Posts in Art
The Art of Reimagination

Australian designer Fiona Lynch reimagined the TarraWarra Museum of Art’s multi-use gallery foyer with the past and future in mind

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In the Yarra Valley, designer Fiona Lynch has given her artistic touch to the gallery foyer of the TarraWarra Museum of Art. The museum, one of Australia’s finest privately funded public art institutions, opened in 2002 and moved to its permanent home in 2003. Lynch was asked to reconceptualise the space in a way that reflects the museum’s emphasis on the experiential, unexpected and collaborative. In addition to retail, the 95-square-metre gallery foyer is intended as a multi-use space for events and functions.

‘The design needed to feel timeless and as if it was a part of the original architecture, but also speak to the modernisation and evolution of the museum, and at the same time show an exploration of our own ideas. We wanted to use materials that showed both heritage and evolution,’ Lynch explains. The studio achieved this with a tactile material palette of hand-worked and sculptural aluminium, Victorian bluestone tablets, earthy transparent resin that mimics the museum’s rammed earth facade, and timber and leather plinths. Together with the selection of finishes and creation of sight lines that direct towards the vineyard views, the studio’s approach was respectful to the design intent of TarraWarra’s architect Allan Powell.

Lynch also aimed to create balance and contrast with the architecture’s monolithic joinery by incorporating slender forms: the slim lines of the folded steel shelving, tables and jewellery display cases create new pathways and also capture the attention of visitors as they pass through the area. Local artisans, established and emerging, were invited to contribute to the project. The studio collaborated with designers Daniel Barbera, Makiko Ryujin and Josh Carmody, and together their respective works — including linished metal shelving, charred timber displays and slender tables — enhance the sense of flexibility required for the space.

‘We wanted to showcase a contemporary retail environment that was worthy of the museum and all it stands for, and that doesn’t appear temporary when compared to the significance of the architecture,’ Lynch says. The curved lines and sculptural forms, in tandem with the dramatic lighting, build upon the spatial and art experience for museum visitors, from the moment of approaching the building to the time spent exploring the galleries within it.

Text / Rossara Jamil
Images / Sharyn Cairns

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Representing Hong Kong in Venice: In Conversation with Shirley Tse

We speak with the Los Angeles-based artist about her current installation at the Venice Biennale, a thought-provoking piece on negotiation and interdependency titled Stakeholders

Shirley Tse with  Negotiated Differences  at  Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice , 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Shirley Tse with Negotiated Differences at Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Design Anthology: The negotiation between people and space is at the heart of Stakeholders; can you explain what this negotiation entails, and how ideas of affect, empathy and ethics fit into it?

Shirley Tse: While ‘negotiation’ is a term we often hear used in business and politics, I use it in reference to everyday life, where actions bear consequences upon each other. My work offers a model of multidimensional thinking. It points to non-predetermined actions through interdependency and play, all of which contribute to my current engagement with the idea of negotiation. 

You conceived Stakeholders as ‘a space to reflect on how we can come to terms with the unforeseen actions that define our relationships with one another.’ Can you explain how you envision Negotiated Differences and Playcourt becoming these spaces?

The installations are foregrounding the philosophical understanding of how differences come together as a dynamic event, which is non-predetermined.

You’re known for working primarily with plastics and investigating the concept of ‘plasticity’. Why did you choose to add wooden forms / elements in Negotiated Differences?

I choose materials for semiotic, philosophical and cultural reasons. I’ve moved away from using plastic as a material and into the idea of plasticity as heterogeneity. Most recently I’ve been using a variety of different wood species that are turned and hand-carved. Wood and metal are combined with plastic to produce the filament used for the 3D-printed elements. I’m using new methods to make the work, combining new and old technologies, as well as natural and synthetic materials.

Negotiated Differences incorporates common objects like bowling pins and handrails with more abstract objects. What does this combination of recognisable and abstract objects signify?

Combining recognisable and abstract objects is an example of how differences enter into negotiation with each other.

Artists are living and working across boundaries of nationality... I’ve made myself comfortable being where I am, and I don’t feel the need to fit into any category.

In another interview, the exhibition’s guest curator Christina Li was quoted as saying, ‘I want us to think about Hong Kong art without being restricted to where the artists physically live.’ Being the first overseas artist to represent Hong Kong in Venice, what are your thoughts on this position?

Artists are living and working across boundaries of nationality. When I’m in America, I’m not considered an American artist. But outside America, I’m sometimes described as an American artist, sometimes a Los Angeles artist and sometimes a Hong Kong artist. I’ve always inhabited the interstitial and the liminal. Hong Kong, my birth place, is not quite British nor Chinese. I’ve made myself comfortable being where I am, and I don’t feel the need to fit into any category.

How has your upbringing in Hong Kong influenced your practice?

I grew up during the former colonial era, where independent thinking was not encouraged. It was not until I studied overseas that I realised that art is the best way to combat social conditioning and cultural confinement.

Significantly, you’re also the first female artist to represent Hong Kong at the Biennale — and someone whose work prominently deals with sculpture and space. Did these two factors play any role in your conception of Stakeholders

I wouldn’t say that being a woman has had a bearing on my work. I’m thankful for my education, which instilled a strong belief in human rights. I’m happy to be in this extraordinary historical moment where people are taking action on gender inequality. And as a sculptor, the Venice venue gives me the opportunity to explore different installation strategies.

As told to / Simone Schultz

Playcourt , installation view of  Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice , 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Playcourt, installation view of Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Bamboo Extension , 2016, glass, bamboo, and plastic, 228.6 x 43.2 x 17.8 cm. Installation view of  Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice , 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Bamboo Extension, 2016, glass, bamboo, and plastic, 228.6 x 43.2 x 17.8 cm. Installation view of Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Negotiated Differences  (detail), carved wood and 3D-printed forms in wood, metal, and plastic, dimensions variable .  Installation view of  Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice , 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Negotiated Differences (detail), carved wood and 3D-printed forms in wood, metal, and plastic, dimensions variable. Installation view of Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Negotiated Differences  (detail), carved wood and 3D-printed forms in wood, metal, and plastic, dimensions variable .  Installation view of  Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice , 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Negotiated Differences (detail), carved wood and 3D-printed forms in wood, metal, and plastic, dimensions variable. Installation view of Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, 2019. Image by Ela Bialkowska, OKNOstudio. Courtesy of M+ and the artist

Taiwan in Venice: Net Art Pioneer Shu Lea Cheang

The boundary-breaking artist speaks with us about how her installation at the Venice Biennale inverts modern technology to subvert, intervene and mobilise

Shu Lea Cheang with curator Paul B Preciado. Image ©TFAM

Shu Lea Cheang with curator Paul B Preciado. Image ©TFAM

Design Anthology: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed in the digital world and online space since you created the pioneering work Brandon in 1998?

Shu Lea Cheang: I consider the online space to be a contested minefield claimed by all shareholders with their own interests at stake. In the 90s, I took up the notion of seeking Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zone, and made a detour on the superhighway to homestead cyberspace. I declared the early-2000 the era of the post-net crash; in my current cycle of work, I’ve invented ‘BioNet’, which is set inside an occupied human body, to conspire an insurgency. 

Can you tell us more about the research process behind 3x3x6? How did you investigate the prison structure, and how did you find the personal cases that would become the subject matter of the work?

The Taiwan Pavilion is located in an old Venetian prison: the Palazzo delle Prigioni, where the legendary libertine writer Giacomo Casanova was imprisoned in 1755. We used that context as a starting point and we set out to research subjects who were and are incarcerated for to their gender or sexual dissent. Casanova, Marquis de Sade and Michel Foucault were first included as historical case studies. As for the other seven cases, we sought to have more global and contemporary representation, including cases from China, Taiwan, Germany, France, Zimbabwe, the USA, Israel and Mexico. Throughout the research process, we have consulted legal and scholarly advisors and followed newsfeeds. 

