Issue Number: 116
The RA is spreading its wings and heading East in the first exhibition of work by Academicans and Asian artists to be held under the RA banner. By Paul Huxley RA
This autumn sees the RA take an historic step with its first ever Academicians’ show overseas. ‘Encounter: The Royal Academy in Asia’ opens in Singapore.
The annual Summer Exhibition, where Academicians exhibit in a selling show alongside other selected artists, has been a British institution for as long as the Academy has existed. Its format is an established success and there has been occasional speculation about how it might travel. The new initiative to show Academicians’ work abroad is the brainchild of Mary Dinaburg and Howard Rutkowski, from Fortune Cookie Projects, who specialise in forging links with the art world in Asia.
The show is, as its title suggests, a meeting place. Works by 23 Academicians will hang together with works by an equal number of leading artists from 11 countries in Asia, creating opportunities for some interesting pairings of works. The painter Albert Irvin RA, for instance, with his gestural panache, and Fiona Rae RA with her eastern motifs and characters, may well find soul mates through the connection that Zen Buddhism and calligraphy have with western Modernism. Their work may chime with two Singaporean artists, Ng Joon Kiat and Ian Woo.
European contemporary art rests on an unbroken tradition of innovation in painting and sculpture since the Renaissance such as Asian countries did not experience. Western modernism, post-modernism, and conceptualism, have come to much of the East in a rush, with the rapid globalisation of the market economy. Our own traditional dominance of painting and sculpture has little relevance for Asian artists; instead, photography, installation and digital media have an equal footing. The result is a vital spectrum of art forms without hierarchical inhibitions.
Richard Wilson RA, has contributed a video of his Liverpool Biennal commission, Turning The Place Over (2007-11) in which a cut-out section of a large building in the city oscillates in 3D. In Sleeping Machine I (2011) Japanese artist Hiraki Sawa creates a dreamscape of hidden corners inhabited by spinning cogs and clockwork parts. Wilson constructs fantastic inventions and videos them, while Sawa creates fantastic inventions through video itself.
Grayson Perry RA, 'Vote Alan Measles for God', 2007. Courtesy Grayson Perry RA and Victoria Miro Gallery. Other Asian artists use video to create ‘pseudo realities’; the Singaporean Zhao Renhui, creates fictional expeditions, while Chen Chieh-Jen from Taiwan mixes history and fiction. As with many Chinese artists, Chen’s works are often lightly masked political comment. His video installation, Empire’s Borders II – Western Enterprises Inc (2010), explores his family history using evidence left behind by his late father, an anti-Communist activist, mixing this with an invented autobiography. It’s not so far flung to relate this poignant work to that by Grayson Perry RA, also a master of parallel fictions. In his tapestry, Vote Alan Measles for God (2007) he uses his teddy bear alter ego to lampoon blind obedience of terrorists to an omnipotent god.
Encounters by their nature are unpredictable, their outcomes unforeseen. However there is an appetite among students, academics and collectors in Asian cities to see works by leading British artists in the flesh, and to exchange ideas.
After opening in Singapore, the show will travel in a revised format to Qatar. We are spreading our wings to make the RA and its artists better known abroad and to find new friends and supporters.
Full list of exhibiting artists:
Phyllida Barlow, Tony Bevan, Olwyn Bowey, Chen Chieh-Jen, Tiffany Chung, Eileen Cooper, Tony Cragg, Michael Craig-Martin, Richard Deacon, Tacita Dean, Dinh Q Le, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Nigel Hall, FX Harsono, Ho Tzu Nyen, Gary Hume, Paul Huxley, Albert Irvin, Chihiro Kabata, Kim Jongku, Lee Kit, Christopher Le Brun, Jose Legaspi, Michael Lin, Liu Xiaodong, Richard Long, Lani Maestro, Rudi Mantofani, Lisa Milroy, Ng Joon Kiat, Om Mee Ai, Donna Ong, Cornelia Parker, Grayson Perry, Fiona Rae, Jenny Saville, Hiraki Sawa, Sopheap Pich, Sudsiri Pui-Ock, Sun Xun, Udomsak Krisanimis, Gillian Wearing, Richard Wilson, Ian Woo, Tintin Wulia, Yee I-Lann, Zhao Renhui
• Encounter: The Royal Academy in Asia Institute of Contemporary Art,
Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore, 14 Sep–24 Oct
• Encounter: the Royal Academy in the Middle East Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar, 5 Dec–5 Mar, 2013.