The annual art exhibition in Büdelsdorf, northern Germany, highlights Israel, Mongolia and China in its 2016 edition.
The 18th edition of NordArt once again brings a major exhibition of works by international artists from all over the world during the summer until 9 October 2016. This year’s iteration puts the spotlight on Israel, with a dedicated national pavilion, and offers an insightful exhibition of Mongolian artists as well as Chinese Liu Ruowang as the first Focus Artist of the event.
NordArt is now in its 18th edition, and has since 1999 established itself as one of the largest international art exhibitions in Europe. Taking place during the summer every year, NordArt is located in the town of Büdelsdorf, in the middle of Schleswig Holstein in northern Germany, and uses the former 22,000-square-metre Carlshütte foundry (opened in 1827 and closed in 1997), the 400-square-metre ACO Wagenremise as well as the 80,000-square-metre historical park and public places of the town of Büdelsdorf.
NordArt is organised by Kunstwerk Carlshütte, the non-profit cultural initiative of the internationally active ACO Group and the towns of Büdelsdorf and Rendsburg. The Chief Curator of the exhibition is Wolfgang Gramm.
Talking about the reach of NordArt, with its 250 participating artists from 50 countries, Gramm says, as quoted in the press release (PDF download):
The NordArt is alive. It sees itself as a refuge and source of inspiration for artists from all over the world – this holds true for internationally renowned artists as well as for newcomers. The NordArt has dedicated itself to the task of enhancing mutual understanding through the language of art. Every year, the audience marvels at foreign narrative traditions, but is also amazed by how many common experiences people share, even though they live thousands of kilometres apart.
NordArt 2016 Focus Country: Israel
Since a few years back, NordArt has been focusing on one particular country for each edition, with a national pavilion. After China (2012), Russia (2013), the Baltic States (2014) and Mongolia (2015), the 2016 pavilion is dedicated to Israel, with the title “The Circle of Life”.
It is about the role of the artist in society, multiculturalism, private versus collective identity, history and future, anxieties and hopes, beauty, ugliness and death, and the exalted aspiration to create. They are 28 different presences that add up to a paradoxical, contradictory, rich and complex whole. The contrasts are a statement, a cultural and political stance that allows the artists to hold the story that carries private and national memories, and create the secret that makes up the work of art.
Among the highlights of the pavilion is Tel Aviv-based Stav Yosha (b. 1985), whose work engages with the cycle of life of symbols – the mechanism by which symbols become allegorical implements, die and are reborn with new meanings and different forms. Yosha’s paintings imagine how our history can be understood by future people and how we would look at history in the future.
Avinoam Sternheim (b. 1983) is a Tel Aviv artist and musician, who works with industrial leftovers and other discarded objects to which he attaches new form and meaning. His sculptural work addresses the notion of how fantasy creates reality and viceversa, while the use of real, found objects serves as an “anchor” to root the work in everyday life.
Ruthi Helbitz Cohen (b. 1969) has held solo museum and gallery exhibitions around the world, and works with Umtrieb Gallery, Kiel, Germany; Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel; Helga Hofman Gallery, The Netherlands. Recurrent themes in her work are horror, suffering and shame, and women are the focus of her figurative oeuvre. She portrays her figures as hairless, with dark faces and generalised features, often with undefined clothing, making them appear as Jungian archetypes, such as the great mother or goddess, the trickster, or animus, the male in the woman.
NordArt 2016 Focus Artist: Liu Ruowang
For the first time in its history, NordArt presents a Focus Artist. Liu Ruowang (b. 1977, Sichuan, China) graduated from China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 2005, and his work has been on show at the National Museum of China, China National Art Museum and other museums throughout China, as well as in international institutions and collections around the world.
His works, which include sculptures and paintings, are deeply rooted in Chinese cultural and historical context. One of his sculptural installations, Wolves Coming, was located at Beijing’s 798 Art District, and was regarded as the landmark of the art district until, acquired as part of Sir Michael Hill’s private collection, the installation was moved in 2012 to Queenstown, New Zealand, where the movie The Lord of the Rings was filmed.
