Future force

Selected by Niru Ratnam, artist Rakhi Peswani imagines a unified Asia
Art | 12 October 2014

Rakhi Peswani ‘Inside The Melancholy Object’ 2012. Courtesy the artist

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.”

Niru Ratnam selects Rakhi Peswani

“Rakhi Peswani’s work is inspired by the rapid, organic, chaotic growth of Indian cities and the displacement of the individual,” says Ratnam. “It does this through fragile textile works that combine sewn images that look like drawings and text such as “There are millions like you up here, picking their way through refuse, looking for words they lost.” These thoughtful works typify the more restrained methods of a new generation of Indian artists.”

Rakhi Peswani ‘Inside The Melancholy Object’ 2012. Courtesy the artist

HERO: When you think about the future in Asia, what do you most wish to see?
Rakhi Peswani: Wishfully thinking, national borders in Asia should cease, making inter-national mobility inexpensive, flexible and less parochial. This is specially so important in the regions of South east Asia, SAARC nations, Indo-China geographic region…

Our cultural identities are an amalgamation of many historic mergers and ruptures – think of Buddhism, silk routes across China, India, Afghanistan; formation of Modern states, India/Pakistani partition, and so on. After all, the regions should be open for people to navigate, explore and rediscover many intra-cultural layers to their cultural identities.

How would you describe the state of young and emerging art in Asia today?
RP: [There is an ] intrinsic belief in the recuperative and generative capacities of art. Most practitioners in this region have a fundamental belief in the arts, and stir clear of crass nihilism, or the ‘end’ of Art.

What is the most exciting thing about what’s happening in this market?
RP: Many cities are upcoming, and becoming new centres, with their own biennales, fairs and exhibitions. This will eventually expand and decentralise the markets in cities in India, China, Japan, South East Asia: Kochi, Delhi, Guangzhou, Hangzhou…

Rakhi Peswani ‘Inside The Melancholy Object’ 2012. Courtesy the artist

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

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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