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William Lim, Art Collector, Architect, Artist, Feb. 4, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

February 04, 2015

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Interview with Trickie Lopa...
The third edition of Art Fair Philippines opens later this week, with 33galleries showing both regional and international works. The Artling caught upwith one of Art Fair Philippines’ founders, Trickie Lopa, to see what we canexpect from this year’s fair.  How has the fairdeveloped since it was founded in 2013 and what are the major changes thatyou’ve noticed throughout the years? We havealways aimed for the fair to grow, but gradually.  We started with 24galleries in 2013, now we have 33.  In 2013 we had 6,000 visitors, 2014 wehad 10,000. This seems to indicate that we’ve created more awareness forcontemporary art among the local audience.  A work by Mike Adrao. Image courtesy of the artist & AFP Why the unique choice of venue for the fair and how do you think that affects the way the artworks are perceived? We wanted an accessible venue, one located in the commercial and business center, Makati City. The Link is a working car park, but it seemed suitable for exhibiting art – provided we worked on a few details.  We seem to have succeeded – the space gives off a raw, urban vibe that seems in sync with Manila’s contemporary art scene.  The Art Fair Philippines’ organizing committee; from left to right, Ms. Lisa Periquet, Ms. Dindin Araneta & Ms. Trickie Lopa How were the Special Exhibitions selected to be shown at the fair and what can we look forward to seeing this year? We want to focus on artists who’ve achieved both critical and commercial recognition, within the Philippines and outside.  This year, we consulted with Dr. Patrick D. Flores, who is also putting together the Philippine pavilion to the Venice Biennale.  Roberto Feleo is debuting work that will eventually go to a museum in Ilocos Norte, in Northern Philippines.  All of our other special exhibitors have made works especially for the art fair.  A work by Roberto Feleo. Image courtesy of the artist & AFP Currently, the majority of collectors of Filipino art are from the Philippines themselves. Do you see there being a growing international interest in Filipino art? I think it’s only natural that you look to your own before looking outward. So yes, majority of collectors for Philippine art will most likely be mostly Filipinos.  But good art will always stand out wherever you bring it, so good Filipino works will definitely attract an audience for outside. Art Fair Philippines will run from the 5th to the 8th of February, 2015, at The Link, Makati City. For more information, go to: https://artfairphilippines.com/. See below for a list of participating galleries.    Exhibitors at Art Fair Philippines 2015 1335 Mabini Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea Archivo 1984 Gallery ARNDT Art Verite Art Cube Artesan Art Gallery + Studio Art Informal Avellana Art Gallery Blanc Gallery CANVAS Crucible Gallery Edouard Malingue Gallery Equator Art Projects Finale Art File Galerie Michael Janssen Galleria Duemila J Studio MO_Space NOVA Nunu Fine Art Pablo Gallery Paseo Art Gallery ROH Projects Salcedo Private View Secret Fresh Silverlens Taksu KL The Boston Gallery The Drawing Room Tin-Aw Vinyl on Vinyl West Gallery Inc    ...

