Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese artist...
London's galleries and museums are gearing up for a lively October, with Frieze London and Frieze Masters running between 3 and 6 October 2019 at Regent's Park, along with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, taking place across the same dates at Somerset House; and the tenth anniversary of the Sunday Art Fair, showcasing new and emerging artists...
Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...
Unlimited, the Art Basel platform allotted for large-scale and unconventional artworks, will be showing a record 88 projects from participating galleries this year. Gianni Jetzer, curator-at-large at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, is heading the section for the fifth year in a row.
Ai Weiwei is China's most recognised contemporary artist. In the past 25 years, Ai has come to acclaim for his large-scale installations, political activism and frenetic online presence. Ai is the son of renowned poet Ai Qing, a one-time member of the Chinese Communist Party who was accused of 'rightist' opposition to the government the year of his son's birth. The family was subsequently exiled to a labour camp in rural northern China where they lived for 16 years. After Mao Zedong's death and the ensuing end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the family returned to Beijing where the young Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. It was here that he co-founded Stars Group, one of China's earliest avant-garde art collectives.
In 1981, Ai moved to the United States where he studied at the University of Pennsylvania; the University of California, Berkeley; and Parsons School of Design in New York. However, he ultimately dropped out and made a living by working odd jobs. During this time he took a prolific amount of photographs in the city's East Village and learned about conceptual art, performance and poetry from friends like Allen Ginsberg—lessons that would inform his developing practice. In 1993, due to his father's illness, Ai returned to China and found it a changed nation—the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests had taken place just four years earlier and surges of materialism, corruption and environmental problems had accompanied the country's rapid economic development. Inspired by his time in New York's East Village, Ai contributed to the creation of the Beijing East Village, an avant-garde artistic community comprising some of the first Chinese performance artists. Ai made his own first significant performance work two years later, when he dropped a 2000-year-old Han Dynasty urn (Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, ). Met with outrage, Ai drew connections between the act and Mao Zedong's stance that China must both build a new world and destroy the old one, a sentiment used to justify the sacking of cultural objects and historical signifiers during the Cultural Revolution. Such wariness of establishment and government came to characterise Ai's career, and is surmised in his ongoing series of photographs that depict him giving the middle finger to structures of power such as Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong's skyline, the Eiffel Tower and the White House (Study of Perspective [1995–2003]).
Ai is an artist, architect, photographer, filmmaker, antique furniture dealer, scholar and designer, but what he has become most known for is his criticism of the Chinese government—an authority that employs strict censorship and is known for punishing dissenters. Ai and the Communist Party first clashed when in 2005, the largest internet platform in China invited the artist to begin blogging. As relayed in a 2006 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artist was 'totally seduced'. He posted a constant stream of social commentary, political criticisms, personal writings and photographs; at one point over 100,000 people were reading per day. Due to its perceived sensitive content, the blog was shut down by authorities four years later. Ai took to Twitter and Instagram (both banned in China) where his hundreds of thousands of followers are still inundated with images of his life and work. He is widely credited for bringing to light human rights issues in China for an international audience.
