ADAM LUPTON/ MODUS GALLERY

Adam Lupton /Modus Gallery

Par: Modus Gallery

Adam Lupton est un artiste canadien ayant suivie un cursus en art graphique à la Emily Carr University of Art and Design et un master aux Beaux-Arts de la New York Academy of Art.

À travers ses œuvres l’artiste explore la psychologie de notre société contemporaine. Lupton utilise différentes techniques dans sa représentation picturale, qui créent des effets visuels de superpositions d’images.

L’artiste peint deux toiles séparément du même sujet, qu’il vient par la suite morceler en lames irrégulières et viens ainsi créer un tissage avec les deux figures.

L’on retrouve ainsi la représentation d’une personne qui se crée par l’entrecroisement des toiles, qui crée un effet d’une distorsion de la réalité.

Cette technique bien particulière permet à l’artiste d’exprimer la dualité présente dans la psychologie de l’Etre humain.

Les œuvres d’Adam Lupton sont au croisement de la peinture figurative et expressionniste. Ces tableaux sont le reflet du monde intérieur de chaque personnage qui se révèle à nos yeux à travers une peinture chargée d’une certaine mélancolie et angoisse.

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Adam Lupton /Modus Gallery

 

STIKKI PEACHES/ MODUS GALLERY

Stikki Peaches/ Modus gallery

Par Modus gallery

Stikki Peaches est un artiste Canadien qui expose à l’internationale ses œuvres, visibles en galerie d’art mais également dans la rue. Fils d’un père tailleur et d’une mère designer, l’artiste a été baigné dès le plus jeune âge dans le monde créatif. Il a travaillé pendant plus de 13 ans dans le monde la mode masculine, pour se tourner par la suite vers le street art.

Des personnages de la culture populaire tels que Katt Moss, Batman et Elvis Presley sont présents dans les œuvres de Stikki Peaches. L’artiste utilise pour ses créations du papier, des bombes de couleur, des marqueurs ainsi que d’autres éléments tels que la mosaïque, qui viennent interagir pour obtenir un résultat dynamique et coloré. On retrouve dans ces uvres une touche négligée, avec notamment la présence de cartons déchirés, de planches en bois cassées, ainsi que d’autres éléments appartenant à une esthétique décadente.  

Le travail de Stikki Peaches est reconnaissable par son style particulier, qui vient s’inspirer du pop art, en retransposant sur la toile les icones contemporaines auxquels l’artiste vient ajouter au marqueurs de nombreux éléments appartenant à l’esthétique du tatouage, avec une typographie et des dessins qui lui sont propre. Ces personnages se voient soudainement transformés, tatoués, submergés de couleurs vives réalisées à la bombe et ornementées par différents matériaux.

 

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Stikki Peaches/ Modus gallery

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ALEJANDRO CARPINTERO

Lorsqu'Alejandro Carpintero tente de se représenter un sujet, des images lui traversent l’esprit sous forme de fragments. Un sourire, une expression, une couleur... Il ne perçoit jamais l’objet ou la personne dans son entier. C’est aussi sa façon de peindre. Pourtant issu d’une éducation artistique très académique, le principe d’empâtement, comme un moyen de représentation dans sa peinture, est son médium de prédilection. Plus il l’utilise, plus il s’éloigne d’un résultat hyperréaliste. Il travaille principalement sur le concept de passage d’un état de fait à un autre. Un panneau signalétique qui perd sa fonction première pour devenir un objet purement esthétique, ou une préadolescente qui passe de l’enfance à l’âge adulte, par exemple. Représenter ces moments de transition d’un point de vue pictural est son plus grand défi. Alejandro croit qu’il existe une combinaison possible entre les images intérieures qui l’habitent et les références figuratives extérieures avec lesquelles il travaille.

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Alejandro Carpintero/Modus Gallery

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ALEJANDRO CARPINTERO/Modus gallery

UN MONDE DE COULEURS

Par José Luis Corretjé

Alejandro Carpintero/ Modus Gallery

« La peinture permet au peintre de créer un vaste monde intérieur. Elle t'amène à penser pendant toute la journée à des formes, des couleurs et des compositions. Cela remplit ton quotidien. » Il travaille notamment sur des portraits féminins « Les combinaisons de couleurs et de lumières dans les visages car tu te rends compte que cela dépend de la façon dont elles se reflètent, une personne belle peut se transformer ainsi en monstre.

Alejandro met en valeur la crise actuelle du marché de l’art, qui est selon lui une pierre angulaire pour la liberté des artistes face au joug des tendances et les choix qui s’opèrent depuis les galeries d’art. « Beaucoup de peintres de ma génération, ont fait pendant ces quatre dernières années leurs meilleurs œuvres. D’ailleurs si j’avais de l’argent j’achèterai leurs œuvres. Sur un long terme ça doit être un bon business. »

DE HOCKNEY A HOPPER

Sa source d’inspiration provient essentiellement de musiciens, plus que de peintres : « Car cela génère des ambiances ». Cependant il a une grande admiration pour David Hockney ainsi que pour Hopper, le génie américain.

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Alejandro Carpintero/ Modus Art Gallery

LUCIANA GOMEZ / MODUS GALLERY

LUCIANA GOMEZ talks about her art 

Luciana Gomez / Modus Gallery

It was the Impulse and the curiosity to discover the inner universe, which led me to explore the connection that exists between nature and our own body. The need to understand the changes and metamorphoses that all of us unconditionally experience in our lives. I question the mutable and non-permanent character of things, the ephemeral in everyday life, as well as bodies and the spaces. I am interested in water, earth, life cycles cycles, and all the organisms and cells inhabiting our body.

