LEE DONG YOUB,  Interspace-Musing (cycle) 917-3, 1992, acrylic on canvas, 162.2 × 130.3 cm. Courtesy Lee Young Min. 

Gray Papers

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

With July and August upon us, the editors at ArtAsiaPacific are moving in tandem with these wonderfully languid months. Making the most of this unhurried pace, this issue looks back at some of the important artistic figures and movements from Asia after World War II, a period that witnessed the emergence of alternative art practices as well as much of the visual language that we take for granted today.

Our cover story, “Beyond White: Reading Tansaekhwa Today” by Robert Liles, introduces a controversial movement associated with a loosely connected group of South Korean painters active in the late 1960s. Liles explores Tansaekhwa (“monochrome painting”) by revisiting one of the first overseas exhibitions of the group, entitled “Five Korean Artists, Five Kinds of White,” which took place in 1975 at the Tokyo Gallery in Japan. Liles discusses the work made by the participating artists and the debates surrounding the cultural significance of their distinct style in the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910–45) and the Korean War (1950–53). 

From London, Stephanie Bailey meets Pakistani-British artist Rasheed Araeen, a pioneering spirit who, in the 1960s, made some of the earliest Minimalist art and later penned stinging critiques of Western hegemony in the arts and social sciences in Europe. After pouring through scores of texts by and about Araeen, and conducting a long and candid conversation with the artist at his home, Bailey writes about his earliest sculptures: “Araeen was searching for a more free-form language that might express, as he perceived it, the spirit of the times—this was 1968, after all—and the hierarchical limits of composition he perceived within it: a break in formal structure that he described as a move from hierarchical to egalitarian.” 

In a poignant reminder of the passage of time, Thai-Indian artist Navin Rawanchaikul wrote a letter that formed part of the group exhibition “Spiritual Ties,” a tribute celebration for Montien Boonma (1953–2000), on what would have been his 60th birthday. Dearest Montien (2013), which we reprint in full, describes the Thai art scene since the artist’s death more than a decade ago, and the impact Montien, as artist, teacher, mentor and friend, has had on the tight-knit art community, particularly his sociopolitical, and later spiritual, approach to art making, which combined local, everyday materials to explore topics ranging from Thailand’s industrialization to Buddhist notions of impermanence and mortality.   

Also looking back in time, Hong Kong artist Lam Tung-Pang created “What Is Disappearing” for our special feature column Inside Burger Collection. Sparked by his 2013 work Ghost – Disappeared Hong Kong Art (1): 90s, Kurt Chan, an ongoing project originally commissioned and produced by Burger Collection for their exhibition “I Think It Rains” (2013), here Lam expands the series, which explores Hong Kong works, particularly ephemeral installations from the 1990s, that endure only as faint recollections in the form of slides and catalog illustrations. 

In our artist and collector profiles, we look at the careers of Australian collector and philanthropist Gene Sherman, and Indian photographer Anup Mathew Thomas. Guest contributor Taro Masushio meets peripatetic performative artist Ei Arakawa, fresh from his collaborative, interactive project Hawaiian Presence for the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and contributing editor Isabella E. Hughes speaks with Doha-based Iraqi artist Mahmoud Obaidi about his concept of home. 

In Essays, associate editor Sylvia Tsai attends Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual March Meeting and considers the symposium’s agenda of how artists might build communities and social consciousness through their practice. Similarly, assistant editor Ming Lin heads to China to look at an off-beat project, “Social Sensibility,” at Bernard Controls, a French-owned hi-tech manufacturer. The project encourages artists, designers, musicians and other creatives to stage events on its Beijing premises, where “the medium is relationships.” Rounding out the section, managing editor John Jervis contemplates the evolution of Hong Kong’s art scene through Hanart TZ Gallery’s 30th anniversary exhibition, “Idiosyncrasies,” featuring 100 works from owner Chang Tsong-zung’s personal collection, which includes 1950s watercolor proposals for Beijing’s Monument to the People’s Heroes and video art from the past decade.  

For One on One, the hard-to-pin-down Hong Kong artist Lee Kit offers some notes about his obsession with a mysterious character named Johnny, who seems to be everywhere and nowhere in the artist’s dreams. For Where I Work, we head to Dubai to visit the convivial mash-up that comprises the home-studio of three artists, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian. Dispatch takes us to Ho Chi Minh City, where our new desk editor, Ruben Luong, explains the art scene’s recurring cycles of optimism and disappointment—from socialist-market Doi Moi to more recent socioeconomic reforms—that compel the young and growing community of local, foreign and Viet kieu, or overseas Vietnamese, artists to confront and mine their pre- and postcolonial histories, and to create something sustainable for the future. And in Fine Print, art lawyer Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento playfully considers why artists destroy or damage artworks, and if their acts of vandalism might be interpreted as “art.” 

Pausing, in the heat of summer, to reflect on art and artists from the recent past, and on notions of continuity and disruption, provides an opportunity for us to refresh and meditate before the onset of the next lively season, teeming with new projects and states of mind.