In 2008, along with Herzog & de Meuron, Ai came to even greater global acclaim when he acted as artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium, constructed for that year's Olympics. Yet controversy struck again when in the same year, an earthquake hit Sichuan province and thousands of children died while studying in shoddily constructed schools. Ai launched a 'Citizens' Investigation', rallying the public to collect the names of the victims in order to memorialise them and shed light on the substandard building conditions that had heightened the death toll. The government did not approve, and Ai was beaten by police shortly before he was scheduled to testify for one of his collaborators on the project and suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. One of Ai's most famous photographs shows him in the elevator with the policemen after the attack (Ai Weiwei in the Elevator When Taken into Custody by the Police ). Still, Ai's work about the earthquake travelled to Munich, where it was included in the exhibition So Sorry at the Haus der Kunst from October 2009 to January 2010. Displayed on the museum's façade, the installation Remembering (2009) was constructed from 9000 children's backpacks and spelled out the phrase 'For seven years she lived happily on this earth', a quote from one of the young victim's mothers. This multiplicity of material and large scale is characteristic of Ai, who is known for repeating and modifying simple materials, as seen in the millions of porcelain seeds for his 2010 Tate Modern project Sunflower Seeds, and his accumulation of 886 wooden stools in Bang at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
2011 was a monumental year for Ai; the artist was arrested at the Beijing airport by authorities who had branded him as a 'deviant and plagiarist'. His studios were searched, computers confiscated and Ai and his staff and family were questioned. After almost three months of harsh imprisonment, Ai was released after receiving charges of tax evasion. Yet his passport was confiscated for four years as the artist was 'suspected of other crimes'. He is still under close watch by authorities; indeed, the cameras installed by the police in front of his studio to monitor his activities inspired his marble sculpture Surveillance Camera (2010). In recent years, Ai's attention has been focused on the migrant emergencies in the Middle East. The artist has travelled extensively to refugee camps and the shores where migrants enter Europe to conduct research and document the humanitarian crisis. Law of the Journey (2017–18) featured a 230-foot-long inflatable raft carrying 258 faceless refugee figures, while thousands of lifejackets collected from asylum seekers in Lesbos made up the installation Soleil Levant (2017) in Copenhagen. The installation saw the façade of a major building adorned with the bright orange safety vests. Other recent projects have focused on surveillance, drones and political prisoners.
Ai Weiwei currently lives in Berlin, where he is the Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts.
Pablo Bronstein (b. 1977, Buenos Aires) lives and works in London.
In 2020, Bronstein will have a solo exhibition at Sir John Soane's Museum, London. In 2019, he will unveil a new commission in collaboration with David Kohn Architects at Ickworth House, Suffolk.
In 2019, Bronstein had a solo presentation at the OGR, Turin (with an offsite iteration of the work at the 58th Venice Biennale). In 2018, Bronstein's solo shows included presentations at Herald St across both the gallery's Herald St and Museum St locations, and Bloomberg SPACE, London. In 2017, Bronstein had a major presentation at RIBA, London, Conservatism, or the Long Reign of Pseudo-Georgian Architecture, and unveiled a new permanent commission at Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh. Bronstein was the recipient of the Tate Britain Commission 2016, for which he produced Historical Dances in an Antique Setting in the Duveen Galleries. In 2016 he also designed the set for The Creation, produced by Rambert and reenacted at Garsington Opera, Buckinghamshire, before touring to Sadler's Wells, London. Other solo exhibitions include: Wall Pomp, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2016); The Grand Tour, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, and Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (2015); Studies in Mannerist Decomposition, Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2015); We live in Mannerist times, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2015); Enlightenment Discourse on the Origins of Architecture, REDCAT, Los Angeles (2014); A is Building, B is Architecture, Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva (2013); Sketches for Regency Living, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2011); Pissoir, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2011); and Pablo Bronstein at the Met, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2009).
Upcoming group exhibitions include: Raid the Icebox Now, RISD Museum, Providence. Recent group exhibitions include: Ljubljana Biennial, Slovenia (2019); Joy for Ever: how to use art to change the world and its price in the market, The Whitworth, Manchester (2019); Transantiquity, Galeria Municipal do Porto, Portugal (2018); New Acquisitions, British Museum, London (2018); 250th Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2018); What Is Enlightenment, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2018); Idea Home Show, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough (2017); Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth, Graham Foundation, Chicago (2017); British Art Show 8, various venues, UK (2015–2017); Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016–2017); Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague (2016); L'Année dernière à Marienbad, Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen (2015); History is Now: 7 Artists Take on Britain, Hayward Gallery, London (2015); Folkestone Triennial, curated by Lewis Biggs, Folkestone (2014); Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing, curated by Brian Dillon, Hayward Gallery Touring, various venues, UK (2013–2014); Ideal Standard Forms, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Turin (2013); Arkhaiologia: Archeology in Contemporary Art, Centre PasquArt, Biel (2011); Scene Shifts, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2010); MOVE: Choreographing You, Hayward Gallery Touring (2010–2011).