In your concept you state that ‘monitors and cell phone screens are the present-day cells that confine us.’ Can you explain more, and how does this relate to the exhibition’s physical context of a prison and the digital media (like 3D surveillance technology and ‘selfies’ used to create the work)? 

The high-tech surveillance technology applied in today’s highly controlled society converts Bentham’s 18th century institutional panopticon into an omnipresent data panopticon. Networked cellphones and monitors are the modes of data transmission that bind us. In this context, I’ve used an app, social media and 3D surveillance cameras as part of my intervention.

At the Prigioni exhibition site, ten monitors will each show a short film about one of the ten cases of imprisonment — each monitor provides the frameworks for an incarcerated person and their case.

What is the relationship between the installation, film and app and that make up the exhibition? 

My proposal was to create four gallery spaces in the Palazzo delle Prigioni with interconnected narratives, taking the public into the matrix of the prison-industrial complex and trans punk fictions.

In Gallery A, a tower structure embedded with ten projectors beams a mixture of morphing images, which have been collected from 3D surveillance cameras set on the staircase coming up to the gallery, along with modified selfie dance videos uploaded by users via the app, as well as portraits of the personas representing the ten case studies.

In Galleries B and C, the ten films are played on a loop, with their audio accessible via mobile phones and wired headsets. A cube structure in Gallery D will eventually expose the hardware and software behind exhibition’s control mechanism.  

3x3x6 deals with themes of sex, gender, race, imprisonment and surveillance — how do you think these themes and the work will be received in the European context? Do you think it’s significant that an Asian country like Taiwan is presenting this conversation on the world stage?

In the European context, we drew references from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and The history of Sexuality, and the exhibition curator Paul B. Preciado’s own Testo Junkie and Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy's Architecture and Biopolitics.

The themes of sex, gender, race, imprisonment and surveillance are of global relevance. In Asia, Taiwan is one of the leading countries with regards to tolerance and celebration of the LGBTQ community. I give credit to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum for taking up such challenging subject matter by presenting 3x3x6.

As told to / Simone Schultz

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In Conversation with Sri Lankan Artist Pala Pothupitiye

We speak with Pothupitiye about his practice and traditions, the democratisation of art and the invisible boundaries he works to blur

Pala Pothupitiye,  The Other Trade , 2016. Acrylic and acrylic ink on archival print on archival canvas, 81 x 245cm

Pala Pothupitiye, The Other Trade, 2016. Acrylic and acrylic ink on archival print on archival canvas, 81 x 245cm

Pala Pothupitiye merges traditional craft and contemporary art to question themes as broad as identity, politics and religion. We had the chance to sit down with him only days before he travelled to Barcelona for an upcoming group exhibition at the city’s Museum of Contemporary art.

Jennifer Henricus: Your past work explores the issues of colonialism, nationalism and religious extremism. What are the issues that inform your current work?

Pala Pothupitiye: Right now, I’m exploring the uncertainty of being. The recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka created a lot of uncertainty and fear of death that was heightened by rumours and fake news. In my experience, most incidents of conflict and violence are linked to issues of identity, boundary and the protection of those two things. When these boundaries are crossed, identities are disturbed and that’s how conflict starts. The whole world now faces the fear of death and uncertainty.

How do you express this uncertainty and fear in your recent work?

I come from a family of ritual artistes who create elaborate masks and costumes and perform healing rituals. In this tradition, there are 18 healing masks and one of them, called Maru Sanniya, is the ritual mask worn in the performance for healing the fear of death. In a recent work, I carved this mask in concave relief into the pages of an open wooden book and on the facing page I etched a world map highlighting places of war and fear of death. The work questions the potential for healing in these conflicted zones.

What are the themes or issues that you work emphasises and opens up for debate?

One of the main themes is colonisation and the subtle, intangible ways that institutions – particularly in my experience – perform cultural colonisation by creating boundaries between art and craft, classifying them as high art and low art. The latter is made by traditional artists who don’t have formal academic training but possess knowledge and experience passed on from generation to generation, while high art is created by people who have been academically trained and are part of the art institutions. Art is viewed as an intellectual trade and academics are its soldiers guarding the boundaries.

In my work I try to blur these boundaries.

Before colonisation, the local artists – metal workers, painters, sculptors and jewellers – were supported by the king and they were at the centre of society. With colonisation, the British established their own art institutions, displacing the local artists who moved to the countryside and became classified as makers of low art.

In the early 1990s, curators began coming to our part of the world with the intention of promoting local art and craft, but in the process they drew boundaries by critiquing the work from a high art view point. I saw my father’s work and my traditions being marginalised.

My view is that we should look at all forms of art as human creations without these boundaries. Using my father’s costume work as a starting point, I created a series called My Ancestral Dress, in which I questioned my identity and my traditions. What is described as low art is inherent to me, and I integrate my personal experience, training and expertise in this ‘low art’ into my work.

To turn the debate on its head, I recreated my traditional ritual costumes (usually made of elaborate bead embroidery) with recovered urban junk – clearly non-art material that has multiple meanings – to reference trade, the current situation within Sri Lanka, and global issues of climate change and sustainability.

No one noticed my work because it was made from junk material and it held no value. It was only after the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum bought my work in 2005 that some interest was sparked.

What are the challenges of working as an artist in Sri Lanka and South Asia?  

The main challenge is language. Art functions in English. And while I agree that English is a global language and we must learn it, what upsets me is that language is used to control art and artists, and it’s used as a tool to marginalise: I experienced this when I came from my village to Colombo, and I had to learn to navigate it in order to overcome it.

A current challenge is knowledge production and my ability to educate myself because it’s a ‘cultural backwater’ here, so I use different media and discussion groups to stay educated.

What motivated you to open the Mullegama Arts Centre (MAC) in Homagama, Colombo?

There was a time when I’d return from overseas visits to museums and galleries, where for fleeting moments I deluded myself into feeling that I’m a superstar, but I felt such emptiness. I questioned myself: should I work for myself and for my glorification? Many people helped me on my journey, and I felt that I needed to find some way to work with the community. Now I work with young and old people from the community and with university students who are invited to stay at MAC. In the education system, there is no focus on art. I want to impart an understanding of art, and I want to nurture an art audience.

I have discovered that bringing a creative process into the community is a way to resolve contentious feelings. I see art as a way to connect people, break boundaries and heal society.

Pothupitiye is among 17 artists participating in an exhibition titled Undefined Territories. Perspective on Colonial Legacies at Barcelona’s Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona opening on May 17th.

Text / Jennifer Henricus
Images / Courtesy of Pala Pothupitiye

Image by Lalith Manage

Image by Lalith Manage

Pala Pothupitiye,  Galle Fort , 2016. Acrylic and ink on archival print on archival canvas, 56 x 76cm

Pala Pothupitiye, Galle Fort, 2016. Acrylic and ink on archival print on archival canvas, 56 x 76cm

Pala Pothupitiye,  Colombo Fort . Acrylic and ink on archival print on archival canvas, 56 x 76cm

Pala Pothupitiye, Colombo Fort. Acrylic and ink on archival print on archival canvas, 56 x 76cm

Pala Pothupitiye,  Ptolemy’s Map of Sri Lanka , 2016.  Acrylic and ink on archival print on archival canvas, 56 x 76cm

Pala Pothupitiye, Ptolemy’s Map of Sri Lanka, 2016. Acrylic and ink on archival print on archival canvas, 56 x 76cm

Pala Pothupitiye,  Legends , 2015-2016. Acrylic and acrylic ink on archival print on archival canvas, 50 x 100cm

Pala Pothupitiye, Legends, 2015-2016. Acrylic and acrylic ink on archival print on archival canvas, 50 x 100cm

Pala Pothupitiye,  Chavakachcheri Map , 2015. Government printed map, ink, pencil, Japanese rice paper, 65 x 90cm

Pala Pothupitiye, Chavakachcheri Map, 2015. Government printed map, ink, pencil, Japanese rice paper, 65 x 90cm

Pala Pothupitiye,  This Is Not A Hero's Dress , 2017. Galvanized tar barrel sheets, printed maps, mixed media. 99 x 66 x 28cm

Pala Pothupitiye, This Is Not A Hero's Dress, 2017. Galvanized tar barrel sheets, printed maps, mixed media. 99 x 66 x 28cm

Pala in his studio.

