The group show will display pieces from these young artists that the Tokyo art gallery, namely Gallery of Art Composition, has worked with, and it will feature some works that have been represented overseas but not in Japan before. Takaya Nakamura’s planets were shown at the New City Art Fairin Chelsea, New York City in March of 2014. The painter has graduated with two respective degrees in Japanese painting form Kyoto, and has worked three years in New York assisting Hiroshi Senju. His planets were effective in New York art fair next to Haruna Sato’s detailed paintings that show human babies with delicacy. Sato’s works were captivating and sending a powerful message when joined together with Nakamura’s universum. As if asking, where the future of our humanity will be?
The round shape of the universe also comes forth with Ayako Fujimoto’s colorful globe. The surface displays energy and contrast. The artist tells how the shape takes form with emotion:
I feel in myself swirling a clash of passion and impulses. At the time the work is sublimed by this embodiment, I feel an ephemeral catharsis…At the starting point of the creative process, the work of art is just canvas and oil paints. The Art comes later, thanks to a physical action combined with an inner approach to get to the root of what I want to express -Ayako Fujimoto.
Kuroudy Tsuji’s animal sculptures stand out from the group show with their prehistoric utopia. The concept behind the works relate to the creation of animals that are made of recycled iron, representing “Life”. The idea behind the sculptures is that everything is alive. Questions, such as what is the living, and what does it means to be alive, is materialized in the sculptures that are not pure objects but a living entity.
It is because they see the life in it, that they can have such a consideration. It is the reason why the posture of the animals I make are not exaggerated. I want it to be natural. For me, all animals are “Drinking, Sleeping” creatures.As a main material, I have chosen old pieces of machinery. Because this material reminds me of two things: “A system that creates the movement” and “Pieces of machinery that are not used anymore (that has died)”. -Kuroudy Tsuji.
Kazuyuki Takishita‘s art has been on view in New York a few times, including the Asian Art Fair in 2007, and a show at Dillon Gallery in 2008. His divine characters deploy colorful canvas appearing as timeless, and bringing nostalgic past to present day imagery. Another take from history are Mitsuya Watanabe’s visual references that play with the symbolic. In the works the drawings and texts both add to each others meaning.
I would like the viewers to experience a rite of passage through my creation. It is a place of initiation where the destination looks similar to the beginning. It is the labyrinth where you cannot flee from the fact that you are a sign. I would like my creations to be the space for solemnities where signs can evolve to be a little different from before. – Mitsuya Watanabe.
Kazuyuki Takishita, Gallery Art Composition, Tokyo.
If you can imagine color energy that bounces back from the walls with blues, reds, greens, and yellows with prismatic and subtle intensity that resembles music, Julian Stanczak’s paintings are for you. The seasoned painter at 86, believed in the power of the abstraction, and in the musical inspiration in his art-making, as he posed in front of his painting during the opening of his solo-exhibition in New York. Stanczak’sexhibition ‘From Life’ is now on view at the Mitchell-Inness & Nash -gallery and will run until December 6. As a young boy, the painter had wanted to be a cellist, and transferred his emotive passion into his paintings. Even a recent work from 2011, titled as ‘Proportional Mixing’ (2011), still handles colors in abstract modalities like in musical compositions. The gallery’s first solo exhibition of Stanczak’s work comprises of a dozen large-scale paintings from the 1960s to the present, including works that have not been seen in the public view for decades. Now on view are artworks, in which the colors are arranged in geometrical forms, lingering hypnotic chromatism and possessing internal vapor, communicating energy and organic presence.
In 2000, the artist began to create small panels and combine them into wall constellations. He produces the canvases through a complex process of tape masks. The color layers are systematically added and unveiled coming out as repetitions, with spacings and rhythms. The artist relies on his own vision of a finished work without doing preliminary sketches. He emphasizes life experiences in his art, so naturally his own personal history comes to life in the artworks. Stanczak experienced huge differences in places as a young person. He was born in Poland in 1928, spent time in a labor camp in Siberia, and in Polish refugee camp in Uganda, Africa. He immigrated to the United States in 1950. He studied at the Yale University with Josef Albers and Conrad Marca-Relli graduating with M.F.A in 1956. During his formative years, the artist found his way to Phillips Collection in DC and was inspired by Paul Klee’s paintings and watercolors in the collection.
JULIAN STANCZAK: FROM LIFE
October 30—December 6, 2014
534 West 26th Street
Man Yau is a Helsinki based artist currently living in New York City. Her art and design philosophy comes from craftsmanship, which means exploration with different materials. She collaborates genuinely with other designers and artists. Most recently, she exhibited @TheHoleNYC together with two other Finns, Jesse Auersalo and Nina Merikallio in their show called “Dislocation”. Man says that having so many idols and mentors in her life makes it impossible to start with a particular list..
