ART IN THE OLYMPIC HOUR
By Ante GLIBOTA*
On the baked, parched earth, the Olympic rings, representing the five continents, give us an image we can read in various ways, taken by the great Chinese photographer Wang Quingsong. The natural structures reveal the starting point and the ultimate reference of every imaginable beauty, but since man belongs to nature, the circle easily closes - man’s perception of beauty only serves to enhance his condition as a living being, as an integral part of the universe, as Roger Caillois might say (1), whose remark is illustrated by Wang Quingsong’ photograph. But in working on this problem one must at least broach its complexity, if not resolve it.
Quite apart from the sporting and artistic stakes that accompany the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, this world event will also attain another dimension since it will mark the encounter between two millennial civilizations, that of ancient Greece and of eternal China.
A MESSAGE FROM ANCIENT GREECE
Greek civilization provides a stunning example: man, faced with art, decided to create it without ever giving up on himself, thanks to a truthful vision that has remained faithful to the eye, a logical and harmonious unity, and a pure expression of the demands made by this power of reasoning. The Greeks provided a link between all the shapes and sizes of their architecture, their environment and their bodies, and it was a link that suited the secret demands of the human eye. A simple glance is all we need to understand its unity. The same originality of taste combines two qualities, which might have been mutually exclusive, namely richness and sobriety. This was not the case with them. Everything, be it the fine relief of a temple, the sculpture of a heroic virile body or of an effigy, reminds us of their greatness and their artistic taste, source of harmony.
As René Huyghe has written "…Greek art, based on the exact truth of appearances, submits the latter to the most subtle rules of rational thought; but above all this truth and this logic transcend one another and come together in a common goal, which is the pleasure of the eye and the mind." (2) Sculpture was Greece’s national art, giving it its qualities of grace and intellect, since no other artistic discipline demands as much simple taste, reflection, and feeling. Therefore, by degrees and at a distance, the art that shaped the statue made of wood, metal or marble, progressed alongside the education, which modelled the living statue. You take an interest in real bodies before going on to simulate ones. The physical or moral model always precedes the work of art that represents it. It is said that the Greeks exercised their bodies to give them not only strength, toughness and speed, but also symmetry and elegance; that bodily perfection was the main aim of human life, and that they pushed their admiration of the completed form to the limits and beyond. Homer summarized their endless preoccupation with physical form in a well-known sentence: "Happy is he who can enjoy his flowering youth and wait on the threshold of old age."Greek philosophers often took part in the Olympic Games Celebration. Plato, Chiysippus and the poet Timocreon were athletes, Pythagoras won a wresting prize, and Euripides was crowned as an athlete at the Eleusian Games. Plato was a winner several times. He is said to have been a redoubtable wrestler, fencer and runner, but also a painter in his youth. The conversation between Socrates and Plato, speaking about harmony and balance of muscle and mind is also significant one in the field.
The athletes were required to undergo training that was not entirely sports-based. Artistic and intellectual performances played a part in this gathering of Greece’s youth, in the form of poetry, music, lyrical art, dancing or the plastic arts. Sometimes the flute would be played during the sporting events, to accompany the exploits of the athletes. Pindar would recite his lyrical poems, the historian Herodotus would spread his word, and the architects and sculptors Phidias, Lysippus, Polycletes and Myron (together with his famous discus) decorated Olympia with temples and statues.
THE PLACE OF CHINESE CIVILZATION IN UNIVERSAL ART
On the other hand, China holds the key to practically all the arts and cultures of the Asian continent. This Chinese civilization, several millennia old, which every knowledgeable connoisseur would describe as refined, has no equal in the history of humankind. It has devoted a leading position to art and to artistic creativity, from the Stone Age up to the present time. Art has become a kind of window giving the measure of the changes in Chinese society. We note its presence by means of artifacts, objects and creative processes that have been preserved since the Neolithic period up to the present day. Since the triumph of Confucianism, a few centuries after the death of the philosopher, it marked the start in China of a tradition of governance by cultured men who were to exercise a lasting influence on artistic creativity which in its turn provided a tangible influence on the state of the arts and on the part they played in society.
It is a civilization that is founded on autonomy of thought, of doing and being that is almost total. The remarkable wealth of the artistic heritage is marked by the originality of the approach and once the page of the Cultural Revolution was turned, the country was once more able to renew with its history, with its glorious past, to build up an enlightened future. The future will doubtless provide us with other revelations on this Chinese civilization, which will ensure it another place, more appreciation and further consideration due to its contribution to the wellbeing of mankind.
China’s current and modern history has undergone spectacular evolutions and transformations, and it has also provided an important place for art in its society wherein the artist becomes an instigator of change, an authentic window both on the past and on the future.
After Mao’s death, China went through, like the United States after World War Two, a new ear of artistic creativity born of reformation, of modernization and of the country’s rapid growth. The situation and the political climate were propitious for the emergence of flourishing artistic currents leading to the emergence of a new avant-garde, a new Chinese School, which, in about fifteen years, has created for itself a place of choice in world-wide artistic creativity, all the more obvious since the start of the new millennium. There followed a surge towards art and this vanguard has been the subject of museum and gallery exhibitions throughout the world, thereby developing an international recognition.
And so art, through its Chinese characteristics, has provided a worldwide public with a metaphor for a new era of modern expression in the China of the post-Cultural Revolutionary era.The creativity of today’s Chinese artists, as evidenced in this exhibition is as flourishing as yesterday’s. In cities like Beijing, Changdu, Chongkong, Shanghai, and Shenzhen…., as well as in many other provinces, we have discovered the existence of numerous exceptional artists and creators, be they painters, sculptors, engravers, musicians, writers, and poets, lacking neither talent nor creativity, and whose wealth of works evidence a creative ebullience in the many facetted contemporary forms of art and creation. In them we find strong and vibrant images, the passing from a traditional society to a modern and advanced one, from which there emerges a new artistic aestheticism, authentic and autonomous, a glimpse at the future societies freed from restraints and restrictions.
THE PLACE OF CULTURE IN MODERN OLYMPICS
Culture is getting more and more popular, filling the media through important artistic events in the fields of dance, music, theatre, visual arts, photography, with a multiplicity of festivals devoted to the cinema, theatre and the visual arts, that provide lend a sense of those value, continuously renewed by means of creativity and art, no matter what the social structure or the political power in place. The appropriate moment is the one when all forms of artistic creativity are re-evaluated, as well as their aesthetic criteria.