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My works usually start with an outline of the pencil silhouette on colored backgrounds. I use acrylic or synthetic enamel, I draw the subject with ballpoint pens, spontaneously and gradually, creating multiple layers. These gestural elements give volume to the figures, and the composition emerges step by step, kind of improvised. My paintings create a visual game of lights and shadows. They’re some sort of optical illusions; when observed from afar they show a figure, when observed closely they reveal an entire world.

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Luciana Gomez / Modus Art Gallery

SNIK INTERVIEW / MODUS GALLERY

SNIK INTERVIEW BY STREET ART UNITED STATES 

by Sami Wakim

Snik / Modus Gallery

Initially inspired by the Graffiti scene, Snik has been working with stencil and spray can for 10 years now. Constantly pushing the boundaries, this artist duo has developed a unique style which is equally captivating on walls as it in on canvas. Staying true to their form, Snik hand cuts up to nine layers at a time, working with different mediums, techniques, paints and varnishes. Regardless of size, the level of detail is insane, and use of colours and forms, inspirational. Showing in Galleries, shows and forums across the globe, they had their inaugural solo show in 2011, and now has a serious following of admirers and collectors worldwide.

Let me first say that I am fascinated about the way you create your art. Although, I don’t really know anything about you, could you explain who you are, where you´re from and how did you get started in the street art scene?
Snik was originally started by myself (nik), back in 2005. I had always been a keen artist, but never really viewed it as something that could get me from place to place doing what I loved. Over the years people have shown an interest, and invited me to places all over the world to paint, which has been incredible. As the years have gone on, I have always tried to go bigger and better with each piece, I feel, constant progression and improvement are the things that help to keep me on my toes. About 4 years ago I met my other half, and we began to paint bigger walls together. Having 2 people on board meant we can cut bigger stencils quicker, and paint larger walls that one person with a stencil couldn’t, so it’s been a huge help to become a duo. Some people don’t know that, we have never really pushed, as I don’t think it matters so much. When you view art you never question how many people, just the nature of it and how it makes you feel.

Do you have a formal education?
We have both been to college, but neither studied Art. It was never helpful for either of us in the direction we were heading.

Your art is multilayered and complex. Could you describe the development process of your artwork?
I think stencil work is a form of OCD. To sit for hours on end, cutting small pieces of card from bigger pieces of card, it’s not a standard method of art, but a more precise and exact craft. The way we try to balance this, is by painting very quickly, and very rough and ready. Every canvas we paint is painted the same way it would be done on the street, drips, smudges, mess and mistakes are all a part of it. The tightness of the stencil is only a balance to the freedom of the painting.

How much does your art affect or influence your everyday life and are there any role models or artists who inspired you?
Everything we do is art related. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t read up on a recent paint event, or check out a recent gallery show. That being said, we are very separate in the fact that we live in the countryside, and not a city. We don’t get caught up in a scene as such, but obviously are inspired by just how much incredible art is being produced all around the world right now.

How do you go about creating your street art? How do you choose a street/environment?
Normally we will cut the stencil, then source a spot. It can be a quick thing, or can take a while. Stencils can be restricting in your size and surface you have to work with, but this can also be the challenge to it. Spray paint works on anything, so it’s all down to how you use a stencil, and how you approach the aesthetic of the area.

Has your style developed throughout the years?
I would say so yes. The stencil cutting is a lot more free, and as each new piece is produced, there are new lessons learnt. The use of lighting has always been a big influence in the work, shadows especially effect the final outcome. As mentioned before, the use of the stencil can be restricting, so it’s important for us to work around this, and make the final piece more relaxed and natural, as stencils can sometimes be very stiff and harsh in final appearance.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet and social media in making your work more accessible to the public?
The internet has revolutionized the way people view artwork now, in every sense. Some street pieces only last a day, but once it’s online, it is pretty much there forever. The same goes for any little post we may put about a new stencil, or a test spray. For those who don’t have gallery connections, or good hook ups for walls, it’s a great way to get yourself out there and get noticed. We always enjoy painting street as much as possible, but it’s just not always possible for us to get every single new piece onto a wall straight away, so we get into the studio and produce a work to showcase the new cuts this way instead. But in the back of our minds we always want every piece to eventually make it to a wall.

Which countries have you visited to paint so far and where did you like it best?
We have visited France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain. Each one is incredible in its on way, it would be impossible to select a favourite, as every paint trip has so many great memories. The meeting of new people is definitely one of the best points about what we do, and it’s what we enjoy the most.

Is there a message in your art?
maybe there is, maybe there isn’t.

Street art is still considered vandalism, how is it for you to go out and paint in the street? Did you ever have any problems with the law?
When I started in 2005, I used to enjoy going out and doing paste ups, little 1 or 2 layer stencils. It was a fun rush, but of course it created friction with authority, and was never going to end well. As we grew older and developed, the illegal thing lost an interest, mainly because our stencils evolved into such technical works that to rush them in 30 minutes would be a really poor looking final piece, and not the sort of thing we want to produce. It’s really rare that we do a full illegal piece, and even if we do we don’t advertise it, for obvious reasons.

What have been your most challenging and rewarding piece of work thus far?
The most challenging piece was the Winged-Fire (pictured above) piece we painted in our home town last year. It was only an 8 layer stencil at around 7 foot tall, but each layer was 5 different colours. So to get the cuts natural, and the blends working took a very long time, and a lot of stress. It helped to push us a lot to progress in the direction we have, so It is definitely one that sticks in our mind.

What do you do when you are not creating art? What are your hobbies?
Dog walking. Wine drinking.

What’s next for you? What shows or projects do you have planned?
We have a big year planned, but you’ll have to keep an eye on our social media for info.

Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Don’t stop. Always wear a spray mask.

