The artworks presented in East Meets West: An Exhibition of Fine Art from Asia give a sense of the uniqueness and value of everything we encounter as we go about our lives, yet also encourage us to reflect on the connections that exist between the objects, events and atmospheres that appear to be so separate. The result is a show which is moving on an emotional level, but thought-provoking on an intellectual one.
Korean artist Soo Hong ’s richly layered acrylic and charcoal on canvas paintings are expressively textured and vibrantly hued. Drawing on paper, initially from photos which the artist has collected, the final work is often a collage of images from various renderings. Hong fills in the works with paint and in so doing draws out the energetic relationships in the charcoal figures. Fashioning an atmospheric and dreamlike terrain, her work process is a cathartic practice, one Hong explains is, “A way of healing myself” and a wish to “move people’s emotions.” Her collage aesthetic and fragmented approach to the compositional whole reflect her nomadic early childhood living in the United States, Italy and the UK during which she learned to appreciate all ways of being. Rife with expressive figuration and undulating, bold waves of color, these works are a highly charged and celebratory glimpse into the collective intercultural psyche.
Arresting, questioning, and beautiful, the oil paintings of Aung Kyaw Htet are a unique window into a little-seen culture. Htet was born in Myaungmya, Myanmar (Burma) where decades-long media censorship has only recently been lifted. Htet’s images of Buddhist novice monks and nuns are some of the first truly representative works to reach a global audience.
Htet signals the concept of clashing ideas in several ways. His people are painted in a mixture of black-and-white and deeply resonant color, which plays with the notion of how we are and are not a part of the earthly world. The style is photorealistic in its depiction of people, but the figures themselves are often placed in imaginary environments – an all-encompassing cloud of smoke, or a mysterious red mist. His chosen subject is the novice monk, a figure that combines a playful childish spirit with the solemn weight of religion. Within this visual language, Htet questions the role of society and spiritualism in these children’s identities.
Yoshiko Kanai uses acrylic paint, small wood pieces and a cornucopia of brilliant, jewel-toned threads to create her sculptural compositions on wood. Painting and wrapping each segment of wood before assembly, the repetitive, meticulous nature of the process and reference to metaphysical insights mimics a type of soft shamanic impulse. Describing her work as her own “personal world of spiritual peace,” the organic mysteries, profound wonders, flights of emotionality and natural phenomenon inspiring the work shine through clear as a bell. Incorporating styles from various ethnic textile traditions, including the traditional Japanese arts from scroll painting to woodblock print, Kanai’s vibrantly hued installations stylize movements in nature and their psychological and atmospheric tides. Characterized by the comforting tactility of threads and the Zen-like process of becoming in which they are made, the works ultimately offer a reflection of life it its utmost perfection.
Takashi Kogawa says that his means of expression are “color and line.” Citing Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian as influences, he employs that interest in color and line in works that find an infinite variety in seemingly simple arrangements of geometric forms. Kogawa says that “Mondrian in particular had a strong impact on me – the beauty to be found in the balance he achieves with line and color is truly an inspiration. I developed this idea in my own work, building up a picture through the use of unstable lines, circles and color plane. I then allow each viewer to interpret my work freely, bringing their own ideas and background to the process.”
Kogawa also references religious imagery in his work. He notes that an image of the Virgin Mary made a strong impression on him, and there is a distinct echo of stained-glass windows, with their precisely defined colors, in his canvases. But, mostly, it is the desire to connect with viewers that drives his work. He says that what he wants to achieve is “the exhibition of human emotion by abstract painting.” The artist lives and works in Sapporo, Japan.
Simple, timeless forms elegantly grace the compositions of Japanese artist Koya . Soulful in their sophisticated dance between abstraction and significance, these works are rooted in the ageless tradition of Japanese calligraphy, taking their shape and sense from that classic art form. Using paper and black calligraphy ink, or sumi, Koya modernizes the tradition, imbuing it with a heartfelt essence of truth and beauty. This renewal revives and revises the art, breathing new spirit into archetypal forms. Splashes of dynamically flowing ink confront neatly meticulous lines, demonstrating Koya’s artistic deftness. At the core of these masterworks is a sense of hope. “As I get older, I came to feel that this world is full of beautiful things and the time I am living is precious,” explains the artist. “Through my artworks, I want to express how wonderful life is.” Indeed, in each of the works is a sparkle of vivacity and exuberance that impels the viewer to seek beauty within their own life.
Japanese artist Yukihiro Murai blends techniques and imagery from disparate periods in works whose influences are many yet always maintain a distinctive aesthetic. The patterns, symbolism and imagery of traditional Japanese prints can be discerned in his work, though filtered through a contemporary lens informed by the bold hues and exaggerated proportions of manga comics. In addition, there are hints of Murai's lifelong love of fifteenth century Italian Renaissance artists. This improbable combination results in digital prints whose palettes range from the black and white of traditional printmaking to dazzling compositions exploding with color.
His compositions, no matter how bold or muted, always feature incredibly complex lines and patterns whose coiling, intertwined forms describe scenes that are alternately grotesque and spiritual. This tension between the bodily and the unearthly runs through all Murai's works. Appropriately, he cites a visit to a Buddhist temple as an especially significant step in his artistic development; his attempts to reconcile peacefulness with contemporary experience in his art make for arresting and intriguing images.
Takuya Sasak i’s intricately detailed pictures create a kaleidoscopic world filled with animals, mystical beings and spiritual symbols. Sasaki draws his images mostly in ballpoint pen, creating what he calls “realistic and super-realistic black-lined boundaries” that he sometimes fills in with a variety of bright colors and other times will leave as simple black-and-white images that punctuate his compositions. The images are then produced as inkjet prints.
Working in a style that incorporates elements of Japanese manga and classical pen and ink drawings, the artist populates nearly every square inch of his works with characters and objects that radiate what he calls a “joyful energy.” That energy can be seen both in how each individual image is drawn and in the composition of those images. A simple horizon line will become part of a complex pattern, or a vividly drawn animal will be incorporated into a swirling, dynamic design. But that energy coexists with a strong sense of harmony and balance, expressing Sasaki’s love for nature and giving his pictures a highly engaging positive spin.
Ron Yue ’s artistic practice is driven by his travels, his experience with commercial photography, and his interest in the expressive possibilities of an image. He currently lives and works in Hong Kong, where his photojournalistic work has been featured on the Asian National Geographic Channel. In this fascinating series of work, Yue captures evocative portrayals of renowned and mythic sites, using the camera to isolate and redefine the landscapes and subjects that he chooses to focus on. Through his unique style of documentarian observation, Yue highlights the pace and complexity of architecture, culture and terrain as a spectacular mix of aesthetic components frozen in elegant coexistence.
By focusing on the formal structure of a civilization, the emotive vibrancy of color and light, and the repetition of natural forms, Yue abstracts these iconographic sites into marvelous patterned compositions. When incorporating people into his photographs, Yue adds a poignant layer of personal resonance to the legacies of these historical sites, charging them with a renewed sense of contemporaneity and wonder.