LIU DING’s reinterpretation of an artwork originally made for the Beijing Democracy Wall in 1978, which he has never seen, only heard about from the artist Wang Luyan. Courtesy Liu Ding.

The memory of a particular image

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Recently, while sitting in a taxi at a red light, I noticed the sun hitting the city pavement in a certain way and experienced déjà vu that returned me to a time of velvety optimism, though I could not identify the memory. Was I remembering a walk to my grandparent’s, with me bearing flowers and oranges for a family Lunar New Year feast? Or listening to that Peter, Paul and Mary album I sang along with as a child? Or perhaps taking one of those aimless Sunday afternoon strolls with a friend—heading no place in particular, just wandering and discovering new, unnoticed things, later sprawled out on some rocks in the park watching the day go by? From the taxi, the warm yellow light seemed to suggest spring had arrived, but of course, being late January, the March equinox wouldn’t come for another two months (best appreciated if you live in a place with more than one season). It was my piquant, Proustian madeleine moment, yet, unlike the French novelist, I could not determine what the light was stirring in my memory. Quite coincidentally, this issue of ArtAsiaPacific also examines the work of artists who attempt to capture the fleeting and quotidian.

For our cover feature, AAP’s managing editor John Jervis met Lee Kit—who makes painted tablecloths, cardboard clones of brand-name goods and full-size facsimiles of anonymous Hong Kong flats—for an interview, only to discover the next day that he had lost his voice recorder at a bar. Jervis reveals that the audio record wasn’t particularly valuable, but somehow the sequence of events seemed fitting when writing about the Hong Kong artist. He sums up, “Lee is seeking to capture what he feels are inexplicable emotions and memories through the exploration of familiar yet uncertain spaces, and the brands and songs that are the backgrounds to so much of our lives. ”

From Sydney, guest contributor Michael Fitzgerald delves into the work of transnational artist Simryn Gill. Of Indian descent, born in Singapore, raised in Malaysia and now based in Sydney, Gill, whose oeuvre spans more than two decades, often examines the “experience of in-between-ness.” In the project entitled May 2006, Gill set out, with no agenda, to shoot one roll of black-and-white film every day for a month. As she went through her daily routine, she took photographs of, among other things, a local strip-mall, a frangipani tree draping a Spanish Mission-style house and dusk peeking through a railway overpass. Other works, such as her photographic series of abandoned rooms in old homes in her childhood town of Port Dickson, Malaysia, or text-based works in which all the spaces between words are omitted in her typed manuscript, leaving the paper a shade of gun-metal gray, have been too conveniently labeled by some as minimalist. But, as Fitzgerald points out, her works are “drenched in their own precise sense of time and place,” although that doesn’t exclude the charge of minimalism.

From Beirut, independent curator Nat Muller discusses how violence and history are remembered and forgotten in the documentary and fictional work of Lebanese artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. The duo’s most recent project, “The Lebanese Rocket Society,” rekindles a lost dream by uncovering a neglected moment in history in the 1960s, when Lebanon entered the international space race with the development of their first rocket program.

Capping off our features, after taking a refresher course in Modernist abstraction at a survey show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, “Inventing Abstraction: 1910–1925,” editor-at-large HG Masters looks at new and less familiar abstractions produced by six contemporary artists. Byron Kim and Etel Adnan walk the line between realism and the nonrepresentational. The paintings of Fahd Burki and Raafat Ishak deploy inscrutable yet uncanny iconographies, while Masood Kamandy and Palden Weinreb both explore the many variations on abstract art facilitated by digital technology.

In Profiles, we interview Palestinian-American art historian and curator Salwa Mikdadi, who looks back on 40 years of meeting artists and organizing exhibitions of art from the West Asia region. Our reviews editor, Hanae Ko, travels to Ulaanbaatar and meets Chadraabal Adiyabazar, artist and director of the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery, who shares his hopes for the fledgling art scene in the landlocked nation and his desire to build a new national museum for Mongolian art. Manila desk editor Marlyne Sahakian takes a detailed look at the practice of Kawayan de Guia and his efforts to revitalize the artistic community in his hometown of Baguio in the Philippines.

In Essays, artist Liu Ding tells the story of his friend Wang Luyan of the New Measurement Group—a three-member crew that explored various ways to communicate experience through quantities and units—and Wang’s recollection of going to the makeshift Democracy Wall in Beijing in 1978, where he saw a large banner painting of a poplar tree. Although Liu, born in 1976, had never seen the painting Wang described, it assumed mythical status in Liu’s mind. Also contemplating recent histories, Madrid desk editor Rebecca Close considers the historical meta-narratives found in museum exhibitions and displays by Iranian duo Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi. And contributing editor Chin-Chin Yap raises the curtain on the fraught, longtime copyright love affair between Campbell’s Soup Company and King of Pop Andy Warhol.

Rounding out the issue, New York lawyer Enrique Liberman walks us through the due diligence process when contemplating the purchase of a new work of art in Fine Print. For The Point, Berlin-based independent curator Shinya Watanabe views the art market through the Buddhist lens of life after free will. In Questionnaire, the revered, reclusive Indian artist LN Tallur explains that if he weren’t working in Seoul as an artist he would be living in the misty mountain region of the Himalayas as an astrologer. And in One on One, Singapore’s Song-Ming Ang spells out his fascination for the mundane performances captured on video by Yamashita and Kobayashi and their ability to “dream up the impossible.”