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Snik / Modus Art Gallery

MERSUKA DOPAZO & TERESA CALDERON INTERVIEW BY ARTZEALOUS / MODUS GALLERY

A Chat with Collage Queens: Mersuka Dopazo & Teresa Calderón

by Caitlin Confort

Mersuka Dopazo & Teresa Calderón / Modus Gallery

Dividing their studio time between Madrid and Bali, the Spanish artists collaborate on large-scale collages created from paper gathered from all over the world. As Dopazo explains, her papers are always handmade and natural, chiefly rice-based. They are bought directly from the craftsman and are sourced from locations like Thailand, Kathmandu, India and Italy. Often densely patterned, the artists layer the papers together, as unexpected connections formed between clashing textures and motifs.

Art Zealous stole a few moments with Mersuka Dopazo to about chat collages, travel, & technique.

How do you two know each other?

MD: We met in Bali 5 years ago through a common friend. I was working on a very big canvas (7 meters by two) and invited Teresa to paint on it with me. It was like love at first sight. From this night on, we started to paint together for hours and hours. The following day it was 10 hours non-stop. We also had our kids painting with us, and it was just a magical experience. They had the total freedom of painting on our big canvases, and then we worked on top of what they did. That’s how our journey together started.

Where is your favorite place to travel and collect materials?

MD: I like to travel a lot, mainly to countries where you really can find things and material made by artisans. I frequently travel to India, Indonesia, Melanesia, Nepal – I was there just two months ago, and I found the most beautiful papers.

As for other sources of material, we have Teresa. Since she is a fashion designer, so she is also crazy about fabrics and textures. Some materials we use are designed by her, so often we use her drawings and patterns for clothes in our work – they have an extraordinary effect when made into art.

You see your works as a ‘travelogue from unexpected territory.’ What are packing essentials when you’re puttering around the world?

MD: I don’t really have packing essentials because sometimes I decide to travel without even having a plane ticket! I just head to the airport and go. I am not a planner; I just go for it. Although I must say, I never leave the house without my lipstick!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

MD: Inspiration comes from every detail that we see every day. People on the street, mainly women – their clothes, shoes, the way they move – also hands and napkins (especially paper ones). We love observing people from different parts of the world – their culture, their food, their colors – any place can be a potential source of inspiration. We just keep moving.

Personally, collage is my favorite type of art form; I love how the raw materials reflect our memories and experiences. What is your favorite part about collaging?

MD: For us collaging is also our favorite type of art, it gives you the possibility of using anything that is special to you to create a piece of art. I have approached many people on the streets, bought clothes just for the purpose of ripping them up, and stolen napkins and coasters – and used all of these pieces to collage. In our work you can see a huge variety of fabrics, drawings, papers and many materials that we find suddenly in unexpected places, that’s the beauty of it. Every piece is unique, not only because of the design but because of the unique materials that go into it. Sometimes I have spent fortunes in one metre of fabric, just for the purpose of using 5cm. But I tell you, that 5 cm can change everything!

Collaging gives you the opportunity of working with many layers and the option to change the artwork as you go along. It’s very rewarding when it turns out right!

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

MD: We have so many ideas accumulated, and there are many things we want to explore. We love to create new themes and techniques and sometimes we need to stop ourselves from innovating too much. Now we are working on different themes at the same time like exploring people and women. We are now creating our own papers with rice and drawings to use in our work.

 

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Mersuka Dopazo & Teresa Calderón / Modus Art Gallery

JAVIER LEÓN PÉREZ / MODUS GALLERY

WHEN ART BECOMES A MANTRA

Javier León Pérez / Modus Gallery

After exhibiting successfully his works across Asia, where collectors from the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong have acquired their abstract landscapes, Sevillian Javier León Pérez has just inaugurated Horarium, his first individual exhibition in Hong Kong, in Puerta Roja galley, the first and only gallery specialized in Latin American and Spanish art.

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Born in Seville, Javier León Pérez conceives his working process as a daily ritual. An endless repetition of small elements that interweave, covering the surface of his works and that, somehow, acts as a mantra. These powerful black and white patterns create velvety textures which slowly lead the viewer to a complete aesthetic sensory experience.

Horarium reflects on the concept of time as a mental construct. In this project the idea of ast, present and future are overlapping concepts that are conjugated in different ways on the surface of each painting, inviting the viewer to enter a space-time of sensorial experience.

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"The title of this project, Horarium, is taken from the liturgical books of Hours. It is a diary that organized days and months through a cycle of the different liturgical rites and prayers," says Leon Perez. He adds: "For me, it represents a formula of organization and temporal order of the human behavior. I consider the process of my artworks as a daily ritual, just like in the books of Hours. Maybe this is a way to connect with universal cyclic rhythms.”

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Javier León Pérez / Modus Art Gallery

JOSHUA JENSEN-NAGLE BY TORONTO LIFE / MODUS GALLERY

Joshua Jensen-Nagle’s dreamy echoes of the golden age

Joshua Jensen-Nagle / Modus Gallery

Every generation idealizes one that came before—just ask Gil Pender from Midnight in Paris. Another case in point: the Instagram phenomenon. With a quick point and tap, anyone with an iPhone can create hyper-stylized, retro-shabby art photography that looks straight out of the ’70s. The breezy, warm-toned photos that crowd Facebook feeds and Pinterest boards are pretty but soulless—their desperate artificiality shines through the soft-lit patina. New Jersey-born photographer Joshua Jensen-Nagle embraces the romantic nostalgia of the Instagram generation—but he also brings a fine art sensibility to his lush images.

Jensen-Nagle uses toy and pinhole cameras and hand-treats his prints with gold leaf and splattered paint. The photos of the “Quiet Reminiscence” series were taken in Europe with vintage Polaroid film. The distorted dimensions and filters of the film give the photos their texture; after developing the film, Jensen-Nagle scanned them into large archival inkjet prints and mounted them on Plexiglas.

