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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JESUS CURIA/MODUS GALLERY

Jesús Curiá / Modus gallery

Par Modus Art Gallery

 

L’artiste espagnol travaille depuis plus de 25 ans la sculpture, où il nous invite à nous glisser dans un monde onirique. Le travail de Jesus Curia nous transmet une sensation de paisibilité, de profondeur et d’un équilibre certain. Un univers parallèle apparait devant nous, où des personnages hybride, avec une morphologie humaine à laquelle vient s’ajouter fréquemment des lignes droites et des formes géométriques. Sa sensibilité à l’espace et le monde qui nous entoure, lui permet de façonner ces œuvres d’une manière harmonieuse, en créant très souvent le sentiment de suspension des personnages dans le vide.

Les colonnes de Jesus Curia se caractérisent par le contraste qui se crée à partir de la pesanteur du bronze et la représentation de légèreté des sujets.

Nous retrouvons ainsi des enfants suspendus dans l’espace par un fil invisible, ou par une main bienveillante les empêchant de tomber. Plongés dans le jeu et l’amusement, ces enfants forment une colonne montante vers le ciel, avec une gravité inexistante. La douceur et la poésie sont au rendez-vous avec une œuvre qui nous invite à un voyage lointain dans des terres inexplorées.

Chaque colonne est unique, l’interaction et la position des personnages étant organisée de façon différente à chaque fois par les soins de l’artiste. La patine, qui varie également, vient sublimer ces êtres naïfs en constant équilibre.

 

 

 

 

Jesus Curia/ Modus gallery

MARTA SANCHEZ LUENGO/MODUS GALLERY

AT MY OWN PACE

Marta Sanchez Luengo / Modus Gallery

The most remarkable thing about Marta Sanchez Luengo's work is her scope of the human being through different realities. The study of the human figure and its context play the same role on her sculptures. The creation and use of scene is always constant on her work, and it becomes the canvas for referring about the complexity of the circumstances the human being is involved, integrating social-urban with intimate-personal life.

Particularly, the Travel thematic is very frequent in her work

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Marta Sanchez Luengo / 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

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

BANKSY BY LE TEMPS / MODUS GALLERY

BANKSY, LE GRAFFEUR QUE TOUT LE MONDE VEUT DÉMASQUER

Banksy / Modus Gallery

Il est la star de l’art urbain. Un blogueur écossais pense avoir percé le mystère de son identité. Un galeriste genevois relance l’hypothèse de l’artiste anglais Damien Hirst. Mais pourquoi tout le monde cherche-t-il à savoir qui est Banksy?

C’est le mystère le mieux entretenu du Street Art. Qui est Banksy, le graffeur star, celui qui couvre les murs de ses dessins au pochoir pour critiquer tout à trac notre société à la dérive, dénoncer l’injustice économique et brocarder le monde de l’art sur un mode caustique et souvent humoristique? Qui est cet artiste sans visage dont les œuvres se vendent plusieurs centaines de milliers de dollars? Et qui, sur une plage d’Angleterre, construisait Dismaland, parc d’attractions éphémère et déglingué, sorte de Disneyland à l’envers? Personne ne le sait. Comme Robin des Bois, sans l’arc mais avec des bombes de peinture en bandoulière, Banksy s’en prend à l’autorité et aux puissants. Et depuis ses débuts d’artiste de rue à Bristol en 1998 il a toujours réussi à passer entre les mailles du filet. A moins qu’il n’ait déjà été arrêté, mais sous son vrai nom.

La semaine dernière, le Daily Mail pensait ainsi avoir identifié le graffeur masqué. Le quotidien britannique relayait en fait l’enquête menée par Craig Williams, un blogueur écossais qui à force de recoupements a fini par déceler une étrange coïncidence dans les emplois du temps de l’artiste. A chaque fois que Banksy agit hors d’Europe, il se trouve que le groupe Massiv Attack joue également dans le coin. Cela se vérifie en 2003 à Melbourne, en 2006 à Los Angeles, en 2008 à la Nouvelle Orléans et en 2013 à New York. Craig Williams n’a pas choisi la figure historique du trip hop britannique au hasard. Son leader apparaît en effet comme le candidat idéal. Multi-artiste, Robert «3D» Del Naja a commencé par être un graffeur respecté de la scène du Street art de Bristol. Deux arrestations pour atteinte à la propriété l’auraient finalement décidé d’abandonner l’art mural pour se consacrer à la musique.