Pala in his studio.

Primary school students attend an art workshop at Mullegama Art Centre.

Primary school students attend an art workshop at Mullegama Art Centre.

The Setouchi Triennale opens today in the Seto Inland Sea

We offer an overview of Setouchi Triennale’s fourth edition and speak with artist Yasuaki Igarashi whose work resonates with the festival’s theme, Restoration of the Sea

Image by Osamu Nakamura, courtesy of Setouchi Triennale Executive Committee

Image by Osamu Nakamura, courtesy of Setouchi Triennale Executive Committee

Sandy beaches, wooden houses, wild forests, abandoned schools, rice fields: these are the scenic locations in which countless creative projects can be found as part of this year’s Setouchi Triennale, which opens today (April 26). The three-yearly Japanese art festival, which launched in 2010, spans a picturesque expanse of 12 small fishing islands and two ports in the Seto Inland Sea (also known as Setouchi).

Once famed for its thriving trade routes and industry, the region has become increasingly isolated in recent decades due to depopulation and economic decline — a common scene across much of rural Japan.

The goal of the festival? To revitalise the region through the power of contemporary art and architecture — with impressive results. In addition to the ever-growing permanent collection of artworks, museums and installations on Naoshima and neighbouring islands, the festival significantly bolsters the region’s art credentials.

This year — the biggest to date — there are a total of 213 artworks (90 of which are completely new), created by 225 artists from 32 regions around the world. Highlights — among many — include Leandro Earlich’s washing machine installations in a new art hub called Little Island Shops on Megijima; Sarah Westphal’s octopus installation titled The Sea Within - The See Within on Ogijima; and Beatriz Milhazes’ Yellow Flower Dream on Inujima.

And fruits of the project — painstakingly masterminded by its general director Fram Kitagawa of Art Front Gallery — can already be seen: depopulation appears to be slowing as young families set up homes, shops and businesses across the region (and on one island, a school has even reopened after it shut down due to a dwindling student body).

Japanese artist Yasuaki Igarashi is among this year’s exhibitors, with his project Sora-Ami: Knitting the Sky, an ambitious, evolving work that involves the creation of a vast, rainbow-bright fishing net, woven by residents and fishermen on 12 islands.

The artist, who first created Sora-Ami for the festival in 2013, is inspired by the concept ‘viewpoints of the ocean’ (a perspective he honed while navigating the 4,000-kilometre journey from Japan to Micronesia by yacht). Here, he shares insights into his new artwork and how contemporary art can bring communities together.


Danielle Demetriou: What is the concept behind Sora-Ami?

Yasuaki Igarashi: Sora-Ami is about connecting people and continuing the memories of the islands by weaving a fishing net together. This project will involve holding weaving workshops with fishermen and locals on 12 islands. After the process, people may see the landscape differently through the mesh of the completed net. The colourful fishing net will look different depending on weather and tide — and when finished (measuring 6.5 metres high and 120 metres long), it will become a symbolic icon of connection through the sea.

Why fishing nets?

Fishing nets have been a common tool since prehistory and weaving is one of mankind’s oldest techniques. When you actually weave a fishing net on the beach like our ancestors have always done, you feel closely connected to the wind, the birdsong, the sound of the waves. It’s like awakening your memory from deep inside of being a maritime people, which is a new feeling but somehow intimate at the same time. Above all, the action of weaving a fishing net has the power to bring people together. Weaving fishing net is a symbolic behaviour that connects the communities.

How have locals reacted to the project?

It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Some fishermen asked why they should weave for the artwork when they need to repair their own fishing nets. But after joining in several times, they have become interested in how other islands are doing, how fast they are going or how beautiful the weaving is. It has become like an exciting process preparing for a local festival. At a final ceremony in autumn, we will link each fishing net from each of the five islands and the residents can all celebrate together.

What have you enjoyed most?

It’s been a deep cultural experience witnessing friendships between local people, hearing old stories of island life, learning about folklore and old customs — this was the most enjoyable part of this project. It’s the same as being trusted, and gaining trust was the most difficult part.

How would you describe the region?

An archipelago in an inland sea is very rare. There is a long history and culture of people living with the complex tidal currents around scattered islands. Through the Sora-Ami project, I encountered different characters, dialects, words and atmospheres on each island.

What impact do these art projects have on the region?

These art projects have the power to connect people, to one another and also to the land. It provides a chance to rediscover the relationship between people and nature, and make a new connection in a forgotten local society. I hope my project also offers the opportunity for local communities to look into the universal ‘humanness’ of us all living together on this planet, connecting us all to each other and to nature.

Text / Danielle Demetriou
Images / Courtesy of Yasuaki Igarashi and the Setouchi Triennale Executive Committee


The Setouchi Triennale runs in three sessions this year: Spring (26 April-26 May), Summer (19 July-25 August) and Autumn (28 September-4 November).

Yasuaki Igarashi,  Sora-Ami:Knitting the Sky , Setouchi Triennale 2016. Image by Yasuaki Igarashi

Yasuaki Igarashi, Sora-Ami:Knitting the Sky, Setouchi Triennale 2016. Image by Yasuaki Igarashi

Knitting workshop on the island. Image by Yasuaki Igarashi

Knitting workshop on the island. Image by Yasuaki Igarashi

Yasuaki Igarashi,  Sora-Ami:Knitting the Sky , Setouchi Triennale 2016. Image by Yasuaki Igarashi

Yasuaki Igarashi, Sora-Ami:Knitting the Sky, Setouchi Triennale 2016. Image by Yasuaki Igarashi

Portrait of Yasuaki Igarashi

Portrait of Yasuaki Igarashi

Yayoi Kusama,  Red Pumpkin , 2006 Naoshima Miyanoura Port Square. Image by Daisuke Aochi

Yayoi Kusama, Red Pumpkin, 2006 Naoshima Miyanoura Port Square. Image by Daisuke Aochi

Beauty in Imperfection

Melbourne-based Taiwanese contemporary artist Zhu Ohmu explores the concept of slowness and the handmade in an era of instant gratification and mass production

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Taipei-born Zhu Ohmu (born in 1989) graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2011, in Auckland, New Zealand, before moving to Australia, where she currently lives and works. Despite having no formal training in ceramics, it has become her primary means of expression and investigation.

One of Ohmu’s major projects is Plantsukuroi, a series of sculptural vessels with fascinating fluid forms. Inspired by the concept of biomimicry, the artist used her hands to imitate the process of 3D printing, unveiling unique creations as a result. ‘My hands are able to build forms that the present-day ceramics 3D printer can’t. This is because humans are capable of the patience, care and inquisitiveness necessary for an intimate relationship with clay,’ she explains.

This approach embraces the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, in which accepting imperfection is a basic principle. ‘It’s a worldview where the considerations of beauty contrast with the Western ideals of grandness and flawlessness, and contrast to the current throw-away culture where disposables are favoured over durable goods that can be repaired,’ Ohmu explains. ‘I think wabi-sabi can teach us to tread lightly on this earth, and challenge us to step out of consumerist thinking.’

Inspired by nature, the internet and ideas from the past, the artist — who also works in photography and paper- and web-based mediums — is particularly interested in ‘what it means to live in the Anthropocene, the current geological age where human activity has been the dominant influence on the Earth’s ecosystems.’ Conscious of the big challenges of our time, and especially the ecological ones, Ohmu creates to impact others. Even if the objects she makes are indisputably mesmerising, the purpose of Ohmu’s work goes far beyond the grace of its aesthetics. It is art that questions, and its creator hopes to spread awareness about the future of society and humanity.

