AGUS SUWAGE, I Want To Live Another Thousand Years (Kurt Cobain), 2007, oil on canvas, 120 × 150 cm. Courtesy the artist.

Time Regained

Every new year cultural pundits inundate the media with a stream of forecasts that predict where art and society are going, and while ArtAsiaPacific avowedly anticipates the styles, themes and critical discussions in art for the decade to come, we greet 2010 with a longer view, focusing on the stability offered by a measured perspective, the merits of historical awareness and decisive re-evaluations of many of the artists and movements that have become familiar over the years. In this issue, AAP looks at a number of bold-name cultural figures and supposedly definitive histories that warrant reconsideration.

Among our Features, AAP contributor Jacqui Durrant meets the Niuean artist, novelist and poet John Pule to discuss his vividly lyrical paintings from the past 30 years. Through long correspondence with the writer, Pule elucidates his highly sensual reading of the natural world. Turning to Indonesia, features editor Ashley Rawlings examines a pivotal moment in the career of Agus Suwage, a 50-year-old painter who is sensationally popular, widely exhibited and an inspirational local figure who challenges social conservatives in his native country, where new anti-pornography laws directly threaten artistic creativity, including Suwage’s own practice of playful, gently eroticized portraits. With fearlessness and abiding good humor, the artist recently confronted his detractors by revisiting his controversial 2005 installation Pinkswing Park in a series of works made during a recent residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute. 

Also in this issue, AAP checks in on two artists who have seen their careers evolve dramatically in the four years since we last examined their practices. AAP managing editor William Pym encounters peerless New Delhi-based sculptor Subodh Gupta a few days after the artist’s solo debut in London. Pym considers how Gupta’s growing success potentially limits him to past achievements, while he seeks new directions that anticipate future forums for the artist’s work. And in China, AAP contributor Andrew Cohen details the progress of Zhan Wang by letting the Beijing-based artist, best known for his stainless-steel scholar’s rocks, explain his practice over the past two decades in his own words. Rounding out the features, HG Masters, editor-at-large, takes a close reading of the Subcontinent’s most active female photographers—the veteran Homai Vyarawalla along with members of the second generation of practitioners, Pushpamala N. and Dayanita Singh—all participants in the unprecedented survey of photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, “When Three Dreams Cross,” at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

In Essays, AAP meets Shanghai bad boy Xu Zhen, whose recent exhibitions of “Middle Eastern” art—created in China by the artist and his assistants—provide a glimpse of a new attitude toward communal identity and worldviews driven by travels through cyberspace rather than airports. The recent relaxation in relations between Taiwan and China is considered within a longer cultural continuum by Taiwan desk editor David Frazier. In The Point, Nicholas Bonner, who has worked in North Korea and China for two decades, ponders the political implications surrounding the Australian government’s denial of entry visas for five North Korean artists invited to attend the Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane.

In Profiles, AAP contributing editor Murtaza Vali frames ten years of work—sometimes wry, sometimes sweet and sour, but always political—by Pakistani video artist Bani Abidi, and former Istanbul Biennial curator Vasif Kortun provides an unflinching perspective on the future role of the global art festival, in which he declares his wish “to retain the biennial as one of few public models that have not been hijacked by commerce.” In Reviews, Eliza Gluckman offers an assessment of one such festival, unpacking the diffuse assault to the senses of curator Hou Hanru’s Biennale of Lyon. Other reviews include the influential 1980s artist Tang Song as well as an appraisal of recent melancholic work by Iranian-American Siah Armajani. For our book review, senior editor Don Cohn compares a monograph on Japanese photography books from the 1960s and 1970s to a contemporary evolution of that humble form, Saturday Night, Korean photographer In Sook Kim’s latest glossy, massive venture. 

In this issue, we add two new Projects—Ideas on a Napkin and Wish You Were Here—to our list of regular columns. Singapore- and Berlin-based Heman Chong redesigns the book covers of his favorite novels in My Eight, while in Questionnaire Hiroshi Sunairi shares his ideas on historical memory, including the attacks on Hiroshima and the World Trade Center. Alex Baker, a curator at the National Gallery of Victoria, sent us a postcard for Wish You Were Here from Melbourne, his new home, discussing the energy in Australia’s cultural capital. From Hong Kong, conceptual artist Pak Sheung Chuen, who made his international debut at the Venice Biennale last summer, sketches on a napkin an idea for an artwork based on a fleeting cloud. Like involuntary, Proustian memories conjured up during brief, nearly overlooked moments—watching the long shadows that trees cast against buildings, listening to a forgotten song heard on the radio or inhaling the scent of old books in a library—postcards and napkins, like all works of art, can also tell us new or long-forgotten stories.