Pierre de Coubertin, the instigator of the Olympic revival, tried to think up a way of involving art and artists within the Olympic rebirth. His proposal included architecture, drama (open-air performances), choreography and rhythmic dance, decoration, literature, music, painting and sculpture.
Imbued with the classical spirit, as well as that of its renovator, the fundamental act of the Olympic Charter affirms that "Olympism is a life philosophy, exalting and combining within a balanced ensemble the qualities of the body, willpower and the mind. Combining sport and culture as well as education, Olympism wants to define a life style based on joy in effort, the educational value of good examples, and the respect of the fundamental universal ethical principles." (3)
It is precisely those principles that are the driving force today behind Adidas’ wish to stage that bi-polarisation of interests with the Olympic mindset in order to provide an international public with an exhibition that will enhance the Games’ founding spirit. The current exhibition takes on a unique significance and constitutes a peculiarly complex task, taking account of the importance of Chinese civilization in world history, as well as in universal art history.
The exhibition as such brings together segments of current artistic creativity, and emphasizes the links between the artist and the sportsman, the aesthetics inspiring one and the other, as well as the beauty common to their respective modes of expression, and whose authentic winner will be the public.
We have suggested creations in the fields of photography, sculpture, painting, new media, as well as conceptual installations and performances, with the aim of combining those that, in our eyes, best represents the different artistic tendencies today. In this exhibition, the artists from the Pacific Rim are more numerous to answer the Olympic Committee’s wish to see this event centred on regional artistic creativity. This selection in no way purports to absolute exhaustiveness, but intends to reflect the current scene in today’s artistic creations, by means of acknowledged artists as well as young emerging creators.
This exhibition’s vocation is to trace the sources and emotional changes in contemporary society by means of various artists among the most creative ones, and whose existential and aesthetic experiences re-appear through significant, original and vibrant works. As for us, it is up to us to enlighten the viewers so as to reduce the distance too often separating them from the art works. A very delicate and often difficult task.
Today even more than yesterday, we are often faced with the impossibility for the critic to define the facts and creative acts in their lyrical essence as well as in their technical expression that make up the language and the very reality of the work of art. In order to understand art through current critiques, we often lack the ingredients of the singular's specificity, as well as the description of the artist’s style through a dynamic and conflicting reconstruction of a particular case, of a work of art, of an artist. In fact, setting up these two objectives summon the exceptional capacity for literary invention of a critic or of a writer. The real problem always arises when a decadent period follows a phase of exciting vanguardism, when the most banal academicism is faced with masterpieces and they then join up in recognition of the fact that a work of art is never alone, but is always in a relationship, a relationship that provides the feeling of openness, that provide its legitimacy to the critical response.
Modern art’s adventure is limitless, generated by a freedom directed towards a constant renewal, precise and articulated, with its absolute forms, abstract and sensitive that uphold and encompass reality’s value and weightiness.
Please forgive our flight of admiration for a number of the artists taking part in the exhibition; indeed it was essential to appreciate the full impact and poetic force that their works engender. Henri Bergson quite rightly pointed out that enthusiasm is also a creative act. (4)
PAINTING’ S FLIGHT
For this exhibition, Wang Guangyi shows us a diptych entitled "Olympic" a genuinely meaningful work in which two paintings that are almost like mirrors are inscribed in the prolongation of his series "The Great Criticism". As usual, the artist has once again created a visual suspense, a well-known imagery of his Pop-Art series that have endowed him with a very special place in Chinese artistic creation. One of Wang Gongyi’s characteristics is how he has recreated, quite concretely, the moment of his stylistic choice, and its conflictual character and in so doing he has influenced and contributed to, an opening, leading to a genuine perspective for the works and an open, modern art, free from all academic tutelage in China. He can be mentioned among the artists who have, tenaciously, clearly, suggested forceful ideas for a whole generation and in parallel, among those artists who have, with a disconcerting simplicity, opened up the potential for a positive continuity with the culture from the recent past - a culture in which the arts intermingle, are mutually enhanced, where painting embraces poetry, architecture, sculpture, philosophy and literature - in fact drawing up a new form of writing, art for a new age, another open window.
On the artistic level, and more precisely on the pictorial level, Wang Guangyi has accomplished over the past ten years a genuine apotheosis, his painterly and sculptural œuvre has literally exploded, with its monumentality, its vigor, its absolute mastery: thanks to gesture, color, rhythm, visual power, where each part resonates in a symphonic harmony. The titles’ calligraphy, an omnipresent galaxy of figures in every part of the work, the indication of meaning, the repositioning, in the very familiar iconography of the gun by the fountain pen, could be compared to trial balloons, to subtle messages, that the artist throws at the spectators’ heads as though in a purgatorial gesture. Finally, it is the sign of a total creative freedom, which we feel through his daily gestures, in sudden laughter or in a serious mien, reserved and touchy.
Through his “Pine Tree” (300x237cm), Yue Minjun achieves a dual exploit. First of all, that of having created an impressive painterly masterpiece for this exhibition, then that of having accomplished, by means of a simple symbolism, a mythological synthesis: that of ancient Greece, instigator of the Olympic games and current holder of the Olympic flame, and of millennial China, which will keep it for the next four years. The artist painted himself as a concupiscent centaur on the peak of a mythical Chinese mountain, the Huangshan mount, a yellow mountain dear to the hearts of artists and writers. This image re-awakens in us the old legend of the poet Li Bao and that old green flowering pine tree that re-appears like a jade column at the top of the mountain and which is the brush of dreams, that the painter uses to immortalize his inspiration. By removing the frontier between the animal’s body and the human body, the artist emphasizes the regeneration of birthing bodies. The human body in all of its states that embodies the entire material universe, finds its most complete expression and accomplishment in the painting.
If we look closely at Yue Minjun’s work or if we adopt the eye of the viewer, as regards drawings, gouache and painting, one of the first conclusions we come to is that Yeu Minjun has managed to maintain the dynamic balance of the creative rhythm even as he set up a generational culture through his artistic tendency. The powerful movement that flows through Yue Minjun embraces men, clouds, trees, rocks or more incorruptible materials, that are transformed and concentrated in shaped turbulence. Henceforth Yeu Minjun’s picture appears like a painting that sets words free, through his gestures’ autonomy, through its richness and generosity, through the gleam of his colors, finally through a certain precision of form and matter.
