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Author Archives: Loredana  Pazzini-Paracciani

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Decidedly Art Week: An Eye on The West...
While Singapore was in the midst of celebrating the much-anticipated Singapore Art Week at its various prominent locations, London’s busy art scene kick-started the year as the 27th edition of the London Art Fair opened its doors on 21 January 2015.  Running for almost 30 years, the London Art Fair was the first fair in London that prompted all subsequent blockbuster art fairs in the art hub (including the much-acclaimed Frieze). Yet this fair is resilient, and its art appealing to many, so it continues its legacy year in and year out with engaging works and a few dusty booths.  Well-known for presenting a wide range of modern and contemporary British art, the fair this year offered two new sections: Photo 50 and Art Projects. These were by far the fair’s most absorbing components, where the audience was confronted with conceptually elaborated works and engaging aesthetics.  In Photo 50, Hassan Hajjaj’s attractive installation Against Nature stood out. Mounted as a teahouse with stools and tables, the installation was a room – complete with wallpaper – decorated with intriguing portrait photographs on the walls. Hassan Hajjaj, who was born in Morocco and grew up in London, skillfully achieved a blend of traditional Moroccan and pop culture. Bright candy colors covered the whole room, as fashion logos intertwined with images of everyday people taken by the artist in the streets of Marrakesh.  Against Nature, a statement-like installation, was refreshing in the context of the fair, which, despite the numerous booths, offered a rather monotonous art repertoire. Another engaging work, in the Art Projects section, was Maugham by Amba Sayal-Bennett presented by WW Contemporary Art. Magnified structural drawings were projected on the gallery wall invading the space with light and geometry. Upon closer inspection, however, one would realize that these overwhelming architectural forms were actually made of several sketches all produced in a very small scale. The artist in her practice departs from familiar elements of everyday life and manipulates them to be reused as ‘words’ in her own visual lexicon. Amba Sayal-Bennett, Maugham, 2015, overhead projector, acetate-drawing prints, tape, foam, mount board, paper, 1.65x1.85.2.63m. Image courtesy of WW Contemporary Art and the artist   With a show of hands of 128 galleries the fair is said to have been successful in terms of transactions conducted in loco and art sold to new and seasoned collectors and art aficionados.  All in all, the fair, having taken place in a magnificent Art Deco building in east London, was compact and lively; but in a city like London, where cutting-edge art is a priority, one would expect more zest in the art on offer and a greater degree of curiosity towards countries, artists and practices not uniquely focused on the Western horizon.  Fairgrounds at Business Design Center, London N1   A different scale and setting was offered by the ArtRooms art fair, held 23-26 January at the Melia White House Hotel in the Fitzrovia art district.  The opening night was literally packed with collectors, art aficionados, habitues of art galleries and friends of the 96 independent artists that showed at the fair.  Following the trend of art fairs conducted in hotels (but strangely completely new to London), ArtRooms took place in a prestigious hotel, in which the booths were hotel rooms reconfigured by the individual artists and/or galleries as compact exhibiting spaces. With an astonishing variety of works and artists – considering this was the fair’s first edition (surely more to follow) – from the lobby to the star-like shape of corridors leading to the rooms, art was everywhere, deeply engrossing and refreshing. The strategic decision to push for the hotel-format art fair was supported by the founders, Christina Cellini Antonini and Francesco Fanelli, whose intention was to promote art primarily by individual artists, with the exception of a few galleries, in a more intimate space, relatively independent of commercial constraints.  Works ranging from full-scale installations to paintings, sculptures and digital works were featured in the domestic space of the rooms that facilitated impromptu dialogues between artists and the public. “this is a great opportunity to show art in an informal setting,” said Leandro Amstel Grasso, director and founder of Amstel Art Gallery, “the Fair it is casual and familiar, yet art is at the forefront.” Amstel Art Gallery, which will also be in the Hong Kong Art Fair in March, presented a variety of works by Italian artists, including Willow, former Geronimo Stillton cartoonist and now accomplished painter.  Willow, Community, 2012, acrylic, 200x200cm. Image courtesy of Amstel Art Gallery   Not lacking in zest and novelty, Willow’s bright works, crowded by little creatures pushing for their space on the densely populated canvases, were grabbing everyone’s attention for their peppy and uplifting emanation.  ...

February 12, 2015

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Frieze: the Art Mecca...
And so it was! After much anticipation, on Wednesday, 15 October, the doors opened to the 12th edition of Frieze Art Fair, the art mecca of international contemporary (and modern) art. Confronting the audience at its doorstep was Gartenkinder, a Walt Disney-like installation by artist Carsten Höller, strategically located and hosted by Gagosian Gallery Since its inception in 2003 Frieze has grown incredibly, adding major components to its core programming thus creating a strong diversity in the art on offer. In 2012 Frieze New York and Frieze Masters were initiated, the latter to run concurrently with Frieze London in the purpose-built structure at the Regent’s Park premises. To optimise the space in this tent-like structure (assembled every year a few days prior to the event and then collapsed and packed right after the fair is over), the Frieze management invited Universal Design Studio this year to introduce a new colour-coded layout that was easy to navigate thanks to fluorescent banners indicating the various sections of the fair. From fuchsia to orange and green, the additional colour-coordinated components of Frieze 2014 are ‘Focus’, dedicated to galleries up to 12 years old; ‘Live’, dedicated to performance and participatory works; and ‘Frieze Projects’, curated admirably by Nicola Lees, which included commissioned works and performances scattered around the city of London. This leading international art fair attracts collectors, art connoisseurs and the general public from all over the world; it is a powerhouse of the art market as well as an open window to the contemporary art scene, though, primarily from the West. In fact, out of the 162 galleries selected for this edition 30% are from the United Kingdom, accompanied by an equal percentage from Germany and the United States. Few, if any, were galleries from Asia and the rest of the world, which is rather disappointing considering that contemporary art is no longer the province of Europe and North America, an argument that Frieze should strongly embrace given the supposedly international approach of the fair. Among the few non-European galleries, Gallery Rampa from Istanbul offered splendid photographs and video documentation by artist Nilbar Gures (b. 1977, Istanbul). The remarkable abundance of textile in the staged images by Gures offered a matter of fact representation of the history and reality of the place of women in Turkish society. As part of the experimental section of ‘Live’, two fascinating presentations caught the attention of the public: UNITED BROTHERS (Green Tea Gallery, Iwaki) and well-known artist Robert Breer (gb agency, Paris).   The latter is a restaging of the historical piece Floats, originally created for Experiments in Art and Technology at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka. Floats is made of dome-shaped self-propelled structures. The slow motion of these structures engage the viewers with the disarming sensation that they themselves are moving while staying motionless. Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent? by UNITED BROTHERS is on the other hand a performance executed daily at 1 pm, which involved the offering of portions of soup to the audience. The concoction, cooked in loco by the artists’ mother, contains various plants and ingredients including vegetables grown within the regions of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The ingredients have been certified safe but their use still poses the ethical question of safety and consumption. Two of the ‘Frieze Projects’ off-site events that attracted particular attention were the series of ‘occasions’ hosted by artist Isabel Lewis (b. 1981, Dominican Republic) in collaboration with ICA London and The Old Selfridges Hotel, and the one-night performance at the same location by artist Korakrit Arunanondchai (b. 1986, Thailand), as well as Cerith Wyn Evans’ (b. 1958, United Kingdom) exhibitions at the London Zoo and Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Since its opening in 1909 Selfridges has been committed to supporting the arts. Following this motto ICA has been using the former hotel premises over the years to host art events. Addressing the Asian community in London, Korakrit Arunanondchai collaborated with ICA to stage The Last 3 Years and the Future. This work stems from a series of ongoing performances and video presentations by the artist at various locations, including, recently, MoMA PS1, New York. Arunanondchai left his native Bangkok to study in New York City. His dual perspective as insider and outsider on Thai culture prompts him to produce engaging works that relate to cultural issues in his native land. The major solo show by Cerith Wyn Evans at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which coincided with his ‘Frieze Projects’ installation at the London Zoo, is an immersive light and sound installation conceived by the artist to respond to the rough, textured space of the gallery covered in brick walls. Wyn Evans described the exhibition as “responding to the spaces which examine the transformative ‘Site/Sight/Cite’ effects that light, sound and duration can have on both spaces and their occupants…” Overall, the public attendance of the fair was overwhelming in terms of number, engagement and, apparently, sales. However, while Frieze sets the bar one notch higher every year, there still seems to be space for improvement as I gathered from Lorenzo Rudolf, founder and director of Art Stage Singapore, when I asked him what he felt was the best and the worst of Frieze this year:  “The best was Helly Nahmad’s installation at Frieze Masters of a collector’s apartment in the 60s. Perfectly done with a wonderful mix of works to show that collecting art should first of all be a deep passion and not an investment. The worst was to see quite a lot of mediocre works at Frieze.” “Is it enough,” Rudolf pondered as he regarded specific works presented, supposedly, as humourous, “to be funny to be considered (good) art?”   ...