February 02, 2015

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Interview with Lorenzo Rudolf...
Art Stage Singapore’s Founder and Director Lorenzo Rudolf opened the 5th edition of Singapore’s premier art event on 21 January at the Marina Bay Sands. Speaking to the media, Rudolf outlined the 5-year progression of the Fair, revealing the strategy to creating a regionally successful art fair: A cooperation with Singapore’s educational and cultural institutions to cultivate a culturally aware fair going public. He also emphasized a persistent challenge with regards to advocating for Southeast Asian art which is that the region remains to be fragmented to this day. In this edition of The Artling interviews, we caught up with Lorenzo Rudolf to get his insight into the regional art market, its status and challenges and his plans to position Art Stage Singapore into making the region a more established arena for supporting contemporary art. For the fifth edition of Art Stage Singapore, what aspects of Asian Contemporary Art is given focus? Is there a specific trend/movement that the Fair will highlight? In the international art world, there is a momentum for Southeast Asian contemporary art. Museums worldwide, also leading ones in the States and Europe, are beginning to be interested in Southeast Asian contemporary art, to hold exhibitions and to collect them. The same goes for private and corporate collectors. Undeniably, this phenomenon has also got to do with Art Stage Singapore and its engagement with the world for Southeast Asia.  The first art scene in Southeast Asia which received big international attention was Indonesia, now followed by the Philippines; but also artists from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar have got on the radar. Also in Southeast Asia itself there is a constantly growing awareness, with Art Stage as the area’s matchmaking flagship event and Singapore as its hub. We had also realise this positive development at the fair. At Art Stage Singapore 2015, the Southeast Asian presence will no longer be dominated by just Indonesia and Singapore. Today, the Philippines and Malaysia have also been push into the limelight; both countries have a more than doubled presence as compared to the past years. We have also received interests and support from collectors from all over the region like never before. Southeast Asia understands Art Stage Singapore as its International platform. We are fully aware of it and face this task. Works by Renato and Guerrero Habulan, Father and son artists from the Philippines.   Therefore one of the highlights this year at the Fair is definitely the Southeast Asia Platform. This year, we took a greater step ahead and will be presenting a 100% curated exhibition of over 1000sqm, executed with a fully academic approach. However, each work is backed by galleries and all presented artworks are for sale. This is probably the first time an art fair has ever done so. Titled “Eagles Fly, Sheep Flock – Biographical Imprints: Artistic Practices in Southeast Asia”, the exhibition will showcase in a spectacular way over 30 of Southeast Asia’s most interesting and promising emerging artists who are also the stars of tomorrow. The Southeast Asia Platform is curated by Khim Ong, one of the best emerging curators of the region.  Another original component debuting at the Fair is Video Stage. Video Stage will showcase over 50 works from all over Asia Pacific, and the selection includes significant historical works. Video is a difficult medium for galleries to present at art fairs. However in a time where multimedia and technology are ubiquitous, video is a medium that is increasingly used and increasingly important in young art scenes. Hence, we have decided to create Video Stage, which will be a permanent component of the Fair in the following years. The Fair will have other various museum-like exhibitions, of which one will be dedicated to renowned French cubist and surrealist painter Andre Masson, where over 50 works will be showcased and will be the first of this scale to be shown in Asia. There will also be a special video installation by celebrated Russian artist collective AES+F, who will demonstrate, through their works, how amazing and fascinating video art can be. We will also have a special exhibition of large scale paintings by 16 Malaysian artists, which includes prominent names, titled ‘Being Human’. Last but not least, there will be a spectacular entrance installation to the VIP Lounge specially created for the Fair by international superstars and Turner Prize winners Gilbert & George, who will also be physically present at the Fair, guaranteeing funny and interesting encounters not to be missed. British Artists Gilbert & George at Art Stage Singapore 2015   But Art Stage is not only a marketplace for collectors and VIPs, it is at the same time, a temporary museum for everybody interested in art; in nowhere else will you be able to get such a comprehensive overview of Southeast Asia’s artistic creativity than at the Fair. Consequently, there is an interesting juxtaposition of works from Asia alongside selected works from the West. Surrounding Art Stage Singapore, there will also be over 100 side events, all coordinated under the umbrella of the Singapore Art Week. For this year, Art Stage will be the first of many art fairs in Singapore and in the region, what sets this fair apart from the likes of Art Basel HK, Singapore Art Fair, Shanghai Art Fair, Artfair Jogja, etc? For a very long time, the art world was defined by academia, museums, art critics, etc. But today, the art world is mainly driven by the market. An art fair, like successful artists and galleries, have to become a brand. This means that an art fair has to have a clear identity. What we see today here in Asia was what happened in Europe and then the States in the 90s: there are new art fairs emerging all over the region. This is a definite sign that the market is moving. However it is clear that neither collectors nor galleries can participate in every single art fair – they have to be selective on which to attend. From how I see it, in the next couple of years, only 2 fairs in Asia will remain to be of International importance: one is Art Basel Hong Kong and the other Art Stage Singapore. While the fair in Hong Kong is backed by the most established art fair brand in the world, Singapore has a young brand that is well positioned in the region. As a young brand, we not only have to be competitive but also creative. We have to always be a step ahead of the big established competitor, knowing exactly that whatever we create successfully starts to show also there the following year – it is the classic destiny of the young brand. At the same time, it is also what keeps us actively competitive and innovative. This is why we create new formats like the Platforms and curated sales exhibitions, and why we continuously invest in the discovery of new artists and galleries and be involved in helping them to enter the International art market. Art Stage Singapore is where you can discover Asia and more specifically, Southeast Asia. However, every art fair has its own target audience in the same market. On a more local level, it is clear that there are many art fairs which are successful in their own domestic markets. Other than Art Stage Singapore, each country in the region has its own art fairs which is great because each of these art scenes need their own marketplaces. The important thing for all these fairs is that they do not try to copy or even to canibalize each other. A very specific situation is mainland China, especially Shanghai. The situation has totally changed from the time when I had launched together with two partners, Asia’s first big international contemporary art fair in 2007. Shanghai has today a clear masterplan regarding its development in contemporary art, and besides big and spectacular private museums and new galleries, the city hosts around ten contemporary art fairs per year. Two of them, Art 021 beside the Rockbund museum and especially the Westbund Art Fair, organized by former top artist Zhou Tiehai, are really interesting. Rudolf during the 2014 Art Stage    We’ve also seen some art fairs get a more difficult start than others. What do you think is the key in sustaining the momentum of support from artists, galleries and collectors here in the region? Having more art fairs does not simply imply that the art market becomes bigger; some of these new art fairs already realised it. The market can only grow through education. Singapore is still an emerging and very fragile market, far away from being established. Instead of stabilising and developing the market, all these new art fairs create a big confusion; we all saw the counterproductive consequences. Besides that, we have to be clear that, in an International context, Singapore only functions as a destination; also Art Stage Singapore could never survive relying on the Singaporean market alone. The Fair is successful because it brings together collectors, buyers