Text / Karine Monié
Images / Courtesy of Zhu Ohmu

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Coming Out of the Canvas: A Conversation with Setsuko Klossowska de Rola

Today Gagosian Paris opens its first exhibition of the Japanese-French artist’s ceramic sculptures and paintings. Earlier this week, Klossowska de Rola spoke with us about her influences, the exhibition and her collaboration with Astier de Villatte

Setsuko Klossowska de Rola in her bronze studio. Image courtesy of the artist

Setsuko Klossowska de Rola in her bronze studio. Image courtesy of the artist

‘I travelled the world in the nude but lived an alienated life very far from the real world,’ says Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, who for many years was only known as the semi-naked figure in her late husband Balthus's painting The Turkish Room.

Today, Setsuko keeps busy by making up for lost adventures. She lives between Rossinière and Paris, where her ceramic studio is located inside Astier de Villatte’s factory. She is the designer behind the ceramic brand's iconic black terracotta cat incense burner, and was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2005.

Just days before the opening of ‘Into the Trees’, her first exhibition at Gagosian Paris, Klossowska de Rola talked to us about her Gagosian debut and Shintoism, among other things.

Jae Lee: You left Japan to join Balthus at Villa Medici, where he was the director and was working on its restoration. How did that influence you as an artist?

Setsuko Klossowska de Rola: One thing that really struck me was watching Balthus replace the marbled floors with handmade terracotta tiles. When I first arrived at Villa Medici, the atmosphere was heavy with 19th century-style decorations. We removed all the gold leaf applications because originally, it was a remote, cosy residence where those touches would have been out of place. In Japan, I didn’t study art. I read European literature and studied French, but when I arrived in Europe, I realised that art and beauty are universal, and that Japanese ideals like wabi-sabi existed in Europe.

When did you start making tree sculptures?

I started making them about four years ago, but I’ve always found my inspirations from nature. Have you seen the sacred old trees around Shinto shrines in Japan? From the Native Americans to the people of Ancient Mesopotamia, there has always been an adoration for nature, but modern society has forgotten a lot of that sentimentality.

Your ceramics are produced with Astier de Villatte, can you tell us more about this process?

The collaboration with Astier de Villatte began five years ago, but my friendship with the owners, especially Benoit, goes back a long time. His father was a resident of Villa Medici resident when I was the headmistress.

I work with their Tibetan artisans. I make samples first and then we work together to add the volume, especially on the large trees, which are about a metre tall. The artisans are always singing or chanting; I feel very serene when I’m with them.

What can we expect to see at the exhibition?

There will be glazed and natural terracotta tree sculptures; some of them function as an incense holder or a flower vase, so the plan is to have smoke flowing out of them at the opening. Aside from ceramics, there will be still-life paintings, which I’ve been making since the 80s in the Grand Chalet, as well as bronze trees.

What else are you currently working on?

I started working with bronze last year, so it’s still a very exciting medium for me. Later this year, I may visit Asia for a fashion project. After Balthus’s death, I wanted to come out of the canvas and leave the sheltered life behind. It took a long time for me to be young again, and I am open to everything now.

Text / Jae Lee
Artwork images / © Setsuko Klossowska de Rola. Photographs by Zarko Vijatovic, courtesy of Gagosian

Chemin de vigne , 2016-2017. Enameled Terracotta, 63 x 50 x 40 cm

Chemin de vigne, 2016-2017. Enameled Terracotta, 63 x 50 x 40 cm

Retour , 2015-2016. Terracotta, 100 x 74 x 46 cm

Retour, 2015-2016. Terracotta, 100 x 74 x 46 cm

Sentier de lierre , 2017-2018. Enameled Terracotta. 38 x 13 x 11 cm

Sentier de lierre, 2017-2018. Enameled Terracotta. 38 x 13 x 11 cm

Sentier de vigne , 2016-2017. Terracotta. 91 x 40 x 40 cm

Sentier de vigne, 2016-2017. Terracotta. 91 x 40 x 40 cm

Souvenir d'une vie 2,  2015-2016. Enameled Terracotta, 70 x 40 x 40 cm

Souvenir d'une vie 2, 2015-2016. Enameled Terracotta, 70 x 40 x 40 cm

ArtJae LeeParis, France
Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art reopens with a new look

Just last Friday, following a three-year hiatus, MOT reopened, sporting a minimalist update by Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects

Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Image by Kenta Hasegawa

With its triangular walkways of metal and glass, vast geometric motifs and airy double-height galleries, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) has long been famed as one of Japan’s largest and most important museums devoted to contemporary art.

Now, the museum is back, having reopened its doors to the public last week following a three-year closure for renovations. The museum, which first opened in 1995 on the fringes of Kiba Park in the eastern Kiyosumi-Shirakawa neighbourhood, is housed in one of Tokyo’s most distinct spaces.

The original light-filled structure of glass, steel and concrete was designed by Takahiko Yanagisawa + TAK Architects Inc. and today houses about 7,000 square meters of exhibition space and a collection of approximately 5,400 mainly post-war contemporary artworks.

The recent renovation focused on upgrading air conditioning and equipment, as well as interior floors, walls and ceilings; a new energy efficient lighting system was also installed.

Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects – also behind HAY Japan’s flagship store and a string of Blue Bottle cafes – designed new interior furniture for the museum. Perhaps the most eye-catching are the dozens of large, round minimalist seats made from cork – a ‘warm and soft’ material that balances the strong architectural structure – scattered in the bright lobby and on terraces. New signage – light, modern and monochrome – was also created by Yoshiaki Irobe of the Irobe Design Institute.

Nagasaka also designed the furniture for a new cafe and lounge called Sandwich Upstairs – managed by Smiles – a serene white and light wood-filled circular space, serving up green tea lattes, coffees and, of course, sandwiches (NADiff contemporary, a museum shop packed with art books and design accessories, is just underneath). A second family-friendly restaurant called 100 Spoons has also opened in the basement.

Meanwhile, the Art Library, home to around 270,000 books and reference materials, was refurbished with a sleek expanse of dark wood tables, a Multi-media Booth for viewing videos, and a new Art Library for Children.

The reopening kicked off with a dizzying plundering of the museum’s permanent collection, in the form of a special exhibition titled Weavers of Worlds: A Century of Flux in Japanese Modern / Contemporary Art, a tour de force of Japan’s art scene over the past century. Elsewhere in the gallery, new additions to the collection were showcased in a separate show called MOT Collection: Pleased to meet you. New Acquisitions in recent years.

Other upcoming event highlights on its newly announced exhibition schedule include shows devoted to artist Olafur Eliasson and minä perhonen, Akira Minagawa’s fashion and textile brand.

Text / Danielle Demetriou
Images / Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo & Sandwich Upstairs

Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Richard Deacon, Like A Snail B, 1987-96. Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Richard Deacon, Like A Snail B, 1987-96. Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Art Library for Children. Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Art Library for Children. Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Akio Suzuki, An Encouragement of Dawdling; “Otodate and “no zo mi”, 2018-2019. Image by Kenta Hasegawa

Akio Suzuki, An Encouragement of Dawdling; “Otodate and “no zo mi”, 2018-2019. Image by Kenta Hasegawa

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Art Central in Pictures

Here’s just some of what we saw at the opening of Hong Kong’s hippest art event

Today marked the opening of the fifth edition of Art Central in Hong Kong, where established galleries are exhibiting alongside emerging artists and galleries from Asia and beyond. The five-day programme includes installations, film and performance pieces, and panel discussions alongside an intriguing lineup of galleries and exhibitions.

The exhibition itself comprises a CENTRAL sector of galleries, CONTEXT sector of solo or duo artist projects, onsite performances curated by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, and PROJECTS, six large-scale installations located at various sites around the fair.

Art Central runs from 27-31 March 2019 at the Central Harbourfront, Hong Kong.