In 2017, König Books published Pseudo-Georgian London and in 2013 König Books published a major monograph of the artist, A is Building B is Architecture. Other solo publications include: Gilded Keyholes (2013), Postmodern Architecture in London, second edition (2011) and Ornamental Designs (2008), all published by König Books, as well as Enlightenment Discourse on the Origins of Architecture (2014) published by REDCAT, Pissoir (2011) published by Kunsthal Charlottenborg and Description of Casa Scaccabarozzi (2008) published by Galleria Franco Noero.
Confessional, candid, challenging and poignant. These are some of the words commonly used to describe the works of Tracey Emin. Emin is most celebrated for her visualisation of universal contemporary experiences, drawn from her own personal memories, dreams and body. A modern-day Expressionist, her work encompasses painting, installation, sculpture, photography, embroidery, neon and drawing.
Emin is remembered as one of the Young British Artists (YBAs)—a loose grouping of artists who became known for their nonconformist art and larger-than-life attitudes in the 1990s. Among her YBA contemporaries—including Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman—Emin was close friends with Sarah Lucas, and in 1993 the two young artists opened a shop to sell their artworks. Emin's breakthrough, however, came from the works that, through their stark honesty to the point of provocation, deconstructed the border between life and art, and openly shared her personal experiences. Inside a tent, Emin appliquéd the names of every person she had shared a bed with from the time of her birth to the year 1995, thus creating Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995). Her most iconic work, My Bed (1998), is an installation of her bed from a depressive phase when she did not leave her bed for several days. Surrounding the unmade mattress are empty bottles, used condoms and tissues, which immortalises a particular moment in the artist's life with its loneliness, despair and private suffering intact. Emotionally powerful and outrageously frank, Emin's works redefined the ways in which a female artist could discuss herself—her life, her body—in public.
Often at the centre of Emin's work is the female nude, especially her own—a tendency that has led some critics to regard her oeuvre as feminist. Although the artist herself has somewhat denied association, her blunt exploration of the female body and sexuality reflect the feminist belief that a woman can define her own sexuality. Between 2009 and 2010, Emin collaborated with Louise Bourgeois in the last months of the famously feminist artist's life. In the resulting exhibition Do Not Abandon Me (2011), the autobiographical paintings showed the two artists engaging in different aspects of their lives, from Emin's traumatic memories to Bourgeois' experience as a mother. In relation to the use of the female body in her work, Emin reflected in a conversation with Ocula Magazine that 'I know my body better than anyone else. I am my best model; it makes it really different that I am the woman because I am not viewing my body with a sexual gaze but with an understanding one.'
Emin was born in London in 1963 and grew up in the seaside town of Margate. She was inspired by the expressive qualities of JMW Turner and Egon Schiele from an early age, and she closely studied their styles as a student. Returning to London, she graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in painting. Over her long career, Emin has exhibited in the UK, Holland, Germany, Japan, Australia and the United States. Her work has been subject to several survey exhibitions, including her first major retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2008); Hayward Gallery, London (2011) and Turner Contemporary, Margate (2012). Cited as a national treasure by the Guardian in 2015, Emin represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale and Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts in 2013. Emin currently lives and works in England and France.
One of the most influential sculptors of his generation, Anish Kapoor is widely recognised for his monumental public works and installations that often incorporate reflective surfaces and curvature as well as unconventional sculptural mediums like water. A preoccupation with voids, the body and the relationship between man and his surrounding environment further characterise his works.
Emerging as a sculptor in the 1980s, Kapoor's use of pure pigment and traditional materials such as limestone and wood aligned him with a group of young artists—among them Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Antony Gormley and Shirazeh Houshiary—known as the New British Sculptors. Kapoor gained recognition for his biomorphic works, notably As if to celebrate, I discovered a mountain blooming with red flowers (1981). Created for the exhibition British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century. Part 2: Symbol and Imagination 1951–1980 (1981–2) at London's Whitechapel Gallery, the sculpture consists of three groups of geometric forms made from wood, cement and polystyrene, and covered in pure pigment that spills over the floor. Each shape references the human physique: the three-peaked mountain in red as the body; the pair of red ellipsoids as breasts; while the boat-like form, the only yellow object of the group, suggests movement. Kapoor derived the first part of the title, 'As if to celebrate', from a Haiku poem, and the rest came from a Hindu myth in which a goddess is born out of a mountain of male gods' bodies. Several of his early sculptures, seemingly rising out of the floor or wall and coated with saturated pigments, underscore his preoccupation with blood and female anatomy.