and art lovers from all over Southeast Asia, Asia and even Australia, Europe and America. This is only possible with huge marketing efforts. You have to be willing to invest in the promotion of the event as well as of Singapore. You need the support of the art world, you need the support of the galleries, of the collectors and of the artists. In other words, they have to believe in you and you have to cooperate with them. Here, we are a region that is not as developed as it is in the West but is nonetheless, part of the globalisation of the art world. That means, as an organiser of an art fair, you have to cooperate and support the local scene much more and help them get into the International game. That is how you build up mutual respect and confidence. At the end, it is the market which decides which art fairs will succeed. As mentioned earlier, not all galleries, collectors and artists can participate in every single fair. At the moment, they follow Art Stage Singapore and we will do everything that we can, which will also be the case in future. What differences have you observed between large Art markets – between NY, Basel, Miami, Southeast Asia, China for example? All these markets are very specific. New York is very sophisticated and very educated. It has a unique artists, gallery and museum scene. A very strong pillar of the New York art market is the powerful Jewish community. But New York is also the art destination in the US. However, it is noticeable that New York is no longer as dominant as it was 10 years ago. Globalisation in the art world has created new centers worldwide and the art world is increasingly becoming decentralized. Nevertheless, New York will always be New York. Basel, a small city in Switzerland, incredibly educated, has a very long art and museum tradition. The first public museum worldwide opened here in the 16th century. Up to date, the museum scene has always strongly been supported by the local aristocratic families, especially by the very wealthy owners of the worldwide famous local pharmaceutical industry. There is probably no other city which, in relation to the number of its citizens, has more museums than Basel. Nevertheless, it is a quite quiet place, except during the period of Art Basel, when the city becomes the get together of the global art scene. Since the 1990s, when Art Basel created a new art fair format which revolutionized the art market and made the fair the world event as it is - I had the chance to be Art Basel’s director at this time - the entire art world meets every year in June in Basel. With the launch of Art Basel Miami Beach, America’s top art fair, Miami decided to change its “MiamiVice image” to become a serious cultural city with a lot of new private and public museums - the most spectacular one is the Perez Art Museum, donated by top developer and collector Jorge Perez and built by Herzog & de Meuron -, theatres, performing art centers, concert halls, etc. The fair is without any doubt, the world’s most socialized art event, it is theplace to see and to be seen.  There are more private jets flying in than for Super Bowl. However, other than the period of the art fair, Miami’s art market is limited, never comparable with New York or even Los Angeles. China, on the other hand, is still a very emerging and fragile market. Despite its economically induced fluctuations, it is constantly growing. Its biggest problem is the extremely high taxes on art. That’s the reason why a big part of the market evaded to Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there are a lot of outstanding and breathtaking public and private art initiatives in China. Even when nobody knows if and when the tax situation will change, China will surely become one of the most important art markets worldwide. Principally, Southeast Asia has a big potential. There is a strong economical growth and strong and constantly growing art scenes and art markets all over. There is an increasing interest in Souteast Asian contemporary art worldwide … but often, a big lack of competitive structures and infrastructure. Unfortunately, there are also nationalistic views obstructing an International growth. To have an International weight, Southeast Asia has to function and position itself much more as an open scene; as one market. Singapore is the only place which, as the regions’ financial and multicultural center, could bridge these problems and become Southeast Asia’s active, supportive and internationally important arts hub. This is a big opportunity, but also a big challenge for the lionstate. Art Stage Singapore plays an important integrative role in match-making the Southeast Asian scenes and between markets and is the building bridge for these scenes to the International art world. The entire region hopes that with the upcoming National Gallery, in coordination with Singapore Art Museum, the instituitional aspect of Singapore’s art scene will also strongly play a part. A piece by Chinese Artist Yang Yongliang   Which aspects of this region’s art market still require development before it matures to an established environment for buying museum quality art?  I think there are 3 aspects which are crucial for becoming an Internationally relevant and mature art place: First, education. The higher the tower you want to build, the stronger its basis must be. In other words, a strong art city needs a society with interest and knowledge as its basis. Contemporary art is increasingly an important component of every modern urban society. Imagine that art education starts at school. Second, openness. Contemporary art is a global language that is understood all over the world. It goes beyond national boundaries, has nothing to do with national matters.   Third, Art has to be understood not only as a business but first of all ,as a cultural good. We have to focus much more on content. Let’s be clear: without content there is no market, without content there is no business. There was a recent business times article which discussed the unfortunate effects to galleries of holding too many art fairs in Singapore, that some galleries are opting to close their spaces as much of the public now prefer to going to art fairs as opposed to visiting galleries. What are your views on that? It is true that there is a trend worldwide that galleries are increasingly forced to participate at art fairs, some of them make up to 80% of their annual turnover at fairs. Collectors are no more traveling to visit single galleries, they focus much more on art fairs – and on auctions and biennales – where they have more comprehensive overviews and offerings. This happens all over the world, not just in Singapore or Southeast Asia. It is a fact that the recent inflation of art fairs in Singapore have created an unhealthy confusion in the fragile local market. But I do not think this is the real problem of these galleries mentioned in the article. We have a lot of new competition in the local gallery market; the offer has massively increased and follows more and more International trends. This is a typical consequence of the globalization of the art world. On the other hand, we have to realize that the local demand did not develop in a comparable way. Therefore, what are the reasons in a global city like Singapore? We have to ask why art exhibition openings at local museums mostly have such a small attendance? CCA opened a world class exhibition by Asian icon Yang Fudong and the artist himself was present … However, the museum was half empty. Everywhere else, people probably would have queued to get in. We have to ask why in Singapore, art galleries have very few visitors … While boutiques and malls, they are always packed? We have to ask why a number of local collectors do not buy any artworks in Singapore … yet are very active outside the country? The answers are probably not purely market-related … And finally, what role does the Southeast Asian market play in the cultivation of art on a more global scale? As mentioned before, we have a momentum for Southeast Asian art in the international market. However the window is limited; we know that this will not continue for eternity. The trend will be over and every artist will have to compete and to position themselves alone. Some will more likely succeed Internationally as they would have found their specific and unique way of expression, which is understood all over the world. However, our main problem here in Southeast Asia is not creativity and artistic quality; the biggest problem is that most of the region does not have a competitive infrastructure as compared to other destinations in the world. Nevertheless, with a bit more open, constructive cooperation and exchange among the different art scenes, together with Singapore altruisticly offering its unique infrastructure and support possibilities to the best emerging artists of the region, Southeast Asia would absolutely have the potential to be of important standing in the global art world … with Singapore as its hub and as an art city of worldwide reputation.   ...

