Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Art Journal: KAWS Companionship in the Age of Loneliness, NGV International

“It’s just a combination of letters I liked. And when your whole art’s based on the lettering you choose, you kinda figure out what ones work together. I just liked the shapes of the k, a, w, s. It has no meaning.” -KAWS aka Brian Donnelly

Brian Donnelly, or you might be more familiar with his “artist” name, KAWS, is a New York based artists. His works span from traditional painting, giant sculpture, murals exhibited all over the world in a public space as well as in a gallery space. In my opinion, KAWS arts are not limited to the stereotypical art box, he certainly pushes the boundaries of what art can be. When a random giant Mickey Mouse-like giant inflatable sculpture floats around Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, you know his artwork goes beyond the white walls of a gallery.

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KAWS most certainly tapped into the pulse of current trends and society, his artworks speaks to current generation in a way that perhaps no artist have done before. Alongside his exhibition in National Gallery of Victoria, KAWS created limited edition T-shirts design in collaboration with Uniqlo. The small act of adding a line of fashion merchandise in collaboration with the exhibition’s sponsor caused a relatively small chaos on the 4-storeys Uniqlo store in the centre of Melbourne CBD. The hype beasts are all out and ready, lining up for hours to get their hands on these limited edition T-shirt because they know the re-sale value of any KAWS merchandise can be absolutely ridiculous.

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Yes, Astroboy, I totally agree with your expression here. Face palm indeed. It might a phenomenon I will not and to some extend, do not care to understand. I wonder if half of these hype beasts even enjoy KAWS, the artist, or do they perhaps know him as a designer. Perhaps the same way they know Virgil Abloh of Off-White. His exhibition in National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, is quite conceptual and showcases many of his famous works. The curator had done an amazing job arranging KAWS artworks, from the beginning of his “graffiti” on advertisements to his larger than life sculpture he created exclusively for this exhibition.

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Is it art? Is it a mere imitations? Is he a genius? Is he a mere copycat who banked on the phenomenal success of other creatives? These are some of the questions I walked away with after my visit to the exhibition. The artist, Brian Connelly, does not seem to pay too much fuss of what you think about his work. Perhaps similar to the way he choose his “artist” name, maybe he just creates and not put too much meaning into his creations.

-k

Art Journal: Spending the Day with Haring and Basquiat, NGV International Melbourne

“I didn’t start doing graffiti until two years after I got to New York. Jean Michel Basquiat was one of my main inspirations for doing graffiti. For a year, I didn’t know who Jean Michel was, but I knew his work.” – Keith Haring

When I first move to Melbourne in 2000, I was a naive 13 years old girl with completely glazed eyes and excitable emotions, arrived at my first Australian school being offered various subjects that she could only dream off learning back home. Fine Arts was one of those subject. During my time in Jakarta, I did so much painting and drawing classes, that I get quite good at it and fell in love with it completely. Art class in Melbourne means more exposure to international artists whose names I only ever read in my Encyclopaedia books. Keith Haring was one of those names that were introduced to me through an art class project. I remembered clearly how we were told to pick an artist and reproduce painting inspired by their body of work. For whatever reason, I was drawn to Haring’s work and thus begin my interest for various other New York artists such as, Andy Warhol, Basquiat or Grace Jones (her androgyny fascinates me).

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National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) International latest exhibition, Basquiat/Haring Crossing Lines, has got to be the most exciting things to have happen right now in Melbourne. Walking into a scene of Basquiat spraying words on a New York city’s wall, passing a news footage of Haring’s many arrest for painting on a blank advertising board, the anticipation of what’s to come build up slowly. The gallery’s white walls were filled with intertwining works by Haring and Basquiat, walls of curated story lines inspiring and perhaps, inciting a rebellious streak in all of us who visits. Cartoon like characters, random drawings of masked figures can be interpreted as shallow and irrelevant in our current society. But one can’t under estimate the strength of characters and messages behind each purposefully drawn figures that we, as visitors or passersby, should further unravel.