In the following decade, Kapoor's sculptures progressively grew as he began to explore the idea of the void by constructing forms that contain cavities or disappear into the floor or wall. In the sculpture Void Field (1989)—presented at the 44th Venice Biennale and for which he was awarded the Premio Duemila Prize—the top surfaces of sandstone blocks are pierced with a hole and filled with black pigment. Contrasting the mass of the blocks with the voids within them, Kapoor explored the tensions between presence and absence, being and non-being, and internal space and darkness. Kapoor later multiplied the scale of the void with Marsyas (2002)—commissioned for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern—by creating a hollow, trumpet-like structure out of red plastic membrane that extended over the monumental gallery space.
From the mid-1990s onwards, Kapoor increasingly used mirrored surfaces in his works, as in the three concave, stainless steel discs of Her Blood (1998), which are presented on the floor or on the wall and reflect their environment from different angles. A later work such as Blood Mirror (2000) similarly consists of a stainless disc, featuring red in its lacquered and highly polished surface. The simple concave shape in both works appears to be a void from a distance and becomes activated when the spectator steps closer to it, contorting reality to subvert his or her sense of perception.
Throughout Kapoor's works, there exists a sense of theatricality—one that requires audience participation to complete its experience. In conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2016, Kapoor said, 'There is something about the performative in a work, where the work almost switches itself on as you enter its space. I think it's terribly important because that's a conversation between a viewer and an object.' Enacting this performativity is his 'Non-Object' series of 'twisted' stainless steel sculptures that invite the spectator to walk around them and study the constantly morphing reflections. Similarly, Ishi's Light (2003)—an ovoid shell with a fibreglass exterior and a lacquered red interior—opens partially to allow the spectator into its space. The concave forms in both 'Non-Objects' and Ishi's Light seek to engage the participant's senses both optically by projecting distorted reflections and aurally by amplifying sound within their parameters.
Kapoor's public sculptures are celebrated for their monumental sizes and spectacular feats of design and engineering. In 2014, he created Descension, commissioned by the Public Art Fund for the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, an unconventional sculpture made of infinitely swirling water. Like many of his other works, Descension provides an aural experience as the water spiralled in and out of the ground. ArcelorMittal Orbit—completed in 2012 for London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park—has become one of London's most popular attractions for its view of the city from the 115-metre-tall tower made of red tubular steel. Cloud Gate (2004)—dedicated to Chicago's Millennium Park in 2006—exemplifies Kapoor's brand of spectacle through simple forms. The 110-ton stainless steel sculpture, nicknamed 'the Bean' for its resemblance to an upturned bean, enchants the public with its seamless surface that draws both the spectator and the environment in to become a part of its perpetually shifting reflections.
Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Kapoor has been living and working in London since the early 1970s, where he studied at Hornsey College of Art (1973–77) and Chelsea College of Arts (1977–78). A Turner Prize winner (1991), Kapoor has recently exhibited at Lisson Gallery, London (2017); Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2016); Château de Versailles (2015); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2010); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2008). Selected international group exhibitions include Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014); 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2009); Gwangju Biennale (2004); Shanghai Biennale (2001); Biennale de Lyon (2000); and Venice Biennale (1993, 1990, 1982). In 2009 he was the first living artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Elected a Royal Academician in 1999, Kapoor was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2003 and knighted in 2013 for his services to visual arts.
One of the most prominent artists of his generation, Mike Kelley produced a vast range of works in drawing, sculpture, performance, music, video, photography and painting, as well as critical texts and collaborative works. He completed his studies at the University of Michigan and the California Institute of the Arts in 1976 and 1978 respectively. Kelley moved to the West Coast in the mid-1970s, and lived and worked in Los Angeles until his death in 2012.
