Art Radar handpicks 5 booths from Art Central’s Rise sector.
Art Central’s Rise features art spaces launched within the past six years, who present curated solo, dual or group exhibitions of early career to established artists. Art Central runs from 23 to 26 March 2016 at Central Harbourfront, Hong Kong. Art Radar selects 5 gallery highlights not to be missed when visiting the fair.
1. Vinyl on Vinyl – Miguel Paulo Borja (Philippines) | Booth R6
Manila-based Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery is an eclectic space merging art, designer toys and music. The gallery promotes modern-day pop culture artists influenced by contemporary, pop surrealism, underground and street art. At Art Central, the gallery is presenting a solo exhibition by Miguel Paulo Borja entitled “Ominous”, in which the artist captures the fragile state of contemporary society by focusing on “individual misfits trapped in their own pensive landscapes”.
Borja’s subjects are living an anxiety-ridden existence, visually expressed through cubomanic backgrounds, intense-colored impasto and frenzied strokes that contrast with the lethargic postures of the figures. Vinyl on Vinyl’s press release states:
Slumped shoulders, bowed heads, and dour apple-cheeked faces tell the story of unease and resignation. Ominous is humanity’s bated breath as it awaits its fate. It is an extended inhale haunted by a vague yet pervasive sense of hopelessness and foreboding. Borja believes that we are on the brink of disaster. Mankind, he says, is now living in a pre-apocalyptic present.
Borja shows the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock – “an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization” –sweeping ever closer to eternal midnight. In 2015, the hand was advanced to three minutes to midnight, in the direst setting of the Clock since 1983 at the height of the Cold War.
2. Aspan Gallery – Sergey Maslov and Almagul Menlibayeva | Booth R9
Based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Aspan Gallery represents and supports multidisciplinary work by Central Asian artists through exhibitions, publications, residencies, educational programs and commissions. In 2015 the gallery is initiating a series of mid-career retrospectives of a number of Central Asian contemporary artists, held jointly by the A. Kasteev Museum of Arts and Aspan Gallery. At Art Central, the gallery is presenting work by Almagul Menlibayeva and Sergey Maslov, considered the father of contemporary art in Kazakhstan.
Based in Almaty, Sergey Maslov (1952-2002) worked with a variety of media, including painting, performance, installation, video and text. He began his artistic career in the late 1980s and headed the Night Tram art group, which developed variations on Oriental mysticism and stylistic eclecticism. He later joined the circle of Voyager Gallery and became its unofficial ideologist. Mythmaking became his main creative strategy.
In one of his myths, he killed himself to prolong the life of his idol, the singer Whitney Houston, with whom he maintained a romantic correspondence. In other projects, Maslov presented himself as an alien, a vampire or a magician. In his artwork, he captured details of Post-Soviet reality in his country and transformed them into universal manifestations of the absurdity of life.
At Art Central, Aspan Gallery features some of Maslov’s most historically important paintings, including Dreams (1991), most of which are now in museum collections such as that of M HKA in Antwerp and PERMM in Perm. On show is also one of the last works finished before his unexpected death in 2002 – Still-Life on the Origin of the World, executed in his favourite blue tones.
The gallery also presents collages on handmade woven paper from the series Ballerina (2003) by Almagul Menlibayeva, executed when the artist started to experiment with video and performance in the early 2000s. The artist describes this series as the
emigration of female emanations from painting into the objects of applied arts [which] converts paper into a pacified rough skin of sorts.
Two large lightboxes entitled Red Butterfly (2012) and My Silk Road to You (2014) have previously been exhibited at “La vie est une legende” – exhibition of Kazakhstani contemporary at the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2014-2015.
Almagul Menlibayeva uses, as she states,
specific modes of expression in modern and contemporary art as a vehicle to investigate my personal archaic atavism as a certain mystical anthropomorphism.
Working with video and photography, the artist reflects on notions of memory and reality through the her personal archaic atavism – a personal being pointing to and creating different meaning. Her works are explorations in the Steppes and in post-Soviet Asia, and the identity attached to these places.
3. La Galerie – Almond Chu, Zhang Kechun, Wang Wusheng and Chou Ching-Hui | Booth R10
La Galerie Paris 1839 is a French-founded art space based in Hong Kong dedicated to showcasing and promoting established as well as emerging fine art and press photographers. At this year’s fair, La Galerie is bringing four Chinese and Hong Kong artists – Almond Chu, Zhang Kechun, Wang Wusheng and Chou Ching-Hui.
Wang Wusheng (b. 1945, Wuhu, Anhui Province, China) has worked as a journal photographer of the Anhui Newsphoto and Pictorial and began shooting Hunagshan in 1974. His Huangshan series captures the mystery and the sense of infinity of the famous Chinese mountain’s landscape. His images are “a symphony of dark and light, substance and emptiness”.
