AU HOI LAMMemorandum (To Love Someone Once Again) (detail), 2014, pencil, color pencil, acrylic and linen, 122 × 153 × 5 cm. Courtesy the artist. 

By Any Other Name

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

For decades, art critics have been preaching about the death of painting. But if you head to any of the art world’s big March events, such as Art Basel in Hong Kong, Mathaf’s presentation from its permanent collection of modern Arab art or The Met Breuer’s inaugural exhibition of Nasreen Mohamedi in New York, painting is clearly alive and kicking. Instead of declaring whether painting is in or out, the March/April issue of ArtAsiaPacific takes a close look at artists with backgrounds in painting who cut loose and created their own methodologies that straddle multiple disciplines, thereby challenging categorization, including painting itself.

This issue’s cover Feature spotlights the labor-intensive work of Hong Kong artist Au Hoi Lam. The former philosophy graduate student is known for her subdued, pastel-hued paintings that often track the passage of time. Independent curator Charles Merewether, previously a visiting professor at Hong Kong’s Baptist University and now based in Tbilisi, discusses the evolution of Au’s work, from minimalist paintings of 86,400 tiny colored squares representing the seconds in a day to installations of pocket-size log books charting the year following her father’s death. Taken together, Au’s paintings and recent installations merge to form an elaborate record of confessions, life, loss and remembrance. 

From Istanbul, independent curator Nazlı Gürlek examines the 30-year career of İnci Eviner. Although trained as a painter, as Gürlek points out, Eviner has used drawing to develop a practice that “strolls with ease not only through surrealism, but also expressionism, abstraction, performance and theater.” Through a wide range of media—including video—Eviner gives presence to women, third genders, migrants and refugees, who are invisible, voiceless or marginalized, in present-day Turkey and beyond. 

Guest contributor Robert Liles delves into the work of an earlier artistic trailblazer, the 20th-century Korean artist Kwon Young-woo (1926–2013). Although today mainly associated with the abstract-monochrome movement Dansaekhwa, Kwon’s career spanned six decades, often moving beyond the all-white surface, from his early ink paintings to later sculptural pop art. Liles shows us how the paper’s blank surface served as a starting point for all of Kwon’s explorations and radical shifts in style, from sparse depictions of life in postwar Korea to molding paper around everyday objects. 

Also pushing the boundaries of traditional painting is Zheng Chongbin. California-based art historian Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres has witnessed up close Zheng’s experiments with ink in his Bay Area studio—whether adding acrylic paint or capturing it flowing on camera. Beres traces Zheng’s oeuvre, from his formative years in Hangzhou at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, where he—together with peers such as Gu Wenda and Yang Jiechang—felt compelled to challenge the established orthodoxies of academic painting, to his relocation to San Francisco in 1988 where Zheng began revitalizing the revered practice by combining elements of modernist painting, video and installation art.

In our special column Inside the Burger Collection, curator and scholar Erin Gleeson uses the metaphor of the fragmented artifact—here the controversial limbless ancient Khmer sculptures coveted by collectors and museums around the world—as a starting point to examine the work of five prolific artists working in Cambodia today.

Marking the many art fairs kicking off in March and April—from Art Dubai to Art Central in Hong Kong, TEFAF in Maastricht and the Armory Show in New York—our profiles focus on five collectors active in the Asia region: Taiwanese property-developer George Wong, Malaysia’s former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, Melbourne-based Indonesian artist-turned-lawyer Konfir Kabo, Hong Kong designer Alan Chan, and Yan Shijie, real-estate developer and co-founder of the Red Brick Museum in Beijing. 

In Essays, the research-driven artist collective Slavs and Tatars explore how the rise of philology in 19th-century Germany paved the way for the nation’s own gentler form of homegrown Orientalism—such as the eccentric spellings in the Duden, including “Dschingis Khan,” and publications such as El Dschihad. From Sri Lanka, contributing editor Jyoti Dhar looks at how art practitioners are finding their place in Jaffna, one of the main northern cities embroiled in the 26-year civil war that ended in 2009.

Elsewhere in the issue, two artists who will take part in the Biennale of Sydney, opening in March, pen thoughtful commentaries. In One on One, Brisbane’s lovable enfant terrible Richard Bell raps his affection for fellow aboriginal artist Gordon Hookey. In The Point, New Zealand artist Dane Mitchell—known for his work that incorporates scents, spells and shamans—explains how those operating outside the dominant centers of the art world, regardless of technological interconnectivity, still must overcome challenges of distance. 

In Where I Work, contributing editor Michael Young visits the Beijing studio of 1970s post-Mao artist Huang Rui and discusses 1950s factory-made furniture and land leases. Continuing on practicalities, Australian lawyer Roger Ouk offers a guide for artists on the “fair use” exception of copyright protection, and then gives a crash course on what to do if a copyright has been breached. Ouk entertains readers by asking us to imagine God exercising copyright over all the images of nature, man or even Himself. He points out how complicated, messy and costly the exercise can be, which is probably why “God is many things—but He is not litigious.” If He were, perhaps that would ring the death knell for painting as we know it.