HON CHI-FUN, Karma Pass, 1987, acrylic on canvas, 132.5 × 132.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong/London.

Ways Of Marking Time

Also available in:  Chinese

A homecoming event in Sydney to celebrate ArtAsiaPacific’s 25th anniversary and the opening of the 21st Biennale of Sydney—graciously hosted by art patrons Gene Sherman and Andrew Cameron—brought together many editors and contributors from the magazine’s early years in Australia, as well as young artists, students and writers. The gathering encapsulated our focus this year of looking forward and backward, while still savoring the effervescence of the present moment. 

This juxtaposition is reflected in the main Features of our May/June issue. From the present we introduce Istanbul-based artist Cevdet Erek, whose conceptual, architectural installations are derived from his reflections on sound as a marker of time and social progression. His projects have been staged around the world, including in the Pavilion of Turkey at the 2017 Venice Biennale. In February, AAP editor-at-large HG Masters attended one of Erek’s trance-like, solo drum performances at a bar in Istanbul, which initiated discussion of the artist’s multi-disciplinary practice. Masters recalls experiencing Erek’s earlier work from the 2015 Istanbul Biennial, A Room of Rhythms – Otopark: “The effect was of walking through a visually sparse space that nevertheless changed sonically with every step as different rhythms meshed together—in a reversal of the hierarchy between sight and sound.” 

In our cover Feature, we pay homage to the work of nonagenarian Hon Chi Fun, a Hong Kong modernist master. Hon was the first Hong Kong recipient of the John D. Rockefeller III Award in 1969, and developed a steady following for his brightly hued, expressive paintings that document Hong Kong’s changing physical and social landscape—from its subtropical jungles to the search for cultural determination—through introspection. AAP associate editor Chloe Chu reflects: “For Hon, this inward journey is the key to his definition of Modernism and its values. Given the context of Hon’s time, which was strongly focused on the rebuilding of society following the Second World War, this was a radical statement in itself. The sanctity in his works can also be found in the act of offering oneself wholly through one’s art. In the context of post-colonial discourse, this parallels a wider search for self-identity.” 

In our Young and Emerging artists portfolio, loosely themed around the idea of new spiritualities, we look at the work of Shen Xin, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Mountain River Jump!, Zadie Xa and Waqas Khan. In our 25th-anniversary special feature, Then and Now, we mine AAP’s archives for articles about influential projects that have made a lasting impact. This issue’s article starts with mention of a 1994 text by Hou Hanru, who covers the difficulties Chinese artists face working in the Euro-American-centric art world. Also noted are pieces discussing the early video works of New Zealand-Māori artist Lisa Reihana; the use of Indian vernacular language in the paintings of Bhupen Khakhar; an interactive filing system, developed by new-media artist Romy Achituv, based on readers’ emotional response to books held in Tel Aviv’s Garden Library; and Singapore’s rising talent Robert Zhao Renhui and his practice of assimilating fictional zoological studies into popular culture. Rounding up the Features section, our special column Inside Burger Collection chronicles the career of gallerist Maria Bernheim, who relates the trials and tribulations of presenting contemporary art in Europe. 

In Essays, Hyunjee Nicole Kim re-examines the oeuvre of Yoshiko Shimada, a Japanese feminist artist whose public intervention Becoming a Statue of a Japanese Comfort Woman (2012– ) is a performance-protest against the prejudiced and discriminatory attitudes toward survivors of the Japanese Imperial Army’s sexual slavery camps and forced prostitution of other kinds during the Second World War. Shimada’s work, Kim explains, has emerged at a time of increased tensions between Japan and South Korea over the issue of comfort women and the revisionist histories that blot our post-colonial landscape. 

Our Profiles section spotlights painter Niyaz Najafov, whose expressive, figurative works are informed by his checkered youth growing up in Azerbaijan, and Syrian-born, London-based photographer Hrair Sarkissian, who explores war, conflict and memory. We also meet the exuberant collector-couple Kim and Lito Camacho, whose outlook on amassing contemporary art—from Yayoi Kusama to Fernando Amorsolo—comes from the family’s strong background in the arts. The Camachos were hanging contemporary Asian works in their Manila home long before it was fashionable to do so. 

Elsewhere in the magazine, filmmaker and North Korea expert Nicholas Bonner files a dispatch from Pyongyang; artist duo Slavs and Tatars write of their fascination with the “bad boy” of German philosophy, Johann Georg Hamann, in One on One; and in The Point, MIT’s Media Lab Design Fiction group director and new-media artist Sputniko! argues for alternative outcomes for the development of the human race. Our Reviews section covers the Biennale of Sydney, the first Manila Biennale, the traveling show “A Beast, a God, and a Line,” which debuted at the Dhaka Art Summit and is on view at Para Site in Hong Kong, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum’s survey of Vietnamese-Danish artist Danh Vō in New York. In the Book Review, Wilfred Chan looks at volumes by Byung-Chul Han and Hito Steyerl, respectively examining contemporary culture through our addiction to smoothness and polished veneers, and the rapacious appetites of tech-obsessed consumers and art viewers. 

Finally, in Where I Work, managing editor Ysabelle Cheung explores the Manhattan studio of Rina Banerjee, known for her playfully surrealistic sculptural mashups. As Banerjee was preparing for her midcareer touring retrospective that opens at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in October, she reflected on the importance of time’s passage during the creative process: “You get braver about what you really want to do in your work, and this allows you to really enjoy it more without worrying about it.” Twenty-five years on at AAP, we couldn’t agree more. 

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