Categories
art education&management asian art

Cho Kuwakado: making murals

Cho Kuwakado is a Buddhist priest and director of Lumbini Kindergarten in Saiki City in Japan. He is an Arts educator together with his team that makes Chara-Rimpa mural projects in Japan and abroad. The most recent international collaboration was for the opening event for the celebration of Colegio Madrid’s 75th anniversary in Mexico. In the interview, Cho discusses the background of these projects, and encourages us to think together with his educational philosophy, which is rooted in the history of Art and in the Buddhist thinking.

There are two levels of nature in my thinking. One is a superficial level like weather, vegetation, and ecosystem. Another is a cosmological level from which the superficial workings of nature emerge. Valuable works of art for me entail some elements of nature at a cosmological level. I think that is the source of the universal appeal of fine art work.

 

Chara-Rimpa is an art project initiative with a global production perspective, how did it get started and when?

It started in Spring 2013 when I began planning for our kindergarten’s 50th anniversary event. I contacted Dr. Yasuyuki Sakura, a graduate of our school and an established artist based in Tokyo, to ask him to be involved in our celebration event. Dr. Sakura agreed to be the art director of our kindergarten as well as to be a co-planner of our anniversary celebration- this was the initiation of the Chara-Rimpa project.

The global production idea came up when teachers from our sister school in California visited our school in Saiki. They were quite attracted by the professional work of Dr. Sakura and in the large mural in our school play yard that was created with 64 kindergartners in one day. I then thought about the possibility of doing a Chara-Rimpa art project in California and was interested to see how it could be carried out. I made a proposal to one of the teachers, Sarah Clark, to visit her school with my artist team. Then we started to talk about the details of a possible mural making project in California. After six months, in June 2014, we visited the town of Burney, CA where the movie “Stand by Me” was filmed. We worked with the sixth graders of Burney Elementary School. Our Chara-Rimpa project in Burney was a great success.

I’m very curious, what is your own background in the intersection of the arts and community involvement/community work?

My family has resided in Saiki City, Oita Prefecture, Japan since the 17th century as a hereditary Buddhist temple chief-priest/caretaker family. I am the 17th head priest of a Shin Buddhist temple, Zenkyoji, as well as the director of its kindergarten. As I grew up, I often looked into the writings and possessions of the former head priests, and I learned that india-ink painting, calligraphy, and mastery in classical Chinese poetry were common practices of former Buddhist priests until a century ago. Nowadays some limited groups of priests do continue these traditional practices. My interest in art came from my predecessor’s interest in Chinese art culture.

With 1500 households belonging to my temple, I think it is an important part of my responsibility to serve our community. Planning art events and workshops building relationships between children and adults is one of my community commitments.

Where did you study, and how did you find your international networks?

I was trained in Buddhist practice at my temple since the age of five. I studied social anthropology at Claremont Colleges (Pitzer) in Southern California, University College London, and Cornell University. My father was a Buddhist priest and a child education specialist. He studied in the US for one year. He developed a scholarly network then, which later led to my interest in studying at a university in the US. When I was a student there, I was fortunate to make friends from various countries, though I lost contact with many of them after graduation. However, through Internet SNS, mainly Facebook, I have reconnected with many friends that I studied with in the US and the UK.

Your recent project took place in Mexico City, how did the murals come about? How do you feel, what was the impact at the local level?   Do you use multicultural tactics?

Dr. Sakura and his partner Toshie Yoshioka worked together to develop the design theme of the mural. In a photograph of the elementary school wall, they noticed a water fountain in the lower central part of the wall. The shape of the water fountain resembled a plant pot and they decided to draw a big tree growing from ‘the pot.’ It came out incredibly vibrant and beautiful and the impact of the mural was greater than I had expected. It was an opening event for the celebration of Colegio Madrid’s 75th anniversary. About 20 teachers and 70~80 students participated in making a giant mural on its elementary school building wall. I felt the power of the artists’ imaginations, which enabled many people to work together for the same purpose enthusiastically. The directors, teachers, students, and invited guests all looked happy and marveled to see the beauty of the completed mural. We also organized and ran workshops which incorporated elements of traditional Japanese culture. Our photographer took photographs of Mexican people in “on the job/off the job” style to be used for later workshops in other countries.