Kelley gained recognition in the 1980s for his work with children's soft toys and other found materials. With these materials, he examined popular culture, memories and fragmented narratives. In Eviscerated Corpse (1989), he sewed together rag dolls and stuffed animals that he had salvaged from thrift shops to make a cross between a human and a centipede. The installation was part of the larger series 'Half A Man' (1987–93) and critiqued the association of innocence with childhood and the idea of family. More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin (1987)—an earlier creation from the same series—similarly incorporated soft toys and second-hand blankets. Kelley's conspicuous use of sewing and craft—skills traditionally regarded as 'feminine'—questioned the definitions of normalcy and gender.
Children's toys also function in Kelley's work as a satirical metaphor. Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites (1991–99) consists of suspended balls created from discarded, brightly coloured toys. By transforming children's toys into serious sculpture, Kelley visualised a darker side to the American dream's endorsement of excessive consumption and reckless luxury collecting, and intermingled the 'low' and the 'high' of American culture. He also deodorised his suspended sculptures, mocking America's selective amnesia of unpleasant realities.
The idea of memory was one of Kelley's longstanding interests. In 1983, he filmed a 28-minute video about The Banana Man—a character from the children's television show Captain Kangaroo. Since Kelley had not seen The Banana Man himself growing up, he asked his friends to share their memories for the reconstruction. In its incomplete study, far removed from the real character, The Banana Man offers an investigation into the fragility of human memory. In Educational Complex (1995), Kelley similarly reproduced the structures of every school he had attended, alongside his childhood home, as small architectural models. Blank spaces represented parts of buildings he could not remember. Kelley was intrigued by the increasing popularity of Repressed Memory Syndrome, which proposed that the human brain repressed traumatic memories and that therapy could recover them. The public grew interested in traumatic memories and child abuse, a phenomenon Kelley called an infatuation.
In 2010, Kelley collaborated with the London-based organisation Artangel to launch Mobile Homestead: a to-scale replica of his childhood home. Designed as a 'mobile home', the replica is constructed from lightweight white cardboard and has a removable clapboard façade. Kelley conceived of the project as a community gallery that would be driven around the streets of Detroit, serving the public with 'haircuts, social services, meeting space, and a place to hold barbecues and perhaps for the homeless to pick up mail', according to Randy Kennedy for The New York Times. Upon its completion, he recorded the house's launch in three videos that screened at the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Since Kelley's death, Mobile Homestead has stayed with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and remains available for the community.
Outside his endeavours in visual media, Kelley also wrote and collaborated extensively. He has been published in journals including Artforum (2011, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2003, 1989), Journal of Contemporary Art (1994) and Art Issues (1990). He was an original member of Destroy All Monsters (1973–85), an experimental noise group founded with his friends Jim Shaw, Cary Loren and Niagara (Lynn Rovner). Kelley also collaborated with the band Sonic Youth in his performance Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile (1986) and with Paul McCarthy to produce Heidi (1992).
Kelley's work was and continues to be exhibited widely. Selected solo exhibition venues have included Gagosian Gallery, London (2011, 2007); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2013); MOCAD, Detroit (2013); and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1993). He also participated in multiple biennials, most notably the Whitney Biennial (2012, 2002, 1995, 1993, 1991, 1989, 1987, 1985), the Gwangju Biennale (2010), the Shanghai Biennale (2008), La Biennale de Lyon (2003, 2001), the 43rd Venice Biennale (1988) and the Sydney Biennale (1984).
After his death, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam opened a major retrospective of his works, titled MIKE KELLEY: Themes and Variations from 35 Years (2012–13). Other posthumous exhibitions include Mike Kelley at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2014) and An Homage to Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1, New York (2012–13).
Kelley's works are in the collections of Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Detroit Institute of Arts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York among others. Kelley was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2003 and in 1997 he won the Skowhegan Medal for Mixed Media.
Louise Lawler completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Cornell University in 1969 before establishing a practice which led her to become part of the group of artists known as The Pictures Generation. This also included artists such as Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Sherrie Levine. Lawler continues to live and work in New York.
Lawler photographs other works of art, concentrating on their setting, the way in which they are presented, and their methods of creation. The resultant works are often considered to be conceptual and address the art world and its establishments by questioning what factors constitute and define a piece of art. Her oeuvre offers a behind the scenes look at the happenings of the art world through her photographs at art fairs, galleries, collectors homes, and auction houses such as Christie’s.