Images / Jeremy Smart

Wave. Particle. Duplex

Studio Swine explores the invisible elements that shape our environment

ADO-SWINE-Wave-Particle-Duplex-1.jpg

Studio Swine’s site-specific installation, which opened to the public at A/D/O in Brooklyn in mid-January, begins with a series of electrifying light sculptures. Entitled Dawn Particles, the hand-blown glass tubes are mounted on red walls and fluctuate between a single, static beam of light and a turbulent swirling of filaments that burst and flicker like flashes of lightning.

Natural elements have always figured heavily in the studio’s creations, and the new works are no different. Artist Alexander Groves and architect Azusa Murakami, founders of Studio Swine (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers), spent a large part of their six-month residency at Brooklyn’s A/D/O design hub experimenting with plasma.

‘We are making work with what is essentially star matter,’ Groves says. Plasma is the fourth state of matter, he explains, and it makes up the majority of the visible universe. ‘When you look at the sky, it’s essentially plasma. There’s something really amazing about that.’

The pair experimented with various gas combinations and power supplies, collaborating with local studio Urban Glass to create vessels that use magnetised plasma to capture bursts of light similar to those observed in the sun, stars, and comets.

The gleaming light sculptures are followed by the more serene Fog Paintings, a series of backlit vitrines containing swirling fog. These pieces are inspired by the transcendentalist landscape paintings of Turner and Thomas Cole, and are evocative of light passing through the atmosphere. In this sense, both works explore the energy of the invisible world.

Groves and Murakami first arrived in the city during an oppressively hot summer and recall being amazed by the dramatic skies and sunsets. Wave.Particle.Duplex was conceived in part as a response to the shifting light and weather patterns.

‘Because New York is coastal you get these amazing squalls coming in,’ explains Groves. ‘And you have changing light on the river and the steam systems that come up the street. The contrast to the urban environment is quite exciting, and we wanted to capture the convergence between the man-made and the natural.’ 

In the past, Murakami says, the studio’s work tended to be a more literal translation of inspiration. This project, she says, is less linear and more instinctive, with a focus on ‘creating atmosphere’.

Still, the way technology gives expression to natural systems recalls elements of the studio’s past works, particularly the wildly popular New Spring sculpture for COS, in which a tree-like structure emitted pale bubbles that dissolved into white mist as they burst.

‘We really love tangible materials and the expressive quality they have,’ says Groves. ‘In this case we’re using these ephemeral materials like fog, light and plasma, which act as an interface for the technology.’

The partners call this ‘ephemeral tech’.Their interest lies not in the lure of digital screens or projections, they say, but in using technology as a tool for exploring the edge between natural and artificial, a border that is increasingly difficult to locate.

Text / Sophie Kalkreuth
Images / Courtesy of Studio Swine and A/D/O 

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Wandering Sentimentalist

Korean photographer Kim Woo Young talks about his path to becoming an artist and why he chooses an analogue approach

Kelbaker Road , 121cm x 156cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017  Kim wrapped this dilapidated house in orange tinted wrapping to give a sense of hope to the abandoned structure.

Kelbaker Road, 121cm x 156cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017

Kim wrapped this dilapidated house in orange tinted wrapping to give a sense of hope to the abandoned structure.

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Kim Woo Young is a South Korean artist who is based out of Seoul and Los Angeles. His photography art has been widely exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Japan and Korea, and is also included in collections at several major art museums in Seoul. Here, he speaks with Irene Lam about his background and the inspiration and intentions that inform his artistic practice.

Irene Lam: Can you share a specific memory or talk about what it was like growing up in Korea in the 60s/70s?

Kim Woo Young: I was born and raised in Busan, a port city located in South Korea, in the 1960s. At that time, Busan wasn’t such an easy city to live in as it was undergoing a lot of political, social and economic changes, but my memories of growing up there as a young boy mostly revolve around nature — from the smell of the sea to the ambient sights and sounds of the countryside. That all changed when I had to move to Seoul for middle and high school. Seoul was so different, and was undergoing serious industrialisation and political upheaval. Personally, there was a sense of displacement for me as I was trying to figure out how my future would unfold. I remember spending many days and nights wandering along the Han River Bridge feeling sentimental, realising that I needed to find an outlet to express myself creatively and artistically. Before entering university, I was drawn to artists, musicians and photographers and was deeply influenced by their stories and experiences. 

Bagley Avenue , 122cm x 122cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017  In the eyes of the artist, the exterior of this empty building in an isolated town represents how industrialisation can suddenly make things obsolete, with humans as the culprits of this kind of decimation.

Bagley Avenue, 122cm x 122cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017

In the eyes of the artist, the exterior of this empty building in an isolated town represents how industrialisation can suddenly make things obsolete, with humans as the culprits of this kind of decimation.

What drew you into the field of fine art photography?

I first studied Urban Design and Industrial Design at Hongik University in Seoul from 1979 to 1986.  My inner circle of friends were all artists at that time so I was quite immersed within the arts scene and tried to learn as much as I could about experimental movies, music and art. However, I still felt a need to find the right channel for myself. Being an urban design student, I would take a lot of photos of buildings and streets for environmental projects, and that had a big influence on my interest in photography. Another reason is that with photography, you don’t need to rely on others to create your images.  So, that’s the reason why after my studies in Seoul I decided to move to New York to study photography at the School of Visual Arts.  And from then, I began my journey in discovering the profound elements of photography as an artistic medium.

E. 6th Street , 170cm x 140cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017  This image is perhaps the most representative of Kim Woo Young’s works. The colour covering the wall surface and lines connecting the street are the focus of an unexpected aesthetic consequence that empowers his photographs.

E. 6th Street, 170cm x 140cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017

This image is perhaps the most representative of Kim Woo Young’s works. The colour covering the wall surface and lines connecting the street are the focus of an unexpected aesthetic consequence that empowers his photographs.

Can you share some thoughts about your work?

I’d like to think of my works as not so much an experiment attaching a concrete message but rather an attempt to show the possibilities for a new interpretation of a city or nature scene by providing a direct visual experience. The camera simply acts as a tool to capture a place of meaning. I always like to shoot my subjects in natural light, and preferably in the early morning hours so that there are no deliberate shadows. In fact, I find more depth in an ‘analogue perspective’. In today’s digital age, some might say that I am missing the point, but I feel that in a world so crowded by digital, we sometimes need a break from it all. My images always try to stay unaffected.

You have dedicated and committed most of your life to photography, encompassing all its communicable aspects from commercial, documentary and aesthetic. How do you see the next stage of career unfolding? 

After having established myself as a photographer in Korea and the US, I will continue to develop myself and hope that my works can be accessible to viewers in more countries around the world. I have been travelling to Tibet since 2010 and my next project is to share those images in a published book. I want to bring more of a global perspective to my work. I will always have a bit of sentimentalism in me but now I know where I should be and where my next steps will take me.

As told to / Irene Lam
Images / Courtesy of Kim Woo Young

Olvera Street , 125cm x 188cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017  One major characteristic in Kim’s photographs is the colourful radiance and flow of lines on the surface of buildings and street walls.

Olvera Street, 125cm x 188cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017

One major characteristic in Kim’s photographs is the colourful radiance and flow of lines on the surface of buildings and street walls.

CGWC image , 125cm x 188cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017  Rather than intervening or excessively manipulating photographs, Kim focuses on capturing the unique characteristics of buildings in their original environment.

CGWC image, 125cm x 188cm, Archival Pigment Print, 2017

Rather than intervening or excessively manipulating photographs, Kim focuses on capturing the unique characteristics of buildings in their original environment.