January 22, 2015

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Zhao Yao, Artist, Jan. 19, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

January 19, 2015

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Interview with Khim Ong...
The Artling caught up with Khim Ong, Southeast Asia Platform Curator for Art Stage Singapore 2015, to learn more about the Platform and the upcoming fair.   What links, if any, do you see between contemporary art practices in the South East Asian countries you’ve highlighted in the platform? Many artists work with a wide range of mediums to communicate their ideas, going beyond conventional modes of artmaking; or are experimenting with and investigating a particular medium in an attempt to challenge the confines of the medium itself and our understanding of them. A number of works at the Platform examine knowledge production, and structures and systems, whether within the art world or at a broader national and socioeconomic level yet these come across in different ways through different approaches each artist adopts.   Chris Chong Chan Fui, video still from HEAVENHELL, 2009, 6-channel video installation. Image copyright & courtesy of the artist. Still by Y. Kasagi   Are the artists you have selected representative in some way of particular artistic movements occurring in these countries? I wasn’t consciously looking out for particular works or types of practice when researching and selecting works for the Platform. Artists are not confined to conventional, recognisable mediums and this is also a reflection of their wide-ranging interest (artists also play in bands, work as designers or fabricators, are activists, etc.). Rather than looking in terms of contemporary visual art, it is perhaps representative of a larger visual culture. Hoang Duong Cam, Prelude in D Minor Op 28 No 24, 2012, Digital C-print. Image courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Quynh   By focussing on the personal biographies of each artist, you seem to have neatly side-stepped the difficulty of ‘nationalising" each artist’s practice or seeking to label it as ‘Southeast Asian.’ Was this intentional? I see it as another way of approaching the region. I am not particularly interested in attempting a broad definition of what contemporary art from the region or of each country in the region is about, but to give a sense of what it is. In pulling together these individual artistic practices, we are providing a snapshot of the art scene, just not in neatly labelled boxes. Just as when we meet a new person, we first ask for a name then of their origin, I hope visitors experience the exhibition as a series of encounters with ‘individuals’ rather than through the lens of what can often be pre-conceived notions of a particular nation; and through these encounters, gain a better understanding of the region and form their own impressions. Are any of the artists producing new works for the Platform? If so, did you / Art Stage commission the works? Quite a number are producing new works. Other than the entrance artwork, Art Stage does not commission works. We do however work very closely with the galleries and artists to present the works in the best possible manner. Khim Ong. Image courtesy of Art Stage Singapore   Biography Khim Ong is an independent curator based in Singapore. She was previously curatorial assistant at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, LASALLE, assistant curator at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, and manager for Sector Development (Visual Arts) at the National Arts Council, Singapore. Some of her curatorial projects include Jane Lee: 100 Faces at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore (2014), Landscape Memories at Louis Vuitton Espace, Singapore (2013), Biographies (co-curated with Biljana Ciric) at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong (2010). She has also worked on solo exhibitions of Antony Gormley, Wolfgang Laib, On Kawara, Nipan Oranniewesna, and Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, among others. Art Stage Singapore will run from the 22nd to the 25th of January, 2015, at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. For more information, go to: https://www.artstagesingapore.com/    ...

January 07, 2015

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Interview with Entang Wiharso ...
Entang Wiharso, born in 1967 in Tegal, Java, is one of Indonesia’s most important living artists. Entang, who holds his heritage very closely, is continuously experimenting and exploring the different aspects of his art. On several occasions this year, he spent time in residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), where he worked with the facility’s primary medium: print. In the coming months, STPI will exhibit the works that were created during his residency. The Artling speaks with Entang about this experience, his work and his thoughts on Southeast Asian art, and reveals some of his plans on mentoring young artists.   How did this residency come about? I’ve actually had quite a lot of experience with residency programs, not only in Asia but in Europe and America. Every residency program has a different goal or their own vision. Artists use that vision and collaborate. I just did a residency in Watermill Center, a foundation owned by artist Robert Wilson. It is a very different residency program, artists don’t have to make artwork but you think and research while you’re there. The residency at STPI is very special. I’ve actually come here before with a friend and I saw the facility and thought “this is an artist’s dream, with all kinds of possibilities.” Working with Eitaro and the crew is so professional and everything is very easy, they make it easy for things to happen. If I have an idea, we discuss it. I am familiar with printmaking, but not with this kind of facility. I have a small printing press, my wife is also a printmaker. My practices crosses media, not just painting or sculpture, I’m willing to explore different media. For me, it is about the idea, not just the technique as a goal. You have worked quite extensively with metal relief throughout your oeuvre. What have some of the challenges been in incorporating printmaking into your vision this time around? I am familiar with the material, but I always try to discover or shift from different materials, as an artist. Even if it’s the same material, trying to make it something else. The project isn’t finished yet, but it’s more complicated now because I’m not only using metal, but also using glass – metal relief with glass melted into the metal, etc. When I come here I had an idea that I want to print something, to create something new. I didn’t come here empty-handed, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. If I create today, the idea can be from last year, it’s not instant. Of course I discovered some things here, it’s a very organic collaboration in a way. I’m familiar with the team as well, so I’m just continuing my practice. It’s very productive and I have a lot of ideas. The environment is so great, the ideas keep coming. An acrylic work created during Wiharso’s residency at STPI   Projects such as this one with STPI tend to be significantly collaborative between artist and local artisans, and make use of tools inherent or distinct to the city. How important is it to protect your “Indonesian-ness” in this project?  The Indonesian-ness is already inside me, so I’m not worried about going somewhere and losing my identity. My identity is wherever I go, I don’t want to hold on to history. Of course, my work is about history, present and future. But for me it’s not really a concern for me. There are no boundaries in regards to preserving anything. It’s also my personality, I feel like I’ve always lived in transition. When I was a kid, my parents always moved us around, which was not normal for an Indonesian at all. I lived in a village where everyone stayed in the same place, then we moved to different cities. I didn’t feel like a normal kid, but it was a good experience. The places were all in Java, but each city had its own character. I’m the kind of person to observe, to see and internalize the small details. Being in transition is good for my practice, actually. Can you tell us about this work (see image below)? You’re known for your symbolism, for putting a lot of layers into a work. What kind of symbolism should we as a viewer be looking for in this series? Is there something we should look out for to understand the meaning that you’re trying to convey to us? Well actually, when I create something, I don’t want to make something clear because I want the audience or the viewer to be involved in recognizing it themselves and putting meaning together with the artwork. Bottom line is I don’t want to make judgmental art. That’s why I like working with layers. This is called “Body Text”. I create the word through visuals, it’s very personal. But everyone can relate to it. The artist in the STPI studio with his work    You’ve incorporated words into your work, is this something recent?  This has been for more than ten years. In the beginning I was just scratching into my painting, but now it’s become very visible. The idea is that during the reformation it’s more intensive, because everyone comments on the social or political situation. I’ve been collecting from magazines, newspapers and from friends, and then I write it down. The words in this work: In Java, when people ask “are you hungry?” even if they don’t know you. It’s a custom, a common occurrence. The intention is to offer something, and sometimes it’s not polite. I think it’s dangerous, having to analyze the different layers and having to be polite. Culturally, we let the situation happen because no one stands up to it and always says ‘yes.’ It’s about the different layers of culture, and having to deal with this. I think in Asia it is really common.    Detail view of one of the works created during the STPI residency   In the last few years, cultures have been more aware of each other, by way of social media and the expanding reach of more traditional media. This has affected us in terms of what we know about our neighbors, especially in the region. I’d like to ask you what you think is the direction of Southeast Asian art – do you think we’re moving towards a more collective identity or that we continue to assert our cultural differences? Well there are so many things. Artists’ minds are not the same, their nature is like a scientist. You want to first see and make observation, and analyze and experiment and make a hypothesis. Every artist has a different platform or format in how to work. One artist wants to create their own identity or culture, like a conservator, to keep away from foreign things. Some artists are willing to engage with the global reality, with what’s happening in neighboring areas or further away. For me, it’s not good or bad, it’s more dynamic and there is more interaction. Thinking about issues in Indonesia and art itself. There’s a commonality or common ground in how to present their region to the global stage. The dangerous thing is that everyone will want to be uniform. Because contemporary art could become very narrow, because the stage has become one stage. Before, everybody wanted to add something, but now with the strong stage and the strong market, now everybody wants to take something from that stage. There’s less experimenting going on, there’s a rush to have success. I believe there are also a lot of artists who still think about how to add something. As an artist, it’s not to always agree. The nature of the artist is to disagree, also as humans in general. Are there any artists outside of Indonesia that you would like to collaborate with?  Yes, there are so many. In the moment, I don’t want to do any because I’m so busy with my life, not only with art. So in the beginning, I want to make plans like that, but in the end it doesn’t work out. I have Plan A and then I end up with Plan C or D. I just meet somebody and think that they’re interesting. Last month I went to a student exhibition, and I met an incredibly young man who works in animation and graphic art. I asked him to come to my studio to maybe do something together. I also have a full room dedicated to computers that I use to do my projects. So now, I’m working together with a young student, and they can learn and I can work together with them to make something. I want to continue mentoring young minds. My life is always in transition, so meeting new people is sometimes nice to keep different, it’s more dynamic.    The artist explaining his new works at the STPI studio   If your work is viewed 100 years from now, what influences will root your work in this present time?  What do you think? I can’t answer that! It’s very hard to say. It’s hard to place the intention of the imagination. You use a lot of Javanese objects in your works, especially recently, and your work is shown internationally. How do international audiences react to that?  That is an interesting question. Well, for example, relief doesn’t belong to Java. It belongs to everyone. You go to Europe or South America, there is relief. Everywhere in Asia. I want to play again. What has happened in contemporary art, is that people think that it is something new. It’s like going to the supermarket and seeing something new, and deciding that you want it. I want to play with that mindset. When you take something you should claim it, for me, nothing is art before you claim it. You have to prove it. There have been interesting responses to the current situation. Interestingly, the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye in the 90s came to Indonesia and learned about wood and carving. He took a cement truck and put it in New York. People were crazy wondering what it was. That is art. It already exists, but how do you present it as something that is important. It isn’t important to everyone, but it is important to the artist. When I see people react to my work, it’s very interesting. Indonesians claim it as Indonesian. We have to have long conversations about it. Through art, people can become more tolerant. But because we hold on to things as a personal identity, things become individual instead of shared. We want people to appreciate different things through art. But now it’s become a very narrow paradigm. It’s dangerous. That’s where globalization, which is when people deny it and are scared to change, that’s where terrorism comes about. How can we change? When people are scared to change, it becomes very dangerous. The nature of the art is always to bring people analyzing in a big crowd, people giving and taking. Like the Mona Lisa, everyone wants to see it even if they’ve already seen it in books. Everyone has been talking about Indonesian art in recent years, what do you think will move Indonesian art to an even bigger stage in about ten years’ time? Is there something that Indonesian art needs to possess or to do before that happens? Indonesians have a lot of work to do as a nation. Art aspect is part of that. For a couple of years, the realities of the art market on the Asian side, an artist needs to be out there in the dialogue, interested in the content and the idea of the art, that’s more important than the technique. The dialogue also from a technical perspective. There are two kinds of Indonesian art out there right now, one is about the market, the other is about the technique. I believe a lot of artists are keen to try to put their own words to a wider audience. Hopefully it moves in that kind of direction, otherwise nothing will happen and it won’t be meaningful. Detail view of one of the works created during Wiharso’s STPI residency   How do programs like the STPI residency help move Indonesian art forward?  This is a good collaboration. Not just with the institution and the artist, but it has a wider meaning. On a personal level, our nationality is already structured for that. Talking with other artists, many have the dream to work with STPI. When artists come here, it’s amazing. The printmaking, especially in Southeast Asia, the works on paper are not really appreciated for all kinds of reasons. STPI brings something else, and people forget about the material because you can see the amazing work being done. It destroys the border of the material, and all kinds of attitudes towards it and gets people excited. From the point of view of the collector, people are waiting to get a work from STPI because they know it’s very special. Do you think you will continue working with prints from this point onwards? From the beginning I always worked on paper, but I don’t really have a strong presentation in works on paper yet. But I will have a show showing works on paper in Brisbane, so I do have works on paper in storage. I think now I really have a strong desire to do something more, especially from this experience that has enriched me to do something different.  Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors ...