Who are your greatest influencers in terms of the arts and creativity?

I have always been influenced by the thoughts and activities of Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japanese composer/musician), Levi-Strauss (Claude) for his work “La Pensée Sauvage,” and the Vienna Secession for their quest for freedom in art, departure from historicism and conservatism.

Could you tell us about your most important collaborators, who are they and what is their role in the projects?

Dr. Yasuyuki Sakura is the key artist of our project, conceptualizing the overall plan. His partner Toshie Yoshioka is a splendid designer who creates our workshops and mural design. Hiroaki Seo is our indispensable photographer who records the process of our activities, the finished work, and also captures the fleeting expressions of the participants. Hiroaki is responsible for all those vibrant images of the project and the people involved. Hanako Suro, our writer, communicates in a friendly and warm style to share information about our projects for a Japanese audience. Keiko, my wife, helps me making plans and doing projects. Kate Milling Yonezawa always helps me with English wording. Hao Phan, my friend from Cornell University, has been very helpful in planning overseas projects. It was thanks to Hao that our project in Mexico was so successful. I am very appreciative of Hao’s support with her global network. Another Cornell alumna, Young Ju Kwon, owner of the sushi restaurant YUZU, is helping us with possible project development in New York City.

When we plan our overseas projects, it is crucial to have a devoted, experienced person in charge of the art project. Sarah Clark in Burney and Laura Gilabert at Colegio Madrid were such teachers. We were very lucky to have Sarah and Laura in charge of the project at each school.

Do you have a specific education philosophy that gives you guidelines? Does being Japanese implement ideas that you think are unique, and that the world should learn about?

My education philosophy has its base in Buddhism; every individual’s potential is valued equally and is educated accordingly, everyone needs to play a role for a peaceful society.

A former professor of Tokyo University of Arts, art critic Hideto Fuse points out that one of the distinctive characteristics of Japanese art throughout its history is to cultivate “the mind of children” as expressed in the facial beauty of Buddhist statues. I agree with him that the Japanese art tradition valued “the mind of a child” in the sense that Picasso expressed, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. “ I think that if there is something Japanese artists can offer to the world, one thing is its artistic tradition of expressing “the mind of a child” in art forms as can be seen in the contemporary works of Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara.

Do you have a favorite art form, performing arts or visual arts, what does being so multidisciplinary mean to you?

Visiting museums is always a treat for my mind. I was fascinated by William Turner’s work in London. I love music very much. A solo performance by Rostropovich that I attended at Cornell Concert Hall was one of my most fortunate experiences. A Sankaijuku dance performance that I saw in LA was impressive. Form itself does not define my preference. I am more attracted to the spirit expressed in any kind of art form. I think multidisciplinary is a very stimulating concept. It is a very effective approach to reach more audience in the context of technologically progressing diversified modern society. I think our art project can be viewed as a type of participatory art or relational art, which is usually, categorized as multidisciplinary art.

What kind of role does nature play in your thinking? Are there any specific metaphors in the nature that are important for you personally, and in your creative process?

There are two levels of nature in my thinking. One is a superficial level like weather, vegetation, and ecosystem. Another is a cosmological level from which the superficial workings of nature emerge. Valuable works of art for me entail some elements of nature at a cosmological level. I think that is the source of the universal appeal of fine art work.

What kinds of projects you have in mind for the future in Japan and overseas?

Dr. Sakura and I are planning mural making projects in Japanese towns. We are also planning another overseas art project for the next year involving mural making and cultural exchange art workshops. The mural design and the workshops are planned taking into account the project location and the country’s unique culture and traditions.