The Imaginarium of Luis Chan

Iconic Hong Kong artist Luis Chan’s fantastic beasts and how he found them

Untitled (Goldenhaired Girl with Bird and Beasts)  Luis Chan 1964-1971 Acrylic on paper 45 × 59 cm Unique Generously donated by Red Rock Studio

Untitled (Goldenhaired Girl with Bird and Beasts)
Luis Chan
1964-1971
Acrylic on paper
45 × 59 cm
Unique
Generously donated by Red Rock Studio

Resembling illustrations from a half-remembered but much-loved book of fairy tales, the paintings that cemented Luis Chan’s place as a legend of Hong Kong contemporary art arose from a technique he developed to harness his subconscious mind. Strange creatures and kaleidoscopic characters blossom from arbitrary smears of ink, floating serenely on paper and blending into each other like mirages — their dreamlike quality a reflection of Chan’s rich inner world.

 Chan’s fascination with the everyday threaded his artistic career, which began in the 1920s and continued until his death in 1995. Born in 1905 in Panama, Chan moved with his family to Hong Kong five years later. He spent the rest of his life in the city, watching it change and devoting his life to making art that reflected those transformations.

 Chan began as a realist painter in the English style, capturing day-to-day scenes around Hong Kong with such verve and skill that he became known as the ‘King of Watercolour’ and was considered one of the ‘Three Masters’ of Hong Kong painting alongside Li Bing and Yu Ben. Collectors of his early works included Sir Andrew Caldecott, then-governor of Hong Kong, but Chan remained modest and unpretentious, focused only on his passion for art. He was known for his all-consuming desire to learn as much as he could about art, subscribing to art magazines and surrounding himself with a community of artists from diverse backgrounds. Not only was he a member of Hong Kong’s prestigious non-Chinese art society, the Hong Kong Art Club — eventually becoming chairman — he also founded the Chinese Contemporary Artists’ Guild in the hopes that Chinese artists would find their place in the contemporary art world.

 It was this open-minded approach to art and thirst for self-improvement that made him unique among his peers during the experimental art period of the 1960s. Despite being in his 50s, Chan was able to make the transition from realist painting to a diverse range of genres including abstract art similar to action painting and Matisse-inspired collages, before honing the magical realism that would become his signature.

 Though the style of his paintings shifted dramatically, Chan continued to take inspiration from daily life. The fish swimming in restaurant aquariums, the birds callings out from their cages shops — everything he observed on his daily walks made appearances in his paintings, transformed into otherworldly creatures. Consider the luminous fairy-tale subjects in Untitled (Golden-haired Girl with Bird and Beasts), with their hazy, surreal qualities. A lovely and rare example of Chan’s early fantastical work, the painting fills the viewer with the kind of childlike anticipation that might accompany a bedtime story. Is the golden-haired girl a captive or an adventurer? Are we at the beginning, the middle or the end of the story? Chan’s genius lay in his ability to inspire a multitude of narratives through a psychedelic language that could be understood by everyone.

 In 1984, Chan was quoted as saying ‘Above all else, art has to stimulate the imagination.’ Although his paintings have their origins as random marks on paper, his dreams emerged to inspire our own.

Text / Maloy Luakian

Asia Art Archive

Founded in 2000, Asia Art Archive has grown from a handful of catalogues in an unassuming office into one of the region’s most critical art institutions

Asia Art Archive Library  Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

Asia Art Archive Library
Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

‘It’s so much more than a library,’ says Alexandra Seno, Head of Development at Asia Art Archive (AAA), a Hong Kong-based non-profit art organisation. ‘It’s really a think tank, a place to experiment with new ideas... Books are just materials on a shelf unless you activate them’. Alongside its burgeoning collection of some 70,000 items, AAA has built a reputation for its insightful exhibitions, talks and artist residency programme.

For the latest edition of Art Basel Hong Kong for instance, AAA flew in famed feminist activist art group Guerrilla Girls to curate their booth, which questioned the status of women at the fair itself as well as in the Hong Kong art world. Donning gorilla masks, the activists also gave a series of talks in the city where they delivered a scathing critique of art institutions in Asia (including AAA) for their lack of female representation.

Bringing in individuals who deliver thought-provoking talks is just one example of AAA’s contributions to the local art scene. ‘Having the Guerilla Girls here and talking to them really made us commit. We just started a women artist art fund,’ says Seno as she explains that the archive is constantly evolving and responding to the city’s changing art ecology.

When AAA was founded almost two decades ago, Hong Kong was a cultural backwater and the contemporary art scene was only just taking off. Founder Claire Hsu, a graduate student in her twenties, realised there weren’t any resources for academics researching Asian art and decided to start AAA. Since then the landscape has transformed with the arrival of Art Basel Hong Kong, Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts and M+. ‘Our work and goals have changed throughout the years,’ she says. ‘[Now] the most important thing is to provide a platform for the writing of Hong Kong’s art history’.

Today AAA is working with The University of Hong Kong to teach a course on Hong Kong’s modern art history. ‘It’s always been a struggle because there are only really three or four reference books available,’ says Seno. ‘Because we have the resources, we co-teach the programme’. The archive is also reaching out to some 250 secondary schools to help teachers incorporate contemporary art into their lessons. Another central project is archiving the late Hong Kong sculptor and printmaker Ha Bik Chuen’s work. The prolific artist documented exhibitions in Hong Kong from the 1960s to 70s offering a window into the city’s past.

To fund their various projects AAA holds an annual auction dinner, which has become a key fixture on the city’s art calendar. As Seno explains, the event supports more than half of AAA's annual budget and will this year feature about 70 works donated by artists, galleries and private collectors. 

While the auction is a glamorous affair, Seno admits, ‘[AAA’s day to day work] is not naturally sexy.’ However, she stresses that it is extremely important. ‘AAA’s goal is to create a more generous art history that encompasses Asian art and artists. Without primary resources and solid archives, great exhibitions cannot happen, and art histories cannot be written… that’s one of our big contributions’.

Text / Payal Uttam


The auction will be live from 9 October 2018 at aaa2018auction.com

Asia Art Archive Library  Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

Asia Art Archive Library
Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

Asia Art Archive Library  Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

Asia Art Archive Library
Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

Joyce Ho,  Go Tell It , 2018, acrylic paint on book, aluminum frame. Donated by the artist and TKG+

Joyce Ho, Go Tell It, 2018, acrylic paint on book, aluminum frame. Donated by the artist and TKG+

Ho Sin Tung, Outlive the Light, 2017, colour pencil on paper mounted on wood (five panels), wood acrylic display case with key. Donated by the artist

Ho Sin Tung, Outlive the Light, 2017, colour pencil on paper mounted on wood (five panels), wood acrylic display case with key. Donated by the artist

Izumi Kato,  Untitled , 2017, lithograph on BFK rives paper, wood frame. Donated by the artist and Perrotin

Izumi Kato, Untitled, 2017, lithograph on BFK rives paper, wood frame. Donated by the artist and Perrotin

Liu Ye,  Pyramid , 2010, acrylic on paper. Donated by the artist and Esther Schipper

Liu Ye, Pyramid, 2010, acrylic on paper. Donated by the artist and Esther Schipper

Seher Shah,  Hewn (first and plan) , 2014, woodcut mono print on A4 grid paper. Donated by the artist

Seher Shah, Hewn (first and plan), 2014, woodcut mono print on A4 grid paper. Donated by the artist

Asia Art Archive Library  Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

Asia Art Archive Library
Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive

See & Do, ArtPayal UttamHong Kong
Beijing Serpentine Pavilion

The legendary Serpentine Pavilion opens its first architectural installation outside of the UK in the heart of the Chinese capital

Beijing’s Forbidden City faces an across-town architectural competitor this summer as the iconic Serpentine Pavilion, designed each year for London’s Kensington Gardens, opens in the heart of China’s capital for the first time.  

The world-class commission, won by Chengdu studio Jiakun Architects, created a sense of eager expectation as it is the first time in the pavilion’s 18-year history that the project has been built outside the UK. Earlier winners of the pavilion design in London include SANAA, Sou Fujimoto and Zaha Hadid.

So what triggered the Serpentine Galleries’ decision to extend its scope internationally and why Beijing?

‘The initiative was prompted by the keen interest of WF Central [part of developer Hongkong Land] in the Serpentine Galleries’ architecture programme and the desire to partner on this project and present it in Beijing,’ explains Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Serpentine’s artistic director.

