Asia Now: Editorial Selections
In Partnership with Asia Now
23 October 2020
For its sixth edition, the Paris art fair Asia Now has taken a two-format approach, with works showing online with Ocula, and a physical edition taking place at 9 Avenue Hoche between 21 and 24 October. Ocula's editors select their picks from the online platform, showing until 7 November.
Pixy Liao, Sento Thinker (2018). Digital c-print. 75 x 100 cm. Courtesy Chambers Fine Art.
Beginning her career in graphic design, Pixy Liao developed a love for photography while studying at the University of Memphis, where she graduated with an MFA in 2009.
Attracted to the strong tonal palette of the city's blues bars, Liao says that music was a strong influence in her work, 'but through the landscape.' In her early series 'Memphis, Tennessee' (2006–2008), blues and pinks reign and a graphic designer's sensibility for composition is visible.
This style extended to the artist's series 'Experimental Relationship' (2007–ongoing), which captures the artist and her boyfriend, Moro, in various poses. Challenging gender roles, Liao takes centre stage in these images, cradling Moro in images such as Holding (2014), or eating breakfast off of his bare body as he lies spread across the kitchen table in Start your day with a good breakfast together (2014). In Sento Thinker (2018), however, Liao is seen alone, surrounded by the colourful interior of a public bath. TM
Beyond the iconic bindi works characteristic of Bharti Kher's practice, there are the artist's recognisable depictions of hybridity forming the 'The Intermediaries' series. Developed out of Kher's 2017 residency at Hauser & Wirth in Somerset, clay figurines depicting Hindu deities and mythological figures are broken up and conjoined to form new and unexpected configurations.
A 4.8-metre-tall bronze cast of one such assemblage, The Intermediary Family, was presented at Frieze London in 2018: body slices forming one figure, including what looks to be Krishna, though each section's identity, the artist says, is not as important as their re-alignments as 'hybrid in-betweens'.
Self-Portrait—whose composition echoes The fallow (2019), a monumental cast pairing half a standing goddess with half a dharma wheel—beautifully extends from these works. A white, organic branch curves upwards to meet the crown of what appears to be half of Saraswati, veena in hand and peacock at her side: a clash between time and form treated with assured balance. SB
Babak Alebrahim Dehkordi and Peyman Barabadi are two Iranian artists working behind the name Peybak. After meeting in a painting course at university in Tehran in 2000, the two have worked together since 2001, creating each work in tandem until it is unanimously declared finished.
Inspired by Persian poetry and mythology, Iran's ancient miniature painting tradition is visible in their work, too. Throughout their canvases, curious figures assemble and engage in activities in a 'twilight desert' depicted in swathes of subtle colour.
This painting was presented at Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois in Paris earlier this year, in the exhibition Abra-chah, The Well of Abrakan (10 January–22 February 2020). The exhibition was inspired by a trip that the two artists made to a desolate landscape south of Tehran, which is populated by wells. In these paintings, Peybak imagine the life that might have surrounded those wells. TM
In Super Trump – Land, Donald Trump's identity as a strong man, whose rise unleashed the dark heart of a nation yet to reckon with its violent origins, merges with the character of Superman, here rendered an absurd and unhinged villain.
Heri Dono is known for his expressive painting style, which draws from folk tales and traditional Javanese puppet theatre known as wayang kulit to critique and satirise contemporary politics. In Dono's first solo gallery show in Hong Kong with Tang Contemporary Art in 2017, the painting was shown among works like Brexit and Trump (2015), in which two fighter jets hurtle towards one another as a hybrid dragon-machine looks on.
In the centre of the space was a 2004 installation that the artist presented at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, where he represented Indonesia, alongside works like The Trojan Ships, an installation of three hanging boats that formed part of an installation at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2018–2019. Born and Freedom is composed of fierce, sitting dog-like figures chained to winged deities lying on the floor with attached speakers playing the song 'Born Free'. SB
River Lin's Sleeping in between Tehching Hsieh and On Kawara (2018–2019), named after two artists known for their interrogations of time, was first presented at Serendipity Arts Festival in 2018. Functioning as a live installation, alarm clocks timed to go off at different intervals are positioned on a platform, catching performers in a relentless loop of the daily grind, bookended as it is by waking up and going to sleep.
The performance piece was presented at Rockbund Art Museum in 2019 as part of Sunrise Sunset, a showcase of Lin's 'Alarm Clock Series' (2017–ongoing), alongside the two-channel video installation, Until Sunset (2019), which screens a sunrise and a sunset side by side, the latter a rewinding of the former.
Tehching Hsieh and On Kawara sleep, and work at the same time was created in response to PERFORMANCE HOMEWORK, a project inviting artists to share proposals and instructions for 'home-works', initiated by artist Michikazu Matsune. This instructional version was then staged with Live Art Development Agency as part of Once More With Feeling, an online programme of instruction pieces and performance re-enactments that took place in the context of lockdown. SB
With a background in street art, Eko Nugroho creates bold, cartoonish expressions across a variety of media, spanning tapestry, drawing, installation, and animation.
Nugroho began his practice in 2000, as Indonesia underwent massive transformations with the fall of the authoritarian Suharto regime. Transitioning into a democracy, the country's freedom of expression expanded, and new aesthetics entered the nation's visual lexicon. Pop elements are seen in Nugroho's brightly coloured works, which focus predominantly on the absurdity of the human condition.
Nugroho was born and raised in Yogyakarta in Java, where he continues to live and work. Since 2007, the artist has also worked in a city in Java called Tasikmalaya, famous for its traditional crafts, to create large-scale embroideries, such as this one.
In this beefcake interpretation of a philosopher's stone, the bulging form of a body builder is likened to the undulating surfaces of a rock elevated to object of philosophical contemplation.
That irreverent humour resonates across Chen's work, with an aesthetic that invokes retro movie posters and billboards, comic book covers, and punk rock album sleeves. In The Wild Planet Dancing (2018), shown in High Fidelity (4 April–16 May 2020), the artist's recent solo exhibition with Vanguard Gallery, looks like an album cover for new wave band The B-52's, with five men, three wearing gorilla masks, flexing their muscles against a red spray lacquer background.
With a degree in animation from Tianjin University, Chen often collaborates with Sun Xun, and the connection shows in the ink lines that dart over photograph paper, telling stories that feel both ambiguous and dramatic. Take the large-scale New Erode (2020), which looks like a billboard that seems to treat extinction and climate catastrophe like the latest Hollywood blockbuster. SB—[O]