We are also planning to partake in a local festival here to attract more people and to create an improvisational call-and-response singing event. We are hoping that more people will experience and enjoy the spirit of Chara-Rimpa.

The mural design and the workshops are planned taking into account the project location and the country’s unique culture and traditions.

Categories
art review&curating asian art fine and contemporary art

Anish Kapoor returns to Italy with Descension

Anish Kapoor returns to Italy with a new exhibition Descension, a project produced specially for the former cinema and theatre space of Galleria Continua in San Gimignano. The exhibition takes its name from the installation Descension, which is a black whirlpool consisting of motor-powered water swirling towards its center. Interested in binary relations and opposite energies, Kapoor (born in Bombay in 1954, lives in London) poses alchemical questions with the large scale installation. It creates paradoxical ideas of matter, energy and the universe, which also touch our human core and perception. The exhibition opened on May 2 and will run until September 5, 2015.

The exhibition features a series of new sculptures in alabaster, in which the artist has meticulously carved out a more refined section. We can expect that the concepts of infinite and time are buried within their form and substance as they appear in nature. The intense red (and kind of orange) embedded in the translucent qualities of the alabaster sculptures suggest organic qualities. But idea travels well through the entire exhibition, which among alabaster includes a variety of mixed media works in fiberglass, paint, stainless steel, pigment and acrylic.

Anish Kapoor, exhibition view 'Descension', Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, 2015
Anish Kapoor, exhibition view ‘Descension’, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, 2015

Descension, the installation established by Kapoor in the stalls area of the cinema-theatre in San Gimignano, continues his earlier theme introduced as ‘Descent into limbo’ in 1992. The artist’s former work was presented respectively in Kassel, Germany as documenta IX; a Cubed building with a dark hole in the floor. In the middle of a cube, there was a kind of bottomless black hole opening up in the floor, which was “dragging” viewers with its powerful presence. The idea of Descension shows how Kapoor has an interest in non-objects and self-generated forms. In 2015, the installation destabilizes and undermines our perception of the earth as a solid element. The earth, perceived also as mother earth, is in constant flux and movement bringing forth a thrust downwards and towards an interior that is unknown and hidden from the visible world.

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2015, stainless steel, Courtesy of Galleria Continua
Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2015, stainless steel, Courtesy of Galleria Continua

Kapoor has inevitably shown how he is reinventing his artistic language both in monumental dimension, as in more intimate pieces. His philosophical inquiry begun early with his very first works and has continued through to recent and more large-scale installations in museums and public spaces. His themes are partially alchemical, dealing with mystery and universality of time and space. But the human beings with their self-awareness and experiences is at the heart of his artistry as well.

”… all my life I have reflected and worked on the concept that there is more space than can be seen, that there are void spaces, or, as it were, that there is a vaster horizon. The odd thing about removing content, in making space, is that we, as human beings, find it very hard to deal with the absence of content. It’s the horror vacui. This Platonic concept lies at the origin of the myth of the cave, the one from which humans look towards the outside world. But here there is also a kind of Freudian opposite image, that of the back of the cave, which is the dark and empty back of being. Your greatest poet, Dante, also ventured into a place like that. It is the place of the void, which paradoxically is full – of fear, of darkness. Whether you represent it with a mirror or with a dark form, it is always the “back”, the point that attracts my interest and triggers my creativity.”

 

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2015, Alabaster, Courtesy of Galleria Continua
Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2015, Alabaster, Courtesy of Galleria Continua

 

 

Galleria Continua, Via del Castello 11, San Gimignano (SI), Italia

Tel. +390577943134 | info@galleriacontinua.com | http://www.galleriacontinua.com

Descension opening: Saturday May 2, 2015, on view until September 5, 2015,

Monday–Saturday, 10am–1pm, 2–7pm

Categories
art review&curating asian art fine and contemporary art

Subodh Gupta’s Seven Billion Light Years

Subodh Gupta, Seven Billion Light Year V, 2014
Subodh Gupta, Seven Billion Light Years V, 2014. Oil on canvas, found utensil, resin, 241.3 x 226.1 x 10.2 cm / 95 x 89 x 4 in

