Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Yellow Box in Qingpu: Contemporary Art and Architecture in a Chinese Space

A Yellow Box in Qingpu:
Contemporary Art and Architecture
in a Chinese Space
Date: 6th Sept to 6th October, 2006
Venue: Xiao Ximen (Minor West Gate),
Qingpu Town, Shanghai


Time: 19:00-22:00 6th September 2006
Venue: Ruins of Qingpu Cement Factory
Programs: Music + Mixed media performance

Yellow Box is a project initiated by the Visual Culture Research Centre of China
Academy of Art. Its purpose is to investigate issues about contemporary art,
creativity and culture of connoisseurship in response to the modern white cube.
This project intends to investigate issues of connoisseurship and display that are
embedded in Chinese traditional spaces; meanwhile it also intends to reinterpret
traditional literati spirit in light of contemporary art. In 2005, the first
exhibition of Yellow Box subtitled Contemporary Calligraphy and Painting in
Taiwan was held at the Taipei Fine Art Museum. That exhibition experimented with
solutions for displaying the subtlety of literati art within the sterile ??white
cube?? by either building mediating structures or setting up viewing procedures.
Based on that exhibitions experiment, the present Yellow Box project continues
the research in exhibition practice by studying contemporary art and architecture.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Daniel Buetti 19.08-11.10 Conny Dietschold Gallery, Sydney

For anyone whose knowledge of Daniele Buetti’s work is limited to the big portraits of top models with scarred faces or bodies, the pieces on display in this exhibition offer a different, more fundamental facet of his work. The glamorous side of the images has given way to the minimalism of installations whose apparent hermetic nature contrasts with the immediate nature of the message in the large photos. The same applies to the work on paper, the dark colours and very graphic appearance of which is far removed from the aesthetics of fashion magazines. Yet these pieces are a key to understanding the protean work of Daniele Buetti. In his previous work, in the case of the names of the big couturiers or of big multinationals, the simulated tattoos contribute to the demystification of canons of beauty and of the corresponding marketing strategies (G. Carmine). While the critical dimension of this approach is clear, the simplicity of the means applied to develop it is perhaps less so. However, this refusal to access “rich” materials, upheld by Buetti, is to be found in the pieces he will be showing in this exhibition: the video installations consist of second-hand chairs and tables, while the work on paper is produced using an inkjet printing process. There is a symbolic dimension to this formal relationship: the entire work of Buetti - photographs, luminous boxes, installations, sculptures, objects, etc. - illustrates the artist’s perception of what he calls the “Comédie humaine”, the huge freak show of our lives.

The series Is My Soul Losing Control? reflects the need to achieve a more intimate knowledge of ourselves and of others: these hands and bodies produce and exchange energy flows which illuminate and transcend the grey or brown background against which they stand out. Daniele Buetti proceeds by producing a collage of elements, some of which he has drawn himself, with others taken from various sources. The transposition of the composition in a digital printout confers the final unity. The representation of the vital energy is borrowed quite naturally from the punctuation pattern used by the artist for his light installations. According to one commentator of his work, the artist is here engaged in “experimentation concerning formal possibilities of image production”. His videos form part of a similar approach: they are more “images in movement” than actual films. The very special way in which they are exhibited naturally influences the way the viewer looks at them. Buetti considers that the aim is to achieve unity between the sculpture which, quite literally, underpins the images, and vice-versa - without commenting on one or other. The simplicity of the materials used for the “base” are echoed in the studies of the fixed scenes, such as that of the swimming-pool where nothing happens: an empty moment which depicts the idea of waiting or expectation. The artist approximates this image to that of the young boy in the sand whose face is hidden by a diving-mask, and who seems to be struggling like a wounded swan. An isolated individual before a kind of hut brings about a feeling of “uncanny strangeness” in the onlooker (Freud, das Umheimliche), but who seems for a while to be frightened by us. Waiting is expressed here, too, waiting for a meeting with the other, a meeting that may not occur. The mask is not surprising here: this idea of physical deformation, which is grotesque in the original meaning of the term, was already found in Le Grand Rhume (Marseilles, 2004), an installation in which a huge, hyper-realistic nose seemed to have pierced the ceiling and dripped endlessly on the floor of the room. The plastic ball that goes forward and backward without any apparent logic represents the drunken ship on which a human comedy that is both comic and tragic is being played out.

P.-Y. Desaive, 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shane Cotton 15.08- 02.09 Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland (NZ)

In this exhibition of new work by one of New Zealand’s most scrutinised artists, Shane Cotton carries us with him on a continuing journey of discovery, uncovering the history of cultural exchanges between Maori and Pakeha. In examining the past, Cotton also presents us with the possible futures that face the people of New Zealand today. “Indeed, he has a great talent for enabling one to see, hear and feel very distinct and collective developments of a people, a place and a time.” (Ngahiraka Mason in Charles Green (Ed.), 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth, National Gallery of Victoria, 2006, p.56.)

Throughout his career Cotton has developed an ongoing set of symbols and icons with which to present his stories for them to be read and deciphered. Two recent developments have been the reoccurring depiction of Hongi Hika, and a dense backdrop of calligraphic text. Birds also continue to populate Cotton’s works, symbolising the strong belief by Maori of birds as a spiritual guides and messengers.

