Far too long have women been subordinated to men in the field of art history. Their works are diverse, dynamic, and stand the test of their male contemporaries without question. The Guerilla Girls grilled the Met Museum on why less than 5% of artists in their Modern Art section were female in the 1980s, and rightly so. Women in the arts have consistently made waves both before and after this incident, questioning socio-political issues and challenging gender constructs; they do so through their immaculate modes of practice and expression. This applies across the Asian contemporary sphere, and here we hone in on the female Asian contemporary artists making their mark and changing the course of history in our epoch. The Artling brings you our selection of female artists who are unapologetically claiming their place as leaders in contemporary art across Asia, that is, if they haven’t already yet.
Who: Dina Chhan
Why: A multimedia artist, Chhan predominantly portrays nature in abstraction. Based in Phnom Penh, Chhan additionally channels her energies into teaching visual art to schools and orphanages in the area. The only female Cambodian artist to take part in the United Nations mine action program in Cambodia, she further visited mine-affected provinces and later presented her interpretations of the remnants of war through her practice in the form of sculpture. Chhan has exhibited internationally, from Cambodia to Colombia.
Who: Kanitha Tith
Why: Tith explores the fast-changing nature of Cambodia in her works, as well as the relationship between her personal experiences to that environment as such. Themes of community, gender, and feminist identity are realized in her production of sculptures, installations, and films. These works further act as documental evidence that exposes the affects of economic and social developments in Cambodia. In 2010, she received an honorable mention at the inaugural You Khin Memorial Women’s Art Prize, and has exhibited internationally.
Who: Anida Yoeu Ali
Why: Ali’s practice spans performance, installation, videos, public encounters and political agitations. Born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago, she is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman. As part of her 2011 U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, Ali returned from Chicago to explore themes of artistic, spiritual and political collusions in all her transnational hybridity. She has been awarded grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and holds an MFA from the School of Art Institute Chicago. She has been featured in exhibitions internationally including the Asia Pacific Triennial 8 at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia, as well as performed a piece at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Chinese contemporary art, along with the artists behind them, are no doubt driven by the rapid transformations of contemporary China itself. Providing new transcultural opportunities and possibilities, these female artists have and continue to make history with their works. These artists and their works bring awareness of an array of themes pertaining to movements in China, from the social to political, economic to feminist.
Who: Lin Tianmiao
Why: After having spent several years in New York, Lin returned to Beijing and quickly found herself within the experimental scene there. Employing mixed media, installation, and textiles under the scope of the stereotypically ‘female’ crafts, Lin consistently challenges the norms of femininity through themes of womanhood, beauty, and motherhood. Lin co-founded the Loft New Media Art Center in 2001, and in 2006 had a residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute. Lin’s works have been included in every major international museum show that features Chinese contemporary art, and institutions such as the MoMA have acquired her works.
Who: Cui Xiuwen
Why: A well-known contemporary artist, Ciu’s practice had a focus on oil paintings as well as video and photography. She received her Masters of Fine Arts in 1996 from China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts. Ciu is known for her involvement with the Chinese Feminism Movement. This sets the contextual basis for her work entitled ‘Ladies Room’, where she hid a spy camera inside the ladies’ bathroom of a Beijing Karaoke bar, recording the candid moments of call girls getting ready for their clients. Cui has had her works exhibited at the Tate modern in London, UCCA in Beijing, and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Unfortunately, Ciu passed away on 1 August 2018 following a long illness.
Who: Hu Xiaoyuan
Why: Hu explores the relationship between subject and form, time and space, through the employment of an array of media within her works such as hair, recycled textiles, wood, and insects. These mediums allow for her to signify an abundance of emotions, and continually express personal volition. Her artistic expression includes video, performance, painting and installation, and most notably has showcased at Kassel Documenta 12 with her work entitled ‘Those Times’. Amongst the most widely recognized in young Chinese artists, Hu has additionally been invited to exhibits such as the 2012 New Museum Triennial at the New Museum in New York.