While Instagram photos might look like your mom’s old beach shots, Jensen-Nagle’s wonderful pieces channel French Impressionist paintings. Even though we know they’re not authentic, the gauzy, blurred images feel as though they were discovered in a box lying around someone’s attic—they capture still waters, stately buildings and cast iron streetlights, evoking imagined memories of 19th-century grand tours. Jensen-Nagle’s dreamy photos are equipped with a wondrous ability: they transport their subjects and their viewers back to an elusive (and illusory) golden age.

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Joshua Jensen-Nagle / Modus Art Gallery

JAVIER LEON PEREZ / MODUS GALLERY

PATTERNS AND GEOMETRY

Javier Leon Perez / Modus Gallery

Since he was a child, Javier Léon (Sevilla, 1978) felt a strong attraction to art. After studying as a graphic designer, he worked in a studio for a while but he soon realized that it wasn’t his calling as his true passion was for art. He enrolled in fine arts and he eventually achieved a Master’s degree in arts, at the Complutense University in Madrid. It was during his academic years that he explored new media and techniques and he developed his unique style, an hybrid between sculpture and painting.When asked what kind of value does his artwork generate, the artist answers:

I don’t know that for sure. It’s probably something that can’t be weighed, measured or determined. My artworks act like some kind of an emotions catalyst that somehow attract and infect the viewer, completely captivating him.”

His working process is a sort of a daily ritual, just like a mantra; an endless repetition of tiny inter-wined elements that little by little cover the canvas unsealing the artwork. What strikes the viewer the most is the texture, the colors which reflect natural forms and evoke natural geometries and patterns.

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Javier Leon Perez / Modus Art Gallery

BANKSY / MODUS GALLERY

THE BANKSY REVOLUTION

 

Banksy / Modus gallery

We just loved doing graffiti, it was the best thing ever! We used to do them on the bus, coming home from school and everybody did that.” This is how a Bristol child started drawing on public walls, before becoming one of the greatest writers in the world.Banksy’s artworks were born on buses, they crossed the walls of dozens of cities all over the world to eventually land in the halls of the most important galleries and museums.

The reasons why Banksy became so popular is his undeniable ability to take great contemporary themes regarding politics, ethics or culture and translate them into a clear and effective aesthetic. Banksy started working in the nineties, when street art was still in gestation, but he managed to be the first artist to draw attention of such a wide audience to the horrors of war, the contradictions of capitalism and the deception which distinguishes the way we proclaim ourselves “free”.

The subjects of his artworks are diverse: common, anonymous people, political figures, mottos, logos, famous pictures or advertisings. He also uses very often the smiley emoticon as a replacement for human expressions or feelings. His favorite technique is the stencil by which the image is made by applying pigment to a surface over an intermediate object with designed gaps in it, which create the pattern by only allowing the pigment to reach some parts of the surface.

 

The artist truly communicates through is works, as his identity is still unknown, even though it is believed that he could have born in England in 1975 and raised in Bristol. Banksy is a nickname, his tag, his signature, but he never showed himself in public. Protected by anonymity, which anyway increased his fame, providing him a captivating air of mystery, Banksy works quietly under the radar, just like one of his famous rats, protagonists of his graffiti:  

They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant, and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.

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Banksy / Modus Art Gallery

ADAM LUPTON / MODUS GALLERY

ADAM LUPTON'S ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE PASSING TIME TROUGH DISORIENTING PERSPECTIVES

Adam Lupton / Modus Gallery

Despite the meticulous control and calculated perspectives, Canadian artist Adam Lupton’s oil paintings are constantly fidgeting. They mostly feature youth in various incarnations in a blur of motion represented as simultaneous frames, or with different layers of paint exposed. This jitteriness is revealed both through substance, by showing the layers of material creation, or through time, as the viewer pans multiple freeze-frames overlaid on top of each other. What stands still throughout all his work is an obsession with time and chaos, and the individual’s navigation of the two in the constant present.

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Adam Lupton / Modus Art Gallery 

Adam Lupton / Modus Art Gallery 

 ILHWA KIM / MODUS GALLERY

CONTEMPORARY KOREAN ART: TANSAEKHWA AND THE URGENCY OF METHOD

Ilhwa Kim / Modus Gallery

Joan Kee has written a seminal book entitled The book  Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method.considers Tansaekhwa, one of the most important artistic movements in contemporary art history – yet one that has been significantly over-looked. Tansaekhwa, or Korean monochromatic painting, references a loose grouping of Korean artists who, starting in the mid 1960s, started to manipulate the materials of painting to create mostly large abstract paintings executed in white, black, brown, and other neutral colours.  During the 1970s and 80s, works by artists such as Park Seobo, Ha Chonghyun, Kwon Young-woo and Lee Ufan, came to be seen by critics, curators and artists as representing contemporary Korean art, and more widely contemporary Asian art. Kee’s book provides an informative and clear explanation for the context and characteristics that define Tansaekhwa; but equally it encourages further investigation of this intriguing and important facet of art history. 

Joan Kee holds the first university position in North America specifically created for the study of modern and contemporary art in Asia. Kee is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Since the late 1990s, she has written widely on East and Southeast Asian art for such publications as ArtforumArt BulletinArt HistoryOxford Art JournalThird Text, and the catalogue for the Korean Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale. 

First, before we start discussing the book, a bit about you.  You originally set out to be a lawyer and in fact hold a degree from Harvard Law School- but you then decided to study art history and earned a PhD in art history from NYU. Why the change of direction?

