Since the manifestation of Euclid’s Elements, geometry has gone beyond its mathematical mothership to explain more universal spatial relations. In the 1980s and 1990s, new waves of expansion in technology and trade accelerated international coexistence, calling for an inherently geometric rearrangement. Artists, at this time, started to explore spatial realities through their own visual lexicons, in turn re-contextualizing physical and ideological boundaries, interconnectedness and (a)symmetry. Geometric elements are now no longer confined to detached study, but employed in art as metaphors for social space, as exemplified by Rational Painting in China, America’s wave of Neo-Geo Conceptualism, and styles preceding the Superflat movement in Japan.
Hosted by the K11 Art Foundation, the ‘Emerald City’ exhibition compares two important concepts in geometric translation – namely, transparency and opacity – that call for artistic redefinitions. By bringing together 40 diverse projects, K11 explores how geometry, or the “measurement of the Earth (geo)”, has influenced mankind’s imagination of the world. The collaborative show, realised between K11’s Cosco Tower pop up gallery and Hong Kong’s chi art space, will place the artist’s work through lenses of geometry, speculative science and theory, much like the emerald-coloured spectacles worn by characters in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Peter Halley, 'Prisons', 2018, gigital print on vinyl, dimensions variable. Commissioned by K11 Art Foundation. Image courtesy of the artist.
Not only does ‘Emerald City’ demonstrate how geometry shapes preconceptions of the world, it also inspires viewers to look at the world beyond the limitations of geometric thinking. The exhibition introduces the basic concepts that represent spatial relations, such as shape, distance and ratios, and applies them to greater structures like galaxies, architectural environments, the human body, natural landscapes, and abstract spaces. As Venus Lau, Director of the K11 Art Foundation, states, “the starting point for the show came from the thesis that the geometric demarcation of space is central to our perception of the world. The exhibition is about the breakdown of geometry’s standard rules as a metaphor for dealing with difference through its sub-concepts including 'a world in a world' or 'sea as negativity'. Geometry has been one of the greatest tools with which we make sense of all spatial being on earth (the 'geo')”.
The “geo” here is not the space-time of gravitational fields that Einstein called a “mollusk,” nor is it a simple description of our understood three dimensions. It is the common thread of all creative exploration that offers insight into the potential for cohesive creativity, coexistence and globalisation.
Zhou Siwei, "Images Carrier 02", 2015, digital print, 200 × 150 cm. Image courtesy of the Artist and Antenna Space.
Most contemporary artwork, the curatorial team notes, conforms to geometric confines due to the formal limitations of traditional media: the canvas, the screen, the lens. ‘Emerald City’ seeks to illustrate the persistence of these geometric thoughts in contemporary society, proliferating through cultural production and societal norms. This is achieved through an intermingling of known and new artists.
Nik Kosmas is one of these budding names. For the exhibition, the Kosmas has created a colourful, site-specific sculpture entitled Stall Bars, referencing the namesake exercise equipment and its whimsical likeness to a children’s playground. The large-scale climbing frame invites K11’s visitors to explore the limits of their physicality and the intersected space that is inevitably produced around them. Subtle asymmetries within the human body and the equipment that man employs to help resolve them are here paralleled to the asymmetries of social structures. They too require a bit of “exercise” to be fit.
Exhibition view of "Stall Bars" by Nik Kosmas in 'Emerald City'. Image courtesy of K11 Art Foundation.
Kosmas’ piece is exhibited alongside Alice Wang’s gilded crinoid fossils. The otherworldly-yet-eerily-familiar creatures have undergone two rounds of preservation, first in their sedimentary encasement and then by way of gold lacquer. The once-dancing filaments have then been displayed within the gallery, disrupting the space and forming an unnavigable maze for viewer eyes. For whom or what has this space been demarcated? Is it negotiable or have these curious structures taken root in this place, in this time?
These works, like others throughout the exhibition, reject commodification and seek to use the “geometric dialectic of inside versus outside” as a metaphor for the metaphysical fine line between art and commodity. If a painting, installation or photograph casts off its preconceived object or service-centered existence, it may exist on the same plane as you, I or the air we breathe.
Alice Wang, Untitled, 2016, 24K gold gilded on crinoid fossils, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the Artist and CAPSULE SHANGHAI.
Keiichi Tanaami’s 1986 sculpture series The House in Ascension poses similar questions. The artist notes that “the countless amount of stimulative experiences, happenings and encounters…have become the keywords of [his] expressions.” As such, they have become the keywords of his space and the geometric configurations that form his relationships and narrate his interactions. This notion is woven throughout the group exhibition, highlighting the geometric and structural nuances of cultural exchange and the trans-regional (artistic) discourses that shape our understandings of the world we inhabit.
Keiichi Tanaami, "The House in Ascension", 1986, 14 × 45.5 × 86.5 cm, wood and lacquer. Image courtesy of the Artist and NANZUKA.
‘Emerald City’ is open for public viewing at the K11 Art Foundation Cosco Tower Pop-up Space from 28 March to 22 April 2018 and at chi art space, Hong Kong until 31 May 2018. For more information on the exhibition, visit the Foundation’s website: https://www.k11artfoundation.org/en/emerald-city/.
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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