For International Women’s Day, Art Radar profiles 7 influential women artists from Asia-Pacific.
On 8 March 2014, the world once again celebrated International Women’s Day. Here at Art Radar we took a closer look at 7 female artists from Asia-Pacific who are making an impact on the international art stage.
Bani Abidi was born in 1971 in Karachi, Pakistan. She now lives and works between Karachi and New Delhi. She received her BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan in 1994 and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), United States in 1999. For the past eight years, she has been working primarily in video. Her first encounter with the medium took place during her studies at the SAIC, where she started to incorporate video, photography and performance into her work.
The realistic nature of the work produced through these media has allowed the artist to create a critically potent oeuvre centred around issues of nationalism and conflict, their uneven representation in the mass media and their effect on individual everyday life.
The artist has been especially interested in addressing the problems surrounding the India-Pakistan conflict and the violent legacy of the 1947 Partition. She explores notions of power and the relationship between power and cultural production, investigating how the deliberate manipulation of political commemoration and historical depiction can have a strong influence on the fragile social fabric.
Among her most notable solo exhibitions are “Then It Was Moulded Anew” (2012-13) at Experimenter, Kolkata, “Bani Abidi” (2011) at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and at Green Cardamom (2008 and 2010) in London. She has participated in important group exhibitions around the globe, including at the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial (2005), “Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves”, ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2007), the Gwangju Biennial (2008), “Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan”, Asia Society, New York (2009), Lyon Biennial, France (2009), Whitechapel Art Gallery in London and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2010), and Documenta 13 (2012), among others.
Anida Yoeu Ali
Anida Yoeu Ali fled Cambodia aged five, at the height of the Khmer Rouge era, and was raised in Chicago. After more than three decades living in the United States, she moved to Phnom Penh for her 2011 Fulbright Fellowship, following her graduation in 1996 with a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MFA in Studio Arts (Performance) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2010.
Ali’s work is interdisciplinary in its approach. Weaving installation and performance, she creates work that investigates the artistic, spiritual and political collisions of a hybrid transnational and diasporic identity.
From the use of religious aesthetics to durational public performances, Ali’s works push the performative moment into a public sphere. With particular focus on issues of diasporic identity, her thematic interest in hybridity, transcendence and ‘otherness’ map new political and spiritual landscapes. Her interdisciplinary performances use Butoh dance influences to examine the poetic potential of the body and collective healing. Her performance work transforms loss into conversations about reconciliation.
Her pioneering performance work with the critically acclaimed spoken word ensemble “I was born with Two Tongues” (1998-2003) is now archived with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. She is also co-founder of the women’s performance collective Mango Tribe (Chicago and New York), the summer youth writing programme YAWP! Young Asians with Power (Chicago) and the Asian American Artists Collective (Chicago). In 2010, she co-founded Studio Revolt in Phnom Penh, a media arts lab that works primarily with local Cambodian youth and deported artists on narrative based projects in film, video and performance.
The artist has been the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts and Illinois Arts Council. She has participated in exhibitions worldwide and has been a visiting lecturer and keynote speaker in various institutions, including SAIC and NYU Tisch Asia in Singapore. Her work has appeared in various publications, including the recent anthology “Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora: Troubling Borders.”
Bharti Kher was born in London in 1969 to Indian parents. She attended the Middlesex Polytechnic in London and went on to receive a BFA in Painting from New Castle Polytechnic in 1991. In 1993, she traveled to India, where she met her now husband, artist Subodh Gupta. She currently lives and works in New Delhi.
Kher is among the highest selling living Asian women artists, second only to Japanese Yayoi Kusama. Her work The skin speaks a language not its own (2006) sold at auction at Sotheby’s London in 2010 for USD1.5 million, making Kher the top-selling Indian woman artist of the time and surpassing her husband Subodh Gupta’s selling record.
Kher’s work is in a constant negotiation between tradition and modernity. The artist’s work departs from ideas and concepts such as the relationship between human and animal, and the resulting issues of hybridity, transmogrification and ethics, links between abstraction and figuration, the question of ‘otherness’, gender politics, globalisation and cosmopolitanism. The artist thrives in creating art that is about misinterpretation, misconceptions, conflict, multiplicity and contradiction.
