Monday, July 30, 2012

Contemporary Portraiture from Asia

A touring exhibition courtesy the National Portrait Gallery now on view McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Langwarrin in Australia presents the work of artists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and India, including Alwar Balasubramaniam, Nadiah Bamadhaj, Atul Bhalla, Nikhil Chopra, Alfredo Esquillo Jr, FX Harsono, Jose Legaspi Herra Pahlasari, Pushpamala N, Eko Nugroho, Navin Rawanchaikul, Tejal Shah, Vivan Sundaram, Melati Suryodarmo, and Hema Upadhyay

The use and manipulation of the self image has let provided an avenue for several artists to interrogate their locations and aspirations. The artists in this exhibition, entitled ‘Beyond the Self: Contemporary Portraiture from Asia’, look to examine recent directions in contemporary self portraiture in Asia.  The various regions of the continent have rich and complex histories of representation to draw on. Accompanying local influences there are broader international conventions that impact on their work.

These works do not simply mirror the participating artists’ contemporary worlds. Presenting enquiries that are personally significant, some artists also delve into historical complexity, nationally and internationally. They try and re-describe individual and collective viewpoints within their specific historical and cultural landscapes. Interests in redefining the local and questioning the self run parallel to changes in contemporary society and the inexorable shifts in cultures in this age of instantaneous electronic communication and a converging world economy.

The contemporary worlds of these artists involve global awareness and mobility along with altered economic and technological possibilities. These redefinitions of the ‘personalized local’ manifest in sophisticated responses to this homogenizing moment in history, an accompanying essay notes.

The exhibition presents individually distinct projects that flow into comparable and related themes. Some artists look at different forms of representation exploring transnational histories or modes of contemporary being, while others anchor their positions in the local. Articulations of political and social concerns stand alongside metaphysical expressions of the self within larger cultural settings and adventures into expanded notions of selfhood, explored as part of familial, societal and cultural frameworks.

The artists largely operate in spaces of imaginative invention and intervention. Through their personal perspectives and redefinitions of various cultural and historical landscapes the artists attempt to alter the audiences’ customary parameters - probing, pushing and extending imaginations.

They offer alternative ways of operating in and imaging our world and suggest a future of undefined possibilities. They create work that reflects that intervention into the here and now, to explore beyond the self. They use their objective selves – personal faces and bodies, or those of close family – to speak not only about themselves but also of larger issues and ideas.

This group exhibition will subsequently be on view at Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.

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