In his "Muhammad Ali", Britto Romero remains faithful to the Pop-Art canons, even if one can put another label on his œuvre and on his expression re-defined by a neo-pop art form. Sparks float in an absolutely blue background, in which the boxer is bathed, painted in two super-imposed faces. From the front, his well-known mythical portrait from which emerges an impressive visual strength, then on the second level, an angelic face, with a determined gaze and that dominates the entire composition. We can feel the strength of conviction of "Louisville Lips" when he was declaiming his unforgettable poem: "I am young, I am cute and I am totally unbeatable". Even as he employed the Pop-Art principles, Britto Romero was of course, inspired by a typically south-American colorful symphony, enthusiastic and vibrant. Even if the colors appear visually important, in fact he works with a limited range of hues, reaching an amazing balance in a recognizably personal style. The Brazilian artist paints a star-filled world, replete with world renowned figures, and he more and more frequently reaches out to architectural groups, to great public spaces, to seagoing liners, in which he unfurls his paintings, his sculptures and his environmental works, omnipresent all over the continent.
Paul Alexis carried out another portrait of the greatest sportsman of the twentieth century. The face is hardly visible, obscured, black, minimalist. It looks as though the artist had captured and revealed, through his work, the great champion’s innermost soul. In order to seize the pictorial subtlety, the brush’s light touch, we must scan the work itself, which reveals the delicate structure of the face’s drawing. Treating it gradually by means of a delicate chiaroscuro, the painter has caught simultaneously the birth and the evanescence of the famous boxer’s features. Painted with his eyes shut, open-mouthed, the face is transformed by a painful grimace, asphyxiated and expressing the physical effort, not to mention the suffering, that is the other side of the sporting medal. Paul Alexis’ Muhammad Ali, shown here at the end of his career, no longer has the splendor of Brita Romero’s Muhammad Ali, that of the Rome Olympic Games in 1960, the great champion who remained unforgettable, intact. It was chance that brought together these two artistic visions of that otherworldly personality in the exhibition where they are represented, superimposed and interwoven, thus symbolizing, without any forethought the two extremities of the sporting life, the joy and the pain, happiness and suffering, based on a same figure, sending us back to the realities of the sports.
The artist Yin Yang combines in his name and first name the two symbolical and complementary categories that are found in every aspect of life, of the world, two entities that Chinese cosmogony particularly cherishes and that follow the original breath: qi. His remarkable painting "Exceed", shown in this exhibition, reflects the same symbiosis. The canvas’ surface is divided in two equal parts by the pole of the jump that also divides the athlete’s harmonious body, facing the blue sky, as he is about to vault over the pole, painted in a frog-like posture. The composition is of a minimalist simplicity with a pictorial and an optimal compositional effect that emphasize the sportsman’s elegant gesture: nothing can disturb the athlete suspended between earth and sky. Yin Yang is a solitary painter, faithful to his life experience, which was often painful. He lived in the environment of underground miners, and he was surrounded by the almost tangible presence of death, the loss of family, close friends comrades. He has remained strongly grounded in a meditative silence that spring forth in his canvases, with powerful portraits of mutilated miners, or walking towards the coal mines, expressing their fear and suffering linked to their working conditions. Far removed from any social scenes and media frenzy, the artist writes, via his brush, a strong page in Chinese painting. By this evocation of humanity, with these powerful images, he awakens us to the human condition that is sometimes curiously absent from our view, far removed from our thoughts, he leads us to others. Curiously, in thinking about his painting, there springs to mind a line from the French poet Charles Baudelaire who said that "lntoxication is a number", and also that "The number is within the individual".
He Wengjue belongs to the very latest generation of up and coming artists in Chinese painting, who has proven his great pictorial possibilities in a very few years. With richly textured paintings, a pronounced sense of color, the artist has rapidly evolved from the academic painting of his early days, during 1996 to 2001, towards an expressive free, vibrant and convincing painterliness. The total freedom from academicism happened in 2001, when the artist started to paint the bathers in the series "Water", focussed on large male figures, their back turned, their faces hidden or half-hidden and carried out in the richness of a heavy impasto, in a perfectly free and assured gesture. He Wenjue in fact, uses chiaroscuro that only a talented artist could carry out successfully, thanks to a technique and a culture of applying layers of color with impeccable mastery.
Then little by little, the palette grew smaller, more refined, diluted, but the effect remains intact, unchanged, despite the shrinking of an ever smaller human silhouette. The works became more and more abstract. The theme stayed the same until early 2007, when a new approach became clear. The artist was attracted to purified, sensitive forms, where fluidity and a reference to light link the image together indistinctly. Using a restrained range of colors, mainly in shades of blue, light blue, greenish blues; this range and this predilection for those colors have remained virtually unchanged for five or six years. Using signs, practically unformed, He Wenjue made an inventory of memory. Color is not the support but the active element of the spiritual charge, as we see in the work shown in this exhibition (see page…), where water reflected in our eyes fascinates us and carries us beyond dreaming, to the other side of the mirror.
Wang Chengyun’s work belongs to the same register, who shares his artistic adventure between Germany and China, and whose favorite theme is also water, but in his case we more usually find there generously proportioned female figures. The artist plays on the optical reflective powers of water, like a deforming mirror, however, the figures are well defined despite the gesture’s great freedom and the broad brushstrokes, leaving us with the feeling that the painting was carried out in only a few minutes. Then comes the colorimetrical contrast, the stain, red or otherwise, that balances the composition, that awakens the imaginary phantasm and gives its main driving forces to the painting, like in the work "Dragon and Phoenix" made in 2005. The play on light and the sense of color remain as his strongest points, the artist leaving us with the impression that his works are like the human body, with no unnecessary parts.
In this four-fold painting, a richly meaningful work, the Japanese artist Koji Furudoi paints bodies, or rather abstract, fleshless silhouettes, all the while emphasizing the forms’ speed and motion. The force of gravity upholds and affirms the personalized spatial concepts of each segment, each form in itself. In an outlined volume, wherein the shapes bounce back, we notice a split and the forms find their limits in their very own determinism, in their erotic, sporting and existential horizons. The artist wants to celebrate, with a specific approach, a precise moment, a moment of hope. It is a time of genuine isolation, of deliberate concentration, in a well-defined spatial segment, where nature is overtaken by the forms themselves, transformed and absorbed.