Chou Ching-Hui (b. 1965, Taiwan) has been a photojournalist in Capital Morning News, China Times Weekly in Taiwan. His work engages with social issues at home and abroad. In his series “Animal Farm” Chou stages scenes taking place in zoo cages as an allusion to modern people’s lives. The artist says that “ society is as a cage, where we are jeering at the people living in there”. The arrangements and scenographies created in his photographs verge on the extremely absurd, with misplaced juxtapositions and dystopian environments. Chou’s images aim to stimulate the viewer to re-examine their situation, to become conscious of their constraints, and to ruminate on the possibilities of struggling free.
Born and based in Hong Kong, Almond Chu graduated from the Tokyo College of Photography in 1986 and set up his own studio in 1993 to work on art and commercial projects. Chu started to create a series entitled “Parade” after his interest in Hong Kong’s numerous protests. He first recreated a simulated protest in 2003. At the time, the Star Ferry Pier in Central became a venue for protests to preserve the site. Chu says he uses sarcasm in his work to address current societal issues, to depict how Hong Kong has changed since the 1997 Handover and raise awareness about the present situation in Hong Kong and the effect of the One Country Two Systems policy on the population after the city’s return to China.
Zhang Kechun has been travelling along the banks of the Yellow River on a fold-up bicycle for four years, documenting life from the coast of Shandong to the mountains of Qinghai. “The Yellow River” series is a project inspired by the novel River of the North written by Zhang Chengzhi. The artist set out to try and find “the root of his soul”, as he explains: “While along the way, the river from my mind was inundated by the stream of reality. The river, which once was full of legends, has gone and disappeared.” Through this work, Zhang hopes that man and nature will find a way to preserve the river, and reflect on humankind’s growing consumerist and materialistic approach to life.
4. Christine Park Gallery – Ting-Tong Chang, Timothy Hon Hung Lee | Booth R4
London’s Christine Park Gallery dedicated to supporting both emerging and established UK and international artists presents the work of two London-based Asian artists, Timothy Hon Hung Lee and Ting-Tong Chang.
British artist of Chinese descent Timothy Hon Hung Lee explores the dichotomies of life and death, vitality and decay. Challenging the canons of still life and portraiture, Lee merges them with traditional Asian media such as ink and rice paper to reflect on the futility of the human condition. The artist’s work features a forceful contrast between the fragility of rice paper and the violent application of paint.
Taiwanese Ting-Tong Chang creates live performances, using a satirical edge and a sense of humour to encourage audience participation. His performance entitled The Colosseum will be shown at Art Central in the Projects sector. Confined within a ‘colosseum’ structure in the centre of the fair for six days, Chang will be unable to feel the atmosphere of the event or to communicate with visitors. Another artist will sketch scenes from the fair grounds, and will send one of these drawings into the colosseum every day. From these sketches, Chang will produce a panorama of the fair, using his fellow artist’s sight and his own imagination.
At the gallery booth, Chang’s drawings and animatronic sculpture Robinson explores the relationship between science, technology and society, engaging and questioning the concept of a contemporary utopia.
5. Galerie Liusa Wang – Guo Donglai | Booth R1
Hailing from Paris, Galerie Liusa Wang represents artists from Japan, China, Germany and Australia, and is dedicated to introducing Asian artists to the European market. At Art Central, the gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Beijing-based Guo Donglai (b. 1985). Guo is a devout Buddhist and is influenced by Zen philosophy. He is an expert of Chinese calligraphy, an traditional art form that continues to play a pivotal role in his practice now focused on installation, in which the essence of Buddhism finds its expression.
Guo combines natural and industrial materials in order to provoke a dissociation that leads to a radical detachment between object and image. The artist plays with the limits between creation and nature, human being and object. Guo states, following the creative concept of Zen:
In my eyes, there is no difference between a tree and the Universe, each natural creature is impossible to define or measure, if we insist that the definitions given by human beings are correct, it is because the concept of object-image always dominates the real world.
The series Lies is based on a simple concept: with any object, the more people see it, the further it is away from the truth. The artist has created a “Rashomon” for the audience to dig the real meaning of life infinitively. Guo uses black, white and grey, three basic colours that lend his work a distant and meditative feeling. Using Italian newspaper, he wraps daily items in order to recombine their outside appearances and their inner status. Guo creates a visual illusion as a metaphor of the real world, provoking a change in perspective in the audience.
Curator and art critic Huang Du writes about Guo’s art:
The encounter of materials was interpreted as a discovery of existence, which reconstructed natural status and artificial status, spontaneousness and geometry. He recomposes the status of materials under the spirit of “zen”, with a “unpredictable” way, re-presented the silent randomness of objects and the meditation that it indicated to humans.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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