► Tina Keng Gallery｜Art Basel Hong Kong 2023
Venue｜Convention & Exhibition Centre
(1 Harbour Road Wan Chai Hong Kong, China)
Participating Artists｜Su Xiaobai, Su Meng-Hung, Peng Wei, Sanyu, Sopheap Pich, Yun Gee
▋Collectors Preview ▋
▋Public Days ▋
Beyond and Between: Contemporary Art in Asia
For Art Basel Hong Kong 2023, Tina Keng Gallery is pleased to present: Su Xiaobai (b. 1949), Sopheap Pich (b. 1971), Peng Wei (b. 1974) and Su Meng-Hung (b. 1976). Rooted in a deconstruction of Eastern culture and reinterpretation of Western art theory, their artistic vocabulary mirrors the spiritual, intellectual, and practical aspects of artistic creation. Through the tradition of Tina Keng Gallery that centers its focus on Asia, we bring together artists in Asia and their intriguing works in an effort to present the eclectic scene of contemporary Asian art to cognoscenti across different regions.
The rise of modern art in the Chinese world has often accompanied periods of migration and exile. Beyond an aesthetic appreciation for the accomplishments of artists who precede us, it is also necessary to engage in a reading of the issues of nostalgia and identity embedded within their work. Whether compelled by the devastation of war or in pursuit of further education, immigration or oversea studies are a catalyst for the collision and diffusion of ideas for artists in the last century. Cultural identity has become an unavoidable undercurrent in their contemplation of art. Nostalgia has become an important aesthetic for artists in pursuit of that artistic blue bird.
Born in Wuhan, China, Su Xiaobai currently lives and works in Düsseldorf. His effort to conjure abstraction through Chinese lacquer epitomizes a cross-cultural dialogue. Experienced as a mirror of time, the administration of texture and materiality in Su’s painting educes a sculpturesque serenity in a fortuitous resonance with the wabi-sabi philosophy — namely a worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. His employment of lacquer infuses a contemporaneity into a traditional medium rich with history, transmitting a subtle visual warmth in a painterly practice characterized by light and shadow. The artist paints layers of vibrantly colored lacquer in a purely structural and balanced composition. The seemingly arbitrary, yet meticulously deliberate handling of visual forms reveals the artist’s pursuit of aesthetic depth.
Sopheap Pich was born in Battambang, Cambodia in 1971, moved at age 13 to the United States. In 2002, he returned to Cambodia, to the same place he had evacuated from in formative years because of the refugee crisis. Pich's trip back home renewed and reunited him with his cultural identity, which impacts his practice. Pich's style aims to be non-autobiographical, but he embraces the materials from his native country to depict its past. Trained as a painter, Pich later experimented with sculpting, and manipulating materials. He realized that sculpture was a way to be physically intimate with his environment. He manipulates his materials through boiling, cutting, bending, burning, and dyeing. He allows the materials to speak for themselves, with no hidden narrative. His pieces are very environmental, and inexpensive looking. They are meant to look as though the time put in was worth more than the monetary value of the materials themselves.
Chinese artist Peng Wei is known for her paintings of landscapes and Taihu rocks, of Western faces rendered in Asian mediums, of delicate embroidered shoes and robes. Through her meticulous brushwork and application of ink across flax paper, cotton paper, or silk, an abiding spirit of centuries-long tradition enlaces her contemporary interpretation. The artist examines Chinese culture through a rigorous scrutiny of literati imagery that has in recent years gravitated toward femininity in a dialectical approach to gender and culture.
Combing mother-of-pearl inlay, cloisonné, and lacquer crafts, Taiwanese artist Su Meng-Hung’s painting brims with Eastern flora and fauna motifs executed in Western abstract painting techniques, quietly suffused with Marco Polo-esque sentiments. One of the highlights from this series, Abstract Expressionist Screen (2020) is an antique screen enwrapped in Su’s imagination of a different time, space, and culture. The juxtaposition of splendor, literati charm, and modern consumerism broadens the horizon of contemporary aesthetics.
Through their creative integration of the Eastern and Western art philosophy, the diverse body of work by these artists revisits not only the core of Chinese culture, but aims to expand Asian aesthetics in an effort to transcend a single cultural system. Cabinet: The Stranger
Delving into diverse iterations of identity born out of cross-cultural experiences, Tina Keng Gallery presents the works of two artists: Sanyu and Yun Gee, in an exploration of aesthetics inspired by their personal journeys. Both artists have shaped a seminal aspect of Chinese art, allowing them to observe differences between the self and the other. Hence, the curatorial project serves as a profound cultural reflection, distilling an artistic achievement that transcends a singular cultural context, expanding the value of the classical.
Sanyu first attended the Shanghai Art Academy, and went to Japan in 1919. The following year, he went to France among China’s very first batch of oversea students under the sponsorship of the Chinese government. After he finished school, Sanyu remained in Paris, where he engaged in figure drawing at the Grande Chaumière. Beginning in 1925, Sanyu showed his work regularly at the Paris Salons and local galleries. In his early 30s, Sanyu garnered recognition for his copperplate prints in Les Poèmes de T'ao Ts'ien (or The Poems of T'ao Ts'ien), and gradually established his status among France’s major contemporary artists. His restrained approach to painting imbued with a rich Oriental flavor caught the attention of renowned Paris art collector Henri-Pierre Roché, and received praise from his contemporaries. Since he passed away in Paris in 1966, the National Museum of History in Taipei has held six retrospectives of Sanyu (respectively in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2017). In 2004, the Guimet Museum of Asian Art in France held the exhibition Sanyu: L'écriture du corps: Language of the Body.
Immigrating to San Francisco at the age of 15 in 1921, Yun Gee developed a seminal style that grounds vibrant, bold color blocks in cool, rigorous delineations. A style that found its roots in Cubism and flourished under the influence of Synchromism, championed by his mentors at the California School of Fine Arts. Being in a foreign land, suppressed by racial bias, he became wistfully nostalgic for his mother and home country. This melancholy yearning nurtured his art as well as his conviction that he deserved recognition for his cultural identity. In 1927, Yun Gee was introduced to Prince and Princess Achille Murat, who were impressed by his work and encouraged him to move to Paris. And he did. Yun Gee’s move to Paris exposed him to significant European influences. Earnestly embraced by the Parisian art circle, his work instantiated the fusion of East and West in an ingenious synergy of Chinese cultural symbols and Western painting styles.
Social upheaval in the 1930s sent Yun Gee back and forth between Paris and New York. But in 1932 he was invited to be in the group exhibition Murals by American Painters and Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. For this exhibition he created the work Wheels: Industrial New York rendered in his singular “Diamondism.” Profoundly influenced by Synchromism, Diamondism focused on a rhythmic organization of edges and facets, as well as hot and cold color contrasts. It embodied Yun Gee’s attempt to interpret the intellectual, physical, and psychological aspects of artistic creation after much contemplation of China’s tradition, philosophy, and culture. This fortified Yun Gee’s status as one of the pioneering Chinese modern artists, as well as marking a milestone for Greater Chinese artists.
Tina Keng Gallery shoulders the promotion and continuation of Chinese modern art. For Art Basel Hong Kong, we hope to accentuate the constantly shifting relationship between the 20th-century East Asian art history and contemporary art.