Robert Combas shows us a composition that gives us an excellent glimpse into the athlete’s speediness. His "Relais" is a painting with a powerful visual impact and with a very "jazzy" expressivity, playing on a deliberate overlaying of primary colors, so that the artist creates a double, even a multiple reading of his work, on which can be glimpsed the outlines of silhouettes visible in transparency, and carried out in a free gesture. In a positive attitude, despite the violence of some of his subjects, Combas uses a generous and sovereign language, and clearly expresses the visual imaginary of a whole generation.
In Feng Zhengjie’s triptych three identical faces, fixedly staring, buried in the shadows, represent a mental mirror whose color is like a tumult. Only a few little pictures of decalcomania taken from video games or from Mickey-style comic strips, are riveted to their cheeks, or "tattooed" on the front of the main portrait, creating a double symmetry. These little images, condensing of robotic signs and of cartoons, integrated inside a linear stylization, have in fact, a cathartic function., setting free the phantasm, the irreducible pulsation. The artist unveils the private side of the characters, their "weaknesses" and hidden tenderness, and so manages to provide them with a newfound spontaneity. His portraits, carried out with a genuine maestria, a great precision in the drawing’s execution, have an intrinsic worth, a chromatic power and a formal authority.
A Catalan painter, who is also Dutch, Lita Cabellut is a good synthesis of two experiences, two great painterly traditions: Dutch and Spanish. In her impressive portrait of a sportsman entitled "Taron el Grande", she comes at us head on with a work of a great expressive strength in which dreaming joins tough reality with a grimace synonymous with pain, the twisted face, a closed neurotic eye, that send us an unambiguous message. Whether the painter is depicting a wound or an ecstasy, a winner or a loser, this portrait hides an inner volcano under a peaceful surface that does not mislead us. It is up to us to guess what passions and what emotions maintain their essential character, reveal their souls’ state, that are the result of a psychological vision inside which the artist knowingly leads us. This fragmented face radiates the substance of things. The glimpse of a face is lived like a shock that leaves us no time to look in the way we usually examine an image. Emmanuel Levinas (3) insisted on the vulnerable characteristics of a face – the part of the human body that is the most naked and the most exposed to violence.
In the intertwining of figures and writings of the diptych "Olympic love stay-lover go N°1" and "N°2" by Boris Ivandic, we are sure that a Novalis would acknowledge a natural form of poetry, like a path towards the appearance of a work of art through the succession of signs and symbols, to finally reach the poetical essence of human nature. Ivandic seeks to escape the metaphysics of writing, but has chosen, through his expression, a need for interdependency between the symbolic and the environmental: street space, public spaces, the home’s intimacy, with a technological omnipresence and radiance in daily life, to show us the way, the manner in which writing influences us and conditions our minds, in every fraction of a second. Ivandic also demonstrates the importance of gestures, he is ironical when dealing with recomposed reality, and one might almost say that he stages an organized chaos, arranged and poeticized. In fact, in that coming and going motion, we get the impression that the artist wishes, despite everything, to communicate the uselessness of the sign, as a symptom of crisis, and then of all illusion, of identical reproduction. He re-orients us towards our surroundings, in the slipstream of fragmentary shreds of a built-up and defeated existence, then onto radiance through the optics reflected on the human psyche. With his creative gesture, Boric Ivandic indicates that his work is a work on the concept of time, the concept of space, the concept of energy, the concept of transparency, and finally the concept of order and chaos. In that meditative work entitled "I’m still young, it’s OK to fall", Wei Jia has created an effect of fake photography to describe a story that is in itself already complicated. In colors distilled with a subtle analysis, the portrait of a dramatic vision appears emotionally serene. The artist paints in fact, a frame of mind and, perhaps, a hope in a future victory. Those colors are symbolical and demonstrate in a certain way, an alienation that brings painting closer to a photographic appearance and to a document in itself.
The Korean artist Joung-A Lee has accustomed us to figures of solitary women, deliberately isolated, painted from the back, their faces hidden, on which we can guess at, not only a human expression, but something else again, that comes from the heart and expresses disillusion. In her very handsome and powerful "Basket-ball Players", the artist shows us a work with sober colors, in black and white, emphasizing the notion of a document of remembrance, that does not need colors, where nuances are transformed into a solid work. With its strong black and white tones, she also created a darkness in which light intervenes through unhoped-for multiple spaces, fixing the suggestive power as free and intact. She expresses herself with that economy of tonalities, both emphatic and diluted, playing on chiaroscuro, also leaving spaces for intermediary tonalities that strengthen the balance, carrying expression towards a tangible harmony. Her basketters in motion, since the artist also paints, off-centered, the outlines of bodies, the hands’ motions, make up an amazing composition, explosive, accentuated by the expressive determination of the sportsmen’s faces and gestures. A single mystery remains, what game are they playing? The ball is invisible, and the artist thus creates a surprise. Here is one more reason to note that Joung-A Lee here provides us with a painting of a brilliant precision, a work with an amazing power, a genuine strength. As for the ball, we are inclined to forget it.
The Chinese painter Hu Xiangdong has painted for this exhibition, a large triptych ("Breakthrough N°1, n°2, and n°3", each of them measuring 200 x 200 cm) that is a real pictorial hymn and a visual invitation to sport. Choosing the three emblematic sports of the Olympic Games, and of sport in general, that are also among the most popular: athleticism, queen of sports, basket-ball and football, the artist invites us to take part in the sportsmen’s bursts, their duels, their hopes of achievement. With a visual maestria, Hu Xiangdong wraps them up in transparent cellophane, placing them in Pop Art’s universe, in popular imagery, in mass consumerism, depersonalized and alienated. Those vigorous bodies, in competitive duels, are carried out in pastel colors, gambling on the illusionist perspective of light plays and on weightiness that, together create waves in which those athletes and sportsmen start to exist. The bodies’ materialization generates the visualization of space. It is modulated by the bodies, placed at the heart of the compositions, that ordain and condition the space’s vibration in the whole, by reconnecting other bodies, re-found again through the cellophane’s reflecting lights.
Peter Klasen, a true master of contrast, has made a fractal composition of various sporting themes with a duality in the background symbolizing an opposition that gives a precise balance to the work. An emblematic figure of the New Figuration movement, he is forever seeking new outlets, renewal. Deeply thought out, his work captures the signals of daily reality, to disengage the vision of an urban world, so specific in its language and in his creation lying in wait for time. In "Sporting Puzzle", and as the title suggests, we are dealing with a combination of movements and attitudes, that call forth a communion and a participative meaning, the values dear to the Olympic spirit.