Who: Li Shurui
Why: Having been hailed as a “leading emerging female artist” by the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, Li engages with a range of media whilst exploring the relationship between space and light. Her paintings and installations are recognized for their large-format acrylic-on-canvas compositions produced with airbrushes. When asked about what the aim of her works are, she states that she tries to “use light and space to capture an atmosphere and state of mind in a way that leaves people with a strong emotive impression rather than a concept or idea that must be dealt with logically”. Li has exhibited internationally, from the San Antonia Museum of Art in San Francisco to the PAC Museum of Contemporary Art in Milan, Italy. Her works are also part of the Estrella Collection.
Who: Yin Xuizhen
Why: Influenced by her impoverished upbringing during the Cultural Revolution, Yin works with used textiles amongst other keepsakes from her childhood so as to establish relationships between memory and cultural identity. She accredits the turning point in her artistic journey to the 1985 New Wave Movement, along with her visit to a Robert Rauschenberg exhibition in 1995. Yin uses mediums such as fabric, found objects, and concrete, thereby adding a certain tactile air to her politically and socially charged works. She has additionally solidified her presence as an experimental female master alongside her male contemporaries such as Gu Wenda, Xu Bing and Ai Weiwei. Yin has exhibited internationally, from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to representing China at the 52nd Venice Biennale, to the 26th Sao Paolo Art Biennial.
Who: Xing Danwen
Why: Xing is most well known for her photographs that document underground events both cultural and artistic from the mid to late 1990s in Beijing. She is also one of the first artists to employ photography as an art form in China. Having struggled with her living conditions that did not physically allow her to have any studio space, she evolved from her education of traditional painting to that of photography. Now additionally working with mixed media, video and multimedia installations, she explores the various issues surrounding Chinese society, gender, globalization and commercialization. Xing’s works have been exhibited at the MoMA in New York, as well as the Fairbank Centre for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.
Who: Cao Fei
Why: A multimedia artist from Guangzhou, Cao’s practice explores the lives of Chinese citizens born after the Cultural Revolution. Exploring the surge of China’s internet culture whilst engaging with notions of dreams and realities, Cao consistently seeks to envisage the transformations of contemporary China through her works. One of her most pivotal works is a 2006 film entitled ‘Whose Utopia’, and distinguishes contrasts between the norms of everyday experiences versus the aspirations of assembly line workers at a light bulb factory in China. This work sheds light on the vastly growing industrial economies of Chinese society, exposing the disparity between the subject’s lifestyle and their utopias. ‘Whose Utopia’ is currently owned by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Caofei has held solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Galleries and Tate Modern in London, as well as an exhibition of her name ‘Cao Fei’ at the MoMA in New York. She has also showcased at the Venice Biennale not one, but three times.
Who: Bharti Kher
Why: Kher’s works feature mythical beasts, magical monsters and allegorical tales. She dabbles with dislocation and transience, at times as a reflection on her own largely iterant life. The concept of home as a location that pinpoints identity and culture is furthermore consistently challenged in her artistic projections, alongside her ethnographic observations of contemporary life, class and consumerism in India. She works across an array of mediums, including painting, collage, photography, sculpture and installation. Using the bindi as an ongoing motif in her work, notions pertaining to tradition and modernity are evident. Kher is and has been represented by notable galleries around the world, and has seen exceptional success in auction house sales. In 2010, her renowned work ‘The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own’ sold at Sotheby’s London for USD1.5 million, making her the top selling Indian female artist, even surpassing her husband Subodh Gupta's record of USD 1.4 million.