The artist uses her method of photography to comment on the status of material goods as measures of financial and cultural wealth and employs the work of other artists as her subject matter to bring to attention the difficulty of originality in contemporary society. Lawler’s works challenge the notions of authenticity and authorship.Solo exhibitions of the artist’s work have included Adjusted at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany (2013); No Drones at Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2015); Fitting at Metro Pictures at Metro Pictures, New York (2011); and Later at Yvon Lambert, Paris (2010). Lawler has exhibited at major institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Museum of Art, Oslo; and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Lawler has presented work at two Whitney Biennials.
Chiharu Shiota's installations make the ineffable space between feeling and language material. Motivated by the omnipotence of memory, a signature medium of the Japanese artist's multi-disciplinary practice is yarn. In a conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2016, Shiota said of her use of yarn, 'It is soft and I use it like a mirror of my feelings... Yarn has tension like a human relationship.' As such Shiota confronts her own experiences by cultivating special spaces with a physical and emotional passage in mind.
Shiota's early studies at Kyoto Seika University, Japan were accompanied by a semester exchange to the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University, Australia, where her aims shifted towards amalgamating painting, performance and the body. No longer satisfied with art for art's sake, the next step for Shiota after Kyoto was Germany and an intense period of study under artist Marina Abramović, known for her performance practice that tests physical and emotional thresholds. Shiota's time with Abramović seeded clarity in her practice in both concept and approach, now prioritising the relationship between memory and objects as well as the power of absence. Her newfound ethos was apparent in her performance, Try and Go Home (1997), where she dug a cavity in the earth and rolled naked into and out of the space. Here, her interest in displacement and the affectivity of positive and negative space was born. In her conversation with Ocula Magazine, Shiota said, 'I think art is primarily about the eye. It is important to see art, and then have feelings, and then see meaning. Not come up with the meaning first.' Now settled in Berlin, more recent installations by Shiota are characterised by a mixture of performance, sculpture and drawing in space with found objects mostly woven into yarn-webs. From a collection of mismatched shoes to suitcases, dresses, keys, pages from a book, bed frames and doors, the materials she introduces have lived elsewhere but are summoned as an artery for a personal and collective psychological experience.
When Shiota suspends mementos in tessellating string, the viewer is led to think about both containment and protection. The Key in the Hand, presented at the 2015 Venice Biennale in the Japan Pavilion, carried this sentiment. In The Key in the Hand, plumes of red yarn were dotted with keys. These inverted waves floated above a series of boats like hands. While line and materiality are obvious keynotes in her work, colour is critical. It's not difficult to imagine that Shiota's continued use of red is emblematic of a journey, the movement of blood through our veins or the 'fated path' red string represents in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures. Red couples positivity and pathos. For example, in a red yarn installation Dialogue From DNA (2004) we are attune to both loss and the inevitability of change.
Shiota exclusively selects red, black or white yarn for the pregnant and hollowed spaces she creates. The metaphor is not didactic, her audience is invited to associate meaning or feeling with colour. Black has historically accompanied works exploring illness and death, such as Conscious Sleep (2016), for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, whereas snow-like threads swathe boats with a hopeful energy in Where are we going? (2017) and Memory of the Ocean (2017), both displayed at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, Paris. Prior to working almost exclusively with red, Shiota's use of black yarn and symbolic objects pointed to the inexplicability of the universe and pain. Works such as Memory of Skin (2000) saw inordinately long dresses hung high and constantly dripping with water. These dresses were a metaphor for cyclical thoughts. Installations that incorporated empty beds, such as During Sleep (2000), heralded a similar feeling. In these symbolic objects, thoughtfully framed by colour, the viewer finds cues to birth, sickness and death.
Shiota's life experiences—of leaving her country and facing illness as a young woman—are woven into her practice, which, in its grace, welcomes others to co-exist.
Ding Yi is a Chinese painter known for consistently employing a 'cross' motif in his paintings since the late 1980s. Using rational and precise methods, Ding's artworks mimic the aesthetics of mechanical design, and parallel the visual effects of the rapid industrialisation and urban development in China.