Subodh Gupta’s new exhibition ‘Seven Billion Light Years’ opens with multiple content, showing his performative sculptures, installations, films and a body of new paintings at Hauser & Wirth starting on February 10th. The exhibition takes root in the life in India which is his native country, addressing the local life where mundane and sacred exist side by side. Gupta is known for utilizing found everyday objects in his artworks, resonating meaning with utensils used in making and cooking food, as well as larger vessels such as a bicycle, on which smaller everyday objects are stacked. His works narrate about the culture of accumulation, where the people, food, and the daily exchange gets fused, appearing both chaotic and ritualistic. As a centerpiece of the gallery’s current exhibition is a series of new paintings called ‘Seven Billion Light Years’. These belong to Gupta’s signature subject of using basic kitchen utensils that are familiar to every Indian. Gupta’s art works raise questions, addressing what it means if the world’s people are not anonymous, but have identity and a bit of infinity. In the level of the paintings, the artist uses three-dimensional objects that are fixed to canvas with resin. These paintings carry the exhibition’s title, but there is more behind the meaning.  The title refers to the seven billion inhabitants on the earth echoing about the materiality and the material fragility of our human lives. It displays the idea of intrinsic marks that we leave on the earth’s surface throughout the years. The objects speak about the human marks in the cosmos as well; the distance between our mortal lives and the cosmos appears as unfathomable.

Anthropologist and writer Bhrigupati Singh has written about Gupta’s work. The artist reminds us that what is near is

‘no less cosmic or mysterious – on the surfaces of our ordinary domestic vessels that journey with us, sometimes for years. What we discover in the process are intricately crafted pieces of the cosmos.’

Gupta’s film ‘I go home every single day’ (2004/2014), narrates his commute between New Delhi and his native home in Patna. The journey in the film poetically tells about the changing landscape of the urban cityscape and the more traditional Indian home. The home is a place, where the camera lens repeatedly comes back to focusing on outdoor areas interpreting smaller details, in which the white wall becomes a surface of nuances. It acts as a backdrop for objects, ropes, plants and canvas totes. The yard itself as entrance stands as a sign for the domestic; water pipe carry a meaning that water is a sustenance, without it there would be nothing. Everything in-between the train and the home is in evolving chaos, where progress lives as  traditional life changes and even disappears.

Pure (1), 1999-2014, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, installation view, 'Subodh Gupta, Everything is inside', Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2014. Photo: Axel Schneider
Pure (1), 1999-2014, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, installation view, ‘Subodh Gupta, Everything is inside’, Museum fur Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2014. Photo: Axel Schneider

As a counterpoint to Gupta’s recent paintings called ‘Seven Billion Light Years’, Hauser & Wirth also presents an installation  ‘Pure (I)’ (1999 / 2014), which is a variation of a piece exhibited last year at the Museum fur Moderne Kunst in  Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Gupta’s early work ‘Pure (1)’ originates back to 1999, and it was first presented at the Khoj workshop in Modinagar, India. This initiated the ongoing project on the everyday objects as vessels of larger cosmic power. The artist started collecting household utensils around New Delhi, including a hookah an a plough, sinking them into a field which was composed of a paste of mud and cow dung.  He also covered himself with the same paste laying at the center of the field in a yoga posture of shavasana (the corpse).  This, according to the artist, resulted in the state of ‘meditative blankness’.

At Hauser & Wirth, ‘Pure (I)’ has become a new work, in which Gupta is revisiting his own artistic process that took place 15 years ago. At the gallery, he presents a group of household objects that are partially buried in pure earth, along with a group of black and white photographs which stand for the neighbors from whom he borrowed the original objects for the earlier piece in 1999. These photographic portraits hang opposite of the earthy field, where gallery visitors can also walk, and hence experience its entity. The group of photographs present the people as de facto collaborators from the artist’s time of making his art.