Who: Shilpa Gupta
Why: The youngest on The Culture Trip’s ‘India’s 8 Most Expensive Contemporary Artists’ list, Gupta’s along with her cutting edge multimedia practice has wooed audiences and triggered her rise to stardom. Her work presented at Palazzo Benzon during the Venice Biennale questioned notions of nationhood, identity and borders. An exhibition entitled ‘My East is Your West', works here dealt with perception from different sites of being, be it physiological or geographical; it further celebrated multiplicity. Her overall mediums range from manipulated found objects to video, to interactive computer-based installation to performance. Gupta was the recipient of the Biennial Award, Bienal De Cuenca, Ecuador; in 2004 she was the recipient of the Transmediale Award, Berlin, and the Sanskriti Prathisthan Award, New Delhi. Canada’s South Asian Visual Artists Collective also named her International Artist of the Year. Her works have also been acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Who: Zarina Hashmi
Why: Hashmi’s practice spans drawing, printmaking and sculpture. Abstract and minimal, her works seek to explore the concept of home. Influenced by her self-identity as a Muslin-born Indian woman who has travelled extensively, other themes include distance, and trajectories. She utilizes Islamic imageries derived from their geometric decorations, as well as geometry found in Islamic architecture. As such, this nature of her works has been compared to minimalists at the top of their field such as Sol LeWitt. Hashmi was one of four artists to represent India at their first entry at the Venice Biennale in 2011. Her works are in permanent art collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Who: Hema Upadhyay
Why: Upadhyay was known for her photography, sculptures and installations. Her migration to Bombay in 1998 set the precedent for many of her photographs, including those included in her first solo exhibition ‘Sweet-Sweat Memories’ at Chemould Prescott in Mumbai in 2001. At her first international solo show at Artspace, Sydney, she infested the gallery with an installation that included 2000 of her hand-sculpted cockroaches; this intended to make viewers think about the consequences of military actions. This installation was later exhibited at the 10th International Triennial, India. She was invited for a residency at Atelier Calder in France, the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, and was part of the Vasl residency in Karachi. Upadhyay exhibited internationally in both solo and group exhibitions. She passed away in 2015 at the age of 43, and her death was mourned by the Museum of Arts, Boston, where her work was scheduled to be exhibition soon after her death.
Who: Dayanita Singh
Why: Singh describes herself as a “bookmaker who works with photography”, and is well known for her photos of India’s middle class and elite. Having worked predominantly with black and white photography, she has recently turned to that of colour so as to “investigate the play of light and shadow in un-peopled, anonymous spaces”. With colour film at her newly engaged arsenal, she traced back on old photographs that she had previously explored in black-and-white in an effort to reinvestigate them, capturing their heavy shadows, rich hues, and light effects that leave the photographs ridden with elements of fantasy. Singh has been invited to the Venice Biennale twice, and has held solo exhibitions in leading galleries internationally. She has been further cited as a “towering presence in today’s art scene”.
Largely influenced by the nation’s rich heritage, contemporary Indonesian art is predominantly driven by the diverse society that it has evolved into. It is a country with artistic dynamisms, a remarkable output of works and strong collections, along with an incredibly vibrant arts platform. It is therefore rather surprising that the profession of Indonesian artists still falls on a rather male dominated field. Whilst contemporaries such as Christine Ay Tjoe seek to top list after list alongside her male counterparts, we hold out hope that we may see more female Indonesian artists make their mark and soon join this prolific scene.
Who: Christine Ay Tjoe
Why: Born in Bandung, it is more than safe to say that Ay Tjoe is the highest grossing female Indonesian artist across auction houses, galleries, you name it; her work ‘3-2 #5’ recently sold at the Christie’s Spring Sale earlier this year for USD$318,500. One of the most acclaimed artists in Indonesia (and yes even in comparison to her male contemporaries, if not more), Ay Tjoe is known for her intricate layered paintings and highly encapsulating installations. She explores human emotions in her work, an aspect of life she imposes onto them.
Her 2016 solo show at the White Cube in London marked a change in style and air of her paintings, where she appeared to expose a certain dark underbelly of her psyche as compared to her usual themes of more subtle religious ritual and cultural identification.
Why: Cited as the “Superheroine of Indonesian contemporary art”, Arahmaiani was part of a contemporary art group in the 80s that fiercely opposed the Suharto regime. Due to their members having studied in the West, works produced sought to bridge the traditional with contemporary, non-conformist culture. Arahmaiani now finds herself based between Indonesia, Tibet, Germany and India, and her works lean towards the exploration of natural environments. She further negotiates between tradition and technology, spirituality and science. Her works have been exhibited internationally, including the Venice Biennale, Gwangju Biennale and the Performance Biennale in Israel.
