Here are two of the drawings in Olga Chernysheva’s Graphic Performatives series shown during the Venice Biennale. Olga Chernysheva, who is based in Russia, works in wide range of media: film, photography, installation art, painting and drawing (Artist’s website: www.olgachernysheva.ru).
The charcoal-on-paper drawings and sketches in this series simply represent observations of everyday life. They are images of commuters, a pair of birds, a pile of chairs, a main standing beside a tree, visitors at an art museum, a dead wasp. Thus, the above photo of a ram-headed man casually strolling down the street with the early-morning sun casting an elongated shadow behind him likely represents nothing more than a man wearing a giant ram’s head and walking down the street. You are free to imagine his story.
In her realistic portraits, her subjects are simply ordinary people momentarily captured doing whatever it is they were doing at that time. It doesn’t matter whether they are rushing off to work, sitting by the seaside, standing around doing nothing or walking down the street wearing a ram’s head. They all have their stories, and their stories are treated with grace and respect…and sometimes with a bit of whimsy.
While visiting Kyoto during the summer, I went to see the magically whimsical light installation put together by teamLab at Tadasu no Mori and Shimogamo Shrine that took place during the last two weeks of August.
In Tadasu No Mori (Forest of Correction), the trees along the forest path leading to Shimogamo Shrine were lit up in an installation called Resonating Trees. Each tree was lit independently and had a hidden speaker nearby that emitted musical tones that corresponded to the changing colors. The colors (and their corresponding musical tones) changed according to the presence and movement of people. The color of light shining on an individual tree could also radiate out to affect other trees, which would begin to resonate with the same color and musical tone. You can see his effect in the video by teamLab:
When I was there, however, the effect was very different. As there were a lot of people there at the event’s opening, the lights and tones were changing rapidly, as in the following video:
The courtyard at Shimogamo Shrine (下鴨神社) was filled with large glowing floating spheres. These spheres would change color (and musical tone) when touched by people. As in the forest installation, the colors of an individual sphere could radiate out and cause other spheres nearby to resonate with the same color and give off the same musical tone. If thre was a sphere left unattended, it was almost impossible to resist the urge to reach out and touch it.
The Installation’s Aim
According to teamLab, the aim of the installation was to change relationships among people by making the presence of other people a positive experience. As people walk through the forest path and into the courtyard of the shrine, their presence and movement cause the colors and musical tones around them to change. Thus, a stranger walking by is no longer someone to ignore or be annoyed with; he/she becomes a co-conspirator in a shared artistic experience.
The positive nature of human contact is also presented through the idea of resonance. Like the manner in which the light color and musical tone emanating from a tree or sphere can influence the lights and sounds around them, our own moods can influence (and be influenced by) those around us and radiate outwards, ‘infecting’ more and more people.
Setting the light installation in a sacred forest and an important Shinto shrine also draws the visitors’ attention to their relationship with nature, tradition and spirituality.
The light festival at Shimogamo-jinja and Tadasu no Mori (糺の森) opened during Obon, the annual festival in which Japanese honor the spirits of their ancestors. Activities related to this festival often revolve around lanterns, which are floated down rivers or across ponds or are attached to graves. These lanterns are intended to guide the spirits back to their homes. Could the glowing spheres of this installation also serve as a more modern representation of the traditional Obon lanterns?
According to teamLab’s website,
“teamLab is a collective, interdisciplinary creative group that brings together professionals from various fields of practice in the digital society: artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, architects, web and print graphic designers and editors. Referring to themselves as “Ultra-technologists,” their aim is to achieve a balance between art, science, technology and creativity.” (www.team-lab.net/)
Comprised of Shimogamo Shrine (www.shimogamo-jinja.or.jp/english.html) and the surrounding sacred grove of Tadasu No Mori, Kamo-jinja is a Shinto sanctuary complex that is said to protect Kyoto from malign influences. It is situated in northeast Kyoto within the delta of two rivers: Takano-gawa and Kamo-gawa.
The paintings on this page, created by artists from Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong, exemplify different ways of expressing female beauty. Many of the paintings tie tradition—whether it is in the use of traditional materials and techniques, depictions of traditional hair styles and clothing or references to traditional ways of representing women in art—to more modern sensibilities.
– Click on each image to see a higher resolution
version (2048 x 1365) on Flickr –
Yu Kawashima (川島優展), Japan
With their large eyes, light irises, pale complexion, delicate features, thin eyebrows, wavy hair and long bangs, the twins in Yu Kawashima’s Deja Vu present an ethereal, modern and highly stylized version of beauty. Their dainty beauty is well-suited to the artist’s ‘soft’ painting style. Yu Kawashima’s artwork extends from Nihonga—Japanese painting using traditional conventions, techniques and materials (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihonga)—but embraces the more modern style of his subjects. He uses ink and traditional pigments on Japanese paper (View the artist’s page at Whitestone Gallery: whitestone.hk/artists/d/?id=23).
Nugroho Wijayatmo, Indonesia
The women in these two portraits by Nugroho Wijayama have a contemporary high-fashion look, as if they had just stepped out of the pages of a glossy magazine. Overlaid over the portraits are gold outlines of women as they were depicted in Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints—full faces, tiny features and elaborate hairstyles full of pins and combs (You can read the article The Representation of Women in Edo Period Nikuhitsu Ukiyo-e Paintings for more information and examples). The modern women in Nugroho Wijayama’s acrylic on canvas paintings— with their casual hairstyles and bare shoulders—certainly appear less constrained than their Edo-era counterparts, but women nowadays still face subtle pressure to meet what can be very selective standards of beauty (See the artist’s page at the Affinity for Art website: www.affinityforart.com/wijayatmo-nugroho).
Li Guijin (李貴君), China
Beijing-based artist Li Guijin specializes in painting adolescent girls, idealistically focusing on the purity and simplicity of this transitional period between childhood and adulthood. The girls in his painting are relaxed and elegantly posed and and appear to living in a kind of self-contained dreamlike world, untroubled by the harsh realities of the world. In his paintings, Li focuses on composition and technique and pays a great deal of attention to skin tones, using “a finely rendered mix of brown, red, blue, green, turquoise blue and white tones inspired by the artist Rembrandt” (Artist’s page at Schoeni Art Gallery).
Zhang Xiangming (張向明), China
The subjects in these two oil paintings have a very ambiguous kind of beauty. Are they girls, teens or young women? In the oil on canvas painting above, is the purplish area around one eye a hint of a bruise or simply the result of inexpertly applied makeup? There is a kind of strength and resolve in the subjects’ expressions, but also a kind of vulnerability and innocence (See the artist’s page at the Soemo Fine Arts website: www.soemo-fine-arts.com/artist?id=866).
Phuong Quoc Tri, Vietnam
Self-taught Vietnamese artist Phoung Quoc Tri focuses on figurative painting with women being a favorite subject. His portraits tend to have a soft and warm feel and the women in his paintings often appear to be in a wistful, reflective mood (See the artist’s page at ArtBlue Studio: artbluestudio.com/phuong-quoc-tri).
Interestingly, she portrays the young women using a style that seems to be a cross between her subjects’ modern sensibilities and the Edo-era Japanese way of depicting women that was also referenced in Nugroho Wijayatmo’s paintings—with full white faces (but not quite so full, not quite so white), tiny red lips (but not quite so tiny, not quite so red), calm expressions, and small (but not quite so small) eyes.
In the portraits by these five artists, there is a sense of tradition and an emphasis on femininity, but the subjects in the paintings also embody elements of modernity. The portraits present a form of beauty that is delicate yet strong, a beauty that looks gently back to the past yet confidently embraces the present.