Would you like to share any interesting, surprising or humorous stories from this experience?

The room – and in particular the window positions in the background where we present Last Supper – are very similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting. It almost feels as if we had seen this room in a dream, before thinking about the work. Another coincidental story is that the Abbaye previously had a historical mural of the Last Supper, which was removed to the Louvre Museum.

In spite of the fact that France has the highest rate of nuclear power consumption per national power output in the world, we were impressed with their openness to discuss this issue and events, such as the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. They are also very concerned about safety, and the gallery hired a private company which has special regulatory approval from the government to check the amount of radiation in the uranium glass in our Crystal Palace work. They came to check the levels of radiation with various impressive instruments and a very serious face! It was all very formal and bureaucratic and wonderfully French, and though we did not think it would be an issue, even we started getting nervous as he methodically placed all the instruments around the room and the Geiger counter started beeping! The results: the stone walls of the Abbey are actually more radioactive than our uranium glass!

For the Last Supper installation, you cast everything entirely out of salt. Please describe the process and challenges you encounter when working with this medium.

In our previous work, Still Life: The Food Bowl, it took us almost six months just to find a method for casting salt. Salt is highly porous and hardly binds with anything, making it seemingly impossible to cast or sculpt. We finally found a way! People ask us all the time how we do it. Now we just answer “with a little bit of artist magic”.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, "The Last Supper" installation (detail) at  Abbaye de Maubuisson Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, salt, 9 meters x 0.75 meters x 1.25 meters. Image courtesy the artists. Photograph by Catherine Brossais.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, ‘The Last Supper’ installation (detail) at Abbaye de Maubuisson Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, salt, 9 x 0.75 x 1.25 m. Photograph by Catherine Brossais. Image courtesy the artists.

What was the impetus behind the Last Supper?

Our work with salt began after an artist residency in Mildura, in the Australian outback. This town is a kind of irrigation oasis in the middle of the desert. It is a vision that was originally the result of two Canadians, in fact – William Benjamin Chaffey and George Chaffey, known locally here as the “Chaffey brothers”. The Chaffey brothers established irrigation towns in various parts of California. They brought their dream of turning desert into lush productive farmland to Australia. In one sense, they succeeded. But with every step of the way, they also struggled with the material of salt.

For every drop of water that was poured across plains and every tree that was felled in the process, the Australian desert’s highly saline groundwater swelled. It surged up to the surface in some areas and seeped into the river system in others. Mildura is on the bank of the Murray Darling river, one of the longest river systems in the world. Compacted with drought, recently the Murray has periodically become so salty that the river ecosystem collapses and the water downstream becomes undrinkable. I think they are having the same problems now in California, too.

We worked with scientists studying the impact of salinity on the environment in the area. Then we decided to make a three dimensional “still life” tableau out of salt. This seemed to have lots of interesting connotations, with the rise of the agricultural revolution in Renaissance Europe and the emergence of the art form of the still life. It was called Still Life: the Food Bowl because the farmland on the Murray River is often revered to as Australia’s “food bowl”.

Now we have taken this concept much further, to produce a nine-metre-long banquet table made entirely from salt. Here the issues we feel widen, as salt becomes a metaphor not only for the impacts of salinity, but broader issues of food security and food safety in an increasingly toxic world.

One hundred percent of the salt we use comes from what is called the Murray Darling River Salt Interception Scheme. This scheme pumps out hundreds of thousands of tonnes of salty water every year from groundwater near the river system to try and stop it seeping into the river itself. There is a company called Murray River Salt that harvests this salt and turns it into industrial and food salt products. All of our salt comes from the Murray River Salt harvesting project. We used over one tonne of salt to make The Last Supper work.

Your work consistently examines some of the toughest questions plaguing contemporary society, such as environmental degradation and nuclear power. Do you think that art has the power to change people’s perception surrounding these critical issues? How?

Ken: More nuclear power plants have been built after Fukushima and more wars have begun after World War II. I am not a pessimist, but I have to say that art cannot change the world. If [it were] so, it would have changed already. However, I could change my life through art. I changed my career from a financial broker to an artist. It depends on each person and how they want to change the world. That is why John Lennon and Yoko Ono said “War is Over! IF YOU WANT IT”.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, 'Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations' (USA), 2013, metal, UV lighting, uranium glass, 2 meters (diameter) x 2.2 meters (height).Image courtesy the artists. Photograph by Catherine Brossais.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, ‘Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations’ (USA), 2013, metal, UV lighting, uranium glass, 2 m (diameter) x 2.2 m (height). Photograph by Catherine Brossais. Image courtesy the artists.

Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations was a response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Is it difficult to work with or install uranium glass as a medium?