Who: Melati Suryodarmo
Why: The New York Times calls Suryodarmo “Indonesia’s maverick performance artist”. She credits her success to a chance meeting with Japanese Butoh dancer Anzu Furukawa in Germany, whom she went on to study under at Braunschweig University of Art. There, she also studied under Marina Abramovic, even serving as her assistant, and later performing alongside her at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Abramovic even states how she doesn’t think Suryodarmo has made her best work yet, saying how “there is a very strong progression and clarity in her ideas” and that she thinks “its remarkable how she is slowly putting her own tradition and background more and more into her work”.
Japan’s contemporary scene is filled with artists who are creating some of the most captivating works. These female Japanese artists are well known for consistently embracing their heritage, whilst amalgamating a certain individualistic flair to their pieces. Sculptures, installations, photography and paintings all exude a certain standard that is second to none, not only in production but also on their conceptual validities.
Who: Yayoi Kusama
Why: Arguably one of the world’s most influential artists, Kusama is known for her iconic dots, pumpkins and infinity rooms. In 1961 a 32-year-old Kusama showcased a 33-foot painting almost 10-feet high at the Stephen Radich Gallery in New York, and it was thereafter cited as one of the largest of the abstract expressionist era. She paints what she sees having been prone to hallucinations from a young age, causing vivid experiences of her world to be distorted and enhanced by colours and shapes. Her works fall somewhere between representation and abstraction. For her, they exist as representation, and for us, abstraction. Yayoi Kusama exists as a household name within the scope of contemporary art, and her works have seen the walls of almost every notable art institution internationally.
Who: Mariko Mori
Why: Exploring the intersections of life, death, reality and technology, Mori’s practice uncovers universal questions as such. She gained international acclaim after an interactive installation entitled ‘Wave UFO’ debuted at Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria in 2003. It was then showed in New York with Public Art Fund Genoa, and included in the 2005 Venice Biennale thereafter. Mori has received various awards, including the Menzione d’onore at the 47th Venice Biennale for her work ‘Nirvana’. Her works are in the Museum of Modern Art collection, and she has had solo exhibitions internationally including the Serpentine Galleries in London, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles.
Who: Mika Ninagawa
Why: Ninagawa is a Japanese photographer with an incredibly distinctive style. Her photographs, bright and boldly framed, include still life subjects such as nature, animals, and landscapes. Most notably, her photographs of rendered flowers engage with themes of Japanese youth culture, narratives, and the effect of light on colour. Ninagawa is also known for her editorials with Vogue and Bazaar, portraits of celebrities, and for her creative direction on Alicia Keys’s Japanese music video ‘Girl on Fire’.
Who: Chiharu Shiota
Why: Known for her performances and installations, Shiota’s works are recognizable for their vast, room-spanning webs, threads, and hoses. Linking everyday objects such as dresses, keys, boats and shoes, she creates abstract networks that hints at themes from the origins of the universe to commentaries of refugee crises. She represented Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale, with her work ‘Key in Hand’ as the single installation in Japanese Pavilion. ‘Key in Hand’ forced viewers to confront the journeys that individuals make and take throughout their lives. The installation comprised of a massive network of red thread that strung up 50,000 keys alongside the hulls of two wooden boats, as if to symbolize the relationships between the memories of individuals. Her monumental yet delicate and incredibly poetic environments are tied together by themes of remembrance and oblivion. Shiota’s studied under Marina Abramovic and Rebecca Horn, and her works have been exhibited internationally.
Who: Kimiko Yoshida
Why: Yoshida amplified her stance on feminism in France after leaving Japan in 1995. She studied at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles, and the Studio National des Arts Contemporains in Le Fresnoy. Yoshida’s work is centered on feminine identity and transformative powers of art. Her photographs project the subtle, fictional and paradoxical, simultaneously highlighting issues on gender. She states “Since I fled my homeland to escape the mortifying servitude and humiliating fate of Japanese women, I amplified through my art a feminist stance of protest against contemporary clichés of seduction, voluntary servitude of women, identity and the stereotypes of gender”. She received the International Photography award in 2005 for her self-portraits, and exhibits internationally. Her works reside in permanent collections of museums such as the Fine Arts Museum of Houston, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.