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While alive, both artists were known to be strong advocates of change, breaking stereotypes and the loudest voice against stigma of having to live with HIV/Aids or simply being of a different race. Can we still say that their works have no relevance in our society today?

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I always thought artists in the past were never just a painter or a videographer or a sculptor. I always thought of artists in the past as visionaries and society’s greatest critics. What is it that they see in or society that we, who lives in it everyday, simply missed? The works of both Haring and Basquiat continues to inspire generations of artists for years to come. Their works might start on the streets of New York, on the subway lines of Manhattan, but their desire to connect with everyone speaks to audience wider than they could have imagine. Even a rapper of South Korean boy group, Bigbang, TOP mentioned Basquiat’s name on his lyrics and who can blame him, cause arts just how Haring & Basquiat wanted and insisted, are for everyone.

-k.

Minimalism: Space . Light . Object. National Gallery Singapore

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor,” – Seneca

The world we live in today crave excess, reward the most extravagant and embrace the worship of material things. And I think some people believe, the more you have, the better. Arts have become one of those status symbol, the object of obsession for those who wants to convey a certain image in our excessive world. Thus the irony of an exhibition glorifying minimalism is not lost on me. This is a continuum of my previous post on Minimalism art exhibition I recently went to in Singapore and unlike part one, this one held in National Gallery Singapore is shouting excess in the most minimalist way.

Housed within City Hall and previous Supreme Court building, the National Gallery Singapore is the largest visual art gallery and museum for the island nation. The building played many significant role in Singapore’s national history, and many of the country’s historical documents are still stored within the building.

Compared to Minimalism exhibition in the ArtScience Museum, this one is much larger in scale and filled with the more traditional form of artworks, dominated by paint work and sculptures. The vast building provides an endless pockets of artwork which begins on the ground floor with Dan Flavin’s installation which resembles New York’s Empire State Building.

The first room that displayed a Rothko (far left in picture above), is accompanied by few other Rothko inspired canvas works. I do believe that Rothko always intended for his works to be displayed in groups, but the difficulties of the task does not elude yours truly, hence the grouping of his work with others is aiming for the same impact. A study of black and every possible shades of it, is perhaps an appropriate theme of this second pocket of artworks. The idea of Rothko expressing human emotions through his work by using only black seems dark and repressive. But what if, we can translate this as a language of positive emotions? How do you talk about black without associating it with negative emotions? If only black is understood as the beginning of something, before any other shades of colour were added.

Many of the artworks displayed are significant but not many captivates me the way Mona Hatoum’s does here (picture above). Appeared to float above ground, the wire is suspended from the ceiling and arranged in such a way to resemble a square. A forest of bard wire box that you can’t escape from. As you walked around the installation, you can’t help but feeling a certain pull towards the centre of the work. Barb wire have longed been associated with boundary lines to keep things out, but in this case, it feels a lot more like an enchantment that wants to draw you in.

What about this mountain of porcelain sunflower seeds made painstakingly by hand from the a small studio of specialists in China, each seeds are unique as with most hand-made work will be. Porcelain work has long been associated with the Chinese civilisation and history, and such an appropriate choice of material for the work that represents the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon. Is it a complimentary work by the artist, or is it a painstaking mockery of the inability of self expression in such oppressive environment? When view from afar, all the seeds looks homogeneous perhaps representing the view of the world of China as a communist nation. But when you look closer, each seeds are unique like that of the Chinese people or even perhaps Ai Wei Wei himself as the artist.

Perhaps it is an accidental silver lining that connects the two exhibitions, ending the show with the works of Olafur Eliasson. The room for one colour is a stark contrast to that of the previously colourful work at the ArtScience Museum’s exhibition. The neon lights that omits all other colour but orange, and with that we are back to black at the end of the exhibition.

-k.

Minimalism: Space . Light . Object. ArtScience Museum, Singapore

“A work will only have deep resonance if the kind of darkness I can generate is something that is resident in me already,” – Anish Kapoor.