Emballement planétaire

Leur connivence, ni le musicien ni le graffeur n’en ont jamais fait grand mystère. Le premier apparaît dans «Faites le mur», vrai-faux documentaire de 2010 consacré au second et réalisé par lui-même. Cinq ans plus tard, Banksy renvoyait l’ascenseur au chanteur en signant la préface du livre 3D and the Art of Massiv Attack. Pour Craig Williams la chose ne fait pas un pli: «3D» et Banksy seraient donc une seule et même personne. Le blogueur reste cependant prudent. «Peut-être que cette supposition qui faisait de Banksy une seule personne est loin du compte, et qu’il s’agit plutôt d’un groupe qui, au fil des ans, a suivi Massive Attack et peint des murs pendant leur temps libre», avance Craig Williams dans le quotidien britannique. Et peut-être qu’à la tête de ce groupe nous avons Del Naja. Un artiste pluridisciplinaire qui mène un des groupes phares de l’histoire récente de la musique britannique, mais également l’un des artistes les plus vénérés de la planète. Ça serait quelque chose de cool.» Tellement cool que la nouvelle de son identité supposée suscite désormais un emballement planétaire.

Elle fait suite à la théorie qui catapultait un certain Robin Cunningham dans la peau de Banksy. Laquelle semblait vouloir être confirmée en mars 2016 par un groupe de scientifiques de la Queen Mary University de Londres. La géolocalisation des œuvres associée à des techniques utilisées en criminologie arrivait ainsi à la même conclusion. Ce qui n’empêche visiblement pas le doute de persister. Le 3 septembre, devant les 27 000 spectateurs venus écouter Massive Attack rejouer à Bristol après 11 ans d’absence, Robert Del Naja n’a fait qu’ajouter un peu d’épaisseur au mystère. «La rumeur qui prétend que je suis Banksy est très exagérée. Nous sommes tous Banksy». Peu d’artistes peuvent se vanter de faire monter une telle fièvre.

Le Zorro de l’art

Mais pourquoi cette frénésie à vouloir absolument le démasquer? «Son message est simple. Ses œuvres sont efficaces et parlent à tout le monde. Les gens l’adorent», observe Philippe Davet, galeriste et directeur de Blondeau & Cie à Genève. Un capital de sympathie que l’artiste sait soigner. Lorsqu’un SDF de Los Angeles se trouve chassé de la citerne où il habite parce qu’un collectionneur vient d’acheter le graffiti que l’artiste britannique a peint dessus, Banksy lui offre de quoi se payer un logement pendant au moins un an. «Il est très populaire surtout auprès d’un public, souvent jeune, qui ne s’intéresse pas forcément à l’art contemporain.» Faites le test pour voir. Prenez un panel représentatif de la génération Y qui ne met jamais les pieds dans un musée et demandez-lui s’il connaît Jeff Koons? Il s’en trouvera bien un parmi l’assistance qui sait que l’artiste américain réalise des sculptures géantes de chien en forme de baudruche. Les autres, eux, regardent en l’air. Recommencez, mais maintenant pour savoir qui connaît Banksy. Toutes les mains se lèvent: «Ah oui le mec qui peint des graffitis politiques et dont personne n’a jamais vu la tête. J’aime bien.»