Another big piece of art is an installation ‘This is not a fountain’ (2011-2013), that comprises of a large number of timeworn aluminum utensils that the artist collected. In the midst of it are water pipes, which while dripping ‘keep washing’ the surface of the installation. The artist states that he has been interested in the uniform of the mass-produced dishes. Yet, what comes out is the water as an essential element that pours as a ritualistic connotation for purity, showing the basis of things themselves. Meanwhile, the other art works at the gallery exhibition also reflect about Gupta’s own biographical attachment to his subject. His own middle-class background allows him to show the contrastive realities of the deprived and poor versus the richer classes. His use of everyday vessels made of various materials, where the socially humble turns into a shiny bronze, displays a sharp division between different social classes, whilst in the global exhibition space the meaning gets circulated into other levels as well, perhaps becoming a subtle divider between east and west. Additionally, the short film playing with the same title ‘Seven Billion Light Years’ (2014/2015, film, 2. min), meditates a Hindu philosophical idea of the cosmos as leela, which means play and dance in the traditional philosophy. The daily bread-baking becomes a metaphor with cosmic turns, where bread flies lightly like moments in life.

‘Seven Billion Light Years’ will be on view 10 February 2015 at the Hauser & Wirth’s downtown gallery location at 511 West 18th Street, and be on view through 25 April. The exhibition coincides with the debut of a major work by Subodh Gupta in the exhibition ‘After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India 1947/1997’, which opens 8 March 2015, at the Queens Museum in New York NY.

More info: Hauser & Wirth: http://www.hauserwirth.com/

To map Gupta’s work a little more in its context, the following video presented on New Delhi TV (NDTV) along with his short interview, is a good start:

 

Categories
art review&curating asian art

Happening in Tokyo / Re: A universe of artists to Re:discover

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 Fair in 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?

Takaya Nakamura, Gallery of Art Composition, Tokyo. Takaya Nakamura @New City Art Fair in New York, March 2014.
Ayako Fujimoto, courtesy of Gallery Art Composition.
Ayako Fujimoto, courtesy of Gallery Art Composition.

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.

Kuroudy Tsuji, Save Animals, Gallery Art Composition, Tokyo.
Kuroudy Tsuji, Save Animals, Gallery Art Composition, Tokyo.

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.

gallery website: http://www.galleryartcomposition.com/en/

Categories
art review&curating asian art

Japanese Nakajima Mugi paints blue on blue

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.

Nakajima Mugi1
Nakajima Mugi

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 Mugi2
Nakajima Mugi2

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.

 

Categories
asian art interviews performance&dance photography&video

Artist spotlight: Hiroaki Umeda discusses his recent works

Japanese contemporary choreographer Hiroaki Umeda recently presented his new choreography Peripheral Stream with L.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.

(On the video Hiroaki Umeda talks about the Interfacial Scale which he created for the GöteborgsOperans Danskompani in Sweden in 2013)

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.

HIROAKI UMEDA: "Haptic." Photo: Shin Yamagata.
HIROAKI UMEDA: “Haptic.” Photo: Shin Yamagata.

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 Project is, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
art review&curating asian art photography&video

CHEN Wei’s post-Chinese realities in photography

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’s second 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 be Slumber 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, Coins, 2012, 150x120cm, Archival inkjet print
CHEN Wei, Coins, 2012, Archival inkjet print, 150x120cm

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

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 1100 – 1800

http://www.galleryexit.com/

Chen Wei’s Slumber Song – exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG, UK

30 Apr – 5 Jun 2014

Hours: Monday to Friday: 11am – 6pm
Saturdays: 10.30am – 2.30pm

www.benbrownfinearts.com

Chen Wei will be presented in a group exhibition at Tampa Museum of Art/My Generation: Young Chinese Artists
 7 Jun 2014 – 28 Sep 2014
 Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, USA
www.tampamuseum.org
Categories
art review&curating asian art volta art fair

VOLTA NY 14: art speaks back from the walls

Jennifer Wynne Reeves creates collages on boards that some include wire, some hair or feathers, and some thick applications of paint. This approach could by no means represent flat wall art. The dimensionality makes the art continue in space. Objects and paint are not decorative art either, but there is something folk-art in them; or retrospectively ”American” influences. These works suggest, as one work is titled, voluptuous meanings that are material, sensuous and touchable. Reeves writes as part of her artistic practice. Writing collide with personal meanings, and is symbolic in nature.