Ding was born in Shanghai and graduated from Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts in 1983, after which he worked in a toy factory as a designer. In 1986, he went on to study in the Tradition Chinese Painting department at Shanghai University, where he was influenced by Western modernism. His paintings from this time show an early experimentation with abstraction, but it wasn't until 1988 that he began using crosses in his work. The first instance was the series Appearance of Crosses, which used systems of calculations to determine their all-over, grid-like compositions.
Rebelling against the political and social allegories typical of painting in China at the time, Ding's uses of crosses was born of a desire to start at 'zero' and emphasise a rational approach to artmaking. Eschewing the 'rough' appearance of the work of his contemporaries and using rudimentary tools such as rulers, tape and paint straight from the tubes, Ding employed technical precision to invent a new language with which to express himself. As such, the x's and +'s in Ding's paintings are meant to function purely as formal marks without meaning (though they could be said to resemble some basic Chinese characters such as 'ten' 'field' or 'big') and do not require translating by the viewer. Most works in his oeuvre shares the same name as the original series—Appearance of Crosses—and are distinguished by date.
Over the years, Ding has painted on canvas, linen, tartan and cardboard and stresses the importance of painting his own works by hand, lest they become mere manufactured products. In 1991, Ding suffered back pain from prolonged use of a ruler when painting, and began to render his crosses freehand. The acrylic-on-canvas Appearance of Crosses (blue/green) (1995) is an example of this shift; the crosses appear looser than before and combine to create a visual effect akin to stitches in fabric.
While he resists representation, the patterns and colours of crosses combine to create abstract imagery in many works, such as in Appearance of Crosses 2016-4 (2016) in which groupings of light crosses against a dark background emerge to appear like cells in a computer chip or stars in a night sky. Appearance of Crosses 2010-6 (2010), on the other hand, is painted on tartan; the intersections of various crosses resemble a bright, flower-like pattern. Today, Ding only paints on wood board. Painted on basswood, Appearance of Crosses 2017-9 (2017) contains many thousand multi-coloured crosses which coalesce into random groupings of colour.
Ding is one of the most widely collected and recognised artists working in China today. He lives and works in Shanghai.
Samson Young's practice centres upon an attempt to re-present and re-interpret lost or overlooked events of socio-political and personal significance. Formally trained in philosophy and composition, Young approaches complex questions of identity and conflict, without imposing solutions or halting productive dialogue. The composer and sound artist's process is deeply invested in rigorous, historically grounded research that often involves Young gathering 'sound sketches' and recordings that eventually make their way into his multimedia works.
Young has produced a new video and 12-channel sound installation, as part of his ongoing series 'Muted Situations', 2014-ongoing, on view as part of the 21st Biennale of Sydney. The series foregrounds the masked or unobserved moments that take place in our everyday experience. By consciously 'muting' the sonic foreground, the less-commonly noticed layers are revealed. Young has written a series of short instructional texts describing hypothetical situations, a few of which he has already staged, to draw attention to unnoticed sounds. Numbered from one to twenty-two, this expanding set of scenarios range from 'Muted Dance Party', 'Muted Non-Violent Protest' to 'Muted Taoist Funeral Ritual of Hell-breaking'.
In the latest iteration of the ongoing project, Muted Situation #22: Muted Tchaikovsky's 5th, 2018, Young invites the Flora Sinfonie Orchester in Cologne to perform Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony in its entirety. The orchestra, however, has been asked to 'mute' the musical notes, suppressing the pitched foreground layer of the composition, and bringing forth the sounds produced by physical actions in a performance - the musicians' focused breath, the turning of pages, or the clicking noises of the instruments' keys.
On the process of muting, Young writes: '... muting is not the same as doing nothing. Rather, the act of muting is an intensely focused re-imagination and re-construction of the auditory. It involves the conscious suppression of dominant voices, as a way to uncover the unheard and the marginalised, or to make apparent certain assumptions about hearing and sounding.' The process has the effect of disrupting the viewer's expectations; when the piercing shriek of a violin fails to come forth, it feels anticlimactic, ridiculous even. Young's situational experiments reveal what is suppressed, enabling us to become aware of another layer of reality underneath the noise.
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