Month: October 2016

Nadim Abbas

New Directions By Nooshfar Afnan New Directions: Nadim Abbas, the artist’s first solo show in mainland China, at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, consists of a single, new work, The Last Vehicle (2016). Curated by Guo Xi, it combines a mixed-media installation with a durational performance, the latter a first for the artist, who recently returned from a year exploring physical theatre in New York. The name The Last Vehicle comes from Abbas’s reading of Paul Virilio’s essay of the same name.  The French philosopher’s main concern is how technology and the acceleration it causes have altered our perception and experience of the world. “More specifically, the title The Last Vehicle, the way I would read it in relation to Virilio’s text, indicates this historical moment when the traversing of space or distances, to get from one point to the other, changes from actual vehicles to this even faster moment of telecommunications, and that way of overcoming distances,” says Abbas. In The Last Vehicle, Abbas takes over the elongated Long Gallery of the …

Wong Wai Yin

Without Trying By Jonathan Thomson Conceptual art can be confusing because it is the art of ideas, and the form that a work takes can be almost anything. One fairly straightforward way of classifying conceptual art, though, is to look at how the ideas arise. There are two methods: when the artist thinks about how he or she can aestheticise an existing idea, thinking first about what it is they want to say and then contriving the best way to say it; and when new ideas are formed through the connections and relationships that are made when an object, action or event is realised. On this basis it could be argued that the best conceptual art starts with an idea, because the aestheticised idea will also gather about itself the new ideas that are created through its relationship with others; and that the most successful conceptual art speaks with the most poetic sensibility and garners the widest possible network of associations and new ideas. It’s rather like the difference between a midwife and a parent. A …

Wang Zhibo

There is a place with four suns in the sky – red, white, blue and yellow at Edouard Malingue Gallery Aug 24  – Sep 14, 2016 By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand The disembodied head of Mickey Mouse floats before the striated background of a canvas alongside the head of a putto and several archeological finds. But Wang Zhibo isn’t another Chinese contemporary artist dredging up western iconography in an attempt at ironic kitsch. We’ve moved on from the Maos and the Marilyns and Mickeys, haven’t we? Let your eyes move across the canvases of the dozen paintings hung around Edouard Malingue Gallery and a more sinister narrative emerges. Part of China’s post-’80s generation, Wang gained attention for her unreal, isolated, dystopian landscapes, denuded of humanity. This time, in There is a place with four suns in the sky – red, white, blue and yellow, a title borrowed from Carl Sagan’s 1973 book The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective, there are figures everywhere, but they are disembodied, decapitated, their faces obscured, juxtaposed with incongruent images. The paintings flit …

Tsang Kin Wah

nothing By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand For someone who has built an art career out of them, Tsang Kin-wah is a man of very few words. Bookish, with thick glasses, the softly-spoken artist measures his words carefully, and it’s hard to hear him over the sounds of drilling and hammering in the newly opened M+ Pavilion. His exhibition, nothing, the pavilion’s inaugural show since it officially opened in July, is less than two weeks away. The space, situated on the Hong Kong harbour with a view of the vertical concrete-and-glass skyline, is still a construction site, with cranes encircling the building. Electrical cables snake their way across the exhibition space inside, and new metal-veneered columns have sprung up like towers in a futuristic city for the site-specific show. Soon the inside of the pavilion will be awash with glowing words and sound as the artist turns it into a walk-in installation. Thrust into the spotlight when he won the Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2005, Tsang’s immersive text installations have since wound their way across the …

Lee Kit

Hold your breath, dance slowly at the Walker Art Center Minneapolis. May 12 – Oct 9, 2016 By Sheila Dickinson A saccharine, instrumental version of the song Can’t Help Falling in Love greets the viewer on entering the dimly lit rooms built into the Walker Art Center’s large gallery that house Lee Kit’s Hold your breath, dance slowly. Hints of intimate, private spaces occupy each room: a floor lamp, carpet fragments, folding chairs and plastic storage bins with a few household objects in them. The small paintings that dot the walls, looking decorative, reveal a barely visible word, usually a brand name like Johnson or Nivea, or an isolated image such as a hand. Hold your breath, dance slowly coaxes the viewer with comforting, familiar objects and brands, but these are a ruse, because the exhibition intentionally pushes and pulls the viewer around the space in an uncertain swirl. Floating on the walls of the gallery’s small rooms are projections of colours, shapes and occasional images. The projectors sit low on stacked plastic bins or waist-high podiums, causing the viewer’s body …