My undergraduate degree is in art history and I had always meant to pursue an academic career in the field; however, one of my university professors very wisely pointed out that it was perhaps a good thing to work for a while in an entirely different field. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of law offered a lot of different ways of thinking about various subjects and how those subjects relate to one another.  In many ways, the study of law is about spotting narrative gaps, contradictions, and logical inconsistencies that are central to how we understand a particular subject.

You have a second book project underway already and I understand its provisionally titled What Art Has To Say About The Law. So this will be a literary meeting of your legal experience and your art historical study?

It was brought about by a desire to think of how art history and legal studies play off of each other in mutually productive ways. Legal studies overwhelmingly treat the art-law relationship as a function of selling, buying, creating and exhibiting artworks. Histories of contemporary art in turn have ascribed to artists and artworks the role of victim: what has the law done to art, or rather, what has the law not done to art? Inherent in these studies is a tendency to insist that artworks contain some kind of hidden meaning, an assumption leading viewers to erroneously, or even wrongfully assign to artists motives unsupported by the actual experience of interacting with a particular work. Analogous is the tendency of many histories of modern and contemporary art to treat the law as a monolithic apparatus of control often complicit with an ethically questionable politics. Such assumptions ignore the matrix of contradictions, debates, and processes by which laws are made, exercised, and changed.

My first book actually helped me start thinking more intensively about the art-law relationship as a large part of it concerns how artists living under martial law in 1970s Korea used materials to compromise, or otherwise elude the restrictions and demands imposed on culture by an authoritarian state. I argued that they were able to work with and beyond numerous limitations on the freedoms of expression and assembly at that time because of their understanding of painting and the kinds of demands it made of its viewers. The current project on art and law looks at the relationship between law and visual art is a primary example of the fundamental tensions defining society, particularly in the U.S. from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. During this time, courts intensified their scrutiny of artistic content while the so-called “culture wars” of the Reagan years saw radical changes in legal doctrines of property, contract, and definitions of identity. The magnitude and speed at which these changes took place instilled in many artists a sense of obligation to respond the force and scale of law’s operation. What these responses were will make up a large portion of the new book; another portion will look at how methods used in humanistic disciplines productively affect other systems of thinking in ways that directly benefit society at large. How does the experience of interacting with these works enable the possibility of imagining more concretely the links between the built environment, politics, and material forms in ways that offer us ways of thinking what obligations must be fulfilled to better achieve a more just society?

Your current book looks at Tansaekhwa - the first contemporary Korean artistic movement to be actively promoted internationally. When and why did you decide to write a book on this subject? 

First and foremost, that they are intriguing works that represent a major contribution to an expanded history of abstraction. One of the major dimensions of this contribution is how certain Tansaekhwa artists grapple with the particular challenges set forth from having been trained in ink painting. Take for example, work by Kwon Young-woo, who was among the first postwar Korean artists to major in ink painting at university.  Some time in the early 1960s, he decided to get rid of his ink and brush and instead use his fingernails, palms, and even elbows to tear directly into the paper used for traditional ink painting -- the result is something akin to process-based works in the West, but at the same time utterly different. Another example is Lee Ufan, who paints using mineral pigments ordinarily found in 'Japanese painting' as well as canvas - an unusual combination of materials that raise the issue of so-called traditional media's place in contemporary art. 

This title of the book references the phrase “the urgency of method”. Perhaps you could discuss the reference to 'method' as a means of explaining the movement?

The works of artists like Lee Ufan, Kwon Young-woo, Yun Hyongkeun, and Ha Chonghyun foregrounded contemporary art as an idea fundamentally based on a series of beliefs and doubts concerning the role of medium and the viability of notions like tradition and cultural difference. Their promotion as the face of contemporary Korean art in the late 1970s and 1980s also emphasizes the degree to which the idea of 'contemporary Korean art' is itself a method, a means of responding to an international art world based on the recognition of discrete national and cultural differences. Whatever the personal and political antipathies of their makers, the works that comprise some of Tansaekhwa’s most representative examples highlight questions ignored, neglected, or even actively suppressed in mainstream Euromerican histories of postwar art. It raises, for instance, the curious position of ink painting – for artists like Kwon Young-woo and Lee Ufan, ink painting was both an ongoing legacy and a renewable source of material challenges that urged them to more vigorously push the question of abstraction.  Such explorations continue to resonate today, as international contemporary art has paradoxically revealed itself to be both more expansive and less inclusive than ever before.

It’s not surprising, then, that Tansaekhwa’s emergence coincided with the frequency with which the word method, or in Korean (pangbŏp) was used in Korean art criticism during the 1970s and early 1980s. The term first surfaced in the late 1950s, not long after critics like Pang Keun-t’aek and Kim Yŏng-ju tried to puzzle out what a distinctly modern, postwar Korean art might entail. Method was widely circulated, however, in relation to the series of Seoul Method exhibitions that took place from 1977, and which involved a sometimes bafflingly diverse array of artists, from Kwon Young-woo to conceptual artists like Lee Kun-yong. As one of the exhibition series founders, Lee stated that “for an artist to have his or her own method is a question of that artist’s attitude and language.” In one sense, method was thus a call for artists to develop their own approaches in the vacuum of the late 1970s created by the increasing irrelevance of the government-run national salon, the Kukjŏn, as a leading venue for contemporary art, the rise of artists interested in media other than painting and sculpture, and the continuing need to think about the position of art amidst the pressures of so-called “everyday life.” Other artists involved with the Method exhibitions regarded the call to individuation as a push-back against what they saw as the reductive, non-pluralistic tendencies of contemporary Korean art. Above all, the question of method, as described in a 1980 edition of the Seoul Method show, meant having to answer the question “what does our time demand of us?”

