Tang Contemporary Art is proud to present Booth 3C16 at Art Basel Hong Kong 2023, featuring recent works by the most critical artists in the contemporary art scene, including: Etsu Egami, Gongkan, Jonas Burgert, Jigger Cruz, Kitti Narod, Rodal Tapaya, Woo Kukwon, Wang Jianwei, and Yue Minjun. Their works from all across the globe demonstrate the freedom and expressiveness regarding figurative art – a trend quintessential to the stand of individuality and heterogeneity in contemporary art.
What is the essence in creating figurative art? Long have artists practiced diverse approaches and appropriated distinct connotations, yet never was there a definite dogma determining how figures should be represented.
Coining his series 'teleport art', Gongkan (b. 1989, Thailand) places his figures – other versions of himself – through portals which connect different times and geographies, constructing an alternate reality together with his employment of a graphic, flat style. This liminal space satiated with different versions of the artist himself thus invites us audiences to engage in his constant self-conversation and self-reflection. Employing flatness similarly, Kitti Narod (b. 1976, Thailand) abstracts these figures to redirect our attention to the basic details in everyday life – of happiness, love, and equality.
Figures mystify and fragment under the brush of Rodel Tapaya (b. 1980, Philippines). He is enthusiastic in experimenting with longstanding cultures, integrating folktales, mythologies, and pre-colonial historical narratives into his canvases. And through a collage-like painting approach, he connects these elements with modern signifiers, particularly figures, seamlessly, creating a feast of aesthetics and signs. And as experimentation is taken in its extreme form, Jigger Cruz (b. 1984, Philippines) completely obliterates figures of classical – Flemish and Post-Renaissance – references with thick and gestural oil layers. What remains are marks of vandalisation on both the canvas and frame, reflecting his critical philosophy on rejecting the idea of institutionalisation and establishment in the art industry.
German artist Jonas Burgert (b. 1969, Germany) emphasises on the power of figurative realism. His portraits are always blooming with colours, accompanied with fantastical and dramatic clothing and accessories. This crudity in the figures' attire bespeak, rather, a sense of primitive vigour, thereupon converting into both play and danger behind those mystique eyes.
Japanese artist Etsu Egami (b. 1994, Japan) dissects her portraits into directional oil brushstrokes. Largely abstract yet each individually distinct, they reflect Egami's philosophy about languages being universally sensed. Portraits, as representations of people, are thus insignificant in their accuracy or mimetic quality. It is rather the recollection of communication and interactions.
Woo Kukwon (b. 1976, South Korea) integrates himself as the figure into his depicted narratives – religious stories and children tales – sometimes as the observer, and sometimes as the anima-protagonist. Seemingly playful, his works express serious topics about life and death and society.
Figural realism collapses entirely in internationally celebrated artist Wang Jianwei's (b. 1958, China) paintings and sculptures. His figures return to their purest forms – matter itself – with their fluid 'gestures' and 'movement'. By twisting, reforming, and even deconstructing these materials we may find familiar with, Wang endeavours to reinvent our perspectives on the building blocks of materials, to tell us that conformations are only temporary. Yue Minjun (b. 1962, China), on the other hand, produces graphic 'self-image' of exaggerated smile and body language mocks and ironises the cultural reality, suggesting the universality of social reality and representatives of cynical realism by critics.
Never should there be constraints to how figures are illuminated or interpreted. Through juxtaposing the numerous works by 9 influential, cosmopolitan artists, the exhibition aims at demonstrating the variability and unpredictability in art practices, hence also acting as a reference point for the latest growth and development of the contemporary art scene around the world.
Press release courtesy Tang Contemporary Art