Original Sin (2011-2013) is a group of sculptures of apes standing on two legs and looking up at the sky. Liu says about the work, as quoted in his NordArt profile (PDF download):
Ape-man looking up into the sky symbolizes the springing up of ancient civilization; today, high civilization brings advanced material culture, yet the nature we live in is being damaged unceasingly. The perplexed eyesight and innocent face of ape-man reveal the desire to correct all of this and to step towards a bright future. The title of Original Sin originated from my sense of social reality. I express my upset towards the deviated part in the ocean of civilization we are living in with this series of works, and appeal for more attention to beautiful things.
Following the success of the 2015 national pavilion dedicated to Mongolia, NordArt has brought another exhibition of Mongolian art to its 2016 edition. With the title “Tradition and Modern Age”, the show is curated by Berlin/Ulaanbaatar-based Oyuntuya Oyunjargal and includes 17 artists working in painting, sculpture and photography, with evident influences from animistic rock art, Buddhist iconography and traditional Mongolian painting, socialist realism and western abstraction.
In her curatorial statement (PDF download), Ounjargal writes:
Tradition, turmoil, return – all this is reflected in the Mongolian art. The checkered and eventful history and the cultural tradition of closeness to nature and the preserved nomadic culture of the Mongolians, who were united by Chinggis Khaan in the 13th century and put their religious roots in Shamanism and Buddhism, are reflected in the works of the Mongolian artists.
The NordArt Prize is sponsored since 2010 by husband and wife entrepreneurs Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann and awards a prize of EUR10,000 to the winner. In addition to the top awardee, there are three further Public Choice Awards of EUR1,000, and all awardees are invited to participate in the following year’s NordArt exhibition.
In 2016, NordArt is showcasing new works by 2015 winner Liu Yonggang from China and 2014 winners, Russian art group AES+F. Additionally, the 2015 Public Choice Award winners – Jang Yongsun (South Korea), Lv Shun (China) and Ochirbold Ayurzana (Mongolia) – also present new works.
Liu Yonggang (b. 1964, Genhe, Inner Mongolia, China) was trained in China and Germany. His works display the interrelation between Chinese humanistic tradition, classical art and contemporary practices. Liu created alternative characters that merge Chinese and Mongolian scripts to represent the multiculturalism of his country. His work Standing Charcters at NordArt is a sculptural work that displays a painterly, calligraphic character that infuses the written language with new power and meaning. He says, as quoted in his NordArt profile (PDF download):
A ‘line’, representing the spirit of the Chinese nation, has run through time from
ancient times to the present without ever breaking. And now, with the country’s
continuous prosperity and national power, this ‘line’ extends and connects to a
‘blood line’, showing the nation’s tenaciousness and its pride. So, I tried to change
the line into a three-dimensional line so that it can have a new phenomenon in
the three-dimensional space, such as in The Standing Character – Embrace of
AES+F was formed in 1987 by conceptual architects Tatiana Arzamasova and Lev Evzovich and multi-disciplinary designer Evgeny Svyatsky, and expanded with photographer Vladimir Fridkes in 1995. Their work positions itself at the intersection of photography, video and digital technologies, nurtured by interest in more traditional media, especially sculpture, but also painting, drawing and architecture. Their narratives explore the values, vices and conflicts of contemporary culture in the global sphere.
At NordArt 2016, alongside their acclaimed video work Inverso Mundus (2015), the collective presents First Rider (2009), a fibreglass sculpture that reinterprets the image of the Virgin on the Beast from the Apocalypse. The woman, or girl, astride a tyrannosaurus rex reflects the blurring of differences between angels and demons – or sacred and profane, good and bad. The apocalyptic parade which this figure is part of doesn’t usher in the end of the old world, but rather the beginning of a new one.
C. A. Xuân Mai Ardia
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