In "Exercise with Friends", Kong Weimeng explores monochrome and uses the relationship between the symbols of different zones to include them in a contrast between real life and experience. The artist uses the themes of games, of comic strips, to reproduce them as dreams of childish innocence as opposed to the existence of natural violence in man. Kong Weimeng is focussed on abstract reality, which he paints in real colors.
In his outstandingly powerful work "Sportive Children", Li Tianbing, an artist with a double artistic culture, and a painter of memories, explores children’s world and the genuine and potential destruction of their environment. He uses a restrained palette and the work becomes a committed document dealing with memory. Expressing a universal and timeless sensitivity, he very soon acquired international recognition.
Song Kexi is a Chinese painter, from northern China, who, after studying in Peking settled in Shanghai, where he has carved out an important place for himself in contemporary Chinese art circles. He attaches major importance to his painting’s visual impact that remains for him the "sine qua non" condition of creativity. As he is not very inclined to bowing to dominant tendencies nor to mercantile aspects, the Shanghaian artist paints according to his inspiration, according to his own rhythm and with his own specific means. Here we have no trickery, no wish to appear. Since the year 2000, his expression has changed significantly. The artist has re-introduced new vocabularies into his canvases, greatly increased in subtlety, in originality, and the descriptive and symbolic elements frequently resurface in the surreal ambiguity that has increased during the past few years. These new visual and technical solutions brought forth unique compositions, with rhythmical themes, of a modernity in which the artist finds again and re-affirms both his expressive style and his creative autonomy. The composition "Gilding Dolls", in the current show, is an example of this. The work is full of children parachutists, who remind him of the real parachutists whose imagery was ever present in his childhood. The artist has replaced the genuine character, side-stepped via the children, and he emphasizes simplicity, innocence, hope and beauty all the while expressing the hope that parachutism might become an Olympic discipline in future times. And so he dreams that the Olympic dream and Icarus’ myth might further reconcile the Olympic Games of the new Millenium with its mythical origins.
The same need to summon up the old and the new appears in the work of another Shanghaian artist He Zijian, in his composition "Pursue the wind", where the sporting theme combines two civilizations, Greek and Chinese, uniting in the landscape, pictures of the Acropolis and of the Great Wall that frame a bunch of cyclists, like elements of coherence and connection. In his quest for a compositional theme, He Zijian often obtains, thanks to an individual line, the required combination and relationship, inside which the vibration inherent to his own semantical and symbolical system is crystallized. A fine brushstroke, a great technical know-how with layering, and a play on light, all reveal mastery and individual expressivity. This painting has a clear vision, based on language and it also uses all the potentialities of color that fashion space in itself, suggesting celebration, conviviality, affection and a profoundly humane message.
Moz, in two important compositions, "Adidas" and "Play Time", explores the field of Pop Art with a pared down painting imbued with creative mastery, where Pin Ups and Playmates are superimposed to provide a new reading of this imagery. As an artist with a pronounced sense of humor, he shares his joys and his idols, his colors and his light-heartedness in synergy with his public, dreaming of metamorphosis.
In their "Welcome to the world famous brands n°1 and n°2" the Luo Brothers explored a theme dear to the Chinese Pop Artists, with a tendency towards antagonistic juxtapositions as well as a good dose of humor. In fact, they combine the imagery of the Cultural Revolution with good luck animals taken from Chinese mythology and mass products of the consumer society, to reach the limits of kitsch. With a great variety of expressions and compositions, the Luo Brothers happily explore the ironical trends of a superficial triumph.
For this show, Masanori Suzuki has provided us with a fine and impressive quadriptych, not only by its great scale (400x120 cm), but also by its fine and delicate composition. He superimposes painting, and drawing, held between three layers of assembled Plexiglas thus creating a kaleidoscope of filtered images. The Japanese artist reminds us that we look at the world using memory or experience as an image filter, by which formal reality is no different from that of the imaginary. This triple superimposed reading provides a good explanation of the tri-dimensional world, inside which the artist gradually inscribes contours. Afterwards, will come color, substance…. But in our brains it is the contour that remains engraved as information. From his work there emerges a vision of life, filled with energy, that testifies to an imposing dimensional vitality, especially in his monumental works, pulsating with fresh emotivity and carrying a visual power and sensitive refinement, leading to human enchantment and transcendence. Masonori Suzuki appears as a man and as an artist replete with Pascalian truthfulness since "Man is in truth the most excellent of all God’s works and like a résumé of all his other marvels…" (7)
In his compositions "Victory" and "Olympic Hope" the Chinese painter Zhong Biao has combined Chinese and Greek sporting images, as well as their inspiration, taken from the same spiritual sources. Through an allegorical Pop Art style, meticulously painted with the minimum of means, he manages in these two compositions a deliberate fusion, between the Western creative experience and the Eastern one.
We also find a similar approach in the work of another important artist in the Chinese Pop Art movement, Wang Dajun, who has painted in an Olympic medallion, a portrait of a smiling young Chinaman, full of optimism, which is very different form this artist’s usual paintings, whose violent images, with their powerful symbolic charge, have brought him international success.
Also in the symbolic register we find Roc-Roussey’s painting, who has created in his "Victoire" a woman’s body with overdeveloped muscles, hypertrophied, floating in the air, and with an angelic face, on which are clearly visible the effort and the determination of the next winner, her passionate vehemence and her bodily tension. The artist has seized the environment through the restitution of the athlete’s imposing body mass, leading to an authentically theatrical reconstruction of the scene, sporting and Olympic, to which the viewer cannot remain insensitive. Roc-Roussey also runs counter to a rhetorical or shock-inducing painting, a painting filled with vibrations, with precision, intuition with his usual tonal and expressive richness.
In his two compositions (Olympic Beijing 1 & 2) Tang Zhigang paints in pastel hues, themes linked to "childhood memories" dear to him, and recalling the wounds imposed by a difficult life. Sporting and childish innocence is apparently a good cure, and the artist presents them with sensitivity, poetry and a convincing sense of humor. The artist genuinely brings a fresh approach to the artistic scene, a fine lesson in generosity, a self-sufficient and authentic line that have echoes in his native province and in all of China as a whole.
In "Runway" Chen Wenbo leaves his usual vein, by creating a work that might be described as open, with an infinite range of possibilities. For instance, the geometry of an athletic runway provides us, through its empty but resonant spaces, its layers of primary colors, both sumptuous and allusive, a powerful feeling of vibrating space. The starting point, from which the athletes are absent, seems to await in silence an important show that will take place in lordly fashion. The Chines flag, flying in the center, is a contrast to the rest of the totally geometric space.