But I do love a mark that Ettore Sottsass has left to the design history, I recently experienced a wonderful show by Daniel Leyva, Toshio Matsumoto’s “Shift” is better than weed, and streaming with my brother is always encouraging. -Man Yau
FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: How would you describe your medium, intersection between art and design, using traditional materials to convey popular topics or trends?
MAN YAU: Firstly, the intersection between art and design, what does it mean nowadays anyways? I feel that the borderline between art and design has been crossed, and more and more experimental design objects or functional art pieces are being produced. Secondly, I do use lots of mediums such as marble, porcelain, glass, wood and metals because I love working with my hands. Craftsmanship, it’s part of my philosophy of making. And it conveys to “popular” topics (I would rather say current topics) because I want to handle modern society’s movements in my work. The themes of my artworks reflect current trends that I see as a characteristic for our generation.
Porcelain Decks by Man Yau. Snap shot from behind the scene. Photo: Tuukka Kaila.
Bag collaboration for Sophie Sälekari’s collection 2014. Photo: Juha Mustonen
Aeon lines – table Exhibited in Milan Design Week, Photo: Anna Niskanen
Where did you exhibit recently, before showcasing in New York? How was the New York exhibit?
MAN YAU: My latest project was a collaborative project with Finnish fashion designer Sophie Sälekari. I made a very experimental, haute-couture-ish bag collection for her line up. It was shown for the first time at Näytös14 (Organized by Aalto University, ARTS) and then the whole collection has been in different showrooms and in Paris Fashion Week. At the same time I exhibited in Milan Design week 2014, at the show room Spazio Milano C’est Chic together with Beacon Helsinki, this collective creative network group. Oh yah, I have now ongoing a group exhibition in Helsinki. It’s called Arts and Design of Tomorrow at Bukowskis Auction House in Helsinki.
You have made beautiful skateboards out of porcelain, which is a statement of cultural trend, do you skate yourself?
MAN YAU: No I don’t, not my sport but skateboarding and all stuff related to it has been a big influence to me always. (Porcelain decks on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/48134455)
What is the current art climate in Helsinki versus Europe?
MAN YAU: Well It’s getting sunnier I guess tho it is still cloudy. By that I mean that Finnish design and fashion industry are rising with good speed but art comes behind. I think it’s because of the lack of financial support and branding. There are a lot of really amazing art projects going on all the time but the projects usually stays where it started from, in Finland. Not too many of us have change to go big, in global-wise.
What do you consider as your future goals?
MAN YAU: To become a self-employed artist with a good taste and who does not have to beg money from the foundations to support the project all the friggin’ time.
What do you think of the global art market, do you have an opinion about it?
MAN YAU: Interesting, crucial, if you get into the spin the cloudy days are over.
Teresa Dunn is a Michigan-based artist whose narrative paintings on panel explore worlds with texture and complexity. Her recent paintings, now on view at First Street Galleryin New York City, are full of figures who are confronting points of no return. The strong exhibition title Event Horizon displays works full of ‘tightrope walkers’, burning boats, exposed flesh and rising waters; all this as if the settings create dreamlike atmospheres.
The narratives put the characters and their motivations in tests when they look into the incongruous landscapes around them. The works are full of story, where mothers and fathers, animals and children, friends and strangers interact in tightly woven communities. The paintings depict absurdity and metaphorical allusions. Together the works link into each other, and so rearrange the reality in a new order. As the artist states:
Peculiar reality becomes normal, as in dreams or memory. Amidst bizarre sequences of events, dreams are believable when we are immersed in them. Memories distort, dissolve, and rearrange themselves until we are unable to discern fact from invention.
Dunn’s paintings seem to connect to a stronger sense of reality than what would perhaps be without the symbolic hindrance and delay. Her tactics of ’disconnect in perception’ shows the underlying ideas telling about identity and interaction. ’’Seasons, relationships, jobs, and cities attempt to define us. Peculiar occurrences, symbolism, and metaphor tie together some loose ends and fray others.’’ (Teresa Dunn).
FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: Your new exhibition Event Horizon is now on view in New York’s City and has gained attention. How would you describe the gallery?
TERESA DUNN: I appreciate that First Street Galleryhas given me the opportunity to show my work in New York. Being a resident of the Midwest it is more difficult to put my work into the world. Being in a community of supportive artists in a major art center is critical to keeping me in the conversation.
Your works narrate multiple events which perhaps relate to natural disasters, as the burning boats, floods or risen water show. What does this vision mean to you?
TD: The element of natural disaster is new in my work just appearing in this body of paintings. I am interested in the combination of the fire and the water events because the characters in my narratives seem to have to choose between two negatives–fire or water; precarious balance on the tightrope or falling to an unknown abyss; frigid wintery environment or blazing car fire. But not all of the people fear about the disasters some look with awe or indifference. Is the flaming horizon reddish from the setting sun or from a fiery disaster just out of sight? It is the ambiguity that life presents us that both makes it invigorating and terrifying.
In one of the works there is in fact this chilly atmosphere, with two people, perhaps a couple, and the face in the background has a scull written on it. What kinds of representation do you relate to this particular image (titled: Because I could not stop for Death)?
TD: In the painting to which you refer with the winter environment and the skull “Because I could not stop for Death” the title is borrowed from an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem. In this painting there are elements of my Mexican background from my mother’s side. In Mexico, images of skulls, death, and skeletons are traditionally not representative of an existential anxiety in they way we see them in American culture. Instead the skull represents the tie between those who come before and those who come after. I like presenting the seasonal metaphor of death as dormancy alongside the skeletons and the chicken protecting its egg in anticipation of the season turning to spring. The painting talks about life as cyclical as opposed to being simply linear. In fact all of the narratives intend to provide a non-linear approach to story telling in format and/or content.
How did you become a storyteller, it is fascinating, also because we don’t that often see contemporary artists really entangle themselves into stories that much. What do you wish to say about it?
TD: I have always been interested in story telling and from childhood drew pictures of people in unusual environments with dramatic events occurring. I enjoy observing life as it unfolds and am very compelled by people’s personal stories. My love of the story also carries into literature and film. In many ways I see the cinema as having the closest relationship to my work in the way that it deals with narrative in terms of time, space, and content. This is why I am currently drawn to more cinematic horizontal canvases. The Italian Renaissance is a huge influence on my work as well with the story being a critical part of image interpretation–in additional this period of paintings deals with time and space in a way that I find addresses a more circular or non-linear perspective in story telling. Where it is through multi-panel works; recurring characters; strange use of scale, space, or color, and complex composing.
How about a conflict between nature and culture, between humans and their living habitats? Our future with environment, and climate change problem are timely topics now and so is a question how we as people face them; does this resonate to what you do?
TD: My work is less directly about the current environmental problems we as a society face. Although they do present a very relevant and accessible metaphor to be interpreted in ways that are meaningful to the viewer. In the conflict you suggest between humans, nature, environment, and culture these are exciting analogies to be used to deal with the way in which we interact with our communities, ourselves, and our trials and tribulations.
Tell in few words how do you work as an artist, and balance between your university-teaching and painting?
TD: Regarding teaching and painting: Painting always must come first. Understanding the issues at hand in my field feeds my teaching in the same way that I view life experience as feeding my artwork. It is a bit more difficult these days being a mother to a 2 year old to balance the three-painting, family, and teaching. However I am fortunate to teach at Michigan State University, an institution that highly values my creative research. This body of work was created during a sabbatical leave in the first half of 2014 and I currently have a research leave funded through a university grant which is allowing me to further probe these new ideas. Teresa Dunn’s Event Horizon is on view until October 4, 2014 at First Street Gallery – 526 West 26th Street, Suite 209, Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am-6 pm.
Japanese artist Nakajima Mugi’s works open into a world of intense color and detail, and are filled with nuances and interactive play around the hues of the natural world. The artist often thinks and displays his works in pairs, as a group of three, or even in large groups on the wall. Putting the art pieces together changes the atmosphere of the space. What attracts me in his style is probably the technique of letting the color drop on canvas while in the process, which results in a possibility of chance, or accident. Yet the control of the colors and their order in the palette is made by the artist who masters the materiality of his vision. A series of paintings ‘blue on blue’ represents chaosmos paintings which are abstract (chaosmos: chaos and cosmos). The vivid colors of acrylics show off the surfaces of plastered paint. The ‘cosmos’ means order where accumulation of drawings create an entire landscape. The outcome comes close to patterned design textiles that expose bold attitude. Japanese and Finnish design and art worlds have something very similar in their approach, whether they meet in minimalism paying attention to detail and form, or stand for an oasis of calm. The interpretation of nature is present.
The artist uses different techniques to enhance his vision. ‘Blue on blue’ series includes two types of paintings of different techniques and textures. In one the fluid colors run on canvas as mentioned above. The other is a quiet one-color painting. Nakajima Mugi’s color-drop style recalls art informel and abstract expressionism. Solid color, then, reminds of Hard-edge paintings (Ellsworth Kelly) or Color field paintings (Barnett Newman). When Mugi’s works are arranged side by side the combinations do not follow strict rules but form an installation. The cosmos is ever-changing its rhythm, and the works show seasons and time. ‘Blue on blue’ changes according to exhibit space aiming to demonstrate the polyphonic of the paintings.