Her statements, or poems end up being part of the artwork itself. The artist was presented at the VOLTA by New York City gallery BranvinLee programs. The art presented at the art fair spoke about her illness, which is also reflected in her writing:

I think I might not be alive to go to my opening next September. I think I should rush to finish things. I wonder why my body is doing this or that. I think Christmas will be long. I think I won’t be able to save enough money for old age with all these bills, and that an imminent death would be preferable. I wouldn’t have to look for even more powerful galleries. -Jennifer Wynne Reeves 2013, Callicoon, NY

VOLTA art fair offers a chance to get in touch with art that promotes freshness and openness of ideas. The fair is relatively easy to access. It should be, that art fairs can be walked-in-to, so the art can be discussed and shared. VOLTA is like one big gallery space, where multiple stops lead to curiosities, comprehension, and even comparisons. Perhaps art displayed with this many references has a better chance for new perspectives.This year, the amount of techniques was compelling. Among the artisans of art was definitely a Japanese woodcut artist Katsutoshi Yuasa. For him, woodcut is a new way of seeing images and photography. The long process gives refinement of light, and adds the personality. Yuasa works on the printing process and reliefs based on his own digital photography. He uses traditional Japanese printmaking technique, which takes time. Carving and printing are all made by hand. For Yuasa, printmaking out of a photograph has a deeper meaning that what could be expressed in photographs. He thinks that photographs are more like a fictional two-dimensional surface. He says, that carving on the plywood, and the printing on paper, will add another dimension. The result is an abstract reality, which implies both subjective and objective perceptions. Yuasa also worked in Finland in an artist residence. The work ”Ilmatar” is based on his photograph of Finnish forest. He was presented at VOLTA by YUKI-SIS gallery from Tokyo.

Pius Fox is a young Berlin-based German artist, whose works are influenced by modernistic means. Not only the color-scheme, but the meticulous, minimal and graphic output is reminiscent of styles before his own era. His works move between painting and drawing, figurative and abstract, lingering between form(alism) and context. Multiple layers of paint create an idea of space. Fox makes small works that together are like an installation. One can only think how many different ways to place them on the walls. Small works communicate with each other. When separately, the scale still holds a lot of energy and tension. His color schemes represent past times, giving nostalgic vibrations. As if an old gramophone was playing tunes, light curtain had moved to let air inside the room. Colors are contrastive, some of them pale and pastels, some dark and more graphic. Indeed, Fox uses interiors of his own work studio for inspiration, including windows, doors, curtains and so on, to introspect atmosphere. Yet the works have an appeal of formality and outwardness. He was presented by Patrick Heide Contemporary Art from London.

Categories
art review&curating asian art fine and contemporary art volta art fair women in art

VOLTA NY 14: Simeen Farhat’s ‘Alice’ and the language puzzles

simeen farhat she looses her temper
Simeen Farhat, “She Looses her Temper”, 14 x 16 x 5 inches. Cast and pigmented resin & acrylic rods, 2014.