If Chen Wenbo is a master on the athletic scene, Gabriel Anastassios, an artist of Greek origin, unfolds his artistic talent in a series of podiums, playing with the genesis of the Adidas logo with a delicate refinement. At first sight, the form is strictly geometric, but on looking closely it reveals a great quantity of collages, of "photomontages" recalling sport. In fact, the artist is describing the distress and life of the sportsmen, punctuated with defeats and victories. Anastassios shows us a row of four draped podiums on which changing shapes follow each other. Through these ever-changing shapes, we see a story unfolding in which the athletes, the logo, the podium and the vector are intermingled in a flow of fractal images and finally become one.
It is an enigmatic work, with differing aspects, touching upon a universal theme. In that labyrinth, dear to Anastassios’ heart, like for all Greeks, we are meant to seek out the keys of the enigma held by the victors.
In "Le tour d’honneur" of the victors, Samy Briss paints a celebration with great sensitivity. It is a rhythmical composition, where each gesture is accompanied by musical notes and where the delicacy of the reduced chromatic scale emphasizes the forms’ movements. His figures are serene, taken from a rounded cubism, and they sing out like a harmonious evocation. The artist has taken hold of music to place himself as a poet among the painters.
"Body and Soul" painted by Ernesto is a fairytale work, born of experimentation and surrealist imagery. Filling the submerged world with creative games, the artist seeks the motive in dreams and vibrant forms. Dexterously, Ernesto spreads out a range of softened colors in a serene composition, in which nature’s impulses seem like a source of inspiration.
Chamizo has painted a picture with an underwater atmosphere, occurring "elsewhere". He is trying, through nature, to smooth out the difficulties of daily life. In this illusory work, he furtively enhances his vowels, displaying a modulation of primary colors, a visual and dynamic rhythm of forms.
SCULPTURES BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND BIOLOGICAL RULES
With the title he gave his work "Syncret", Nakao Masaki sends us directly back into Antiquity, but let there be no mistake about it, this work is totally modern, minimalist, even avant-gardist, but thanks to its ambiguity deliberate or not, it can also be read in different ways with varying meanings, be they linguistic, cultural, religious, psychological and physical…We feel that this last vision is closer to the essence of this work that, like in qu-ntum physics, attempts to combine materialistic and idealistic philosophies, the conformity of mind and matter. It is therefore a work with an outstanding aesthetic and poetic range.
The visual vibration engendered by this installation clearly shows that a work of art is not merely animated volumes due to a surface approach. It deals with a vibration of transparent and luminous masses faced with the environment that the artist absorbs as a common part, imbued with a strong density, and that allows the viewer to find his way once more towards the visible and the intellect. The work offers a new vision, an encounter between the artist and his world, with the imaginary in appearance, whereas the symbolical reality is accomplished via the harmonious center providing the key to the spatial rhythm. We find both interdependency and singularity in each constituent element of this luminous polyester, acrylic and nylon sculpture, that is part of the whole. That is also what differentiates Nakao Masaki from other artists like Car André, or Donald Judd…. who have preferred to opt for a simplified modularity, raw materials, a flat surface, whereas the Japanese artist insists on the correlation between the elements, their inner organic links, and an extreme precision in the execution. It is a question of a gestural signal that, in its turn, thanks to the result obtained on the surface, perpetuates the play of multicolored light, creating another link between the work and the environment that reveals it. The optical element, the use of pastellised colors in their turn transform the given space, pre-determined, freed from false appearances, and the elements, attached or detached from each other, which allow the shapes to escape from resembling the rest of the imaginary in the surrounding space.
To create light shapes, mobile, transparent in frail materials, enduring, that might have been the motivation of the Japanese sculptor and painter Keisuke Matsuura when making the installation "Spieler der Randes, Olympic Project 2008", a work measuring 18,18m x 8,75 x 2,30m. The installation is based on the five circles bearing the five Olympic colors. Each circle carries eleven moving stems, whose inspiration and intention are at the limits of a marginal situation, the frontier between the visible and the invisible. The painter emphasizes with great conviction that the greatest frontier is that in people’s hearts. His art is not opposed to mankind nor to nature, since he himself is nature. Whether it is through the wind, through its gusts that create clouds, through light’s permeability, reflecting clear or shadowy images, be it movement, the artist enters them, goes through them, organizes them by means of the physical and biological laws that govern the universe. Keisuke Matsuura does not want nature to be the model for art, but that nature with its laws engendering beauty and making up the aesthetic references of human appreciation, should provide us with the familiar energy of its variegated moods. We can also place his painting in the same register as his installation, a botanical imprint "Botanisieren", that also communicates poetry, beauty, and originality that cannot leave the viewer indifferent. The essential element in a work of art resides in the works’ communicability; as Paul Valery underlined when he wrote: "All the arts live by words. Every work demands that we answer it, and a literature, whether written or not, immediate or reflected, is indivisible form what leads man to produce."
Pierre Matter devotes an impressively sized sculpture (330x210x102cm) to the "gazelle and black pearl" Wilma Rudoph, who was the undisputed queen of athleticism, the triple champion of the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. Already thanks to the materials he selected: bronze, copper, steel, and their specific weights, the artist emphasizes a particular interiority, as well as giving a minute reading that prefigured a strict structuralisation. Even the extroversion of the material, on the sculpture’s surface, does not prevent him form leaving the door open for a metamorphosis, when the material guides the hand, towards uniformity. With his welding, flying, assemblages, the reunification of different materials, Matter has multiplied the readings that tend towards an objective view of the whole, in the realm of synthesis. In fact, the artist conceived the form to enhance the space in which it floats. And it is precisely that to-ing and fro-ing between form and space that creates the surrounding happiness in which the work of art expresses its "radiation", a grammar of the human being and of the artist.
A certain positive transcendency of reason, signifying that through artistic and spiritual means we can build without destroying, is made clear to us in the important Chinese sculptor Sui Janguo’s works. The artist belongs to a group of intellectuals and artists who emphasize the need for the artistic and cultural milieux to take part in social life and to transform society alongside other Chinese progressive forces. By means of his large body of work, both evolutionary and significant, the artist suggests creative notions, provocative ideas on a scale that China has not seen since the Cultural Revolution. In his approach, humor is never far-off even if at times it is on the fringes of black humor. We can expect to find this characteristic, specific as it is to Sui Jianguo’s own works, in the young Chinese artists’ productions since the sculptor, heading up the Sculpture Department of the Central Academy of Fine-Ars in Beijing, is trying to teach and transmit to new generations a certain idea of art. And so the spirit will live on.
