When we think of famous artworks in the recent history of art, we realise that one of the reasons for their success is the artist’s ability to express a singular and striking commentary on the particularity of their time. In Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States (1932), Frida Kahlo displays her anti-capitalist sentiments by highlighting the cultural differences between Mexico, represented as rich in history and nature, and the United States, characterised by pollution and Fordist industry. In Guernica (1937), Pablo Picasso denounces Franco’s violence and the horrors of war by depicting the bombing of the town. In Les femmes-maisons (1946-1947), Louise Bourgeois reveals the way in which women, in the roles of wife and mother, were systematically attached to and enclosed within the domestic and family sphere in the middle of the 20th century. In Zydeco (1984), Jean-Michel Basquiat highlights the excesses of the consumerist culture of America in the 1980s and discusses racial and socio-economic inequalities in the United States.
But today, what are the phenomena and dynamics that artists employ to characterize our present? There are many answers, but we have chosen to address it under the theme of Ruptures, Transitions, and New Beginnings. This past year has felt like a rupture; in one swift move, we have transitioned from face to face experience, to being hidden behind a pixelated façade. With time spent away from our friends and family, SuperGlue has felt this has led us to become more introspective in our actions, and in turn, address our own histories, identities and beginnings. In doing so, our own self reflections begin to manifest in our creative output, and, as has been the case for centuries before, artists are now bringing fresh and inspiring perspectives on the current situation. With this in mind, we invite you to read about three emerging artists working from London, Seoul, and Geneva, who each bring their insight into our theme.
In her work, London-based Xu Yang addresses ruptures by bringing the maligned into vogue. Her work’s style borrows its lavishness and exuberance from the Rococo era in French art history, which, since the French Revolution, has been depicted as an period that was void of taste, and instead should be viewed as a blot on the pristine tapestry of art in France. In drawing from this rupture in history, Xu Yang not only brings a “fabulousness” of form, but also a comment on the building of linear art histories. To compound these feelings, Xu offers the viewer a taste of her own experience by allowing the audience to become the figures in her work. This is made possible by removing the face from the people in the works, meaning that the viewer can be brought into the perspective of Xu. In the article, Xu explains her Rococo inspired style, as well as how she sees an altered version of herself within her paintings.
In her photography book Chère Liberté, éloge au Pardon, Lausanne-based photographer Tara Mour also shares her perspective and intimate reflections. The images produced for this project are mainly self-portraits and close-ups of different parts of her body, which are accompanied by poetic stories that recount formative moments in her life. As the pages go by, the reader is invited to witness the artist’s study of her body, her identity and her family. It is precisely in this representation of the self that Tara orchestrates a rupture. First, the boundary between the subject and the photographer. However, above all, she creates a rupture with the multiple injunctions made on women and conveyed through the massive representation of elongated, hairless and smooth bodies. In a process of deconstruction, the photographer shows her contorted body creating new shapes, her body hair in close-up, and the texture of her skin varying according to body parts, light and position. Through these aesthetic and honest images, Tara contributes to redefining beauty and proves that it is multiple. Chère Liberté, éloge au Pardon is a touching testimony to liberating transitions, to our perpetual construction of self, and to the importance of forgiveness as a start to new beginnings.
However, if new beginnings are lost to us, then what should art answer to in this era of deep loss? In the process of transitions under the pandemic, artists and art historians have debated on what position contemporary art would hold post-pandemic, and how it would be expressed. Particlefield is a Seoul-based, digital, visual studio composed of three visual artists, merrily telling their own story, without paying particular attention to the current political and social situation. They work on a variety of 2D and 3D-based projects, that set out to amplify the digital visualisation with its own sense of humour. Playfully, the artists materialize their tastes through the screen by exploring easily consumed content in the current mobile environment. However, Particlefield does not use footage that can be easily obtained online, but instead repeats intensive digital modeling and texturing to create a smooth and saturated 3D image. The visual pleasures that Particlefield unrealistically create are made to entertain the public, conveying that one of the essences of art is to find simple pleasure within it. A clear answer to the rupture that has occurred is worthwhile, but according to Particlefield it seems to be both sufficient and satisfying to produce an aesthetically pleasing reaction.