December 23, 2014

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Interview with Brian Curtin of H Gallery Bangkok...
Brian Curtin currently programs and curates for H Gallery Bangkok, including H Project Space and H Chiang Mai. You earned a PhD in Studio Art from the University of Bristol, presumably hoping to be an artist, what happened? Do you still have thoughts of becoming an artist instead of a curator? There are different ways to answer this. I studied at a number of Irish and British art schools through the 80s and 90s when the now commonplace professionalization of fine art practices was only burgeoning. The culture of art schools was still a magnet for creative types with no clear sense of a career-path. In fact, I knew many aspiring writers back then and people with a generic interest in what we now call the creative industries, rather than individuals with a dedicated interest in becoming a visual artist. I ended up studying for a PhD because I was part of the historical moment when independent art schools and colleges in the UK began amalgamating with universities and therefore came under research culture and interdisciplinary methodologies. The PhD was becoming the new MFA. My PhD was studio-based but I also wrote a thesis. My research was in queer masculinities and I became somewhat politicized about my own relationship to the world and decided that writing, rather than visual art, was the best way to address these interests. I could answer the question facetiously with “What do mean by ‘artist’?” And I have been [lightly] accused of curating as a frustrated artist. But any writer or curator who began life as an artist will say the same: they are interrelated practices and it just so happens that one won out over the other, at least professionally. I moved to Bangkok in 2000 and was still working as an artist. By 2005 I’d worked out that Thailand didn’t need foreign artists (back then) but the city did need foreign art critics. That was another incentive.   Installation view of H Gallery with works by Sopheap Pich, 2014. Image courtesy of Ernest H Lee   What does H Gallery set out to do, and how does it differ from H Project Space? H Gallery was founded, as an exhibition space that built on a private dealership, in 2002 by the US-born Ernest H. Lee. The gallery rode the wave of increased international interest in contemporary art from diverse regions and specialized in art from Thailand. H later worked with the curator Connelly La Mar who introduced foreign artists and quirky group shows into the mix. I approached H in 2011 to add to the work that Connelly established in terms of greater dialogue between Thai and foreign, including regional, artists. I also opened H Project Space because Bangkok had no experimental spaces at the time in spite of the precedents of Visual Dharma Gallery, Project 304 and About Café in the 80s and 90s. But H Project Space has a caveat: the artist would be challenged by the period details of the architecture and the fact the room has natural air-conditioning, so can be very hot. We’ve done site-specific shows with Jedsada Tangtrakulwong, whose minimal intervention was based on a cobweb; and Sheelah Murthy turned the space into a traditional massage parlor where the movement of participants’ bodies was linked to projected stock exchange reports. Many other artists have worked outside their established methods. H Project Space does not mount object-based shows, which the main program of the gallery typically does. However, because the local art scene is evolving with experimental spaces like Speedy Grandma and Soy Sauce Factory I am in the process of reinventing H Project Space. By 2016 I hope the space will function as a network point between the artists’ working space, publishing/education initiatives and spaces abroad which will give life to the work. The current model of experimental-variation-of-an-exhibition space is becoming exhausted. Besides curating for H Gallery, you are also a lecturer and art critic, how do you juggle everything? And is this a natural thing to do? Distinctions between these activities can blur. My situation in this regard is common because inter-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity have been in vogue for as long as I can remember. Further, there have been cultural shifts such as the death of the figure of the singular, dominant art critic who now can no longer be emulated; relationships between academia and the art world have evolved exponentially; and the expansion of the international art market has produced more and new employment opportunities. In the specific case of Southeast Asia, there is a pressured need to take on different roles because, simply, there aren’t enough people involved. My colleagues in Phnom Penh, for example, work constantly on diverse projects as a consequence of increased international interest. I sometimes think of an anecdote by the US writer Peter Schjedahl who reported that he refused writing commissions from galleries because this would conflict with his status as an art critic. This is unthinkable now. We all make work – artists, curators, writers – to be seen, read and discussed across different contexts and as relationships between these modes become tighter, if not segue, our individual practices run a spectrum of activities. Furthermore, the idea of ‘research’ increasingly underlines art-related practices and education programs in galleries have become very sophisticated so relationships to university culture are inevitable and secure. We can see this, for example, in the sponsorship of Singapore’s Center for Contemporary Art by Nanyang Technological University, and the programs the center has established.   Sheelah Murthy, Economies of Touch, January 2013, H Project Space. Image courtesy of H Gallery Bangkok What inspired you to move to Thailand in 2000? And how has the art landscape changed since then? My partner is the Thai artist Be Takerng Pattanopas. The Asian Economic Crisis in 1997, which began in Bangkok, turned the city into a time capsule for a few years: it was literally stalled. I still remember noting new building work beginning around 2002. However, while the art scene was small it was moving. Silom Art Space mounted the brilliant installation Yellow Simple by Sakarin Krue-On, 100 Tonson Gallery was showing Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, and Apinan Poshyananda was then director of the Art Center of Chulalongkorn University where he showed videos by Marina Abramovic. Also, Thailand first took part in the Venice Biennale in 2004. The main difference between then and now is that there are more foreigners involved now and the scene is more variable in types of spaces and projects. When one talks about Thai Art, usually we think of decorative wall art, landscape scenes or Buddhist sculptures… what is Thai Art today? How would you define or describe it?  The reference to Buddhism is reasonable because Buddhist art did constitute an avant-garde in the 70s and 80s in Thailand as a reaction against accelerated foreign influences in art. And the Department of Thai Art at Silpakorn University has produced some great artists, including Maitree Siriboon whose early works were influenced by rural temple murals but with an unembarrassed homoerotic element.  