Pakistani-born, Dallas-based artist Simeen Farhat has taken a classic novel ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ as a starting point for her new installation for VOLTA NY 2014 edition, which ran from March 6-9 in Soho. VOLTA is called as ‘invitational solo project fair for contemporary art’, so Farhat’s solo exhibition was equally presented by a gallery who is already endorsed multiple times by the fair. Her exhibition, curated by Christine Pfister of Pentimenti Gallery from Philadelphia, emphasizes a materiality of the language puzzles. The artist is known for creating poetic works with dimensionality and message, that come with the use of different languages and ways of communicating in our cultural encounters. This time, her colorful and even candy-colored sculptures and installation speak about the problematic nature of cross-cultural communication, showing the emotions and frustrations that are attached to the rules of using our languages. Farhat’s previous works have drawn from such languages as Farsi (RUMI poetry) and Urdu. Text used around the ”Alice” installation is English.

The immediate surface of the words come across as part of the form, and the text intermingles with the sculptural transparency. This already creates puzzles as we see only fragments of language, which, when viewed from a distance, create aesthetical form. When we step closer to the sculptures, the objects invite us to perceive them from different angles. Pink and black cast resin wall sculpture “She Looses her Temper”, is an example of Farhat’s sculptures that emphasizes the multiplicity of the form when viewed from various positions. As it comes to the emotional statements of texts, the ”pointiness” of words structure dynamic messages.

Philosophy is important element in Farhat’s artist statement:

“Words – written or spoken, understood or misunderstood, poetic or prosaic, curvilinear or rectilinear, are what motivate me to create my visual narrative. I am fascinated by how, through language, we understand a great deal about ourselves and surroundings, and how ideas: simple, complex and abstract, are conveyed and understood using symbols.” (Simeen Farhat)

simeen farhat_image2
Simeen Farhat, “She Looses her Temper”, 2014
simeen farhat _image7
Simeen Farhat puzzles with languages, Pentimenti Gallery, VOLTA NY2014.

”Alice’s tears” create undoubtely the center of Simeen Farhat’s VOLTA installation. The blue teardrops in various sizes seem to flow effortlessly from the ceiling, pouring down from Alice’s eyes when she has grown tall.  The viewer can imagine Alice, by experiencing the shades of blue in the sculptures, some of them so light-colored that they are almost invisible towards the white backdrop, some darker. The shapes also vary from softer and rounder to sharper ones, and they accumulate and reshape closer to the ground. The tears are seen differently depending on the lighting conditions; the shadows are creating part of the narrative too. Farhat has sometimes included textiles into her previous installations to reference the (female) ‘body’. For Alice, the handcrafted cast resin has worked miracles. Different blue shapes and sizes embody the space leaving room for imagination and story.

Simeen Farhat has exhibited in the United States and internationally, including Pakistan, London, the UAE, India, Finland and Germany. Her collaboration with Pentimenti Gallery will continue through 2014, and her solo exhibition will open in Philadelphia later this year.

for more information visit: www.pentimenti.com

Categories
asian art design fine and contemporary art women in art

Fog in art by Fujiko Nakaya

Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya’s environmental installations and fog sculptures have become widely known around the world.  According to her, fog represents an interactive medium which makes the audiences feel and participate in its pure natural wonder. Fog comes closer than clouds; although these are scientifically the same, fog calls for a different kind of dialogue with nature. The above fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya is at Toyota Municiple Museum of art in Toyota, Aichi.

Born in Japan, Nakaya is a daughter of the physicist and science essayist Ukichiro Nakaya, who is credited for making first artificial snowflakes in the world. Inspired by natural weather phenomena, she created her first fog sculpture for Expo ’70 (Osaka Japan) to be presented at the Pepsi Pavilion. Ever since, Fujiko Nakaya’s works have been on display on international venues, including Guggenheim Bilbao and Australian National Gallery. In 2013, her Fog Bridge became a waterfront wonder for local and international audiences in San Francisco’s Exploratorium. The work was part of the year’s waterfront celebrations, highlighting the bay area and its special weather conditions (famous for its dense fogs).

 

What makes ‘fog’ so dimensionally touching is that it as a natural phenomena varies in the circumstances. The fog sculptures live with the wind, temperature and humidity.

Nakaya’s fog has also entered theatrical stages. She created stage sets for Trisha Brown, David Tudor, and Bill Viola.

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