The groundwork for contemporary Korean art is derived from what’s been described as “an attachment to national cultural identity and an openness to foreign influences inspired by increased contact with the West”. These artists that follow consolidate notions of ritual as space, employing materials that conceptually contribute to their artistic outcomes. This expands further into the realm of the intangible, where gestures, behaviours, and the ephemerality of time are aptly facilitated.
Who: Lee Bul
Why: Born in Yeongju, South Korea, Lee’s work spans across a large amount of mediums from film, literature, sculpture, installation and illustration. All these have contextual sources derived from film, literature, architecture, and politics, often projecting Lee’s vision of a dystopian world. Closely in relation to science fiction, Lee’s works examine the ways in which the surge of techno-saturated cultures, modern art and architecture have shaped our worlds, be it real or fictional. Best known for her Cyborg series, her many accolades include an honorable mention at the Venice Biennale, and a Noon Award at the Gwangju Biennial. Her works have been exhibited internationally at a large number of highly reputable institutions.
Who: Jung Lee
Why: Lee returned to Korea after completing her Masters in Photography from the Royal College of Art, UK. At the 2010 Gwangju Biennial, she presented her work entitled ’10,000 Lives’. Lee’s works often presents the juxtaposition of text and language to “explore the idea of language in terms of spatial context”. Emotionally laden phrases meet unnatural contexts of environmental landscapes, devoid of human life and touch. She forces viewers to question what happens when language is displaced from their original contexts. Lee has consistently exhibited in Korea, and in group exhibitions internationally. She was a finalist in the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, has received awards from the Royal College of Art, UK, as well as a scholarship from the British Council in Korea.
Who: JeeYoung Lee
Why: Lee merges the imaginary into reality with her extraordinary images. Derived from roots of traditional photography, images are transformed with theatrics and plastic creativities so as to replicate the artist’s memories and dreams, blowing life into expression. Confined by her 3 by 6 metre studio, Lee spends weeks and sometimes months making tangible the imageries of her dreams with extreme patience. Lee is a recipient of multiple awards, including the 2012 Sovereign Art Prize. Her work was seen over 500,000 times in 2 days on Reddit, and has been featured on international media platforms such as Huffington Post, NBC, and CNN.
Who: Hyungah Ham
Why: Most well known for uniting South Korean artistic ambitions with North Korean artistic execution, Ham’s most notable work includes large scale renderings of chandeliers, some nearly 12 feet wide and 9 feet high, painstakingly composed of silk thread. These digitized designs were printed by Ham and smuggled into North Korea by intermediaries via Russia or China. Anonymous artisans in North Korea are then paid to convert these into embroideries. This work exists as an attempt to reunite art through people who were separated through this now 65-year-old geopolitical tragedy, but further marries strengths of the South to that of the North. Named ‘The Embroidery Project’, this series of works was exhibited at Art Basel and received critical acclaim. She has exhibited at art fairs internationally, including Asia Now in Paris, Frieze in London, as well as Frieze New York.
Who: Haegue Yang
Why: Yang’s practice often dissociates domestic, quotidian objects from their original contexts, building newfound vocabularies from their abstract compositions. She additionally stages multisensory environments by including objects such as heaters, fans and diffusers. Together with mundane objects, they “become meditations on labour, emotional connection and dislocation, replete with references to various moments of abstraction throughout art history”. Her work often explores sociopolitical concerns, and has been featured at the Venice Biennale, the Gwangju Biennial, and the Taipei Biennial.
The contemporary arts scene in Malaysia reflects current issues pertaining to society, religion and politics. As Malaysia engages alongside the global community, so do its characteristics with culture. These female artists highlight a new environment where nationalistic complexities are brought together in constructing new ways of thinking and creating.