Nakajima Mugi was represented at the New City Art Fair in Chelsea, New York City in March of 2014 with the Gallery OUT of PLACE which is located in Nara and Tokyo. The gallery presented variations from his ‘blue on blue’ series. It also showed his other works that communicate well with urban and architectural environments. The artist has created installations with spatial variation including traditional Japanese houses as well as urban window-displays which communicate both inside and outside.
The Thing Itself is a summer group exhibition currently on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York City. Photography is explored as a medium and a subject matter in this show that runs from July 10 until August 22, 2014. As a medium, photography has gone through multiple changes. A change with technological advances occurs whilst there is an ever-increasing movement towards digitization and democratization of our visual cultures. The culture of images, social media’s advancement in the digitization of our social practices, and the media communication has lead to a state where ”there remains almost no materiality to the medium as film, darkrooms, and paper”, they technically recede into obsolescence. Naturally, the artistic response can be many whilst our visual cultures stand for self-reflexivity. But the photographic practices also vary. In The Thing Itself –exhibit, there are works from 16 artists: Mary Ellen Bartley, Anne Collier, Sara Cwyner, Roe Ethridge, Bryan Graf, Bill Jacobson, Kenneth Josephson, Laura Letinsky, Matt Lipps, Vik Muniz, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Alyson Shotz, Laurie Simmons, Wolfgang Tillmans, Bertien van Manen, and Christopher Williams. When the social conceptions about the images constantly change, artists can now ask what makes something a photograph, what are its new definitions and the practices that define its new physical boundaries. Photography as a subject matter challenges the notion of materiality of photographic prints amongst the digital. The artists have chosen tools and materials of photography including cameras, paper, and scanners, to family snapshots or media images. Self-reflexivity makes the red thread of the show.
Kenneth Josephsonʼs1965 portrait, Matthew, (above), shows technology used in Polaroid where images can be seen/touched immediately. In the photograph, Josephsonʼs son holds a Polaroid image of himself in front of his face, depicting as though holding a camera. Bertien van Manen’sphotograph from 2004, Prague (Couple holding hands) (below) is part of the series Give Me Your Image, where the artist photographed valued family photos in the homes of European immigrants. The waning practice of taking, developing and displaying family snapshots is part of the value of the prints, which as such are both tangible objects and vessels of image and meaning.
Philosopher Gilles Deleuze has suggested that among the arts, sculpture presents perhaps best those qualities that are materially sensational. The sensation of stone, metal and marble vibrate according to strong or weak beats. Then, there are protuberances and cavities in the material that resonate with each other. The set-up of the sculpture with large empty space between the groups, or within a single group, makes it that one no longer knows whether it is the light or air that sculpts or is sculpted (Deleuze: What is Philosophy).
Sensations attached to the materiality in sculptures relate to ideas of tactility (perceptible to the touch; tangible). Our experiences of materiality has shifted, as 21-century cultural landscapes keep molding our tactility through complex body-digital technology relationships, changing our imagination of the virtual spaces. Contemporary sculpture is reflecting some of these shifts, showing powerfully the time beyond the current, the moment at hand. Among some of the interventions, Frieze 2014in New York City paraded a loss of the technological overrule. The disengagement from materiality at large, was shown in some works. There were works that were pointing to our roots of craftsmanship, bringing back materiality of different scales, and putting out the new spatial engagements. Noteworthy is that large scale is not necessarily the most powerful signifier, but some minimal portions or material may also integrate ideas. An example of this kind was installation with smaller details and nuances by artist Maria Nepomuceno. The artist was presented at Frieze NYC by AGentil Carioca‘s Gallery from Rio de Janeiro.
Nepomuceno draws on Brazilian craft traditions using weaving and braiding techniques, as well as her own designs to build biomorphic sculptural forms. The sculpted appears as seductive when the colors and patterns nourish imagination. The lingering movement and rhythm comes from the way of installing sculptures in the space, some scattered forming a logic. The artist allows sculptures to spread across space like vegetation. Rope and necklaces are used as raw material in the works, and the materials take a natural spiral form. The artists has been using body and nature as inspiration, creating infinity, and shaping of living organisms. The ancient traditions and techniques are a source for her art, as she gives materials a new form and content.
Another woman artist in Frieze show was talented Jumana Manna, presented by New York’s CRG Gallery. The artist recently exhibited her works at Sculpture Center in Long Island City titled Menace of Origins. Manna’s piece at the art fair was titled Crowd connecting closely to her recent show, and echoing of same elements and materiality. The artist has explored a notion of relics in her works. Using archaeology as a device, she has explored ruins and architectural forms that reminiscence human presence. The works that build ideas and are structurally challenging explore the construction of power, nationalism, gender, and history through material relationships. Manna works mainly with sculpture and video, often pairing them together to create surprising events.