Uranium glass is slightly radioactive, so we have to say that we like working with salt more! Some specialists say it is safe for our health, but we wanted to work quickly to finish the installation. However, the number of chandeliers we had to do was 31 and it took two years. We are still alive!

Apart from the above, what are some of the challenges when working with and creating this series?

Collecting antique chandeliers was the biggest challenge. We travelled to many countries, including Australia, Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Portugal, to collect the historical chandeliers. During this process, we learnt to update old chandeliers with electrical components. Now we are experts and can open a chandelier shop!

The Singapore Biennale 2013 marked the completion of the series. How was this series received in a region that has no nuclear power plants?

Maybe we can say that is why they chose our work for the Biennale in that location. There is a political issue. The government is not particularly in favour of nuclear power plants in Singapore. We have not been invited to show the work in Japan yet.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, 'Three Wishes' (detail), 2014, glass, music, butterfly from Fukushima,15cm (height) x 9cm (diameter). Image courtesy the artists. Photograph by Catherine Brossais.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, ‘Three Wishes’ (detail), 2014, glass, music, butterfly from Fukushima, 15 cm (height) x 9 cm (diameter). Photograph by Catherine Brossais. Image courtesy the artists.

In a previous interview, you said: “we are just focusing on our anxiety to make something.” What today makes you anxious?

Radioactive fuel is still leaking from Fukushima; but we have recently become worried about the world economy. Many major lending institutions, including the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Federal Reserve Bank, are all printing a lot of money these days. We have been thinking about the concept of “creative destruction”, related to capitalism but also to our work. We are worried that people are living in a huge debt spiral and that we are living on borrowed time, both financially and environmentally.

What is your creative process like? Do you begin with the issue or the medium?

We always start with an issue (concept) first, then find the most suitable material.

Do you collaborate on your projects or does one person take the lead, with the other supporting?

We always discuss and exchange ideas first and then decide if it should be done or not. One of us can take a particular role sometimes, depending on the needed technical demands.

You are currently planning the first anthology of your work. Could you tell us more about the project? When will it be available?

We are working with French publishers and it will be available in English and French. The date of publication should be April 2015. Hopefully!

Ken and Julia Yonetani, 'Sweet Barrier Reef" installation, 2009, sugar, Icing sugar, polystyrene foam, 5 m (D) x 15 m (W) x 1.4 m (H) . Image courtesy the artists. Photograph by Ian Hobbs.

Ken and Julia Yonetani, ‘Sweet Barrier Reef’ installation, 2009, sugar, icing sugar, polystyrene foam, 5 m (D) x 15 m (W) x 1.4 m (H) . Photograph by Ian Hobbs. Image courtesy the artists.

Are there any current or upcoming exhibitions or shows where your work can be seen?

In addition to our current exhibition in France, we are confirmed for the following upcoming events in 2015: “Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla” at RMIT University, Melbourne (March), a performance project at Artplay, Melbourne (May), Camera Atomica, Ontario, Canada (July) and “Periodic Tales: The Art of the Elements”, Compton Verney, United Kingdom (October).

Lisa Pollman

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Tuvalu returns to Venice with first-ever ‘sinking’ pavilion



The Biennale’s smallest national pavilion highlights the world’s biggest issue.

The small island nation of Tuvalu returns to the Venice Biennale in 2015 with a project by Taiwanese artist Vincent J. F. Huang for the second consecutive time. The first-ever “sinking” pavilion will use Chinese philosophy to address and highlight the harsh reality of climate change.

Vincent JF Huang, from 'The Last Penguins' series, 2013, acrylic on fibreglass, 146 x 100 x 90 cm. Inspired by Chinese philosophers Laozi’s and Zhuangzi’s idea of people living in harmony with the environment, Huang started his series of 'The Last Penguins' in 2008. Stationed in various positions of Taichi and in the face of destruction, the penguins try to achieve the impossible as they attempt to save nature from human’s exploitation in the name of civilisation. This installation has been exhibited on the river of Hanover, Shanghai, Taipei and the lagoon in Venice. Image courtesy the artist.

Vincent J. F. Huang, from ‘The Last Penguins’ series, 2013, acrylic on fibreglass, 146 x 100 x 90 cm. Tuvalu Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. Inspired by Chinese philosophers Laozi’s and Zhuangzi’s idea of people living in harmony with the environment, Huang started his series of “The Last Penguins” in 2008. Stationed in various positions of Taichi and in the face of destruction, the penguins try to achieve the impossible as they attempt to save nature from human’s exploitation in the name of civilisation. This installation has been exhibited on the river of Hanover, Shanghai, Taipei and the lagoon in Venice. Image courtesy the artist.