Who: Caryn Koh
Why: Once a qualified medical doctor, Koh gave up her career in medicine after rediscovering her passion for visual art. She is most well known for her illustration series Sekolah (School), where she used the Malaysian national school uniform as a metaphor for the limitations set against individuals. These imageries are projected against her own set of personal experiences or stances on current affairs. She also works with paintings, installations, and murals. Koh even has a mural of herself, standing at 5-storeys high at Magazine Road in Georgetown, Penang, painted by Canadian street artist Emmanuel Jarus during his trip there.
Who: Sharina Shahrin
Why: Moving from Kuala Lumpur to London for her studies, Shahrin’s oeuvre is multi-faceted. She faced racial slurs and prejudice in Europe and contemplated wearing her hijab in public until her roommate convinced her to adhere to her identity. The artistic creation that came from this was a series of photos that showcased how Muslim women do not differ from the next member of society – that they do everyday things like the next person. Since then she has created bodies of work that exude similar notions of internal strength, as well as participated in feminist art shows back home in Malaysia. Shahrin is the managing director of Everyday Studios, a platform for art and design in Malaysia. She is also the founder of Baju, a clothing line that explores contemporary expressions of the traditional Malaysian batik that has been well received from all over the world.
Who: Red Hong Yi
Why: Nearly 8 years ago, Red uploaded a video on Youtube where she dipped a basketball in red paint to create a portrait of basketball icon Yao Ming. Thinking she would get a few hits from friends and family, she woke up with the shock of her life when it went viral, Gizmodo had picked it up, and reporters were lining up to interview her; the NBA even put it up on their website. Red now travels the world for commissions, including one of Ai Weiwei using 20,000 sunflower seeds and Star War’s Chewbacca with feathers. Jackie Chan has even commissioned a portrait from her that she got to produce in his studio. Red has exhibited internationally; in 2015 she was a presenter at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Trained as an architect, the works she creates use everyday materials with the aim of transforming our understanding of objects and image making.
After a 50-year hiatus, Philippines returned to the international arts platform by participating in the 2015 Venice Biennale. Ridden with historical contexts, Filipino artists seek to highlight the means by which historical resonances and nuances can be projected through art and culture. In today’s contemporary Filipino scope, works are politically charged. Artistic practices are strongly coupled with deep contextual insights, and methods of production are second to none.
Who: Maria Taniguchi
Why: Taniguchi creates works in an incredibly systematic manner as witnessed from her ongoing series entitled ‘Brick Paintings’, where she takes on the labour-intensive approach of drawing a grid, then filling them one ‘brick’ at a time on her Manila studio floor over the span of months. She uses water and acrylic of varying ratios, painting on spaces up to 15 feet high. Taniguchi is further known for abstract videos that relate back to historical notions of the Philippines. Along with Pio Abad, she has also launched the exhibition platform Telenovela that seeks to present works of forgotten Filipino artists. In 2015, she won the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, spurring her to greater international acclaim.
Who: Katherine Nuñez & Issay Rodriguez
Why: Whilst Nuñez and Rodriguez are each artists in their own right, it was their collaborative work that caught the eye of a prominent curator at Art Dubai that then sprung them onto the international stage at the Venice Biennale. Installed discreetly in the Marker section of Art Dubai in 2016, 'In Between the Lines' comprised of books made from fabric and sheafs of paper, carefully crocheted with items one would find on a study desk; even paper clips were laboriously stitched. They left the pages blank, projecting the books’ tactile nature and importance within our digitally saturated world. Both artists are also part of 98B, an artist run space in Manila.
Who: Geraldine Javier
Why: Javier’s works are often charged with tension and provocation, drawing to her younger generation of Filipino artists with variegated and extensive interests in compared to her predecessors, who focus more on exploring the personal and idiosyncratic. Since 2004 she has exhibited her works internationally, leading to her current recognition as a figure to be revered in contemporary Filipino art. Javier also has had exceptional responses at auction sales. At Christie’s Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale in 2010 her work Ella amo’ apasionadamente y fue correspondida was predicted a high estimate of USD$25,480 but eventually sold for USD$186,000.