L’anonymat, c’est ce qui fait la force de Banksy et lui assure son statut de héros rebelle. «Il ne faut pas oublier qu’il vient de cet univers du graffiti où les artistes peignent en douce la nuit pour éviter les patrouilles. Et que chez eux, l’important est ce qu’ils expriment, pas ce qu’ils sont», rappelle Willem Speerstra, propriétaire de la Speerstra Gallery à Bursins spécialisée dans l’art urbain. «Je lui souhaite d’échapper encore longtemps au radar. Rester caché entretient son mythe.» Important collectionneur de Street Art Marco Berrebi abonde: «Les artistes du Street Art ne donnent jamais leur vrai nom. Ils s’appellent Zevs, Brainwash. JR, par exemple, ne se cachent pas mais n’ont jamais dévoilé leur véritable identité. Banksy est un cas à part car personne ne sait qui il est physiquement. S’il s’obstine dans sa clandestinité, c’est pour se protéger. De tous les artistes urbains, il est sans doute celui qui est allé le plus loin dans l’illégalité, lorsque à ses débuts il intervenait dans l’espace public anglais.»

Mais de la même manière que la nature à horreur du vide, les gens supportent mal de ne pas savoir. «Banksy c’est Zorro. Et comme toutes les légendes on aimerait bien découvrir au final qui se cache derrière», poursuit Philippe Davet qui a sa petite idée sur la question. Car lui aussi, il y a quelques années, s’est lancé sur la piste de l’artiste invisible. «Le milieu de l’art contemporain a vraiment découvert les œuvres de Banksy aux enchères aux alentours de 2006. Dès le début sa cote s’est envolée. Comment un type qui pratique son art dans la rue et dont le nom n’était alors connu que des spécialistes du Street Art émergent pouvaient atteindre de tels scores chez Christie’s et Sotheby’s? Et puis il y avait aussi un problème d’authenticité. Le style Banksy est assez facile à reproduire. D’autant qu’il a changé avec le temps. Il y a une dizaine d’années, j’avais demandé à un spécialiste de l’une de ces maisons comment il faisait pour être sûr de vendre un Banksy original. Il m’a été répondu que les demandes de certificats étaient envoyées à l’adresse du studio de Damien Hirst.»

Opération marketing

Que Banksy et l’artiste anglais, célèbre pour son requin blanc qui surnage dans un aquarium de formol, ne forment qu’un, l’hypothèse n’est pas nouvelle. Tous les deux apparaissent sur la scène de Young British Artists dans les années 90. Tous les deux cultivent un esprit similaire de provocation potache hérité du punk. Banksy et Hirst ont même œuvré à quatre mains. Leur toile commune «Keep It Spotless» a été adjugée 1,8 million de dollars chez Sotheby’s en 2008. Un record absolu pour le graffeur. «Cela fait bientôt 20 ans que tout le monde le traque et pourtant personne n’est encore parvenu ni à le voir travailler ni à le photographier, continue le galeriste genevois. Maintenir ainsi l’énigme nécessite une logistique parfaitement rodée. Pour moi, c’est une opération d’art marketing qui réclame des moyens. Et le marketing justement Damien Hirst est passé maître en la matière.»

Mais Philippe Davet éclaire aussi cette supposition de nouveaux indices. «Dans une interview du 2011, un journaliste demandait à l’artiste tchèque Jîrî Georg Dokoupil quel était son artiste inventeur préféré. Sans hésiter il a répondu Damien Hirst. Il ajoutait: ce qui me fascine le plus chez lui c’est d’avoir réussi, avec Banksy, à créer une sorte de sous-marque. Je suis absolument certain de ce que j’affirme. Je connais très bien la personne qui me l’a dit et elle sait très bien de quoi elle parle. Je la crois à 100%.» Reste que pour le peintre, Banksy serait plutôt une hydre, un artiste a plusieurs têtes. Ses interventions urbaines seraient en fait les actions combinées d’une multitude de talents. Comme une organisation «avec différentes sous-branches pour différents styles et techniques. Ce qui expliquerait que le secret de son identité n’ait jamais été percé.»

Ce jeu du chat et de la souris, Banksy s’en amuse. Au point que la chasse se transforme parfois en art attack. Entre le 1er et le 31 octobre 2013 il s’installait à New York où il semait les cailloux de sa présence via son site internet et les réseaux sociaux. «Better Out Than In» (Mieux dehors que dedans) va ainsi passionner ses fans, les curieux et la police pendant un mois. Sans jamais tomber le masque. Mieux dehors que dedans.