Respectively, Liz Larner’s sculpture spoke from the Frieze exhibition of Los Angeles based gallery Regen Projects. Her bold sculpture was physically large and airy at the same time. A free-standing metal sculpture displays a cold aesthetic. Her sculpture “V (planchette)” (2014) has a smooth aluminum surface, which is painted a chalky black. It is curvy suggesting motion, giving feelings according to the angle it is viewed from. It is wider at its base, leaner in the middle, large and flowing at the top. The statuesque nature promises balance, but gives a hint of character that might be leading to odd and ambiguous places.
Rémy Markowitsch’s five-part group of wooden sculptures took the stage curated by Berlin-based Galerie EIGEN + ART. His installation FALL uses two different historical events as material, namely four of the sculptures mimic the painting Absturtz (the Fall) by Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, depicting Alpine climbers that were created for the 1894 World’s Fair in Antwerp. The fifth figure comes from a different source, representing a German mountaineer Toni Kurz, who died when attempting to climb the north face of the Eiger in 1936. Sculptures are nude, so they come across as timeless, without specific location. His installation is accompanied by his other work showing mountains, which give out a feel of nostalgia to the romantic past times when climbing at the world’s highest mountains produced heroes, while there were sacrifices, and danger involved.
Lehman Maupin (New York/Hong Kong) brought in a large sculpture installation called Library II-II by artist Liu Wei. This sculpture is made from thousands of books and it weights nearly a ton. The gallery told that they had to reinforce the floor underneath the sculpture so its weight was supported. Liu Wei’s sculpture will be part of an exhibitionBringing the World into the World at the Queens Museum (opens on June 15). Around the sculpture, space is altered and tilted. The work notes literariness of our civilizations. The inventions of paper; dimensionality that comes with the written cultures and around ancient canopies of words. Lingua and library, freedom of press, freedom of writing, utterances. But more than any literal connotations of the material itself, the sculptural challenges beyond the apparent, parafrazing, the architectural of the cities and urban life cycles, as our connection to global spaces, and disconnectedness from the traditions.
Galeria Fortes Vilaça from São Paulo presented Erica Verzutti’s concrete sculptures that were academic and playful at the same time. The gallery commented that Verzutti’s works gained a lot of attention at the Frieze art fair, due to their brilliant interactive quality, and sense of humor. The sculptures are semantically pointing to archeological pasts, many of them depicting minerals and natural stones that appear as traces of nature. Playfulness comes from the interactive quality of her sculptures, some parts are loose (like egg-shape stones) and can be organized differently. Double Sunset is a bit different from her other works, some of them on stands. The work on the wall showcases two basketballs as a colorful urban signifier of play and sports, when they are installed in the concrete. But ultimately the viewer has a chance for interpretation. A woman’s bust, femininity paraded?
One show-stopper at Frieze was a pale installation composed of a single cage, which was hanging from the ceiling with nothing around it but the white walls. Wilfredo Prieto was the artist curated by Nogueras Blanchard galleryfrom Barcelona. It evidantly showed how to be captured, a sentiment so fearful, yet potentially something that makes art appealing to its viewers. The possibilities are endless to imagine how to relate to the cage as an object, to think what are the experiences and feelings attached to its awful shape. It represents zoo-like ready-made feelings, and it reminds of a consumer-object relationship without pointing to a specific direct target, except the art fair itself? Who would need a shark-cage? Who needs this kind of art? A question, what are the sensations attached to our art-viewing, comes to mind. Is art made for humans as animals? Weird crescendo of concepts makes it art?
Shark cage illustrates a perfect example of the first position. The piece does not allow for the poetic metaphor and is in itself a clear statement, provocative and critical of its environment, in this case an art fair. The presentation of this work becomes a pitched battle between the object, the context and the interpretation of the viewer. The artist participates only as a facilitator of such a meeting. A strict representation of the cage, without any further intervention, is what turns us all into potential sharks. (Alex Nogueras&Rebeca Blanchard)
One of the favorite was Tobias Putrihwho is internationally acclaimed artist working with such modest materials as cardboard and plywood. Those are exactly the materials that are hard to work with, as there is the air element that challenges them. Putrih’s two sculptures were presented by Galerie Greta Meert from Brussels. The cardboard was transparent enough to create a surface, which circulates light. His sculptural objects are attractive and sensual enough, as much as they project intellectual and architectural propositions, definitely aiming to shape our viewing experience. Touchable, palpable, airy, anything between transparent and materialwise poetic.