Her painterly, sculptural, photographic and installation work juxtaposes a variety of materials, from the ready-made bindi, real animal fur and ceramic tea sets to fibreglass and mirrors. Her work plays on notions of the self as a multiple and taps into mythologies and culture’s openness to misinterpretation and diverse associations. Kher has described her artistic practice as “the hunt for a chimera”, the monster as a symbol of a hybrid identity, in constant mutation and in conflict with itself.
Kher works with galleries such as Hauser and Wirth (London), Galerie Perrotin (Paris), Jack Shainman Gallery (New York) and Nature Morte (New Delhi). She has exhibited at various museums and institutions around the world, including the Serpentine Gallery (London), MAXXI (Rome), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, The Saatchi Gallery (London), Queensland Art Gallery – Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane) and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul), among others. In January 2014, the Rockbund Art Museum launched her retrospective “Bharti Kher: Misdemeanours”, the artist’s first major solo exhibition in Asia to date.
Lin Tianmiao, born in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, in 1961, was one of the first female artists from China to gain international recognition. She graduated from the Fine Art Department of the Capital Normal University in Beijing in 1984. In 1988, she moved to New York with her husband, video-artist Wang Gongxin. In 1995, they returned to China, and she now lives and works in Beijing.
In her early career, Lin was a textile designer. This skill later was incorporated in her visual art through thread-weaving, embroidery and sewing. She works in a variety of media, including photography, sculpture, painting, video and installation, among others. She is best known for her installation work, such as her early series The Proliferation of Thread Winding (1995). Her work has gained attention for her obsessive, perfectionist thread-weaving, covering everything from found to manufactured objects.
Much of her work explores women’s issues and has often been labelled as ‘feminist’, although the artist has many times insisted that feminism is a western concept. For Lin, her work is merely individual, and she, as a woman, happens to have a woman’s perspective (pdf download).
Balancing tradition and innovation, Lin links thread and the act of binding and weaving to the female experience and her Chinese background. The final result evokes a shared human experience for the viewer, regardless of gender, race or nationality. Conceptual and obsessed with the intricately handmade, her work references dichotomies such as the private versus public, personal versus cultural, male versus female, natural versus unnatural, remembered past versus lived present. Through the use of common materials and the transformation of quotidian objects, Lin evokes personal interpretations for each viewer while maintaining a universally recognised experience.
Her work has been widely exhibited worldwide, including her 2012 solo exhibition “Bound Unbound” at the Asia Society Museum in New York, solo shows at Galerie Lelong in New York and Paris (2012-2013), the National Art Museum of China (2010), OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shanghai (2009), UCCA and Long March Space in Beijing, among others. Since the 1990s, she has been part of a major museum exhibitions on Chinese contemporary art worldwide, including at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts Bern.
Aida Mahmudova was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1982. She graduated from the American Intercontinental University with a BA Fashion Marketing in 2009. In 2006, she received her BFA from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. In 2011, she co-founded YARAT, a non-profit organisation promoting Azeri contemporary art both on a national and international level, by supporting the creativity of young people and helping to foster cultural dialogue between Azerbaijan and other countries. Since 2012, she has been Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Baku. She now divides her time between Baku and London.
Her work ranges from painting and photography to video installation. Her artistic practice fundamentally revolves around the concept of memory. For the artist, personal experience is paramount in shaping our perception of the world around us and ourselves. “Reflecting on and questioning one’s memories and how those memories form our identity is one of life’s greatest challenges,” she says in her statement.
Memories are what surrounds us, both inside and outside. Memories can produce a feeling of sadness (nostalgia), loss and loneliness, resulting in a beautiful past and the awareness of an unstable present and an uncertain future. Memories can also form distorted recollections, with fiction weaved into reality. From this never-ending cycle of memories, the artist creates her investigative works that explore her inner self, her identity.
Mahmudova’s sources of inspiration are the forgotten, untouched and undeveloped locations in Azerbaijan. The present physical space is changing at a rapid pace and memories are often distorted and altered by the subconscious. Mahmudova plays with these notions, juxtaposing reality and fiction, memory and the present, the conscious and the subconscious. The artist uses Azerbaijan’s past relics – tangible, universal and specific – to give material form to her intangible memories that inform her art.
Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art in Baku, MAXXI in Rome, the Multimedia Art Museum (MAMM) in Moscow and Phillips de Pury & Company in London. Her work was recently featured in “Love me Love me not”, at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
Pushpamala N was born in Bangalore, India in 1956. She graduated with a BA in Economics, English and Psychology from Bangalore University in 1977. In 1982, she received her BFA in Sculpture and in 1985 her MFA in Sculpture, both from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda. She now lives and works in Bangalore and New Delhi.