 

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Banksy / 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

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]

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MARTIN WHATSON / MODUS GALLERY

STREET ART AVENUE: NUART FESTIVAL, STAVANGER

Martin Whatson / Modus Gallery

Début septembre, l’artiste norvégien Martin Whatson réalisait deux oeuvres pour le festival Nuart à Stavanger, en Norvège.

L’un des deux murs peints par Martin Whatson représente une danseuse en mouvement, dont la robe colorée faite de graffitis et de tags, fidèle au style singulier de cet artiste qui combine les techniques du pochoir photo-réaliste et du tag vandale.

Avec une troisième participation consécutive, Martin Whatson est un habitué de l’un des plus anciens festivals d’art urbain. Crée en 2001, le «Nuart» est pleinement dédié au street art depuis 2005 et réunit chaque année une line-up sélective et prestigieuse avec les plus grands artistes internationaux.

http://www.street-art-avenue.com/2015/09/martin-whatson-nuart-festival-2015-stavanger-12308

photos :
© Martin Whatson via www.facebook.com/martinwhatson84)
© Jaime Rojo (Brooklyn Street Art)
© Ian Cox via le site du festival www.nuartfestival.no

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Martin Whatson / Modus Art Gallery

JESUS CURIA BY WIDEWALL / MODUS GALLERY

TAKE A PEEK AT JESUS CURIA'S BRONZE WORLD

Jesus Curia / Modus Gallery

MODUSGALLERY

It is seemingly easier to identify with the ideas and thoughts of an artist if he works in sculpture with the focus on the human body. The interpretation of the movement and emotions should come naturally. Jesús Curiá is a Spanish contemporary sculptor, whose work revolves around the human figure, often mixing figurative elements when shaping the heads with the abstract ones when working on a body, trying to emphasize the tradition, modernity, and ethnics, which have remained the basic aspect of his approach throughout the years. By combining figuration with abstraction, the artist manages to pinpoint the viewer’s attention on specific parts of the artwork, while they simultaneously admire the craftsmanship of the entire piece.

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 Melting All the Races into One

The artist uses a lot of bronze for his pieces, but also wood, stone, cement, and resin. He makes a decision which material he’s going to use when he comes to work and see what works best for the current idea, what will express his thoughts appropriately. The artworks are vital and joyful, and the way he uses colors emphasize it even more. Curiá makes it easy for viewers to see how his almost ancient characters perfectly reflect our thoughts and feelings about the contemporary world. From an early age, the artist, although himself a member of a western culture, has shown an interest in Asian and African cultures, and that led to establishing an idea where all races will melt into one. It’s an ideal that still fuels his inspiration.

His ancient characters perfectly reflect our thoughts and feelings about the contemporary world

 

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He Wanted to be a Painter

The seeds of Curiá’s interest for other cultures were planted during his childhood, when it was difficult to see foreign people, so it was very exotic when he would actually see someone who wasn’t from his country or even from Europe. He always wanted to be an artist, as his father was a painter, so Curiá also wanted to become one. However, the sculpture left such an impression that he abandoned painting and dedicated himself to being a sculptor. He graduated from Fine Arts College of the Complutense University of Madrid in 1992. Since then, the sculpture has become both his work and his hobby, always on his mind. His family is also an immeasurably important part of Curiá’s life and the only thing keeping him from not working all the time.

The sculpture left such an impression, that he abandoned the idea of being a painter

Rare Moments of Fun

The artist thinks that sculptors have only two moments of fun with their work – ”the first and most satisfying is when we finish a job and lose a few minutes admiring creation. The second is when I see people enjoying my work to some extent.” Speaking of some goals for the future, when thinking as an ordinary person, Curiá is more than happy to be able to live from his work. But, when speaking as an artist, he wants to show his work in galleries throughout the world.

Jesús Curiá lives and works in Madrid.

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