Last, but not least, Paul McCarthy’s large blue head sculpture belonged to New York gallery Hauser Wirth’sexhibition titled On the Fabric of the Human Body. His large heads are like prop-objects, and comment a tradition of beheaded figures in art history. Together with works from Rita Ackerman, Louise Bourgeois, Isa Genzken; McCarthy’s sculpture worked as expressive part of the art fair, expressing body that reinvents and transgresses.
As a summary, what comes to mind is the movement of the virtual; our contemporary lifestyles embedded with mediascapes (term coined by Arjun Appadurai in 1990). The global cultural flow affects both the artists and the viewers, who are participants of the art world. The historical referencing opens to ideas of homogenization of the arts. Repetitive use of similar motives over and over again would easily define the art, and block any motion. Such would be the case if the consumer culture says that art should be purely digitalized! As we want to consume while we eat, rest, and start again with the same. Contrastively, art should provoke us, make us move from our comfort zones, let us move in between the sculptural, sense the provocative. It can touch our sensibilities. It should stop us from numbness.
Japanese contemporary choreographer Hiroaki Umedarecently presented his new choreography Peripheral Stream withL.A. Dance Project at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. in 2013, he worked with an ensemble of 11 dancers from GöteborgsOperans Danskompani in Sweden. In the piece, Interfacial Scale, Umeda created the choreography, set, costume, light and sound design. As well as being a choreographer and dancer, Umeda is a visual artist, photographer and video artist. He established his own company S20 in 2000. Umeda has entered the international scene with his multimedia performance works that employ his own body and self-created video images, music and lighting designs. These are recorded on a single notebook computer.
Since he first drew attention at the 2002 Yokohama Dance Collection R, Umeda has gone on to win praise of dance professionals around the world for the way he wraps his improvisational body movement in intricately woven spaces defined by light (video) and music with the beauty of an art installation. (Tatsuro Ishii for 国際交流基金 / The Japan Foundation Performing Arts Network)
FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: You are known for your own choreographic language that has influences from different styles, and, from the movement point of view is highly flowing and gestural. Is there a way to trace the evolution of it, how did the movement develop?
Hiroaki Umeda: I started to dance at the age of 20, which is very late in general. At the beginning, I took some dance classes, such as Ballet, Hip Hop and etc. After a year of taking some dance lessons, I realized that there is no specific “dance style” that I want to learn: the dance I wanted to pursue had in fact not existed yet. Plus, I found that what is interesting for me in dance was, not the style, but what lays beneath those styles which is the “principal of movement.” So I started figuring out and understanding the principal of movement by myself, then I applied that principal to my body movement. I would say that my dance should be addressed not as dance but rather as a movement, since I focus on, again, what lays beneath the system of dance, which is the system of movement.
You are a Japanese contemporary choreographer, can you describe the dance scene in Japan?
HU: I have been accepted more abroad than in Japan from the beginning of my career, so I cannot say much on behalf of the Japanese choreographers about what you are asking. However, I personally feel that contemporary dance scene in Japan has not been developed enough yet. The scene is very closed. But on the other hand, it is also true that because of the close-knit circumstances, it has developed very idiosyncratic styles. I cannot say if this close-knit condition is good or not good for the Japanese contemporary dance scene. Anyway, in Japan now, there are so many people who have been struggling and working hard to develop and open-up the scene more; that is a really big hope for me and I thank them a lot.
You started your artistic career with photography, and then moved towards dance, how did this transition happen?
HU: I was looking for an art style, which can accept real-time expression, thus, more than photography, I found that dance could be suitable for what I want to express. Dance is an art form in which I can physically put myself into in real time. In photography, on the contrary, it was really hard for me to materialize a piece in real. That is why I shifted to dance from photography. However, I have not totally detached myself from the photographic art form since I have been taking a standpoint throughout that dance can be a form of visual art. Lighting design, which I learned in photography, is now an essential factor for a dance piece.
The way you construct your choreography seems multidisciplinary. The sound and lighting design, and the visual dimension is crucial in your composition? Can you even differentiate which comes first?
HU: In practice, I start from abstract drawings, in fact, just lines. This drawing expresses my image of the tension of space, and it functions like the score of the piece to become. According to the drawings, which envision the whole image of the piece, I put together all materials, such as sound, light, dance and etc.
The visual addition or sometimes ’distortion’ makes your compositions also appear aesthetically ’charged’, could you say something about it?
HU: In my work, I focus a lot on how the bodily sensation could emerge from the space, and how, in turn, the bodily sensation could change the tension of space. That is, first and foremost, what I am interested in. The basic composition of my piece is always based on choreographing the tension of the space. By acutely tuning into the space, it is possible to attain a lot of stimuli that can provide you with physical sensations.
