New Dimensions of Asian Art


Does art of reclining naked bodies tickle your fancy?
Then check out Kan Xuans video where two spiders run all over and explore EVERY nook and cranny of a naked man and woman. It gives you the creeps as the little spiders probe all available hiding spaces on a naked human form. Accompanying the video is the final refrain about 'going home from an old childrens song playing repeatedly.

Kan Xuans creepy art video is one of 43 artists included in a large exhibition surveying contemporary Asian art. The exhibition is housed in two venues in Tokyo, the Japan Foundation and the Opera City Gallery. It is the result of 9 curators selecting work from seven countries: Thailand, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia and China.

The art at the Japan Foundation Forum is loosely grouped under the key words 'memory, enigma, fantasy and dream. It ranges widely from painting and sculpture to include multi- media, video and performance installations.

A few highlights from this large display would include Indian artist Baiju Parthan. He has developed a multi media presentation titled 'A Diary of the Inner Cyborg. It uses some impressive graphics and text to explore the nature of contemporary life.

Korean artist Kim Beom is represented with an enigmatic series ' An iron in the form of a radio, a kettle in the form of an iron, and a Radio in the form of a kettle. The work, literally is the title. It tests authenticity and playfully challenges the viewer to unravel these reincarnations of everyday objects.

Alfredo Esquillo, a Philippine artist, paints with considerable technical ability. His paintings are also a clever and witty re-writing of history. They are subversive historical portraits of figures from Asian history and wickedly funny.

The exhibition is a brilliant snap-shot of the vitality of the visual arts in the region. Works amuse, entertain, mystify and on occasions horrify. However, there is an intensity and freshness to the art. The display justifies the art worlds recent recognition of the Asian region as being one of the most dynamic places in the visual arts.

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

With an exhibition title like 'Under Construction it should not be surprising to find unfinished looking art. However, some large haphazard works dominate the Opera City Gallery exhibition overpowering others on display.

Thai artist, Thasnai Sethaserees, work explores cross-cultural traditions. It sprawls across the middle of a large gallery room. The piece was originally part of a community-based project in an alternative art space. Like some other works in the exhibition, it does not rekindle the original atmosphere when housed in the clinical white walls of the modern art gallery. Sethaserees work also overshadows those around it, drowning them in his cacophony of festival leftovers.

Some work made an impact such as S. Teddy Ds, 'Show me the way to the bridge, which consisted of large iron construction beams, in a bridge like section, and mounted on bicycle wheels. The video work in the exhibition was particularly impressive.

Japanese artist, Saki Satoms video, 'Slalom, captures contemporary life. It is an elegant expression of minimal aesthetics transferred to the digital arts. While, Wang Gongxins, video installation, 'Red Doors, shows how video can be used to create new environments, which can express complex social and cultural issues.

Rika Noguchis photographs again display her technical prowess with the camera. However, this series, 'About the World below Zero, also shows a gentle humanness to her photographic work. Ozawa Tsuyoshis photographs of vegetable 'weapons is a fun project. However, the display, in a complete plastic 'glasshouse, seems a bit over-elaborate in design for the nature of the work.

In the modernist setting of the Opera City Gallery, the 'community art type projects look out of place. They are difficult to decipher through the mass of chaotic material they present and they interfere with other art on display.

However, for art enthusiasts with a little time to dig around and sort through the stuff, this exhibition offers some gems of contemporary art waiting to be unearthed.

Japan Foundation Akasaka Twin Towers 2-17-22 Akasaka Minato-ku 03.5562.3892
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery