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Asian contemporary art thrives at the annual exhibits of the Federation of asian artists.

[Photo of Asahi Glass]In 1985, a group of artists from Taiwan, Korea, and Japan organized a joint exhibit featuring 86 pieces.Their goal: to promote Asian art and encourage cultural exchange among Asian countries. The following year, the exhibition was named Asian International Art Exhibition and it has been held annually ever since.

Venues change each year. When Indonesia played host for the first time in 1992, participating countries formed the Federation of Asian Artists. The Philippines, which had participated for the first time, automatically became a member and Virgilio “Pandy” Aviado became the first chairperson.

Being part of, what Aviado calls, “a larger picture in the art arena, especially in Asia” was a boon for contemporary Filipino artists. After all, it is in the practice of contemporary art to be on the move.

For its most recent exhibit, the fellowship of Asian artists returned to Indonesia. The exhibit featured 132 pieces from China, Hong Kong, Macao, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea,Vietnam, Japan, and  the host country.

The theme was “Imagining Asia: Understanding Diversity and Changes in Asian Art,” aiming to “trigger an active imagination on ASIA.” Asia is not just a geographical location, but a cultural identity that has gone through and is still going through remarkable changes.

[Photo of Woman in Distress]Although cultural identity and change may not have been the subject of every piece, the entire exhibit presented an unusual diversity of Asian ideas and perspectives. It is interesting to note the recurring theme of “reactions to change” found in almost every country’s display. Also, retrospection and introspection can be seen in at least one artwork from each participating country.

Such a work is Aviado’s “Clear Conscience.” Executed in acrylic and gauze on canvas, Aviado likens his work to “the healing of memories.” Deliberate, meticulous, and most likely, calculated, the cross-hatched layers of gauze provide, not only a textural quality to the work but also, a road map of sorts into the artist’s thoughts, or conscience if you will.

The composition is precise and yet it offers discernible, but carefully concealed, surprises. Patches of small, thick, round pieces are spread across the blue canvas, as well as ragged, browning strips—a puzzling treat for the curious viewer who wonders what it all means, what kind of memory they represent.

[Photo of Sarimanok]Incidentally, memories, dream memories, and wistfulness were also depicted in China’s “Forgetting” by Luo Yiping, Indonesia’s “1 April 1966” by Erna G. Pirous, Japan’s “The Memory of the Wind” by Hiroko Shirai, Korea’s “07 diary - absence III” by Kim Soo Ja, Malaysia’s “Mimpi Melayang...Dunia Terapung” by Ismail Latiff, Singapore’s “Dreams” by Ang Pei San to name a few. (See the featured pieces by country at http://aiae-indonesia.com/artwork/artwork. html—Ed.)

Another reflective work is “Woman in Distress” by National Artist Bencab. For this somber painting, Bencab created a compelling image of an aging woman using broad brush strokes. The woman in the portrait seems to be deep in thought, with her eyes and lips tightly closed, and with hopelessness clearly etched on her face. This sense of despair can also be perceived in China’s “Cry” by He Weina, Korea’s “Figure” by Oh Kyung Hwan, Malaysia’s “Malaysian” by Ng Bee, and Vietnam’s “Self Portrait” by Nguyen Xuan Tiep.

There are other common motifs, of course.What would a contemporary art exhibit be without social commentaries and figurative works, especially of women? But whatever the concept or the quality of art, such exhibits signify the progress of Asian Contemporary Art and present a strong connectivity and collectivity among Asian artists.

The next Asian International Art Exhibition will be held this December in Guangdong,China.

print ed: 07/08


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