The word “method” also brought to the fore questions of interpretation with which critics grappled in the early 1970s, when the international circulation of Korean art, particularly in Japan, posed its own set of challenges. As the first deliberate attempt to brand a distinct identity for contemporary Korean art for international audiences, the story of Tansaekhwa’s emergence forces us to ask questions of “why” and “how”: it is a near certainty that the current wave of international interest in contemporary Korean art will soon fade into comparative indifference unless a case can be made as to why this art matters to the construction of a world art history. The most pressing task lies not in enumerating artworks, individuals, and events, but in outlining the main streams of identification and belief on which the idea of contemporary Korean art depends. That contemporary Korean art should matter, particularly to non-Korean audiences, is most apparent when we regard not only its subjects, but also the idea itself as a method for thinking about one’s place in the world.

The importance of Japan to the movement is expressed in the book. I noted that Lee Ufan, whose work is referenced on the front cover, spent much of his time there. Why was there this Japanese engagement with the movement? 

Mainly because Japan, for most Korean artists, was the nearest and most feasible point of access into the international art world after the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan in 1965. We’re talking about a generation that was born during Japan’s occupation of Korea, who were largely fluent in Japanese and acquainted with Japan’s artistic infrastructure. A key player in facilitating this engagement was Lee Ufan, whom many artists credit with helping them show their works in Tokyo. Many Japanese critics and gallerists in their turn saw Tansaekhwa as a useful means of visualizing what they referred to as a discrete “Asian” contemporary art, something I talk about in the book’s fifth chapter. Indeed, one of the most important exhibitions of Tansaekhwa, Five Korean Artists, Five Kinds of White at the Tokyo Gallery, was conceived as part of a larger “Asian art” series by the gallery’s owner, Yamamoto Takashi. Another point of contact is with Taiwan; in 1977, a large exhibition of Korean painting featuring many examples of Tansaekhwa took place at the National History Museum in Taipei. The reception of this exhibition suggests future possibilities for thinking about an interregional history of abstraction.

What relationship is there between Tansaekhwa and Western art movements of the same period?

There are a lot of “false friend” parallels, some of which were based in Tansaekhwa artists actually having seen certain works, such as Yun Hyongkeun having seen and admired the works of Mark Rothko. I’m also intrigued with some of the affinities between the works of artists like Ha Chonghyun and Helio Oititica, a Brazilian artist who grappled with the ambiguous separation between two- and three-dimensionality, or regional patterns of circulation through which the idea of abstract ink painting could be viewed; e.g., tracing lines of affiliation between the Filipino artist Fernando Zobel, the Taiwanese artist Fong Chung Ray and Kwon Young-woo. Such resemblances bring us to the heart of what has been pointed out about Korean, or for that matter, many examples of non-Western, art, that the question of whether to keep or omit one-to-one comparisons between Western and Korean works “stands at the heart” of how to think about modern and contemporary Korean art. On the one hand, certain formal comparisons make it easier to decouple Tansaekhwa works from the rhetorical ends to which they were put in the late 1970s and to relate them instead to a much broader conversation on abstraction. This has the potential of introducing foreign audiences to a more pluralized view of abstraction based on how Tansaekhwa both resembles and diverges from its counterparts elsewhere.

An extract I read in relation to the book stated: “Tansaekhwa made a case for abstraction as a way for viewers to engage productively with the world and its systems.” Perhaps you could expand on this?

One example is to look at various examples of Tansaekhwa through the politics of its time, which in the early 1970s was significantly inflected by the declaration of martial law in South Korea in 1972. Present histories of Korean art misread Tansaekhwa’s fidelity to materials as apolitical. Yet for Tansaekhwa artists to really interrogate the idea of painting was quite a radical thing to do if we remember how so many artists in this authoritarian era bought into representation by doing everything they could to forget that they were, in fact, painters – nothing more, nothing less. Tansaekhwa artists were quite transparent about the scope of action – it was both defined and enabled by the limitations of the painting medium. Protest was never the main point. Nor was it mere production. But by making the process of execution so utterly, even viscerally transparent, Tansaekhwa works shifted the burden of figuring out what’s going on onto the viewer, and in so doing, reconfirmed that you were indeed in possession of your own senses – this was quite an important thing to reconfirm in a deeply authoritarian, repressive era that seemed defined by a state bent on taking everything away from you. It is this reaffirmation of the viewer that made Tansaekhwa political in a time when merely walking slowly through city streets might land you in jail (a point vividly made in 1970 by the collective, The Fourth Group, when some of its members carried a coffin in a slow processional in downtown Seoul).

There seems to be an enormous gap between the amount of art being produced in Korea and the numbers of art history texts and departments on Korean art. How difficult was it to research the book?

Very. There’s a lot of really insightful, important criticism but relatively few systematic efforts at historicization. The one exception was the mid-to-late 1970s when you had a spate of efforts to track a history of contemporary Korean art; a notable instance was Kim Yun-su’s History of Contemporary Korean Painting. Published in 1975, it’s a proto-revisionist history of modern Korean painting which tried to explicitly track and evaluate art according to socio-political phenomena. 

More recent scholars have stepped in to fill the gap, and since the early 2000s there’s been a very welcome interest in oral history – welcome, since most of the key players of the Korean art world in the 1950s-1970s are or were in their 70s and 80s. Yet we need a lot more. It’s a race against the clock in many ways. In addition, writing history means much more than gathering relevant factual material. It also demands more than simply putting events in a linear sequence or even about inclusion for the sake of upholding the myth of an expanding art world. The choices made in even the most trivial-seeming acts of interpretation reflect our assumptions about art and its potential for action. Starting points, for example, are crucial. To begin a survey of modern Korean art from 1910, for instance, is to risk having non-Korean readers overlook the particular conditions of modernity in Korea, conditions which far predate Japanese occupation and which can be traced to the mid-to-late 18th century where artists like Kang Se-hwang took as their subject the idea of what it meant to be present, or in short, contemporaneous with one’s own time. Other suggested points of origin include 1953, which leads to a different kind of postwar narrative than has been otherwise assumed in Euroamerican studies of “postwar art,” yet this too risks positioning art as symptomatic, rather than generative, of its context. Possibly a more useful beginning is to start with a close reading of a single work. This would opens up the possibility of constructive failure, in which the impossibility of fully accounting for this work provokes the reader to envision other ways of interpretation, other points of access.