Who: Pacita Abad
Why: Born October 5 1946 – December 7 2004, Abad’s 30 year career in painting began when she travelled to the United States for her graduate studies in law. She created over 4,500 artworks in her time, working on them on 6 different continents over 50 countries. Her works have been exhibited in more than 200 museums and galleries around the world. 14 years after Abad’s passing, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD Manila) condensed 24 of her works into an exhibition entitled ‘A Million Things to Say’, curated by Joselina Cruz and Abad’s nephew, Pio Abad. Her global vision was reflected through monumental vibrant paintings hung from above, towering over visitors in an embrace of styles and subjects, and served as a timely reminder for us to “reflect on racial and cultural divisions in the current age”.
With Singapore climbing up the ranks as an Asian sports hub in the recent decade, Singaporean artists are finding themselves with more attention and more of a platform to showcase their works. A melting pot of nationalities, religions and culture, these works by Singaporeans span a vast array of mediums and contexts. For such a small island nation, it is all the more impressive how these artists and their works have attained critical acclaim across international platforms.
Who: Han Sai Por
Why: Han is best known for her organic forms sculpted and carved from the incredibly challenging material of stone. They can be found all over Singapore and the world, from Osaka, to Kuala Lumpur, to Washington D.C. She was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Art in 1995. She was the founding President of the Sculpture Society in Singapore (where she still remains a Honorary President), and the first artist in residence at Singapore’s Society’s Sculpture Pavilion. Han’s practice confronts humanist ideals and values, honing in on nature as its overarching theme.
Who: Jane Lee
Why: Lee has had an exceptional track record with auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s over the years consistently selling over the high estimates. She, with Sundaram Tagore Gallery, recently held her first New York Solo show earlier in 2018. Lee came under the spotlight in 2008 when her colossal installation Raw Canvas commanded the attention of crowds at the Singapore Biennale, curated by Fumio Nanjo. This was later shown again in Lithuania as part of the Code Share: 5 Continents, 10 Biennales, 20 Artists exhibition curated by Simon Rees. Lee challenges the notion of painting itself – what constitutes it, how they are made, how they are supported and their overall materiality.
Who: Genevieve Chua
Why: With a Georgette Chen Scholarship and recent masters graduate of the Royal College of Art in London under her belt, Chua’s artistic resume is anything but scarce. Working primarily on abstraction through painting, Chua has exhibited internationally with solo shows in Manila, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and at the Singapore Biennale. She was also awarded the Young Artist Award by Singapore’s National Arts Council in 2012.
Who: Dawn Ng
Why: Ng cites herself as a multi-hyphenate visual artist – and rightly so, having worked with text, illustration, collage, light, sculpture, to installation, over an amalgamation of scales and motives. Ng has solo exhibited in Art Basel Hong Kong with SIXTEEN, followed by A THING OF BEAUTY at the Grand Palais at the Art Paris Art Fair. She has since been commissioned by the Hermes Foundation for a solo installation, and was part of the Jeju Biennale, Korea in 2017.
Who: Sam Lo (SKL0)
Why: Where do we begin? Lo came into Singapore’s art sphere in 2011 when the artist placed stickers and spray-painted roads that then sparked national debates in Singapore and beyond. More recently, Lo has been working on large-scale collaborations, including a supermassive mural that graced the National Design Centre’s atrium consisting of 32 visual artists and all their efforts and identities. An urban artist whose work draws upon social commentaries, fuelled by daily observations and sociopolitical nuances, we place Lo at the forefront of art that provokes and exposes the discourse and civic commentaries of this generation.
Whilst contemporary art in Thailand seems to lack government investments, it seems to be staying afloat with the aid of local and international private institutions. These female Thai artists lead their nation’s field with regards to contemporary art, with incredibly well thought out contextual catalysts behind their works, drawing on themes of a military-driven Thailand, issues on gender, and the fleetingness of memory.
Who: Rattana Salee
Why: Having graduated with an MFA in Sculpture at Silpakorn University, the main characteristic of Salee’s works are their qualities of abstraction. One immediately recognizes the visual relationship to that of Alberto Giacometti’s, with its renders of steel bars that portray the unmistakable air of erosion, or, a “de-corporealisation of the sculptural mass”. Despite the aforementioned, Salee’s sculptures manage to carry a certain sense of etherealness. She has received numerous grants and awards, including a scholarship from the French Embassy to study at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) in Paris in 2011.