PHOTOS: AUTOMATISM AND REFLECTION
Through love or through humor, the photographer Wang Quingsong combines his own visual experience interiorised with a magical superposition and sensations born of the esthetic communion, of poetical sensorial sentiments. We must point out that Wang Quingsong has pulled off a masterly stroke by avoiding the trap of illustrating a given proposition, a desired image. On the contrary, he gives us another reading of the subject, enriching, sensitive, with his visual system of meanings and values. Here the photographer reveals with a definite nostalgia, a far-off period when there co-existed a duality of language and a new semantic approach. He proceeds through mirror effects, reflective and also by using all its possibilities and all its limits, in the light of the other. "… Here automatism and reflection are intimately intertwined, the image recalling the image at the same time as the mind is at work on less concrete representations" (9) By his poetical flights the artist provides thought with a visual impact, and through the explosion of colors, he includes inside the image his own family and himself, he offers us absolute evidence.
It is a new and contemporary language whose vitality bursts forth and that carries an analogous phenomenon, made up of silence and hidden, ambivalent messages. In a beautiful and captivating series of photographs entitled "Muscles", the Swiss photographer Hans Gissinger, whose understanding is the heteromorphic field, shows a very high level of visual awareness. The artist, with a practiced eye and who enjoys beauty, leads us to the discovery of an immediately recognizable atmosphere, imposing his own style through that approach. By visualizing the imponderable, he extracts, by collage, forms that are likenesses and convergent, which nature offers us in all its splendor, and it provides a different and many layered reading. That is his creative engine. Gissinger’s work, enigmatic, silent and vital, materializes a photographic approach based on the capturing of creative philosophy, in which the genuine work of art and all the creative path leading up to it, are to be found in the eye.
Wang Rong is probably one of the greatest Chinese photographer-explorers, and a gatherer of unusual images. Whether it concerns light or the horizon, landscapes in the Gobi desert or in Mongolia, the special ambience of the Yangtse or Tibet, of the Yellow Mountain or the Anhui, Wang Rong Ping captures meditative images. Awaiting the appropriate light, he scrutinizes places where his obsessive lines are clear, having become his fixed point. He is an archeologist of the invisible seeking out the light and the mystery of the hidden essence of things. In the composition he made for this show, the photographer explores the image of a landscape summoning up a Olympic parade that might, in its multitude of flags, equally be an opening or a closing ceremony, symbolic in any case.
Per Hüttner has kept a photographic souvenir that leads to an encounter. In "Jogging in Exotic Cities", photography captures daily memories. These photographs are passages of signs that hide truth and its secrets, separating the false from the real in reality’s manifestations. Henceforth the gesture will set the invisible free for an ethnologic triumph that will provide us with the key to the final enigma.
A fine series of photographs by Thierry Bouet makes each of us into an Olympian. Indeed, the photographer transforms our daily routine into a poetry of sport. How can we overcome our difficult daily conditions, how can we survive in an environment that oppresses us; such are the questions that inspired the artist’s work. Even as he won his gamble to create through the camera’s eye works with light, fine-drawn, running, jumping that call up bodies in motion, he also send us a message with a great deal of humor: life and sport are inseparable, and each of us unknowingly shelters, a potential athlete.
INSTALLATIONS BETWEEN IMMATERIAL AND REALITY
Maki Umehara’s installation explores the permanent transition that exists between fragments and wholeness, in fact, the exchanges and visibility in geographic time and space providing a broad range from the intellectual and imaginative panorama through a work of art, individual art.
The title "Knees and Arms" already give it a poetic dimension. The triangular and geometric forms, curved or flat, inspire relaxation, motion and tension. Painted in diffused colors, with a juxtaposition of white and transcendental yellow, the work recalls a faded memory, transformed into the color of light. The artist writes about her work: "the energy generated by each sportsman, or woman, produces a dynamic wave that seems to lead to a new temporal axis. The same is true of art. The rhythmic curves in my installation "Knees and Arms" might represent such a dynamic wave, in which undulations and varied currents converge. Like a sporting event, a cultural program favors dialogue and mutual understanding, and the idea of such a common goal is an important feature of my installation for the Olympic Games in Peking in 2008". (10)
Truthfulness, which demands the rigorousness of the innate geometric form, means that the unexplainable will be established, deciphered. Freedom that art gives to the human being will take on, with Maki Umehara, the appearance it has chosen to wear. So we become aware that art possesses our natural environment’s magical properties that can free it from is isolated portion, and allow it to becomes a real factor in our life. "Conceptualizing" without conceptualizing, in the basis of Umehara’s intellectual approach, we find a process of genuine reflection, a hierarchy of decisions and an innate aesthetic sense.
In "Sextiles" the Electronic Shadow group has devised an interactive project, with a great visibility, playing with the Olympic Games’ symbolism and with a mirror effect, that involves the public as an essential feature. Electronic Shadow offers us a high-level artistic project based on an innovative technology, and that radiates both through its context and through its scenographic and poetical imagery. Simultaneously simple and complex, this sculpture provides the viewer with the possibility of becoming an integral part of this artistic venture that remains playful despite its high technicity. This scholarly and innovative work will prove to be a landmark.
The Swiss artist, Franziska Megert has forged an artistic career and a solid international reputation in the field of new media. Her work with videos helps us note the dimensions of time, motion and multidimensional space in the fugitive presence of the immaterial to be found in her ideas and concepts. She is interested in the immaterial, because the psychic world has an ephemeral and dynamic aspect that require more space and more time than all that is materialized. Electronic image is space, time and motion. As for her video it is immaterial and ephemeral. In her virtual video "Olympe – The Museum collection", Franziska Megert has virtualized Franc Marc, Max Beckman, Joseph Beuys, Kirchner, C.D. Friedrich, K.O. Götz, Piet Mondrian, Alexej von Jawlensky whom she has dressed in supernatural sports clothes. She draws our attention to the similarity of the artist’s creative act and the sporting act, so that for her, the evolution of a football match is aesthetically comparable to the production of a painterly or architectural masterpiece , to the building of a fascinating house or to the writing of a well wrought poem. (10) Megert makes us understand that hybrid forms are as widespread in sport as they are in artistic forms and content. For the public, the creator is identified with his masterpiece, and suddenly the masterpiece is identified with the artist and can once more change in one direction or another. In the same way, the intermediary record in the Olympic Games varies according to the executant who personifies the result or leaves it in is current state. In fact, athletes and artists are highly identified with their genuine efficiency. What happens when the masterpieces are identified with the artists? When art and sport coincide…?
