S.E.A. Calling - Contemporary Art from South East Asia
10 February - 10 March 2022
Primo Marella Gallery is proud to present “S.E.A. Calling - Contemporary Art from South East Asia”, the new collective exhibition featuring a selection of three living artists from the South East Asia.
Bestrizal Besta, Aung Ko, Nguyen Thái Tuan
The show explores their artistic practices and approaches, generated and conceived in an ever-evolving vibrant region, where the Western categories of “modern” and “contemporary” still sound unfamiliar and ineligible, as well as “space” and “time” hardly find room in such a young geopolitical area of the world.
Far from being a simple juxtaposition of names and labels, this collection of ideas, perspectives and sights first seeks to set the work of Southeast Asian artists within its own framework, claiming its independence from any cultural obligation to major neighboring states.
Bestrizal Besta (Indonesia)
Born in 1973, living and working in Yogyakarta, Besta Bestrizal is working mainly with painting.
Graduated at the High School of Fine Arts Padang (Padang SMSR) in 1993. His works have been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows held at international institutions and museums such as Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Roma, Italy or Indonesia National Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia.
“(…)The charcoal works of Indonesian artist Bestrizal Besta form a series of landscapes where nature, people, and objects come into contention with one another in monochromatic black and white. These landscapes seem to invite us into a detailed world a la “Alice in Wonderland” or Hieronymus Bosch’s surreal hybrid worlds—only more scorched, as though they have just endured inferno. Besta describes various shapes, different kinds of animals and plants from macro-organisms to minuscule creatures, different kinds of objects, human body parts, and so forth. He layers elements, stacks and piles them one on top of the other, making them jostle for space on his canvas.
The subjects in Besta’s works as shown at this solo exhibition mainly imply a relationship between people and nature, depicting an array of plants, animals, and sundry objects. He reveals how each artwork began from small things; and though small, they carry with them an energy that can propel others through a constellation of minute elements reminiscent of microorganisms that exist intertwined with our lived realities.
Small things may still affect modern human existence in adverse ways. Take climate change, for instance, which originated from our collective carelessness, or from our intentional trivializing of or disregard for nature, and which through an unstoppable chain reaction have led to enormous catastrophes. Or viruses that mutate into horrifying nightmares, such as the one that emerged out of Wuhan, China, only to extend its reach to the rest of the globe. They are examples of minuscule things that have the ability to turn into frightful beasts.
(…) With his drawing skills and sensibilities when working with black and white, Besta succeeds in creating different and unique images of the inferno. Enin Supriyanto, who curated Besta’s 2013 solo exhibition, muses on how Besta’s thick dark charcoals enable him to present a semblance of darkness that is secretive, enigmatic, and one which occupies a tenebrous space.
(…)Through this series of works, Besta presents the various issues surrounding the nature of the relationship between humankind and the environment—a relationship that stretches far beyond what is logical, a relationship that has become increasingly unfathomable. Besta looks at these phenomena from a viewpoint of a person who finds himself rather helpless in the face of present issues and of things yet to come. Beyond our lived realities are tiny things that, while unseen to the naked eye, do hold great power. Yet, implied within this message is also a hope that small things may grow into immense good. Besta’s works coax out narratives of ambiguous relationships that are forged in the interactions between modern civilization and its environment—like heaven and hell, love and war, the familiar and the as-yet-unknown, order and chaos. Every element coalesce into a constellation of diverse things that we can find in our daily realities.
extract from the essay “Inferno” by Rifky Effendy
Aung Ko (Myanmar)
Born in 1980 in Htoneno, Myanmar.
Considering the content as more important than the form, Aung Ko uses different languages according to the themes he deals with. From photography to video-art, from painting to sculpture, the artist is confronted with contemporary themes that influence his life and that of his compatriots. His artistic narratives relate to history, both contemporary and past, and to the passing of time.
The golden sculptures Ko Shwe are portraits of Aung Ko himself, in different periods of his life: a naked body, hairless and coated of gold, in a relaxed or aggressive attitude. The naked body underlines the precariousness and vulnerability of the human condition, while gold refers, on one side to the identity of Burma, often called “golden land” for the gilding of the religious buildings, and on the other side to those Burmese living and working abroad, who call each other “Mister Gold”: men with golden dreams, who find themselves in conditions of anxiety, anguish, bitterness. The gold, however, symbolizes the sacred, invoke a divine transcendence, a needing of overcoming the human condition through a metaphysical experience.
Bicycle (2008-2011) is an installation consisting of a series of photographs that the artist took over the seasons, days and years around his village, capturing the everyday life and rituals of the Burmese people. Trait-d’union is an installation he built made from three bicycles assembled together: three like the seasons in Myanmar, three like the dimensions of the sacred in the Buddhist creed and three like the years it took to carry out the project.
Nguyen Thái Tuan (Vietnam)
Born in 1965 in Quang Tri (Vietnam), Nguyen Thái Tuan lives and works between Ho Chi Minh and Dalat.
Nguyen Thái Tuan is one of Vietnam’s most significant artists of his generation, whose artistic practice is anchored in the symmetry of fullness and absence. His stage hangs suspended between the world of the past and the present.
The works of his historical Black Painting series are a moving and highly aesthetic denunciation of the present political and social situation in his Country. So called "Social Realism" dedicated to celebrate an un-existing happy people in a simulacrum of democracy is turned inside out through Nguyen Thái Tuan's art. He represent real people but the latter are devoid of any individual features. The person is thrown back into the anonymous crowd. It is a nobody into un-inhabited clothes. The individual is no longer a human being but merely its simulacrum: a wheel in the governmental machine. This is exactly what the government wishes to reduce its people. Astonishingly, no stronger denunciation of this state of affairs could be made by depicting, not the physical aspect of the person, but merely what it wears.
The brand new Black Souls series is the result of a very long and careful work of the artist, which lasted several years. In this series there are still no characters with individual characteristics but black figures that blend with the environment in an impressionist atmosphere. In these works Nguyen Thái Tuan describes the exact moment between dream and reality. Where two souls can be considered damned because they are deluded that they have lived and dreamed of a wonderful moment.
His Interiors appear as an illusion of ancient times where shadows lie, quietly waiting for a return to the darkness that is slowly devouring the painting starting from the background.
Nguyen Thái Tuan's paintings leave the viewer with a conflicting feeling, always so beautiful yet so strong. They refer to a soft dreamlike atmosphere, with dark shadows that await the torpor of sleep. Observing his paintings is like being on the border between dream and reality, where reality vanishes with the environment, and everything takes shape in an unsolved nightmare, where one is never sure of witnessing an inner nightmare or of having just woken up in a harsh reality made up of obsessions.