Tag Archives: contemporary art



Traditional and contemporary do not necessarily exclude each other. This is what INK ART is proving.

On first sight, the pieces on view seem te be very recognizable Chinese inspired works. The mainly black and whites, the unmistakable bold brushstrokes, the use of paper, the calligraphy and the paper scroll format can all be associated with the ancient and very traditional forms of Chinese arts. You know that you are still in the ancient Chinese art section of the Met!

But then, on closer inspection, it dawns on you that this is not an exhibition of traditional art.  This is tradition translated into contemporary language.

Maybe there are only three forms of approaching art:

1. you copy the past

2. you break completely with the past

3. you embrace the past and lead it to the future

Tradition is often looked upon as an inert concept with both feet firmly in the past. It’s supposed to withstand time, in this way making it timeless. But tradition is inevitably influenced by the present times too. So changes are inherent to tradition.

If tradition is to survive, it has to keep an eye towards the future. It has to live in our time also, not only dwell on the past.

I think the artists in this show have sublimely understood this. Cutting with one’s roots is nearly impossible and not even recommendable. Instead of trying to translate their artistic talents into estranged images of unrecognizable creatures, as there are so many in the contemporary (Chinese) art scene, the featured artists are using their cultural baggage to bring new messages in modern concepts, formats and materials.

Apparently traditional brush painted landscapes with rocks, waves and trees turn out to be photographic compositions of high-rise buildings and towers of electric power lines.

What seem to be traditional Chinese characters are in fact English words, demystifying Chinese script for the western viewer.

Repeated writing on a face, gradually covering up the entire skin, is a reference to body paint and, again, traditional tattoo art. But it’s also the visualization of the slow loss of identity in a world of mechanization.

The meaningful strokes of traditional brushes are reduced to complete abstraction.

The classical block characters on endless scrolls are supposed to tell a story. But in this case it’s a story of nothing. The otherwise so recognizable characters have no meaning at all and are inventions of a non-existing language.

Photographic prints of landscapes are painted over, leaving nothing but a subtle and hazy impression of what was there.

INK ART holds a very smart balance between traditional art and contemporary conceptualism. No matter where your preference goes out to, this exhibition is sure to have you fascinated.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, through April 6, 2014


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

THE ARMORY SHOW….and side effects

March in New York comes with more sunshine and an overdose of contemporary art. In just a couple of days one has to try and take it all in.

It was The Big Apple’s turn to show to the world that global recession doesn’t affect the art market. Or so it seems. Could it be that in times of crisis people become more creative? Is it a fact that people trust the arts more than the banks to invest their money? Whatever the case, there was plenty to see and spend your money on at the Armory Show. And even if you didn’t bring your hard earned cash or platinum credit card, the show remains a feast for the senses.

The layout of Piers 92 and 94 make it an easy walk up and down the booths of all the galleries that show off their resident artists’ work. But finding your way through the immense offer can be a drag sometimes. As an avid devourer of art you try not to miss out on anything. Also because you think that every work of art, every expression of an artist is worth a minute, a couple of seconds or at least a glance. Soon enough you realize that this pace is impossible to keep up with. So you try to concentrate on what really appeals to you. It’s the only way to make it through. Not only do your legs start to protest, your head can only take this much of impressions. Watching and feeling art is a demanding brain activity.

I was lucky enough to get in before the crowds. But slowly the halls were filling up. And soon there was always someone standing in front of exactly the painting I wanted to look at. So, after I had my fill of art, I started to shift my attention to the onlooking masses. I think that for an artist it is always interesting to see the reactions of other people. When someone is holding still in front of a work, focussing on one particular point, almost zen-like meditating on a canvas, you can’t help but wondering what it is they see. What is going on there? I don’t want to miss out on it neither.
There’s these two young ladies watching this painting, from a safe distance. “What is this? What are they doing? Is this possible?” They are commenting on an overtly erotic painting where more than four legs are involved.
It’s always funny to see people react in front of more than life size breasts on canvas or photo. The connoisseur will approach. The girl will lead her boyfriend to the opposite booth. The boyfriend will peep back. And genitals, especially the male ones, are again a completely different story. Children. They are the best! They watch everything with the open-mindness that we, smart adults, have lost somewhere along the way. I saw a dad with his child talking about some paintings: “What do we see here?” And a woman with three kids and she asked them: “What painting do you like most in this room?” I think it was wonderful. And come to think of it, it’s a pity that not more children were there.

After a while, I again tried to focus on the art itself. This time around, it was the most simple works that won my attention. In an ocean of overwhelming color and form, it was a relief to rest my eyes on more modest work. It’s a straining exercise to try and overlook the paintings that are crying for attention by means of flashing color, shocking content or dazzling form. I zoomed in on the smaller frames, the natural colored canvases or works on paper. Delicate minimal drawings with colors used in their most subtle hues, those were the ones I was inevitably drawn to at the end.

As if the Armory Show were not enough, some side events are organised on different locations. Like VOLTA, a much smaller hall with, let’s say, the less established galleries. But nonetheless also here there was great work te be seen and discovered.My last stop during this art filled weekend was at THE INDEPENDENT, three floors of gallery space in the Chelsea district. No big names to be mentioned here neither, but the quality was outstanding. Is it the smaller scale venue? Is it the smaller doses? Or was it the art itself afterall that made that I enjoyed the Armory Show’s side effects the most?

Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas!

Tagged , , , , , ,