Some of the greatest artists in the Art-world happens to be some of the darkest, depressed, lost and confused people of all time. Therefore, to compress the amount of arts under the banner of, “Minimalism: Space.Light.Object”, can be quite ironic. Despite that, Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, in conjunction with the National Gallery Singapore, managed to curate one of the most exciting exhibition on minimalism in the Arts I have personally been to.

Singapore’s ArtScience Museum is located in Marina Bay Sands, the building is an amazing architectural highlight amongst many located around the area. The building reminds me of the lotus flower, was designed by an Israeli-Canadian architect, Moshe Safdie.

At the time of my visit, aside from the minimalism exhibition, a fun and interactive exhibition created by TeamLAB was on show. The neon filled, colourful and interactive exhibition for children of all ages.

Now on to the “Minimalism: Space.Light.Object”…

Greeted by a giant sand-pit of a zen garden created by Mona Hatoum, I was instantly given a snapshot of what the entire exhibition is all about. As seen in the photograph below of the artwork, the arm moves clock-wise and constantly changing the texture of the sand’s surface. The work can be interpreted in any number of ways, according to each visitors’ understanding. I personally believe that this is the best choice for the first piece, as it symbolises that despite the simplicity of minimalist arts, there are always deeper meaning behind each work.

I adore the pop of colours in the works by Donald Judd and Olafur Eliasson amongst all the lack of them in most minimalist pieces. Eliasson’s installation, pictured below, has got to be my most favourite. The work is colourful and immersive, as you walk around the various neon coloured sheets, your perspective and your sight changed and filtered.

Overall, Minimalism is a well-curated exhibition. The way each artworks are placed in the sequence that have been decided by the curatorial team, gave the exhibition a flow that is easily followed by any visitors with various degree of understanding towards the Arts. Plenty of international names, such as Kapoor, Judd and Eliasson, but also loved that the curatorial team also involved a good mix of artists from Asia, mainly Taiwanese and Japanese artists. Forever grateful to be able to visit Singapore at the right time to see this great exhibition.

-k.

Hyphenated at The Substation

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibition co-curated by one of my teacher from University. The exhibition focused on the subject of the feeling of growing up and living between multiple cultural influences, in this case Asian-Australian. Asia, in the context of this exhibition includes vast variety of cultural backgrounds.

Hyphenated at The Substation

1 Market Street, Newport

23 March – 21 April 2018

It is called Hyphenated, referring to the “space between” cultures and what it means for each individual artists. Co-curated by Tammy Wong Hulbert and Phuong Ngo. The artists exhibiting are,

  • Rushdi Anwar
  • Sofi Basseghi and Ehsan Khoshnami
  • Andy Butler
  • Rhett D’Costa
  • Tammy Wong Hulbert
  • Nikki Lam
  • Eugenia Lim
  • Hoang Tran Nguyen
  • Slip-Page
  • Vipoo Srivilasa

Still… what is left

Nikki Lam, 2018

Artificial Island (Interior Archipelago II)

Eugenia Lim, 2018

Self-portrait of the artist after Gauguin x Koons x Louis Vuitton

Andy Butler, 2018

Transient Home City

Tammy Wong Hulbert, 2016-2018

Irhal (Expel), Hope and the Sorrow of Displacement

Rushdi Anwar, 2013 – ongoing

Through their works, artists are exploring what it means to truly belong to one specific place. Is there truth in the saying, home is where the heart is? With many social and political issue raised by high influx of refugees, the topic of displacement are also explored within this exhibition.

While exploring the exhibition, I can’t help but to think about my own story. Growing up in Indonesia, settling in Australia with all the usual Asian parental supervisions. I still find myself, time and time again, living in this limbo “hyphenated” world of my Chinese-Indonesian heritage and Australian mind-set. As much as I feel at home in Melbourne, there are periods of time where I miss the rest of my family, my roots, the people that raised me before. The incoming memories of growing up with my extended relatives in Jakarta can hit me and I regret the times that I lost, the time I can’t get back, with them by being here in Melbourne. And then I’ll recall my aunties and uncles constant judgement of everyone,

“Why are you not married?”