The artist started her career as a sculptor. In her early work, she says, she was interested in using poor materials such as terracotta and papier mache and folk art references to create an indigenous language that was based on an essential idea of “Indianness”. It was in the early 1990s responding to the post-Ayodhya events that she started moving away from figurative sculpture and towards a more conceptual approach, as exemplified by her work Excavations, a series of installations made of objects created with discarded paper and cheap found materials, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s The Arcade Project about the modern city as an archaeological site.
Soon after, she shifted away from sculpture to work only with conceptual photography and video. In her work, she often incorporates popular culture. She has impersonated various popular personas and ironic roles in her works, to comment on issues of gender, place and history. Her oeuvre at times presents a comic aspect with a sharp edge that exposes cultural and gender stereotyping, while exploring the complexities that are inherent in India’s contemporary urban life.
There is an emphasis on theatricality throughout her work, evident since the beginning of her conceptual practice, such as in her first conceptual photo-romance work Phantom Lady or Kismet, in which she played the main roles.
Pushpamala N. has exhibited extensively in worldwide institutions, including the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, the Manchester Art Gallery (MAG), the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, the Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa and Tate Modern in London. She has been the recipient of various awards, including the National Award in 1984 and the Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship for residency at the Central St. Martin’s School of Art, London (1992-93).
Angela Su currently lives and works in Hong Kong. She had a scientific training before she passed on to fine art. In 1990, she graduated in Biochemistry from the University of Toronto, Canada. In 1994, she received her BA in Visual Arts from the Ontario College of Art, Canada. It is this dual training that has influenced her work and given direction to her artistic practice. The artist references hybridity, transformation and metamorphosis, exploring the possibilities of change in humans, animals and insects. In her detailed drawings, she portrays various species with human physical components. At the same time, she juxtaposes human figures with mechanical devices.
Her works present a Renaissance inspired style of presentation, complete with technical Latin titles as if the artist was conducting scientific studies of specimens and experiments on a variety of subjects. Her meticulous drawings have a Leonardo Da Vinci quality that blur the boundaries between possibility and impossibility, between reality and fiction, between fantasy and science.
In an interview with TimeOut Hong Kong, the artist talks about how she has been studying biological drawings, especially from the German enlightenment period. She is interested in exploring the body and the possibilities of taking it apart and putting it together in different forms, thus challenging the way we see the body. In her latest exhibition “IN BERTY WE TRUST!” at Gallery Exit, Hong Kong, her work revolves around the theme of human body/machine relationship. The conceptual writings, drawings and video animations in the exhibition offer an inquiry into the dualism and dichotomy that link the body to the machine.
Su’s practice also uses performance. Her latest performative work The Hartford Girl and Other Stories (2013), the artist got tattoos of 39 prayer fragments without ink across her back, in a painful performance that was meant to resemble Christ’s whip lashes. Exhibited in “Hong Kong Eye” in 2013, the work was an exploration of practices of self-mutilation, from tattoos to body modification. When stripped of the aesthetic elements, such an enterprise becomes a focus on pain and on healing processes beyond the physical.
Her work has been exhibited extensively, including at Gallery Exit and Grotto Fine Art in Hong Kong, Goethe-Institut in Hong Kong, CAFA Art Museum Beijing, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Shanghai, Shenzhen Biennale, He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen and the Saatchi Gallery in London.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- Pakistan’s Naiza Khan wins 2013 Prince Claus Award – September 2013 – Pakistani visual artist receives a Prince Claus Award “for being a role model for women artists in a male-dominated context”
- Khmer art evolution: images of Cambodia reach Hong Kong – July 2013 – five contemporary Cambodian artists talk about change, displacement, melancholy, identity and spirituality in a country in transition
- Cyborgs and goddesses: Indian and Australian artists reframe femininity – picture feast – May 2013 – the exhibition debates notions of femininity in traditional myth and popular culture.
- “Hong Kong Eye”: New narratives in Hong Kong contemporary art – picture feast – May 2013 – the exhibition attempts to point out what distinguishes Hong Kong art from other art in the region
- “It takes a village to raise a bug”: Cambodian performance artist Anida Yoeu Ali – interview – March 2013 – with her textile installation, Cambodian artist meditates on urban displacement and spiritual turmoil
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