On 12 January 2015, the small Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu announced its participation with a national pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (9 May – 22 November 2015). The upcoming project will be created, for the second consecutive time, by Taiwanese artist Vincent J. F. Huang and curated by Dutch-born Dr Thomas J. Berghuis, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Curator of Chinese Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The plight of Tuvalu

Located in the Pacific Ocean a mere 4.5 metres above sea level, midway between Hawaii and Australia, Tuvalu has a total area of only 26 square kilometres with a population of around 12,000. The almost negligible country in the middle of the world’s largest ocean is also the third-least populous sovereign nation in the world.

The remote South Pacific island also has one of the smallest carbon footprints in the entire world, but is one of the first places on earth to suffer the serious consequences of climate change. As the sea levels rise and salinisation increases, Tuvalu will slowly sink and will be one of the first places to disappear.

Vincent J. F. Huang, 'Prisoner's Dilemma', 2013, acrylic on fibreglass, 170 x 90 x 80 cm. Tuvalu Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Vincent J. F. Huang, ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’, 2013, acrylic on fibreglass, 170 x 90 x 80 cm. Tuvalu Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Social sculpture for Tuvalu

Vincent J. F. Huang has been involved in supporting the plight of Tuvalu for years, and he participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP) in 2012 (Doha) and 2013 (Warsaw) as Tuvalu’s official delegate.

The artist’s continued interest in raising awareness on climate change, and his commitment to Tuvalu’s situation, culminated in Tuvalu’s first participation at the 55th Venice Biennale. The 2013 national pavilion entitled “Destiny Intertwined” served as “a metaphor for the Developed World and Third World and how climate change is causing dire natural calamities.”

Huang’s practice utilises the concept of “social sculpture” as a way “to assist Tuvalu get more global society aid before it becomes uninhabitable,” as the artist told Art Radar. In the artist profile on his website, Huang highlights an important question that seeks to raise awareness among his audiences worldwide:

Is the development of contemporary civilisation pointing to a brighter future, or moving toward destruction?

Vincent J. F. Huang (left) and Dr Thomas J. Berghuis (right) in Venice. Image courtesy the artist.

Vincent J. F. Huang (left) and Dr Thomas J. Berghuis (right) in Venice. Image courtesy the artist.

Chinese philosophy: Man and nature as one

In 2015, Tuvalu returns to the world’s oldest biennale with a pavilion at the Artiglierie, in the Arsenale, and prepares to awe audiences with the first-ever “sinking” pavilion. Huang told Art Radar that the “flood pavilion”

corresponds quite closely to the current condition in Tuvalu, as well as also [being] connected [to] the fate of Venice, both facing the subsequent fate of becoming uninhabitable.

The Tuvalu Pavilion addresses the overall theme of the 2015 Biennale, “All the World’s Future”, envisioned and curated by Okwui Enwezor, which seeks a “fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things.” As the curator, Dr Berghuis, told Art Radar, the pavilion

considers what could be the ultimate catastrophe of disappearance, […] recognition of global climate change and of the plea of small island nations such as Tuvalu […] [and] considers the way artists like Vincent J.F. Huang have taken issues of climate change as the subject matter in their work.

Huang and Dr Berghuis are currently working on refining the project for the pavilion, which will see an interpretation of the current and future consequences of climate change through Chinese philosophical thought. The Pavilion will represent a man-made, natural environment that consists of only sky and water and, as Dr Berghuis points out, “in doing so, considers the stark reality of global climate change and the future of small island nations that could ultimately disappear.”

Vincent J. F. Huang, 'Modern Atlantis Project', 2013, live marine ecosystem, glass tank, filtration system, lionfish, starfish, coral and plaster sculptures, 190 x 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Vincent J. F. Huang, ‘Modern Atlantis Project’, 2013, live marine ecosystem, glass tank, filtration system, lionfish, starfish, coral and plaster sculptures, 190 x 90 x 90 cm. Tuvalu Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Dr Berghuis describes to Art Radar how the project is linked to Chinese philosophy:

The exhibition design will feature what we envision will be the first sinking pavilion for the Venice Biennale. [...] Here we connect such vision to the first chapter of the Chinese Daoist classic, the Book of Zhuangzi, “Free and Easy Wandering,” describing a giant fish named Kun who changes into a bird whose name is Peng. When Peng beats his wings, the sea roils, and he rises to [an] enormous height. The sky becomes blue, and when the bird looks down, all is blue too. Can we imagine such a world?

The Book of Zhuangzi considers ways of living in harmony with the natural world for mankind to achieve happiness and freedom. But the stark reality, as Dr Berghuis says, is that “we are no longer living in accord with nature, and instead we are facing the ecological catastrophe.”

Huang told Art Radar how the pavilion will bring audiences closer to the current climate change crisis:

The world will be transformed into an extension of sea and archipelagos, rather than the common impression of land on continents. With this, we aspire to demonstrate new possibilities of future survival through our installation project, while providing visitors an opportunity to experience “being in” a sinking crisis.