What does it culturally mean to be a Japanese choreographer now, from the point of view of globalization?
HU: have not been working consciously as a “Japanese” choreographer. I have been working as just an artist, focusing on how to bring my pieces to more people all over the world. I think that it is more important to be one of the many artists of the world, than just a Japanese artist.
Does Butoh as art movement mean anything to you? How about Kabuki, Gutai, and action art? They have also called you ’’avant-garde’’?
HU: I really appreciate their art works. But actually I am not so close to those Japanese avant-garde cultures. And I cannot tell if they have called me as “avant-garde.”
What role a nature and technology play in your mind-set?
HU: Nature and technology are not oppositional concepts for me. As a matter of fact, technology is a tool to understand and approximate nature. By the same token, I think that human beings and art, which human beings create, are a part of nature.
Where did you grow up? Where do you work these days?
HU: For the last several years I have been traveling almost all year round. I grew up in Tokyo, and I consider Tokyo as my hometown. But I have been working everywhere in the world. I think that what I do in my art is not connected to any specific country, city or place, so actually I don’t mind working any place in the world.
You did a work for Gothenburg Dance Company (GöteborgsOperans Danskompani). How was it to work in Sweden, also in terms of cultural exchange? Did dancers like the movement?
HU: Dancers of the company were from all over the world. They were really skillful and had great intelligence, and were very professional. To start off with, I gave them a system of movement which becomes the under layer of my choreography, and the dancers tried to find their own movements from tapping into that system. I am sure that I enjoyed seeing their movements develop from my system, even more than they enjoyed learning my system. At the moment, I have limited experience as a choreographer for big companies so the dancers helped me a lot and I learned so much from them. I would say that the process was more of collaboration, rather than providing choreography to the dancers.
In terms of the cultural exchange you are asking, the company was too international to feel any specific cultural differences. I would say that working with them was rather like a kind of universal project, working in various mixed cultures.
How was it to collaborate in Benjamin Millepied’s LA Dance Project 2? How was the audience response in Paris?
HU: Compared to LA Dance Project, the Gothenburg Dance Company was strict in terms of working procedures and time schedule precisely because they are a huge public company; I needed to follow their administrative schedule in terms of creative process, which I totally understood. On the contrary, Benjamin’s LA Dance Projectis, although they have diverse range or repertoire, still small in scale as a company. For this reason, I could work more closely with the dancers and staff that enabled me to go further and experiment more in the piece. To be very honest, I didn’t expect a good response from audience in the Châtlet. Surprisingly, however, the Paris audience quite openly accepted and appreciated my piece. I was impressed by their open-mindedness.
Can you name some of your influence or mentors, colleagues?
HU: There are too many names to list up here.
What are your plans for the future, and dreams?
HU: From last year, I have started making choreography devoid of human body. For me, human bodies are not the only elements for choreographic consideration. In fact, I want to really challenge choreographing anything with “movement,” and develop a dance piece with various elements. One of my dreams now is to choreograph water.
Bortolami Galleryis one of the most innovative galleries in Chelsea’s vibrant art district. Currently it is hosting an exhibit for three artists who share an approach of minimalism. An exhibition is curated by Christine Messineo, and is titled in a punctuating manner: ”ANN VERONICA JANSSENS, KITTY KRAUS DANIEL STEEGMANN MANGRANÉ First lines, like first dates, or the first bite of dessert, can be deceptive.” Even if the works would not seduce you at the first glance, spending some time with the installation and connecting pieces, might make you fall in love. Stepping into the space, which itself is a constellation of whiteness, concrete floors and strong ceiling lights, puts you into a certain mood. The space tunes to receive the immaterial lightness of some works. On the other hand, some pieces makes you investigate your own perception.
The exhibition title is taken from a text by Ann Beattie. She handles a theme of difficult of beginnings, asking where to start. If the beginnings can remain elliptical, the encounters may be unstable. A curatorial choice thereof has been to follow this principle, and create the exhibition around three artists with above question in mind. Ann Veronica Janssens, Kitty Kraus and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané present works all share experience which do not reveal, as ”First looks cannot be relied upon.”
Ann Veronica Janssen’s career has been full of experiments with form and perception, testing our reflections into familiar forms and to spatiality. Also in this exhibition her pieces invite to reflect. Magic Mirror Pink holds a possibility for a mirror-effect. Disque Vert holds magical presence being placed on the back wall, immediately popping out from the white walls. It reminds of a musical instrument, but instead of making sound it whispers with deeper than surface reflection. All the miracle that Janssen’s three works play within the exhibition tell about ”scientific phenomenon or physical property of light—its ability to bend, to refract, to remain encased within a prism-like volume.” The artist’s sculpture IPE 130 is the center piece of the large installation room. This sculpture is a steel I-beam lying on the ground of the gallery. The top of the sculpture has been polished so it reflects your image, or the objects in the room that touch upon the surface. The purpose is to communicate with the architecture, as all Janssen’s works ultimately do.