Keen to bring its commitment to experimental architecture to a wider audience, the Serpentine Galleries felt this was ‘a great fit and great timing to bring this project to China’, according to Obrist.

The design for the temporary six-month pavilion was challenging, given it’s location adjacent to WF Central’s new luxury shopping and hotel complex as well as the Forbidden City. ‘I needed to take both the innovation of architectural language and the historical traditional elements of the scene into consideration,’ says Liu. The architect also wanted to avoid ‘so-called Chinese elements and traditional symbols’ and to adopt ‘a contemporary and revolutionary architectural language to express more inner Oriental consciousness’.

The pavilion’s stark, elegant ribs in the form of a curving cantilever are anchored by cables stretched between steel plates, suggesting a powerful force able to withstand the buffeting of elements and events through time.

Liu describes the pavilion, which is built on grass, as ‘semi-formal architecture’. In keeping with the tradition of the cultural and community activities at London’s Serpentine pavilion, the open, flexible shape will house exhibitions, installations, lectures, and a range of social and artistic activities throughout its short six-month lifespan.

The pavilion and the new retail complex are part of the regeneration of Beijing’s Wangfujing area in the Dongcheng district, known as a commercial centre since the middle of the Ming Dynasty. For the next six months at least, it will become a cultural hub, too.

For visiting information and to learn more about the pavilion, read more here.

Text / Ruth Sullivan
Images / Courtesy of Serpentine Pavilion Beijing 2018 designed by JIAKUN Architects, WF Central, Beijing (30 May – 31 October 2018) WF CENTRAL © 2018

Artist in Residence

In a leafy São Paulo suburb, the brutalist home and studio and of Japanese Brazilian artist Tomie Ohtake

Japanese-born, Brazilian artist Tomie Ohtake (1913-2015) is celebrated for her large-scale public art installations and abstract paintings, characterised by strong, monochromatic colour streams. Visitors to São Paulo today can experience Ohtake’s striking works on display through her many public sculptures scattered throughout the city, at The Tomie Ohtake Institute and, in the near future, the artist’s own home and atelier — currently undergoing transformation to become a new cultural space open to the public. 

Born in Kyoto, Ohtake first travelled to Brazil in 1936 to visit her brother and when the Pacific War prevented her from returning, she stayed, making São Paulo her new home — a city that today plays host to the largest Japanese overseas population in the world.

Though Ohtake was drawn to painting from a young age, it was only after years of homemaking that she first truly devoted herself to her art at the age of 39. Her early painterly endeavours were encouraged by landscape artist Keisuke Sugano, another Japanese immigrant to Brazil in the first part of the 20th century. Building on this legacy, Ohtake’s work has come to represent a bridge between Brazilian and Eastern cultures, the calligraphic gesture echoed in the strokes of her paintbrush reinterpreted through Brazilian abstractionism.

Established in 2001 to showcase the artist’s oeuvre alongside that of others from the same era, The Tomie Ohtake Institute is now a respected centre for the arts in its own right. Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama rank among the high-calibre artists who have exhibited here, while a true highlight involves a visit to the leafy São Paulo suburb of Bello Campo for an intimate view into the atelier-home of Tomie Ohtake for those lucky few who are able to snag a private tour.  

Designed in the ‘60s by Ohtake’s eldest son Ruy Ohtake, the brutalist structure was declared a monument of cultural heritage in 2014. Incorporating a studio and residence in one, the house offers guests an intimate glimpse into some of the artist’s more personal spaces. Ohtake’s bedroom, for example, is rather monastic, reflecting her simple way of living. 

Upon entering, the ground floor is organised around an open-plan layout and relies on architectural cues to define the different living, study and studio spaces. Throughout, visitors are immersed in the home's varied moods, ranging from restful and studious to convivial. In the study, a red ribbon-shaped scale model of a public sculpture Ohtake created in 2008 to commemorate one hundred years of Japanese immigration to Brazil takes pride of place. Surrounding this, the walls are bedecked in works from her collection.

The largest concentration of works is left to be discovered in Ohtake’s studio, where the monochromatic grey of the concrete walls creates an ideal backdrop, offsetting her lavish works on canvas. Overhead, a glass ceiling is covered by a skeleton-like structure, as if the workshop was inside a creature, in isolation, swallowed in artistic immersion.

More than a mere place of retreat for the artist, Ohtake’s home is an embodiment of her life and creative path where her artistic spirit lives on.

Text / Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva
Images / Courtesy of The Tomie Ohtake Institute

A Bright Future

A conversation with inventor and solar designer Marjan van Aubel, named Swarovski Designer of the Future

When Marjan van Aubelwas awarded by Swarovski as Designer of the Future in 2017, she was both pleasantly surprised and thrilled by the prospect of visiting the company’s crystal factory in Wattens, Austria. It was there where her curiosity was piqued by the beauty of the opal crystal. Van Aubel is a solar designer — so her interest in opal crystals seemed like an apt starting point to explore the material’s design possibilities and applications.

‘If you hold the crystal like this, it turns blue,’ she explains. ‘And if you turn it and change the light, it becomes orange. I’m fascinated by light and its inner workings, so exploring this material was a new way for me to think about crystals.’

After months of careful research and prototyping, the designer showcased the results of her collaboration with Swarovski at Hong Kong’s Art Central last month. The installation’s main focus is a series of circular lighting features called cyanometers, which highlight the beauty of opal crystals and are powered by the sun.

Visitors were encouraged to lie back on a sofa and gaze upward into the lights, observing a dreamy colourscape that wafted through the space. It's an experience comparable to lying on the grass and staring up at the clouds — with an immersive, intergalactic twist.

What makes van Aubel’s work particularly interesting is the prescient position she has placed herself in. She stands at a peculiar nexus of design, science and sustainability. Perhaps it is symptomatic of the environment the designer grew up in — her father is a chemist and physicist, and her grandparents are both artists.

While most might place the two disciplines at odds with each other, van Aubel sees them as one and the same. Good design and science, in her mind, is about whittling a complicated idea into its simplest, purest, most functional form. It’s a philosophy that is practical and incredibly rational. It’s this same philosophy that makes her passionate about fashioning a future that is not only concerned with appearance, but also with impact and functionality.

Being a designer, according to van Aubel, means carrying a constant consciousness about one's role in shaping the future. 'There are a lot of doom and gloom scenarios like how our natural resources are running out and how fossil fuels are finite. But while these things are happening, what can we do about it? How can we change this?’

'I don’t see the point of making another nice-looking chair if it’s not saying something about where we are going as a society,’ she continues. ‘I see it as a mission to use design as a tool to talk about these issues. We can still change things but a lot of small changes are needed from different angles. Eventually, that will create and foster real progress — that’s the responsibility that I have as a designer of the future.’

Text / Daniel Kong

Spaces that Resonate

On the occasion of David Zwirner Gallery opening in Hong Kong, an exclusive interview with Annabelle Selldorf, architect to the arts world

Design Anthology: A significant amount of your architectural portfolio is devoted to art-related projects. Is that a happy coincidence or was it an intentional move in your career?

Annabelle Selldorf: I feel very lucky. And luck is where preparation meets opportunity, I was once told. And that’s how I feel about that.

I love designing spaces for art. In some ways because it allows you to make a pure space — something that is precise but also essentially beautiful. And beautiful is such a difficult word, right? That’s why I added ‘essential’. It’s reductive rather than additive. I often say that the thing that I think about in architecture is how to make very simply things where nothing should be added but anything less would produce something that’s not enough. And that’s a hard balance to find. In some ways, it creates a kind of tension. And it’s always that thin line that you try to walk.

In some ways, what I like about making spaces for art is that they allow you to make resonant spaces that don’t in the first instance require a lot of attention. And by that I mean, if you make spaces for art, you have to make spaces for art — it’s about the art, it’s not about the architecture. But it’s also always about the architecture.