“Oh.. you look fat! You should lose some weight”

“You’re so pretty when you were little, what happen?”

Youp! I take living in the limbo between two cultures all day, everyday! Off course, all comments are well-intentioned, perhaps Asians lack the communication skills or social skills to convey their love 🙂 Anyway, I digressed, if you live in Melbourne (Australia), do take the time to visit this exhibition. The works are powerful and pictures just don’t do enough justice of the full effect the sounds and the movements have.

Until next time everyone 🙂

-k.m.

“Mass” by Ron Mueck for NGV Melbourne Triennial

For the last few months, National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) had been running their first Triennial. The NGV Triennial is a celebration of arts for a city that thrive from being the culture capital of Australia. There are both local and international artists involved within the Triennial. The Triennial also showcase variety of artistic expressions, from traditional sculptures to the very modern digital art form of virtual reality experience. As you can tell, there’s something in this for everyone. The most popular, perhaps most photographed artwork in the exhibition, in my opinion will be the following by Ron Mueck called, “Mass”,

Giant skulls piled on top of one another in such a chaotic fashion, it made you feel like you were walking into Giants mass graves. The idea of the piece, for the artist himself, is an artistic commentary on the mass killings throughout the history of civilisation. The artist made a specific reference to event such as the Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime, or the Holocaust of the Jews in the hands of Nazi party.

The skulls are large in scale to evoke a specific emotion for us the viewers. The installation catch me by surprise, it is confronting and not the sort of view that I’m used to. For me at least, it felt like walking into a room confronting my own mortality. Death isn’t something any human can avoid, it is a definite final stop in our journey called life. Hence, the confrontational affect this work had over me felt like an eerie reminder.

Despite the grim first impression of this work, there’s a sense of beauty that brings you in. Perhaps, it was the brilliant placements of the artwork. The skulls were located within the Gallery’s 19th Century paintings. It was almost deliberate for the artist to point out, look at all the great legacy of beautiful paintings left by Great Masters. Can you appreciate the beauty of the Old Masters painting through the legacy of terror our generation seems to left behind?

However way these giant skulls installations affect you, the genuine narrative Mueck’s tried to convey through his artwork is honest and confronting for a reason. If you live in Melbourne, I hope you get a chance to see it at the NGV, highly recommended for you to just experience it in person.

-k.m.

Gerhard Richter X QAGOMA

What a remarkable opportunity it is for me to be able to travel to Brisbane recently and witness the amazing retrospect exhibition of Gerhard Richter. The exhibition was held in Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane’s cultural precinct on the South Bank area. It took the gallery 5 years to put this amazing exhibition together, with many artworks are personally loan from the artist’s own personal archive. Richter is known to be experimental with his work, but most known for his Abstract work and his ability to blur the line between a painting and a photograph.

One of the work that completely took me off guard is a black and grey painting of baby Richter and his Aunty. I personally decided not to took a photo of the work, our of respect to the tragic story behind the painting, as well as my selfish reason of wanting to keep the emotional affect the painting had on me to myself. Grey is Richter colour of choice that helped him detached to an emotional experience, aside from his brilliant colourful abstract, his monotone works are some of my personal favourite. Richter’s memento mori series of painting, like the one above called “Two Candle” on loan from Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul – South Korea, are personally, one of the most moving work.

Very grateful to have the opportunity to go and see Richter’s exhibition. The brilliance of his work can be seen in the above detailed photo from one of his Abstract work. Using a sponge, Richter would drag the colours across his canvas, using this technique Richter have created a unique texture to the end result. Considering his age, a sprite 85 years old of age, this exhibition may well be Richter’s last big international exhibition. So grateful is not enough to describe how I’m feeling, but I feel so enrich by the experience and wish many more people are able to experience this amazing exhibition too.

Gerhard Richter The Life of Images

Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane, Australia

-k.m.