The exhibit starts right when entering the gallery. First room with windows to the street is a small one. One immediately encounters Steegmann Mangrané’s sound installation. He has worked with sound that comes from seven speakers that are placed throughout the gallery; taking two rooms. The sound is composed as prolonged note played on the flute. ”The duration of each note corresponds to the lung capacity and stamina of the flautist, Joana Saraiva. As one note comes to its end, another note begins to play from different speaker in the gallery.” In this area, there is a need to find the source of the sound, which does not resonate clearly from the speakers. The art objects in the exhibition carry so much, so perhaps sound gets confused or finds ways to attach to different bodies. Mangrané has worked with notion of immateriality. The lightness of breath which is present in the musical notes creates meaning in conjunction to his sculptural works as well. He has created several metal chains that hang from the ceiling that reach the floor intending to alter the viewer’s ability to negotiate the space. Additionally, a group of small cardboard sculptures appear as the most ethereal part of the show – which overall seems slightly prismic, metallic, or technologically referential. These are like masks made of sycamore tree bark. Their curved altered face-like shapes absorb the light creating shadows on the wall, ”seemingly lending mass to the immaterial.”
Kitty Kraus’s piece Untitled (Light Box) which, although it is situated in the small room in the back, has especially strong presence. ”Taking the form of a large pedestal, the sculpture casts a strong light from only a thin horizontal aperture that runs around the middle of the dark, rectangular volume.” As you go around the sculpture you can see it upon yourself thus becoming part of its field. The sculpture leaves out an emitted light line that draws the perimeter of the room. When people enter the room the light from outside communicates with the darkness of the sculpture and its surrounding space. White lines of the exterior space meet with the dark hollowing entity of the box, creating magical installation that eats up the space, almost disturbing the perception, and pointing to the trivial?
Two international galleries will present Beijing-based photographer CHEN Wei’s works this Spring, starting on April. Hong Kong-based Gallery EXIT hosts Chen Wei’ssecond solo exhibition with the gallery, which opens on April 4th. Gallery EXIT was established in 2008 aiming to focus on artwork that is controversial, progressive, and representing all media. Chen Wei will present a selection of his photographs, light-boxes and installations that feature the inherent and dissonant contradictions between expectations and reality. Carefully staged and narrated frames show fragments of personal memories and fantasies. His compositions imply hidden symbols telling about contemporary realities, and marking histories. Additionally, Chen’s first solo exhibition in the UK will beSlumber Song. It opens in London at the end of April at Ben Brown Fine Arts.
Chen Wei belongs to a new generation of emerging Chinese artists who depict a more diverge approach to the culture than previous generations, as they come after the Cultural Revolution era. Rather than critiquing the historic past, he uses photography as a vehicle to capture human encounters with a changing and developing China. Chen Wei’s still-life photography captures the mundane and the ordinary, the portrayed objects look old-fashioned and rustic; yet the images echo drama and presence through the designed scenes.
Chen Wei’s photographs are Inspired by cinematic methodologies where suspense creation rules the dynamics of narration. Objects are referencing to allegories that imply many meanings, and Chen is cautious of leaving the narratives open.
Coins, statues, books and light reappear throughout the narrative of the exhibition, hinting at contemporary themes and taboos such as desire in a consumptive society, the spectacle of the art world and the human condition in urban environment. (Gallery EXIT)
Chen Wei constructs his works by creating situational installations which he then photographs. The images radiate intimate everyday settings, slowly revealing an unclear, unsettling, yet uncategorized state of emotion.
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Chen Wei (b. 1980, in Zhejiang Province) is now living and working in Beijing. The artist has made appearance in numerous group exhibitions across the world since 2003, and more than 10 solo exhibitions in Asia and Europe since 2008. He received the 1st Asia Pacific Photography Prize at ShContemporary Art Fair in Shanghai in 2011. He is awarded the Best Photography Artist of 2011 by art journal Randian. Chen’s exhibitions include: Seoul Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, Pingyao International Photography Festival, Poznan Biennale, etc.
Info about upcoming exhibitions:
Chen Wei’s exhibition at Gallery Exit, Hong Kong:
4 April – 3 May 2014
Opening: Friday, 4 April, 6 – 9 pm
Gallery EXIT, 3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, Aberdeen, Hong Kong