He adds:

Although Tuvalu is the smallest and poorest pavilion in Venice, […] we will try to make it big.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

609

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On sanctions in the Iranian art market – Vastari video



An art specialist, art lawyer and artist discuss the impacts of sanctions on Iranian art. 

A timely panel discussion hosted by Vastari tackles the topic of sanctions on Iranian art, from the price of art materials to restrictions on travel for Iranian artists.

The Vastari team in 2013.

The Vastari team in 2013. Image courtesy Vastari.

On 30 October 2014, Vastari hosted a symposium entitled “The Axis Shifting East” to coincide with the opening of Asian Art in London. Of the three panel discussions, the third was titled “The Effect of Lifting Sanctions on Export of Art from Iran”. Speakers gave illuminating perspectives on the legal and practical implications of lifting sanctions on the export of art from Iran and the Gulf Area.

About Vastari 

Established in 2012, Vastari is a unique online platform that facilitates interaction between collectors and museums, enabling the optimal and efficient processing of exhibition loans. On the one hand, Vastari collaborates with important private collectors who own works worthy of exhibiting; on the other, it works with curators from top museums around the world who are on the lookout for items to include in upcoming shows. According to Art Daily, as of 22 September 2014:

Curators registered on Vastari can now obtain access to almost one million pieces of art from around the world held by a wide variety of collectors. Likewise, collectors can connect with over 250 museum professionals including five of the top ten museums globally.

In addition to the growing archive of individual artworks, Vastari recently launched an unprecedented exchange platform for entire exhibitions. Called VTEN (Vastari Travelling Exhibition Network), the platform enables curators to access ready-made exhibitions, find new venues and fill gaps in their exhibition programmes. Charles A. Shepard III, Executive Director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana, was quoted by Art Daily as saying that VTEN

empowers an exponentially higher degree of institutional connectivity than that of any museum attempting to secure or share exhibitions on their own. No curator’s rolodex can begin to compete with the resources offered by VTEN.

Click here to watch the Vastari symposium “The Axis Shifting East” on Youtube.com

Lifting sanctions on Iranian art

“The Effect of Lifting Sanctions on Export of Art from Iran” was the third and last panel discussion in the symposium hosted by Vastari with Georgina Adam from The Art Newspaper during the opening of Asian Art in London in October 2014. The panelists included:

  • Janet Rady, specialist of Middle Eastern contemporary art at The Auction Room;
  • Daniel McClean, lawyer specialising in art law, intellectual property law and media law, curator and writer;
  • Soheila Sokhavari, Iranian-born contemporary multimedia artist.

The first to speak, Janet Rady set out the background for the timely discussion: the possible lifting of sanctions on Iran hinged, at the time, on ongoing discussions between the United Nations Security Council and Iran on its nuclear programme.

Rady was quick to point out, however, that even if sanctions were lifted, things weren’t going to change overnight. She cited difficulties in particular with financial sanctions – which are most likely going to take at least a couple more years to lift – as a challenge to foreign art businesses dealing with Iran.

A paralysis in the art market

Art lawyer Daniel McClean reiterated Rady’s view that it is unlikely there will be a full-scale reversal or repeal on the sanctions in force. After providing some legal perspectives and case precedent examples on how art dealings are restricted by sanctions, McClean asserted:

You’re still in a very regulated position. [...] Also the banks are very sceptical and don’t know what to do even if the law has changed. Practically you have a sort of paralysis of the art market.

Soheila Sokhanvari (Iran), 'The Holy Trinity', 2013, Iranian crude oil on paper, 21 x 29.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Prōtocollum.

Soheila Sokhanvari (Iran), ‘The Holy Trinity’, 2013, Iranian crude oil on paper, 21 x 29.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Prōtocollum.

A dark Iranian reality

Iranian-born contemporary multimedia artist Soheila Sokhavari delivered a powerful speech illuminating the dark reality of artists living and working in Iran. First, art materials and resources are extremely expensive as well as very hard to find locally. Basic materials such as paint and rolls of film cost four to ten times the price of similar items in the United Kingdom and are often of a much lower quality.

Secondly, sanctions over the years have resulted in a closed domestic market in which unrepresented artists suffer from abuse from collectors and dealers. Collectors profit by pushing down prices of artists and selling the works abroad.

Finally, for artists from small towns who wish to travel to Tehran for exposure and visibility, there is not only the financial barrier of high air transport costs but also the very high risk of domestic airplane accidents. In sum, Sokhavari declares emphatically that:

Sanctions only result in the increased brain-drainage from a country. [...] Artists are the lungs and the voices of a culture. If you put them against censorship and sanctions, all you’re doing is you’re silencing and gagging those voices and what you’ll end up doing is removing chances of democracy from a whole culture.

Michele Chan

613

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