In our previous article on the Surrealism movement, we covered the origin of Surrealism, the characteristics, some major artists such as Salvador Dalí, André Breton and René Magritte who came out of this movement and revolutionized the genre for years to come.
Surrealism in Asia, however, took a little longer to manifest. Japan was probably the first to embrace themes and ideas of Surrealism through the medium of photography, as well as literature. In China, surrealist tendencies began appearing after the Cultural Revolution that occurred from 1960-70. Not long after did imageries of dreamscapes, fantasy, childhood, and madness began seeping into the realm of Asian art, with artists still motivated by Surrealism in their contemporary practice to this day. Whilst Western Surrealism despised the “rationalism” that was produced in the horrors of World War I, it is widely noticeable that Surrealism in its Asian contemporary context seems to drive socio-political themes respective to each artist’s country and their upbringing.
The Artling brings you these famous Asian surrealist artists who have engaged thoroughly with the movement:
Look closely at Aya Takano’s seemingly endearing figures and a certain darkness appears. Although she is inspired by an array of art forms, Takano’s surrealist artistic tendencies come from how she builds her own worlds in her works, “all means of escaping reality, gravity, and its restraints, to attain a certain form of transcendence.” Through creating this unknown, she taps into a certain spirituality that persists in Surrealism. A member of Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki, Takano also belongs to the Superflat and Pop movement.
Zhang Xiaogang has been cited as one of the most prominent symbolists and surrealist painters in China. This stems from his strong European influences from names such as Salvador Dalí, coupled with the historicity of the Cultural Revolution. In Zhang’s most famed Bloodline series he paints made up family portraits that consist of Chinese subjects, channeling themes of childhood and memory, whilst highlighting social stigmas. This series is widely celebrated, and Zhang has exhibited worldwide including at Pace Gallery in New York and the 1995 Venice Biennale.
One of Indonesia’s most celebrated artists, Heri Dono is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice spans painting, sculpture, and installation. Surrealism is prominently merged with motifs of wayang, a form of Javanese folklore theatre that combines music with shadow puppets, as well as wooden puppets. His paintings are comprised of strange fantastical creatures and colorful characters and pushes strong themes surrounding political and social issues. Such themes include the interrelationship between globalization and his native cultures. Dono has represented Indonesia in the Venice Biennale where a large kinetic installation was showcased at the Arsenale.
Choi Xooang is a Korean sculpture artist whose works are intentionally made to be grotesque, distorted, and haunting. His hyperrealist sculptures of human bodies have been critiqued by viewers as detailed, leaving them with a sense of repulsion yet fascination. Wholly surreal, these sculptures showcase contorted bodies and irrational physical states. Through these detailed works, Choi seeks to expose his concerns for the human condition in society. Choi has exhibited internationally, including at the Gwangju Biennale in Korea. He is also the winner of multiple awards including the 2014 Kim Sejoong Young Sculptor Award.
Filipino artist Andres Barrioquinto imbues Japanese styles and patterns into his surrealist portraits. The subjects in his works are almost lifeless, with Barrioquinto leaning towards painting odd figures. Additionally working with nature, he renders his images surreal through juxtaposing imageries to combine them into a whole. He has said on multiple occasions that “art is not always meant to be beautiful - it should try and make sense of the strange and imperfect”. His presence as a Filipino artist in auction houses is accomplished, to say the least, with ‘When Horses Gallop’ achieving his record price at $314,613 USD, over 600% over its estimate.
Like Choi Xooang, Chen Wenling’s sculptures are surreal and often grotesque. His iconic ‘Red Memory’ bronze sculptures that showcase playful naked boys in shiny red paint have gained him international recognition. Like his contemporaries, these works come with socio-political themes, highlighting the rise of Chinese consumerism against its communist past. Dynamic and dramatic, these whimsical sculptures have seen the world, including the first China Art Triennial at the Guangzhou Art Museum in China and the 37th Art Exposition in Basel, Switzerland. Chen has also received the Venice Biennial International Prize of the Golden Lion for his works.
Natee Utarit seamlessly merges the genre of Still Life with Surrealism in his complex paintings. His 2018 exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur entitled ‘Optimism is Ridiculous’ featured works that echo classical paintings. By creating images of animals in ridiculous settings, metaphors and symbolisms surface in this storytelling of human society. Further inspired by a colonial worldview and parody, Utarit’s works encourage viewers to interpret the world differently, recalibrating perspectives of the individuals in it. He has exhibited internationally, including the inaugural Bangkok Biennale as well as Saatchi Gallery, London. His works currently reside in notable institutions and private collections around the world.
Through figurative styles, Jia Aili creates surrealist, fragmented landscapes that express his internal impressions. In most cases these landscapes are interrupted with subjects who are drifting, as if to represent Jia’s consciousness. These works come with a certain revered style of painting that compares to Western Old Masters. Jia cites painting as a spiritual expression, and that the purpose of his works, falling in line with aspects of Surrealism, has been to explore his consciousness. Like his contemporaries who were raised in the post-Mao Zedong era, Jia’s practice steers away from political themes and instead focuses on contemporary ones. He has exhibited internationally, with solo shows at the Singapore Art Museum; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain, and has participated at the 54th Venice Biennale.
One of the leaders of the modern art movement in Syria, Fateh Al Moudarres found himself influenced by Surrealism when he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. Prior to this, Al Moudarres was a self-taught artist who focused on realist techniques. Studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome allowed him to then consolidate these two movements, creating a distinctive style that made a name for him in Syria. He was also known for his philosophical ideas and wrote brilliantly on these matters in his critical art essays that underlined his unique forms of expression. Al Moudarres exhibited internationally, from Sweden to Aleppo and New York to Paris.
Rodel Tapaya utilizes a wide range of media in investigating themes of folk narratives and contemporary society with that of perception and experience. Tapaya reflects on his own consciousness and observations of the world to create these fantastical works, with each work giving viewers a glimpse of a time or place that he holds closely. A graduate from Parsons School of Design, Tapaya’s works have gained critical acclaim. A winner of several regional art contests such as the 2011 Signature Art Prize granted by the Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation and the Singapore Art Museum, he has also exhibited Internationally with works in notable institutions worldwide.
Surrealism has no doubt trickled down to not only established Asian artists but also continues to be a popular movement that emerging artists turn to. Why not check out our collection of surrealist artworks of such artists for your next art purchase.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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