It’s one approach. There are architects who make spaces for art that are very much about the architecture.

Yes, most of them.

They try to steal the show a bit.

Yes, I think that is probably true and that’s what a lot of people want. I think that the spaces we make are very tranquil and very … focused.

Very conducive to reflection, maybe?

Yeah — that’s it. I think it’s the focus that I’m interested in, that it’s not about noise, it’s about when the dust settles and it’s quiet. It has a very peaceful quality to it.

Peaceful, and sometimes provocative. It’s hard to be in silent spaces. I saw an installation at the Guggenheim in New York by Doug Wheeler and he obviously does spaces that are about infinity — very interesting and very challenging special installations. So he did this installation at the Guggenheim that was about silence. People would go, be there for ten minutes or twenty minutes and afterwards they would talk about how challenging they felt that it was. If there are no words, if you hear nothing, you all of the sudden start hearing something.

That internal voice.

I like that as an analogy very much because in some ways I like the idea that you are invited and perhaps provoked to go there. It’s not the first thing you think about because at first you think it’s all about balance, it’s all about beauty — and it is about those things, too. It’s about precision. It’s about all sorts of rational reasons to organise circulation, organise proportion, to make sure that the light is in accord. But I think ultimately, it’s reflective on the audience, on the observer, on the visitor. My sort of private pleasure is that our spaces are in dialogue with the art.

And that’s why you create spaces with these qualities?

It is, but at first glance. At minimum, they just have to be very good spaces.

And is that hard to achieve? That baseline of what makes for a ‘good space’?

Yes, it’s a lot of work because it means that you have to pay attention to everything and you have to remember what works and what doesn’t work. And it’s never the same thing. Every space is different, and the rules of the game always change. But once you establish the rules, those are the rules and then you have to push the rules. So, it’s all a system of layering.

This isn’t your first project with Mr Zwirner. Do you share certain values in space and in art that has brought you back together time and again on multiple projects?

Yes, very much so. David is a very good old friend. We’re from the same home town. I knew his sister, but never talked to him — he was three years younger than me and at that age…

But we met very early on in New York and I sometime think that we grew up together, which is nice. Mind you that David has a thundering career. But when you grow up together you learn to understand what the other means when they say this or that.

We used to have this routine that every time he opened a new gallery we would take a day and spend time walking around other galleries, to see if someone had done something that was noteworthy or impressive. That was of course our routine, but in some ways, having had these experiences together is very meaningful. It’s like you have to keep looking. You have to keep thinking.

And that never stops, though our way of thinking about art changes. David’s galleries are different only in as much as perhaps they’re a little bit larger than they used to be. And they serve a more diverse group of artists. Opening up a new gallery allows you to have that much more reach.

There’s a lot more consideration that goes into how a commercial gallery operates — how you serve your clients and so on and so forth. But it’s still great fun to start a project together and get excited — David’s excitement is something that’s inspiring. I love that about him. He’s a hard-charging, very visual person and is challenging in that. But I think challenging clients are good clients.

As told to / Jessica Vahrenkamp


Hsiao Chin

On the occasion of his bi-city retrospective, an exclusive interview with this leading figure in China's abstract expressionism movement

Co-organised by the China Art Museum Shanghai and supported by Hong Kong's 3812 Gallery, the retrospective exhibit Coming Home explores the long and prodigious career of Hsiao Chin — one of China's most influential contemporary artists and a founding member of the avant-garde Ton Fan artistic movement. Throughout Hsiao's oeuvre, circles and dots feature prominently, representing the infinite energy that, according to Eastern philosophy, permeates every object and being. And it is through these references that the artist would develop his individual, Eastern approach to abstractionism, diverging from the Western dominated movement. Design Anthology seized the occasion to talk to the venerable artist, now in his ninth decade, about his personal and artistic journeys through life, and his uniquely Eastern contribution to the global canon of art.

Design Anthology: You came of age in Taiwan after immigrating there during The Chinese Civil War. Tell us about that experience.

Hsiao Chin: Well, we went to Taiwan after the civil war in 1949, when I was fourteen years old. Then in Taiwan I met Mr Li, my art teacher. He was the one who really opened my mind to what is art creativity because usually in Taiwan or in the Far East art schools are very academic. So I was lucky to meet him. He was a very good teacher. Not a very good artist, but a very good teacher. He really knew how to teach everyone differently, according to their own way of working because we are all different. He was the only teacher like that in Taiwan, maybe in all of China. And I feel very lucky to have studied under him. 

It was through Mr Li’s studio that you first established the Ton Fan Group. Why did you organise? What was your aim?

We thought that if we want to have a voice in the international arts scene, we had to be something ourselves.

If we look back through history, some of the greatest moments of creative ferment have occurred during periods of great political upheaval and insecurity. And when you first moved to Taiwan, that was certainly the case. It was a major historical period of transition for Chinese culture. How do you think that influenced your early identity as an artist?

At that time, it was the anti-communist period and Chiang-Kai Shek was a terrorist. If they believed that you had anything to do with communism, they would just shoot you. So the safe way to be an artist was to do abstract painting — no one could accuse us!

Mr Li had studied art in Japan in the 1930s under the first important Eastern artist to present his work in Paris, so he knew how to do the Eastern way of contemporary art. He taught us the concept, and we tried to figure out our own way.

Then in your early twenties you went to Spain to study on an art scholarship.

When I went to Europe, I just wanted to work with art in my own way, to research art. Because of what I couldn’t do in Taiwan or in the Far East I went to Europe — to give myself this opportunity. But they were very conservative, so I didn’t go to school. I have no degree.  I didn’t want to waste my time to learn what I already knew.

But then I had to learn by myself, because if I’d followed the Western teaching, I would again be nobody. I tried not to walk the same way as everyone else. I was just hungry to learn from everywhere what there was for me to learn. The place to learn is in the real world.

What did you learn about yourself as an artist when you first arrived in Europe?

In the 1960s, I realised I knew very little about my own culture. I asked my friends to send me lots of philosophical books, for me to rediscover my own culture. So I went to Europe to learn more about my own culture. I began to learn about Chinese culture in Europe.

What were some of the materials that you asked your friends to send for you to learn about Chinese culture?

I was particularly interested in Chinese philosophy, and particularly Taoism. That’s why I started to learn Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu and all their theories to learn, ‘Who are the Chinese?’ and ‘Who is an Easterner?’ If I cannot find out my own identity, I cannot find my artistic creater.

How did that discovery and greater understanding of your heritage then translate into your art?

It’s kind of metaphysical. It’s difficult to explain the ‘how’, but it did.

Let’s talk a bit about the thinking behind your art because you have developed a very individual style based on your philosophical beliefs that differentiates you from the more mainstream abstract expressionists from the West.

In the 1950s to 60 in Europe, you had informal expressionism movements and in the US, abstract expressionism. Both moreorless were an expression of one's ego and one’s unconsciousness. When I met Antonio Caldera, we both thought that that was passe. Because you didn’t bring any new message to the art work. Therefore, we thought we should work out some way to express art differently.

We looked from a different cultural origin for some substance. In this way, we looked back to the Eastern philosophy. Also we both had a very curious life accident — he had just lost his daughter. I also had just lost my daughter. And you try to find something to cope with the loss. And this was the way in which we went back and looked at the philosophical base, to see if we could find out something. This searching made us understand that we have to work in a different way through informal art expression.

And then, since we come from different cultures — he from a typical Western culture, me from a typical Eastern culture — we thought we should work out something from our own culture. Something not just informal or so instinctual, but more intellectual. More philosophical.

You've remained abroad most of your adult life, even though you continued to play an active role in the Ton Fang Group. Why did you stay away? Why not go back to Taiwan?

Because Chiang-Kai Shek was still in power. He was such a dictator. I didn’t want to go back. It was a difficult political situation. But since he died, I’ve returned.

As told to / Jessica Vahrenkamp