Hika first appeared in a series of paintings Cotton developed for an exhibition in Australia. By following in the steps of Hika’s original voyage to Australia in 1814, Cotton felt it timely to include Hika as an important historic reference in his work. While in Australia, at the request of Samuel Marsden, Hika replicated his portrait, including his moko, by carving it on a fence post. Now held in the collection of the Auckland Museum, Cotton works from photographs of this historic relic, transporting Hika’s image into new “heavenly” realms. “Cotton’s painting immerses Hika in an ocean of deep black; the colour of harmony where all colours merge and become one. He paints Hika bathing in stunning hues of blue.” (ibid., p.59.)

It is easy to relate this image of Hika to that of the Maori shrunken heads that frequent Cotton’s paintings. The subject of Maori shrunken heads is a loaded topic. During the early European settlement of New Zealand in the 1800’s demand for these objects was strong, and they became scattered far and wide throughout Europe. Today, as some of these and other important objects are repatriated, the debate continues as to how they should be treated. Due to this, many of them are taken into museum storage, never to be viewed or displayed to the public. In turn, Cotton views his illustrations of such objects as a chance to breathe new life and vitality into these ancestors.

Text has always been intrinsic to Cotton’s densely narrative paintings. The script in these new paintings emulates the original handwritten copy of the English alphabet made by Hika while on his voyage from New Zealand to Australia. By referencing Hika’s trans-Tasman travels, at a time when Cotton himself is undertaking his own trans-Tasman explorations, Cotton endeavours to put himself in Hika’s shoes, making reference to issues of cultural displacement and the treatment of foreign cultures as novelties.

As always, these recent works from Cotton are highly thought provoking and informative. As Cotton states, “I’m not really trying to teach people, I’m trying to tell them what I’ve found.” (Shane Cotton quoted in Jim and Mary Barr, “Mana from Heaven”, World Art , no. 15, 1997, p.63.)
Visit the site.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Charms of Lincolnshire´´ Grayson Perry until 13.08. Vitoria Miro Gallery, London

Grayson Perry was born and grew up in rural Essex. Living and working in London the artist's practice has largely dealt with metropolitan themes. The Charms of Lincolnshire allows Perry the possibility to think and create work about the countryside. This is not a historical exhibition about Lincolnshire. It focuses on the Victorian era and themes that have a strong emotional charge for the artist such as death, childhood, religion, folk art, hunting and the feminine. From thousands of items in the collections Perry has selected categories of objects around each theme and in response to them has created new works, including pots, ceramics, embroidery, photography and for the first time pieces in cast iron.

"My initial idea was to focus these themes around an unknown artist, a mentally ill (Victorian) farmer's wife driven insane by the loss of her children. Her ghost and those of the children haunt the choices and works I have made for the show."

The centre-piece of the exhibition is a hearse dating from 1880, which inspired the artist to create a cast iron child's coffin entitled Angel of the South. He describes it as both a non-triumphal monument to the countless victims of empire building in the Victorian age and the north of England's technological dominance. The coffin bears images that relate to medieval cathedrals and Benin Bronzes from West Africa - part of the developing world - "the south",
where today premature death is still pre-dominant amongst children.

The title for the exhibition The Charms of Lincolnshire invokes a bucolic cliché of National Trust England (Perry has even designed the ubiquitous souvenir tea towel), whilst also suggesting that the items exhibited are talismans of some forgotten, arcane, rural voodoo.

"The biscuit tin idyll of cosy village Britain is luckily in the past, for it was a candlelit back-breaking, sexist, tubercular child-death hell. The ghosts of long-ago children flicker in the dead-eyed familiars of wax, porcelain and wooden dolls I have chosen and in the stitches of the samplers worked by young pious hands".

The Charms of Lincolnshire was first exhibited at The Collection, Lincoln in February 2006. The Collection is a critically acclaimed, £12 million new museum in Lincoln. Designed by Panter Hudspith Architects, it opened in 2005.

The exhibition is presented in association with the Museums of Lincoln and the Arts Council.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sarah Ciracì, ying yang bang until 25.09. Blindarte Contemporeane Napoli (I)

One of the protagonist of the last Sarah Ciraci's works is the mushroom cloud. The explosions, consequent upon the use of nuclear weapons, are always filmed from media and spread to the collectivity, but as it often happens in the ambiguous contemporary information, the attention is focused more on the spectacularity of the event than on its consequences. The mushroom cloud is entered in the collective imagination, and the superficiality of its representation has mitigated its catastrophic image. The artist, conscious of that, depicts on canvas the same mushroom clouds spread by media, in this way she attests the use of the mass destruction's weapons. The original paintings permit the vision only if illuminated by ultraviolet light, in absence of it the canvas appairs as white monochrome. Sideways of the canvas little luminous led are mounted switching on and off, it makes visible repeated and continuous explosions able to involve the entire exhibition space, and able to track down in the collective conscience the last essence, the archetype, that is present in everything. Steming from the scientific research, as often in her works, Sarah Cirac®¨ investigates on the origins of the phenomenon and find the real cause in the atom, as the primary element and the generator, through the human handling, of disaster of Cyclopian dimension. In this way the little atom, or the Tao archetype that represents it, holds the important role that is due to itself, between the enhancement of its omnipresence, and the fear for the consequences that could originate from its improper use: " remember, you are an atom and an atom you could become again". The strong link with the scientific studies and the interest for the continual tecnological innovations draw the artist to present the new works with very original aestetical and formal solutions that characterize her role of technological art pioneer. Perhaps for these reasons the artist uses her works "to exorcize her and collective fears". The use of scientific and technological innovations can be considered a weapon, often handled by a few, able to have ripercussions on the whole comunity. If the huge catastrophes of the past are the confirmation of it, the worrying actual balances and the extraterrestrial presences threats, always more documented, do not promise us a reassuring future: ying yang bang!