Part of the difficulty is the absence of courses devoted to modern and contemporary Korean art, even at the most elite institutions. It’s absolutely shocking that the national flagship university in Korea (Seoul National University) has not filled the spots left vacant by Kim Youngna and Chung Hyung-min after they assumed the directorships of the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, respectively. Of course, the teaching of modern/contemporary Western art is implicitly regarded as a priority. One only imagines the uproar in the West if, say, a major university in the U.S. were to lack an Americanist. The problem with this lack is that it affects the kind of writing that gets produced; there's a lot of writing now, but very little is historically informed, which compromises the ability of critics to give useful feedback to younger artists. Small wonder that museum curators and gallerists often complain of a dearth of good younger artists -- there needs to be critical feedback for artists and having some understanding of how works now resonate with what's been done previously is an important step.

Many histories of 20th century Korean art lack citations, bibliographies or other scholarly apparatus which can make it difficult to fact-check or cross-reference claims and observations. I ended up creating for myself a searchable database that consisted not only of newspaper and journal articles from roughly 1953 to the present but also images from the National Archives of Korea – luckily, the software for searching image databases is getting better every day. Image searching is going to be a gamechanger for research as will be the current interest in tracking networks of affiliations; already it’s possible to download large data sets and then track which institutions, events, and individuals actually exerted real impact by looking at both the number and the strength of those connections. As the book reflects, the resulting story is sometimes far different than what’s being told in received histories.

How much does ‘nation’ over ‘idea’ hinder the promotion of Korean art?

Ironically, the biggest obstacle in the promotion of Korean art is the endless insistence on putting the 'Korean' before the art. I hear again and again from senior scholars well acquainted with Korea and from newcomers alike that this emphasis often comes across as a kind of institutionalized insecurity. The new Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art will be a crucial opportunity to reframe a history of modern and contemporary Korean art in such a way that emphasizes what might be called the obstinacy of art.  The works might look similar to their counterparts in the West or in the rest of Asia but when juxtaposed with certain other works can produce very intense experiences of estrangement through which we really have to rethink what we know of movements like abstraction or genres like portraiture. 

The geopolitics of Korea strongly suggest that Korean art (and culture, for that matter) will always be discussed in relation to the art of somewhere else. For decades critics struggled against this, albeit by pinning their hopes to arbitrary discourses of Koreanness that ironically stifled more productive kinds of discussion.  Yet one of the great strengths of Tansaekhwa and other key movements is how the task of its historicization calls us to restructure a world art history beyond the dichotomies of nationalism and internationalism, center and periphery, or the global and local. Making good on this potential is the next step.

What do you hope the book will be a catalyst for?

It's my express hope that the book would appeal to readers who are non-specialists in Asian art. I’m also hoping to see more studies on modern and contemporary Asian art that pay extensive attention to the artwork.In terms of reception so far, I’ve been intrigued by the frequency with which Korean interviewers (either based in Korea or elsewhere) have asked about what I think might be done to promote Korean arts and culture overseas. My take is that contemporary Korean art is not yet 'global' until overseas institutions organize exhibitions of such art without heavy subsidies from Korean state agencies or Korean companies. Along the same lines, can there be an exhibition of postwar or contemporary Korean art without having the theme of national identity foreground the works on display? One of the reasons I wrote this book was because I believe that many examples of Tansaekhwa deserve recognition that isn't essentially bought for them by Korean sources. Fortunately others seem to agree as seen by the growing number of non-Korean institutions and galleries interested in collecting or exhibiting Tansaekhwa works.

What other developments would you like to see?

A huge priority is to invest in the development of archives and translators. I could not have written this book without the resources of the Leeum archive of Korean art or that of Kim Dal-jin, who has spent most of his life gathering materials that would have probably otherwise been lost. With the exception of a very small handful of individuals, Korean-to-English translation in the arts is abysmal. And it really has a negative impact on the promotion of this kind of art, not only for non-Korean speaking researchers but for museum collections and courses, many of which are based on histories riddled with glaring inaccuracies. One of the greatest challenges in writing the book was to double-check basic facts like names, dimensions, dates, titles and the like. At present, the majority of histories of contemporary Korean art comprise a kind of system of misdirection in which inaccuracies and generalizations are repeated to the point where they harden into a consensus that is very, very difficult to budge. For example, even today Tansaekhwa is discussed as "Korean minimalism" despite the fact that Minimalism had almost minimal (pun intended!) impact on the postwar Korean art world and was frequently criticized by art critics in Korea the 1960s and 70s.

Will we see an exhibition relevant to this book?

I’m curating a large-scale exhibition on Tansaekhwa that will open in the fall of 2014 in Los Angeles. Details regarding the venue and dates will soon be released, but it will be the first major show of Tansaekhwa in the U.S., consisting of both works that have never been exhibited outside of Korea and those that were showcased in such seminal exhibitions as Facet of Contemporary Korean Art held in 1977 in Tokyo. The exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly book-length catalogue featuring not only an essay, but English translations of key artist interviews as well as numerous archival images that supplement what’s in the book. There is also a strong possibility that many of the works will make their way to Hong Kong as part of a larger show on postwar Korean art. — [O]

DISCOVER AVAILABLE ARTWORKS BY ILHWA KIM

JOSHUA JENSEN-NAGLE BY TORONTO LIFE / MODUS GALLERY

BIRD-EYE SHOTS OF THE WORLD'S BEST BEACHES

Joshua Jensen-Nagle / Modus Gallery

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Still Moments. Miami, Florida.

