Friday, May 10, 2013

Thriving South-East Asian art scene

A groundbreaking exhibition, entitled ‘Negotiating Home, History and Nation’, at Singapore Art Museum in collaboration with guest-curator Iola Lenzi, was the one that strongly symbolized the recent trend of Asian art attaining an international presence from possessing just a regional identity. It presented two decades of art in Southeast Asia (1991–2011) by more than fifty artists.

A curatorial essay stated: “Through a broad range of media such as photography, video, painting, performance and installation art, the exhibition provides an entry to the specific characteristics of Southeast Asia’s aesthetic language and conceptual tendencies. Through the art presented, it also offers insights into the region’s recent political and social developments with a historical perspective.”

Just take the case of India: The culturally, socially and geographically vast nation no less than 1.25 billion people, 1,600 dialects; 330,000 gods and goddesses; 300 ways, hundreds of rivers worshipped as holy sites is one of the most ancient and richest cultures on the planet that presents itself differently every few miles. It's modern, albeit traditional. It’s fast getting urbanized and modernized, but there are lakhs of villages without basic facilities even as towering skyscrapers jostle shabby shanties for space. Sensitive and observant artists try and capture the contrasts coming to the fore even as winds of development lead to blatant consumerism.

In this backdrop, another ambitious and elaborate anthology tries to explore the various artistic practices as well artworks produced from a vibrant and diverse region. Critics, scholars, researchers and renowned curators offer their insightful perspectives on dynamic Southeast Asian art scene. Their aim is not to precisely define the field or pinpoint its epicenter but to throw light on its gradually changing nature and its meaningful interactions with an array of creative endeavors, cultures and histories elsewhere. Essays by well-known critics, scholars, researchers and curators offer insightful perspectives on dynamic Southeast Asian art scene in its all-encompassing scope of intellectual interests and contemporary context.

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