TALA MADANIShit Mom (Dream Riders), 2019, oil on linen, 195.6 × 203.2 × 2.5 cm. Photo by Lee Thompson. Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

The Practice of Self

Also available in:  Chinese

How does an artist’s life shape or determine their artwork?
It’s often impossible to know unless the artist appears in their
work, or they tell us in words. In the Feature articles in the November/December issue of ArtAsiaPacific, we look at two artists—from different generations and geographies—whose practices draw from their own lives in unique ways. 

For our cover Feature, curator, writer, and consultant Danielle Shang visited Tehran-born artist Tala Madani, who opened a show of new paintings and animations at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles this September. Created after the birth of her second child, Madani’s painting series Shit Moms (2019) depicts mischievous toddlers grabbing at ominous, melting figures, while their companions gleefully smear their muddied hands across the room. As Madani explained to Shang: “In many of my new paintings, children are scrambling, annihilating, and devouring the ‘shit moms.’ It seems grotesque, but it’s the blueprint of Western civilization. Parents must allow themselves to be overcome by their offspring.” Shang and Madani unpack the psychological underpinnings of Madani’s works, homing in on her use of scale, blurred fields of color, and dark domestic interiors to convey the anxieties of womanhood, and now motherhood.

In our second Feature, deputy editor and deputy publisher HG Masters dives into the four-decade-long practice of Judy Freya Sibayan, a conceptual artist from Manila. Sibayan’s performances and installations are forms of institutional critique that seek to parody the structures and systems of contemporary art. Sibayan is perhaps best known for her wearable micro art space Scapular Gallery Nomad (1997–2002), which took the form of custom-designed pouches that she wore around her neck to carry—and exhibit—other artists’ works wherever she went in her daily life. Continually inventing new ways of creating, displaying, and discussing art, Sibayan interweaves her autobiography into her projects so that she is, in her words, “embodied in my art.”

In our Spotlight section, associate editor Ophelia Lai examines Farah Al-Qasimi’s debut film Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire) (2019), about a djinni, or spirit, who bemoans centuries of human wrongdoing. HG Masters ruminates on the clash of ancient cultures and digital technologies recounted in Liu Chuang’s three-channel video essay Bitcoin Mining and Field Recordings of Ethnic Minorities (2018); and managing editor Chloe Chu dissects Zico Albaiquni’s painted “collage of utopic visions,” Perusing the Perversion (2019). Elsewhere in Features, for Inside Burger Collection, independent curator Nadim Samman discusses Marguerite Humeau’s immersive installations of sci-fi-esque creatures and imaginations of “new brains, new women, new fetuses—new life.”

In this issue’s Essay, Stefan Tarnowski delves into how artists have navigated the Middle East’s history of failed leftist movements. His reflection was prompted by the exhibition “Stars Are Closer and Clouds Are Nutritious Under Golden Trees,” presented by the Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation in Amman. With reference to video works by Naeem Mohaiemen and Eric Baudelaire, he also muses on the broader contemporary resonances of the term “revolution.” 

In Profiles, Soo-Min Shim surveys the works of Eugenia Lim, who conducts performative investigations of marginalized figures in Australia. Nadia Christidi speaks to architect and artist Nadim Karam, known in Beirut for his steel sculptures of quasi-fantastical creatures that celebrate human resilience. This issue also includes a Special Profile by news and web editor Lauren Long, spotlighting illustrator David Huang, who has been commissioned by Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing to create a mural for their space in Beijing’s 798 Art District.

In One on One, video artist Bani Abidi pays homage to Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, whose humorous films focused on quotidian actions have shown her how she can tackle serious topics with a light touch. Elsewhere in the magazine, Gasworks and Triangle Network director Alessio Antoniolli files a Dispatch from London, examining how the city’s current exhibition lineup shows an aversion to xenophobia even as the nation steps closer toward Brexit. For the Point, New York art lawyer Michael McCullough breaks down what United States tariffs on Chinese-origin goods will mean for galleries, auction houses, museums, and collectors around the world. Finally, for Where I Work, Marybeth Stock visited painter Hilmi Johandi’s studio in Singapore’s Goodman Arts Centre. There, Johandi showed sketches for his canvases and painting-videos that juxtapose multiple perspectives of Singapore to create a sense of motion, reflecting the parallel transformations of the artist’s practice and the backdrop against which his life unfolds.

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E-flux SOTHEBY'S 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art