As a child, Joshua Jensen-Nagle vacationed at his grandfather’s beach house on the scenic shores of the Atlantic in New Jersey. After falling in love with photography in high school and studying it at Ryerson, the Toronto-based photographer was drawn back to the water—only now he he flies high above the shores in a helicopter, capturing mesmerizing shades of blue.  We asked Jensen-Nagle what it’s like to take photos from on high.

First of all, why beaches?
I started shooting beaches around 2000. I have joyful, youthful memories of pure bliss from spending time at beaches. Generally, people go to beaches to get away from crowds and let themselves go. We get so caught up with work that when we actually get in the water or under the sun, it’s such a happy emotion.

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Kaneohe Sandbar I. Kaneohe, Hawaii.

Of course, you’re not on vacation when you’re at the beach. How do you feel while you’re working?
Usually, I’m very stressed and focused on getting the work done. I have a lot of anxiety until I know that I have something. There’s only so much research you can do: until you actually get to the location, you don’t know what you’re going to get.

What does that research entail?
It starts with a lot of Internet research: Google Earth, finding out how crowded it gets at what time of year, when’s the best time to visit. I’ve built a list of different places I’m working on. The next trip is to Barcelona, then Portugal, France and maybe Sicily.

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An Abstract Expression. Sydney, Australia.

Once you’ve settled on a location, what’s the first step?
I use a network of fixers—usually people who work in the film industry who have contacts all over the world—to find out from local authorities what permissions we need. Typically, we need to get permission from them to fly over certain locations at least a couple months ahead of time, and there are altitude restrictions. In some cases, you can just go and do it, but I always check.

Who exactly is flying you around?
I usually get a senior pilot to go out with me. They have to pull some tricky manoeuvres while we’re flying because I take a lot of shots facing directly down. I talk through it with the pilot beforehand, often back and forth with a translator. Some of them get it right away and some don’t. Sometimes, you get hotshot pilots that really crank it and go a bit faster than I’m used to.

JJN-HanaumaBayI-803x0-c-default.jpg

Jensen-Nagle with his wife, Jessica, in Sydney, Australia.

I’m assuming you’re not scared of heights?
I actually don’t like flying, so it was very nerve-wracking the first time, and it still is when there’s rough turbulence. But as soon as I get my eye into the viewfinder, I completely forget about all of that. I completely relax.

I assume you’re strapped in.
I’m always harnessed in and sort of…hanging out of the chopper. I shoot while my wife, Jessica Jensen, is in the front seat of the helicopter watching Capture Pilot, which is an app that links my camera to an iPhone or iPad. Since there’s a lot of vibration and pressure from the rotors, it’s hard for me to tell if the shot is in focus. We have headsets on to communicate, and she says things like, “No, do another pass, this one was out of focus,” while I look at the technical aspects: camera settings, the composition of the photo. I also give the pilot a focal point to circle around and tell him, “Out 50 metres, down 10 metres.”

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It’s All There II. Sydney, Australia.

What kind of camera do you use?
I use a Phase One camera. It’s 100 megapixels, and it’s attached to a gyroscope so it’s stabilized while I’m in the air. I have extra batteries and lenses, but that’s it. My copter of choice is called the Robinson 44. It’s a small machine compared to some, but it suits my needs perfectly: it’s stable and affordable—about $1,000 per hour. As you get to bigger and bigger machines, the prices are astronomical. Getting permits and flying across the world can get very expensive, you know? On average, a trip costs about $10,000.

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Hanauma Bay I. Hanauma Bay, Hawaii.

Does weather ever get in your way?
There are a lot of environmental things to worry about—the wind, for example, can push the helicopter sideways—but I’ve been very fortunate with weather. I’ve never had to cancel a shoot because of it. Once, though, when I was in Hawaii, I wanted to shoot a stretch of beaches (above). A strange wind came in from a certain direction, so they had to change the main airport’s flight path to right over my area. We didn’t get cleared to fly until the very last day I was there. For the whole time, I was thinking, “Oh, geez. I came all the way to Hawaii for this!”

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Swimmers of Rio I. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Now that you’ve shot so many beaches, do you remember them all individually or do they blend together?
Each piece is different: the water colour is different, the waves are different. For example, I love the waves in Rio de Janeiro (above)—they made the texture of the photo so whimsical.

Melting Away. Algarve, Portugal.

Some of your photos have a wispiness and a watercolour-like blend of pastels. Are they altered?
They’re slightly altered, which comes from my past shooting with Polaroid film. Polaroid film is extremely soft, and the colour palette is very similar to these images. I tried to duplicate that feel with these shots.

What’s the story behind the shots that you take from the ground?
They actually came first and evolved into the aerial shots. But nowadays, when I’m up there, I’m location scouting: I point out areas that I want to check out on the ground.

While we’re on the ground photos, what’s with the polka dots?
That was just a playful, tongue-in-cheek reference to Damien Hirst’s polka dots. I was intrigued by them, and I wanted to add a graphic element to the work. The dots dance through the image; it just adds a little hint of something otherworldly.

Has taking these photos changed your relationship with beaches?
I still get the same feelings from them. When I’m there, it brings back happy memories and simpler times, and I get to relax. When I make the large prints and see them, it immediately calms me down.

So you’re not bored yet?
I often get asked, “Are you going to continue to shoot beaches?” I don’t know. Time will tell. As long as I’m still inspired by beaches and can find new ways to shoot them, I will.

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Joshua Jensen-Nagle / Modus Art Gallery