October 31, 2014

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Interview with Annie Jael Kwan, Festival Producer and Curator of Visual Arts & Moving Image at SEA ArtsFest London...
In its second consecutive year, SEA ArtsFest London opened its series of events on September 25th. The ArtsFest takes place at various prominent venues throughout London and it continues until November 2nd.  The Artling speaks to one of the founders and organizers of the SEA ArtsFest, Annie Jael Kwan, to learn more about this promising initiative. How did the SEA ArtsFest come about?  SEA ArtsFest started, as many good ideas do, around a delicious meal and a chat. The food was of course, Southeast Asian, and typically, spicy and plentiful. The conversation was, as I remember, quite inspiring. It was a table of academics, artists and producers – all coming together with very different perspectives and foci of interests, which perhaps were exactly the right ingredients. What is your background and how did you end up as one of the originators and producers of SEA ArtsFest? I grew up in Singapore. My interests were always in the creative field, first in literature and then I started studying and working in the theatre in my teens. I then went to London to study Drama and Theatre Arts, and research in cultural theory and moving image at Goldsmiths, before doing a law conversion degree. I’ve lived and worked in London for over a decade now, working across various fields in visuals, filmmaking, installations and exhibitions. A few things came together over the last few years – first, reaching a point in my life where there was an urge to reconnect with Asia, with a sense of cultural identity, and subconsciously seeking out projects and opportunities that would allow me to do so, and this led to meeting more likeminded people with shared interests. I see the festival as a great platform, to do projects that specifically seek to connect both regions, and hence encourage dialogue and artistic exchange between the two regions.   Photo credit: Jai Rafferty   The festival focus is exclusively on SEA. Why this regional choice within the broader Asia?  There are several reasons for this. In the UK, there’s been a lot of work done to increase representation for South Asian communities but even as the numbers of Southeast Asians living in the UK increase, this group is still quite underrepresented. The region is also undergoing a lot of change, with a flow of economic investment into developing countries in the region, and in the last few years, there’s also been a surge of activity in terms of political and social development. At the same time, and maybe, typically, there’s been a lot of interesting, innovative work emerging from artists, writers and practitioners in the region, all responding or calling into question these trends.  Does this regional art have specific characteristics that distinguish it as typically SEA?   This is such an interesting and yet challenging question. Different curators and programmers might say so but yet posit the reasoning entirely differently. There are references to shared Hindu/Chinese heritage strands, an all-encompassing Buddhist sensibility, etc. but to a certain extent, it is such a culturally diverse region, where each place has its own particular socio-economic, cultural, political and religious context. It’s daunting and also dangerous to draw too broad strokes which might negate these finer points.   Photo credit: David Sentosa Within SEA art, is the ArtsFest drawn specifically to certain art practices? Was there something you tried to move away from while selecting / conceptualizing the ArtsFest? I think one of the exciting things about our team, is that we each have quite different passions and different foci in our work, which allows for development of different strands of work in visual arts and moving image, literature and music, heritage and performance. We each lead on different aspects, though usually, we all end up quite interested and involved in each other’s programmes. I lead the visual arts and moving image programme. I wouldn’t say we “tried to move away” from anything in the selection – personally, my approach is more about being interested in what is happening on the ground level in the UK and in Southeast Asia, the dialogues relevant to the relationship between the regions. Could art works shown away from the SEA region be misinterpreted as exotic? Yes, one could say so, and even so, geographically within the region, depending on who is looking. One could argue that the viewer projects his own fantasies or anxieties on the object, and that can happen anywhere.  There are also always situations where one can self-‘exoticise’ – by being aware how one is presented to the international eye and trying to cater to the demands of the global market. But the subjective eye/I is on the move as well, as artists and makers extend their practice abroad via residencies and collaborative projects, and there’s an increase in self-reflexivity in different directions.   Photo credit: Annie Jael Kwan 2014 is the second edition of the SEA ArtsFest. How was it received last year and what did you learn from last year’s experience?  SEA ArtsFest simply exploded last year from an initial idea of a weekend, into 6-week programme that spanned theatre and outdoor performance, film, literature, music, and visual art. We had terrific support from diaspora artist groups, researchers and local communities. What we did learn very quickly, was that we needed a bigger team – or try to do less, but as you can see, we didn’t succeed on that front this year. What do you hope audiences in London may take away from this festival?   I hope they take away a sense of the diversity and rich potential of the region – and also an insight into some of the issues currently in discussion over there and also very much relevant here. Also, I hope people just have a really good time and enjoy the work, and of course, the food! BIO  Annie Jael Kwan trained in theatre arts, film and cultural theory at Goldsmiths College and then obtained a postgraduate qualification in Law. She has worked as producer and curator on numerous arts projects, including with arts collective, The Light Surgeons from 2006 till the present. Works included producing immersive installation, Domestic Archaeology at the Geffrye Museum, funded by Arts Council England; Articulated London, a large-scale multidisciplinary exhibition at the four storey London Oxo Barge House, sponsored by Nokia Nseries; the Overture Film commissioned by the South Bank Centre and projected on the Royal Festival Hall during its re-opening weekend; the visuals for Vangelis: A New Hope; “TLS vs ELO”, a LED installation on the front façade of the Wembley Theatre; and touring The Light Surgeon’s live audio-visual performance, Super Everything, commissioned by the British Council Malaysia, to Singapore. Apart from being co-director and founder of Something Human, she is also Festival Producer for SEA ArtsFest, the UK’s only arts festival that champions Southeast Asian artists and works inspired by the region, and leading on curating its visual arts programme and SEA ArtsFilm, its screening programme of feature-length and short moving image works.   The SEA Arts Fest is a collaboration among: Mark Hobart - Director of SEA Arts Ni Made Pujawati - Artistic Director of SEA Arts Hi Ching - Artistic Director of River Cultures and Director of SEA ArtsFest 2013/2014 Annie Jael Kwan - Festival Producer and Curator of Visual Arts and Moving Image  Cui Yin Mok - Producer-at-Large, leading in Marketing and Digital programming Lin Mingyu - Associate Producer, Theatre and Performance Thong Kay Wee - Videographer and Production Jai Rafferty - Videographer, production and technical consultant Dr Tan Shzr Ee - Consultant for Academic Panel...

October 16, 2014

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