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Art Basel Hong Kong: East

Highlights from the Asian component of the recent fair

by Josh Rubin
on 30 May 2013

After six years of galleries, artists and buyers surging upon Hong Kong's ART HK festival, Art Basel has taken the reigns to build upon Asia's creative boom, bring the local market global and take global audiences local. With 50% of the fair required to showcase works represented by galleries in Asia and Asia-Pacific, the East had an opportunity to demonstrate their style and technique to the 60,000 international visitors Art Basel Hong Kong drew last week.

From colored pencil shavings to light-box art, variations of the traditional meshed with all-out modernity to represent the Asian artistry that's blossoming right now.

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With a manga edge, Japanese artist Aya Takano's yet-to-be-named 2013 piece, shown by Perrotin Gallery, tosses a nude female into the air, paired with foxes, cats and other animals. Drawing contrast between the natural berries and flowers and the artificial, modern building courtyard, this oil painting pits the values of the past against those of the present.

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Cambodia's Chan Dany applies meticulously spliced colored pencil shavings atop wooden board backings. Although the images featured in the 2009 series displayed by 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, are of traditional symbolism (a dragon, a lotus flower), the medium speaks beyond the subject matter, with the colored lead laying the edging and outlines, as seen in the detail shot above, while the wood and its folds form dimension. The full image is featured in our slideshow below.

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Silverlens Gallery presented the "Landscapes and Structures Series" (2013), a creation of Chinese-Filipino artist Mariano Ching. The art features spliced log parts in diptych fashion, allowing for a geode-like view of pyrographic scenes underneath the sheen of acrylic wax.

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The culture of transportation is a worthy subject for art. In the simplest interpretation: automobiles and art both aim to move people. Ichwan Noor's "Beetle Sphere" (2013) does exactly that. The aluminum and polyster sculpture, featured among Mondecor Gallery's offerings, contains real parts from a 1953 Volkswagen Beetle, morphed into a 5'9" sphere, as if molded into a ball by the hands of a monster. The sensation elicited by the Indonesian artist's opus is jarring, but beautiful.

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Jane Lee's "Fetish" series painting "RB I" (2013), spotted at Mizuma Gallery's presentation, evokes a moon-like cratered orb. Heavy acrylic gel tightly binds rolled canvas flowers, overflowing with acrylic color, together on circular matting. This Singaporean artist utilizes the tiniest ornamental detailing, visible in the detail shot in our slideshow, to dictate the tone of the entire piece.

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Chinese artist He An's piece "He Tao Yuan" (2013) is comprised of neon lightbulbs within characters formed from acrylic light-boxes. Carefully calculated placement of the nine-piece independent color-coordinated sections also displays the electric wires. Modern, yet dilapidated and scattered, the experience at Tang Contemporary Art's display calls to mind urban detritus.

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Ornate, moody and almost puzzle-like, Yayoi Kusama's acrylic on canvas "Cosmic Deer" (1995) triptych, presented by Peter Blum Gallery, establishes its visceral experience upon a flat mosaic of grays and beige, shown in detail above and in its complete form in our slideshow. This modern Japanese piece calls to mind swimming in a gravel pit—both liberating and oppressive.

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Seen at CAIS Gallery's showcase, Korean photographer Won Seoung Won's "Character Episode I" features "The Ark of Obsession" (2013) and "The Character Islands" (2013), wherein she melds fantasy and cluttered hyper-reality by montaging images. The former's boats on a stormy sea create a new island-world that's equal parts home and work. The latter displays a menagerie of wildlife, from farm animals to the untamed, coexisting in close proximity. There is an idealism to the clutter.

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Japanese-born Yuken Teruya crafted a diorama forest titled "Minding My Own Business" (2012) from the front page of an issue of the New York Times. Beauty aside, Teruya's sculpture, shown by Yumiko Chiba Associates, also carries meaning. Having built a scene of fake trees from a product made from trees, this recycling of resource begs the question: what carries most value; the tree, the news or art?

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Beijing-based Lin Tianmiao utilized polyurea, silk threads, and stainless steel for sculptural exploration in Lelong Gallery's presentation of "More or Less The Same" (2011). From skulls and rib-cages to shovels, pitchforks and amorphous weapons, the aggressive series of metallic miniatures tackles both bare-bones humanity and what can be perceived as the dangerous onset of lifeless technology.

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Chinese artist Qin Chong's "Losing" series (2013), shown with Galerie Du Monde, depicts stark scenes of near-natural stalks—born of soot flourishes—growing up 21-foot tall unrolled paper. These shadowy weeds and their overwhelming stature (as well as the choice of media) call to mind mythology's fields of the afterlife.

Images by Josh Rubin, see more in our slideshow.

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