But, in terms of ‘contemporary art’, the question of ‘Thai’ is vexed – like ‘Southeast Asia’ or ‘Asia’. While few would seriously take these terms as self-evident in their meaning, they are nevertheless often blithely used in curatorial and writing projects. There have been some appalling survey exhibitions that seek to integrate disparate practices to a nationalistic agenda; or market-minded exhibitions that merely throw a spotlight on the region; or curators who mount nation-based ‘showcases’ of artists at art fairs. Within Southeast Asia’s art contexts, it seems that there is much more work to be done on the discursive connections between history, culture, trans-nationalism and geo-politics; and, of course, the critical issue of what can be meant by ‘contemporary’. In recent years I’ve detected a new flavor of criticality in younger Thai artists, what we could term post-national. That is, there has been a shift ways from overarching national interests (such as Buddhism, and the problems of economic development) to a preoccupation with individual identities and the very fragmentation of identity itself. We can see this in the photographs of Tada Hengsapkul, the installations of Pisitakun Kuntalaeng and the remarkable fabric works of Jakkai Siributr, amongst others.  But art in Thailand from recent decades is marked by a diversity of forms and potentially multiple interests. Siributr’s practice, for example, can be linked to Thai animist beliefs but he is also relevant to histories of the relationships between craft, decoration and canonical visual art. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is comparably situated between divergent interests, between local ritual and universal considerations of meaning and interpretation. I believe this diversity has contributed to the relative invisibility of ‘Thai art’ on international circuits; it is less availability to fixity than, say, the postcolonial contexts of art from the Philippines or the political contexts of artists emerging from Cambodia.   Pinaree Sanpitak participatory event, Prahok / Plaa Raa, as part of “Rates of Exchange, Un-compared; Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh,” 2014. Image courtesy of H Gallery Bangkok   You are currently working on 2 new publications on contemporary art in Thailand and the history of Bangkok; can you share information about these projects? These are book projects with Reaktion Books in the UK. While they are officially very different both overlap for me because I am interested in the social and political conditions in which art and its meanings can emerge. The book on contemporary art in Thailand traces what I hope will be a straightforward narrative from national to post-national interests on behalf of local artists since the late 80s: the difference between, say, Manit Sriwanichpoom’s early works (such as his famed Pink Man series) and the works of younger artists such as Tada and Pisitakun. I am thinking speculatively about the cyclical nature of Thai politics as the country recently experienced its 13th military coup d’etat since 1930s, the absurd and violent policies to instill a coherent sense of national identity, and the suggestion that the protests by the rural poor in recent years have torn the national imaginary to a degree that can’t be healed. Perhaps this is the backdrop to younger artists stepping back from contributing to the ‘imagined community’ of Thailand. There are many great writers in Thai Studies and Southeast Studies, such as Scott Barme and Ara Wilson and emergent scholarship includes Clare Veal’s research on photography in Thailand, Simon Soon’s work on 70s leftwing artist groups in the region and Koompong Noobanjong’s studies in politics and architectural identity in the country. These are very important sources for a contemporary book on the city of Bangkok as they can help us move away from more typically elite narratives or what Rosalind C. Morris termed the ‘saccharine tropes’ through which Thailand is usually interpreted. Lastly, are there any major projects we can look forward to in the near future? I am currently editing an edition of the journal Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific on the theme of ‘Queer Theory and Visual Cultures in Southeast Asia’. The essayists grapple with ideas of queer as they have been formed in academic contexts and provide rich, complex accounts of how visual imagery can be interpreted, and how it ‘acts’ on us in surprising ways. This is due to be published early next year. Also, in December, H Gallery will mount Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared: Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, which is the culmination of a co-curated project with the great Roger Nelson, an academic and curator based in Phnom Penh. This was a 6-month project of residencies and symposia that was funded by the Australia Council of the Arts. The exhibition will travel to SA SA BASACC in Cambodia in January and includes Pinaree Sanpitak, Orawan Arunrak and Tith Kanitha.   Brian Curtin. Image courtesy of H Gallery Bangkok   Brian Curtin is an Irish-born lecturer, art critic and curator of contemporary art. He holds a Ph.D. in studio art from the University of Bristol - further to studying at the Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork, and the University of Ulster at Belfast - and has been based in Bangkok since 2000. Brian is currently a full-time lecturer at Bangkok University and previous teaching posts include the Faculty of Architecture of Chulalongkorn University and the School of Architecture and Design at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi. His teaching areas are in art history and contextual studies and his research areas include queer aesthetics, contemporary art in Southeast Asia and critical theories of photography. Brian is external examiner for the MFA in Communication Design at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and has been a tutor for the MFA program at the Art Institute of Boston. As a curator Brian works with a variety of spaces and has mounted exhibitions in New York, China, Korea and the UK as well as regionally. Exhibition titles include The Ethics of Encounter: Contemporary Art from India and Thailand (2008); On the Threshold of the Senses: New Art from Southeast Asia (2012); Intimately: An Exhibition of Photography(2012); Economies of Touch: Sheelah Murthy (2013); Radiation: Art and Queer Ideas from Bangkok and Manila (2014); and Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared: Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh (2014). His curatorial work has been funded by Arts Council England and Australia Council for the Arts. Since 2011 Brian has managed H Project Space as part of H Gallery Bangkok. Brian has been a contributor/contributing editor to the magazines Art iT, Contemporary, Circa, Frieze, Flash Art, Artforum.com and Art Asia Pacific, as well as writing for a range of other contexts. His published profiles of artists include Alice Maher, Sopheap Pich, Collier Schorr, Paul Pfeiffer, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.    ...

November 07, 2014

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Interview with Stella Chang...
The Artling interviews Stella Chang, Director of Yavuz Gallery, Singapore....

November 06, 2014

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Interview with Photographer Tay Kay Chin...
The Artling interview's Singaporean photographer Tay Kay Chin....

October 31, 2014

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Ai Jing, Artist...
Our contributor series explores the ideas of gallerists, artists, directors, curators for an insight into the development of the international art scene......

October 24, 2014

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