Angela Su

By Caroline Ha Thuc  Caroline Ha Thuc: You are well known for your ink drawings featuring strange creatures that combine human and animal elements. Do these creatures reflect your vision of contemporary humanity? Angela Su: Probably. I contemplate how human beings can exist alternatively. With contemporary science the imaginations of human beings are often reduced to numbers and scientific data, whereas in ancient times the understanding of the body was abstract, allegorical and instinctive; the spiritual was intertwined with the physical. Of course there was a lot of superstition and it was highly inaccurate from the perspective of contemporary western medicine, but I am attracted to the kind of imagination brought about by destabilising the accepted understanding of the body. CHT: Is there a philosophical idea behind this approach, such as perceiving the world as a whole? AS: There is no particular philosophical idea behind this approach. It was just based on my consciousness and empathy as a human being. We lost our connections to nature and all creatures when human instincts were suppressed for the sake …

Alan Lau

Alan Lau started collecting Hong Kong art about 10 years ago. He talks about three of his favourite works from his collection. Tozer Pak’s Love Letter (2011) was allegedly dedicated to the artist’s wife when he proposed to her. It is a conceptual, poetic work consisting of four books and the receipt from the bookshop where the artist bought them. Pak plays a game with the Chinese titles of the books so that reading every second character spells out a sentence. In the version in Alan Lau’s collection, it says “I am thinking about you”. The collector likes the idea of finding poetry in a commercial transaction. It also reminds him of traditional Chinese poetry, in which scholars subtly hid messages. The piece itself contains a secret and has its own story: when the work was displayed at Para Site’s annual fundraising auction, a thief entered the gallery and stole the books – and nothing else. Both Pak and Lau found this hilarious, and Lau wanted to buy the piece, or at least a representation …

Hong Kong in the 1970s

By John Batten I remember the 1970s as a smoky-hazy, evolving time, with a generation gap opening up between World War II/Depression-era parents, and teenagers experiencing the overhang from the previous decade, the dreamy 60s. Hong Kong in the 1970s was caught in some of the overhang. In the early years of the decade the Vietnam War’s destruction continued, and its aftermath would continue for decades, with boatloads of refugees arriving in Hong Kong; and China’s Cultural Revolution and its “struggle sessions” murderously justified retribution between the classes and China’s competing political factions – until it ended with Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. Meanwhile, Hong Kong was an active and important interface for Cold War posturing. It was a highly militarised place, with countless docks,barracks, airfields and spy-listening facilities scattered around the “territory” – all now,ironically, occupied by the People’s Liberation Army. Naval cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers of the western powers regularly pulled into Victoria Harbour for refuelling or a wild period of R&R. Only vestiges of that time survive: Tsim Sha Tsui’s Red …

Making History

By Catherine Shaw The Herzog & de Meuron-designed M+ museum of visual culture might still be a construction site, scheduled to open in 2019, but that hasn’t stopped its curators from staging a host of mobile exhibitions, including its most recent and ambitious show, M+ Sigg Collection: Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art. Featuring 80 contemporary Chinese works by 50 artists, including painting, sculpture, installation and photography, it was drawn from a collection of 1,510 works donated by the Swiss collector Uli Sigg. The exhibition, shown at ArtisTree in Taikoo Place, and previously at the Bildmuseet at Umeå University, Sweden in 2014 and at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester in 2015, offered a new perspective on one of the country’s most transformative periods, from the end of the Cultural Revolution until 2012. Divided into three periods approximating decades – 1974-89, 1990-99 and 2000-12 – it also demonstrated the benefits of working on the space with creative designers. M+ senior curator Pi Li and the founders of Beau Architects Gilles Vanderstocken and Charlotte Lafont-Hugo talk to …

Sound and Space

By John Batten The growing maturity and diversity of Hong Kong’s art scene can be seen in the crossover of visual art and music. Hong Kong is surprisingly well served with international western and Chinese classical-music programming and visiting artists. Itinerant, traditional Chinese opera and music ensembles perform during the city’s festivals, while the city’s western orchestras and music-festival initiatives, by both the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and other musical organisations, offer varied, year-round programmes. One particularly successful example is Premiere Performances, with its annual February chamber-music festival and stimulating programming throughout the year. Similarly, the New Music Ensemble promotes modern and contemporary music through its own festival and performances. In early 2015 the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra faced criticism for its conservative repertoire that season. Audiences have shown plenty of support for contemporary music and ambitious musical presentations, reflected in the more adventurous repertoire of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and although the Philharmonic came up with a more adventurous programme for 2016, it could still find its claims for residency at the new …