Modern Painters Presents 25 Artists to Watch in 2014: Part 2 of 2

On 12/12/2013 by Site Default

Including Hong Kong artist Kwan Sheung Chi and Beijing-based Chinese artist Zhao Zhao.

“25 Artists to Watch” is published in the December 2013 issue of Modern Painters, and has run online in two parts. For Part 1 of the feature, with an introduction of the selection process and the first 12 artists, click here.  

Kwan Sheung Chi
Born and lives in Hong Kong.

In the video Yawn, 2011, the artist stares uncomfortably at the camera for more than 10 minutes. At times it seems as if he’s trying to suppress the urge to speak or cough or move. Nothing much happens, although toward the very end Kwan does perform the titular action: It’s both a release and an anticlimax, the film itself a close cousin of Bas Jan Ader’s I’m Too Sad to Tell You or Warhol’s multihour examinations of sleeping figures and static buildings. Other video performance pieces from the same year, like Raising My Hand, 1 km Walk, or the hilariously self-explanatory Drinking a Glass of Hot Chocolate with a Fork, owe
a debt to the pioneering conceptual work of Bruce Nauman. In a 2013 video, Two Million, we see a pair of hands rifling through set of 1,000-yuan notes. A finalist for this year’s Hugo Boss Asia Art Prize, Kwan does more than just make videos. He draws and produces installations, performance works, and sculpture. Much of the work arises from an appreciation of simplicity: Cactus, 2012, a sculpture 
of a cactus in a Coca-Cola glass, is meant to be “watered” with the soda weekly; Fruits, 2012, is a collection of “42 fruit-shaped products” arranged by shape and color without any effort at verisimilitude. Other projects involve cigarettes, Wite-Out pens, and artificial flowers. A Dead Mosquito, 2008, is just that—blood included. The video Doing It with Mrs. Kwan…Making Pepper Spray, 2012, apes the style and format of a cooking show, complete with bubbly host eager to talk about homemade Mace. Kwan’s work resides somewhere between a pun and a poem, simultaneously enamored of contemporary art’s power to effect change, while also aware of its capacity for humor in the way it can tickle the underbelly of the absurd.

Zhao Zhao
Born in Zingjiang, China. Lives in Beijing.

“I don’t think of myself as a political artist at all,” says Zhao. “However, I have a natural tendency to question authority, and sometimes my lack of respect leads me to question the powers of the authorities, at times specifically, at times more subtly.” This tendency has previously landed the artist in trouble with the Chinese government, though not to the same degree as Ai Weiwei, for whom Zhao worked as a studio assistant for seven years. (What Zhao says he took from his controversy-courting elder: “An attitude. Never to accept things at face value and to always ask why things have to be this way and not another.”) At first glance, it’s a bit difficult to square the diverse sides of Zhao’s practice: He’s made paintings of Ping-Pong paddles resting on bright-green tables, but also sculptures like Officer, 2011, depicting an enormous Chinese cop broken into pieces arrayed on the gallery floor. For his exhibition this fall at Chambers Fine Art in New York, Zhao presented two bodies of work: “Constellations,” a series of bulletproof glass panels shot by
a gun, the resulting holes and cracks forming a chance-based composition; and an untitled series of large-scale, more traditional abstract paintings of the sky. But his motivations aren’t always on the surface: “The Ping-Pong paintings are not about the sport but, rather, about achieving international success through obeying the rules,” Zhao says. “And the ‘Sky’ paintings are not about the changing colors of the sky, since I’m not particularly interested in nature, and when I paint a blue sky, I have to use my imagination, since I rarely see it in Beijing.” Zhao is juggling several different projects, including “Fragments,” a series of steel sculptures he says are inspired by the aftermath of a 2007 car accident. “I work in
the medium that is most appropriate to the idea I’m exploring: photography for some, sculpture and three-dimensional objects for others, and painting,” he says. “The day that I start working in one style or medium, I’ll know that my career is over.”

Click HERE to see our video interview with Zhao Zhao ahead of Art Basel in Hong Kong. 

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