Lost not forgotten

Niru Ratnam selects London-based Korean artist Shan Hur
Art | 10 October 2014
This article is part of Young Art Week – Defining a generation

Welcome to HERO Young Art Week – our essential, multifaceted guide to the new wave of creatives working at the vanguard of contemporary art today. Across a dynamic week of digital content, we’re exploring what’s happening at the epicentre of this global community: from the ground up, the artists themselves and the key figures witnessing the evolution of the ideas, trends and movements defining this art generation.

Niru Ratman is the director of the Global Eye Programme, an initiative that nurtures artistic talent in regions where art infrastructure is lacking – specifically, across Asia – with recent projects formed in Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore. For Young Art Week, we asked Niru to tell us more about what’s happening in the Asian artscape from an emerging talent perspective, and to select three artists he feels are doing groundbreaking things in this context.

Asia's exploding artscape

“Over the past five years, contemporary Asian art has made its mark over the world,” says Niru Ratnam. “From big museum shows in the west (like Cai Guo-Qiang at New York’s Guggenheim in 2008) through to auction prices that were previously unimaginable for non-western artists, the region’s art has come out of obscurity in a big way. Artists like Ai Wei Wei, Subodh Gupta and Lee Ufan are now some of the most sought-after names by major collectors.

Beneath these big now-established names is a vibrant emerging scene of young artists who are the first generation to see an older generation succeed and be taken notice of around the world. This seems to have given them the confidence to approach contemporary art in an experimental, confident way whether it is painting, installation or new media.

Biennials and prizes like the Prudential Eye Award play a greater role in the region that commercial galleries (unlike say, New York or London) so young artists can be arguably more experimental and ambitious as they are not making works for the sole intention of selling them via a commercial space. These initiatives have also joined up different art scenes so it is possible to take an overview of contemporary ‘Asian’ art whilst of course recognising that there are local inflections to say, the Singaporean art scene or the Indian art scene.”


“The three artists I’ve talked about below all make work that is international in its scope but has local specificities which is one of the strengths about the best of the emerging art in the region,” says Ratnam. “I am particularly interested in works that are reflect the rapid transformation of Asian cities in the recent years but in ways that are surprising and not obvious – the three artists I’ve chosen to highlight all do this in different ways.”

Niru Ratnam selects Shan Hur

“Shan Hur’s works meditate on the moment of transition as old buildings are renovated or when building sites are in their early stages,” says Ratnam. “During these moments the veneer of the finished urban landscape disappears and instead layers of making are revealed. The Korean-born artist embeds his sculptures in the pillars and walls of galleries giving them a resonance of objects that were always present but not to the visible eye. Hur’s work speaks of the transformation of Asian cities but in a way that is subtle and even elegiac.”

Shan Hur ‘Broken Pillar’ 20-12. Courtesy the artist and Gazelli Art House

Question for Shan Hur: When you think about the future, what do you see?

“When I think about the future, the word ‘crisis’ come to my mind. The world seem to be faced with serious crises at the end of the 21st century. Environmental issues, depletion of resources, food shortages, water scarcity, wars and social unrest. It seems inevitable that the crises will increase towards a peak. But in recent articles; earth’s protective ozone layer is beginning to recover, which is encouraging because it shows possibility that other global issue can be resolved through international cooperation and commitment. Small hopes are seeds of the future.” – Shan Hur.

You can view more of Shan Hur’s work at his website, hereCheck out Niru Ratnam’s other Asian artist picks – HaYoung Kim and Rakhi Peswani.

The 2015 Prudential Eye Awards will take place on the 20th January, 2015 at MasterCard Sands Theatre, Singapore.

Stay tuned for more HERO Young Art Week content in the coming days and plug into our social media platforms for updates as they come.


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