Who: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook
Why: After earning both a BFA and MFA in graphic arts, Rasdjarmrearnsook continued on to study in Germany at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig. Early experimentation in printmaking and sculptural installation somehow led to a concentration on film and video, where she gained international exposure with her work 'Conversations with Death on Life’s First Street'. This work comprised of a series of videos where she addressed rooms filled with corpses, engaging on the experience and meaning of death whilst exploring the paradox of death in life itself. Her work The 'Treachery of the Moon' was also acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Who: Wantanee Siripattananuntakul
Why: Siripattananuntakul saw a turning point in her own career when her father passed away in 2009. Having focused on institutional critique prior, she shifted her agenda towards the notion of time. Three years after this death she held a solo exhibition entitled (Dis)continuity. Split into three segments of Past, Present and Future, she examined the traces of her late father who additionally featured in her previous works of video art. Siripattananuntakul works with video, photography, installation, and is an avid writer. She has exhibited internationally after her further education in Germany, and is still a lecturer at the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University in Bangkok.
Why: Piyapongwiwat received adverse reactions from her family when she told them she wanted to be an artist at 28, something she quips as “kind of a midlife crisis”. One of her earlier projects included a photo series entitled Queerness, where she portrayed LGBTQ couples. This allowed viewers to question the notion and form of family in Thailand, further encouraging trains of thought of the ideology of family. She rebels against a rather conservative upbringing through her modes of visual expression such as photography, video, text, sound, mixed media and installation, finding herself drawn to marginalized groups and adversities faced by other artists in military-driven Thailand. Piyapongwiwat holds a BA from RMIT University in Australia and a BFA from Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, France. She was also a finalist of the 2016 Sovereign Art Prize.
For the larger past of the last century, Vietnamese art was intended to serve the revolution, and little attention was given to genuine artistic interests. With their new liberal climate, however, we now note the indissoluble link between Vietnamese art and the socio-political history of its country. As such, what we pick up from Vietnamese contemporary art now hints at themes of memory, the marginalized and the displaced, pointing towards intrinsic societal relevance.
Who: Tiffany Chung
Why: Chung has been cited as “one of Vietnam’s most respected and internationally active contemporary artists”, having represented Vietnam at the 2015 Venice Biennale with an installation of 40 drawings depicting maps in relation to the Syrian crisis. Her interests are derived from notions of imposed political borders and their sociological and psychological impacts on the marginalized, pinning a certain artistic commitment to the comparative study of forced migration. At Art Basel Hong Kong 2016, Chung internationally debuted the first segment of ‘The Vietnam Exodus’ project, an installation of works that focused on the experiences of Hong Kong’s Vietnamese refugee community. Chung has exhibited internationally and appeared in museum exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, California Pacific Triennial, and was honoured for her exceptional contribution to the 2013 Sharjah Biennial. She is also the co-founder of Sàn-Art, an artist-run, independent non-profit gallery in Ho Chi Minh City.
Who: Nguyen Trinh Thi
Why: Nguyen is an independent filmmaker and video artist who leans towards the evocation of memory and remembrance as a means of accessing obscured or unwritten stories. She is deeply engaged with socio-cultural concerns and the confrontation of contentious and polarizing local issues, all of which are bound to restrictions that surround censorship and limited creative freedoms in Vietnam.
Who: Lim Khim Ka Ty
Why: “She works every day and the positive effect from that can be seen both in her always-improving-and-evolving technical skill as a painter and in the somewhat more ephemeral quality of creating works with ever more emotional and societal relevance”. Quoted from Craig Thomas, the lawyer-turned-curator of Craig Thomas gallery, who curated a solo show of Lim’s in 2005. Lim sets the benchmark for Vietnamese art with her emotive themes of street life and subjects in village homes and landscapes of Vietnam. She has had solo exhibitions in Asia, and is consistently nominated for art prizes in Asia.
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