In her video "Time addiction", the added up figures are a countdown that plunges us into the realm of a primary pathology, progressive, damageable and mortal if we don’t take care. Life’s excesses, alcohol, drugs, a wish for eternity, for youthfulness, the obsessing for a sporting result, the stirrings of desire, falling in love, are not a fatality since there is always time to come back to normality. In fact, there are two states, black and white superimposed, related to the countdown, the urgent message, before it is too late. Concentrating her action in space and in motion, the artist transmits a feeling of structural similarity. By superimposing, Megert, in fact, works with opposite, antagonistic tendencies and paradoxes incorporated inside a structured relationship, i.e. communication in the broadest meaning of the term, that leads to the immaterial, since the psychic world is by definition ephemeral and dynamic. And since it is immaterial, it requires more space and time than all other things with a material equivalency.
This work is a world apart, a passage towards a forbidden area of consciousness and mind, where Kumiko Kurachi has created an appropriate solitary world, with a foolproof originality. If in the beginning she was destined to discover more traditional materials and forms of expression, another vision led her to not consider the work of art only as an object nor as a metamorphosis of form. She tried to define a virtual and imaginary space, to establish a closer and more immediate relationship between the artwork and the viewer, that allowed her to define the characteristics of her approach in the expansion of relationships with other zones of experiments and of human creativity, other presences. The Japanese artist confirms that she creates art while also questioning the nature of art, not knowing what is art, even as she wants to liberate art from every superfluousness, by confirming: "Art is concept". (11) Kurachi conceptualized her installation with five cubes in the five Olympic colors representing the five continents, but she added: " The five continents are separate from each other, but are also together with oceans, they are limited but also not limited. They mean something but nothing. When we see the five rings, they are also together, but not together, I made the whole installation for the Olympics. Strong, and limited, but not limited, because there are lofty ideals, man cannot grasp and explain, that is why man does it again and again, because satisfied at once, but the next day man wants more. Art also. Man works, and is never really satisfied, because a question comes along next. Please experience the installation, not only in the brain, but also with your body. Walk around, approach, and also from a distance, I hope you will be full of questions, after a while you realize that you understand, you see nothing but everything."
In a very short time, the Japanese group Rinpa Eshidan has overturned the creative Japanese scene and achieved worldwide success. This group of artists with very different backgrounds creates then continues its creative process by destroying the work. They created pictorial works of a great expressivity, of which, after their destruction, all that remain are video bands that are the joy of You-tube. In fact, they struggle with destruction, in a desire for construction. Sculptors, painters, draughtsmen, passionate about new technologies, these artists also have a solid visual pictorial culture which ensures that today their art has an audience measured in millions of viewers during their appearances and their happenings, which can last several hours, in the same way as they might go on for several days or even weeks.
Arthur Unger, an artist from Luxembourg has long been familiar with Oriental civilisations, and consequently with Chinese culture. From the very start of his art career he was placed on this particular road by the great French art critic Michel Tapié and he felt an immediate connection with China through its writing, its philosophy and its artforms. His artistic opus is singular on account of the sources on which it is based, as well as because of the media he used to express his art. His œuvre, in fact, is based on paintings on copper or "pyrochimiograms" as Arthur Unger calls them, which since the sixties have represented an unusual experiment in contemporary artistic creativity. In fact, the artist developed this technique, using as a support sheets of electrolytic copper, a mixed painting process based on Indian ink and chemical liquids, whose transformation is carried out in a perfectly controlled manner under the flames of the blowtorch. The conceptual work made for this exhibition is entitled "Ch’i and Passion", and it produces a vital energy filled with symbolism. Imagined as an Olympic flame, combining the Olympic symbols with those of Chinese civilization, and sporting dynamism. With its three bands on each column, the artist calls to mind, beyond the famous brand, the arrival and departure lines of the ancient stadium in Olympia, the unifying triangle above the columns symbolizing Feng Shui’s spiritual force. Finally, the five laurel wreaths placed on the ground recall the Olympic rings of the five continents. Already well known in China, Unger’s work contains a vibrant inner space filled with energy that addresses the eye, with the rhythmic linking of the surface’s subtlety, from which the fire and the flame spill out with a sensual power born of an ascending spiritual perfectionism
Marcel Odenbach in his composition "Reduced to 3 Stripes" with its systematic approach, seeks a participative commitment from the public to achieve a reciprocity of action, using in his questioning, symbolic lines and images which, thanks to an association of scenes or figures, resurrect the genuine questions. This work, filled with a studied complexity, structured within time and in an accumulation of images, has a sociological charge close to certain aspects of the New Realists, at least insofar as the accumulation of the images. Through his transparencies, he achieves a radical authenticity to attain the objective processes of his approach on which are grafted the effects of reality. By using new media, the artist combines installations, sounds and writing based on repetitions, whereby he confronts his environment’s reality.
VIDEOS IN DREAM RHYTHM
Several thousand photos, and videos taken in football, basketball, baseball stadiums…. in cities as diverse as Munich, Kyoto, New York, Yucatan and Mexico were used by the Japanese artist Nobuko Sugai to create a playful photographic and video installation entitled "Moritz Takumi 05-07". This installation – made up of documents belonging to real life – was inspired by phenomena linked to childhood and to sport, it touches upon themes that interest young people, their joys, their hopes, their idols and sporting heroes, their fetishistic objects taken in reality or from fertile imaginary worlds. And so quite naturally the artist leads us to continue the path that has led a sports brand to become the departure point for the fantasies and dreams of children the world over. His photos and videos are absolutely authentic and thanks to them Nabuko Sugai has managed to create, with originality and inventiveness, meditative spaces in the actual purlieus of a football or basket ball field, and of course, also within the context of a family home. The approach to nature, to the environment, the dialogue between the children and their happiness are captivating and penetrating, the artist has captured while enhancing them their nature and their games, attempting to send us a message in this way. In fact, Nabuko Sugai is trying to establish, thanks to her art experiments, the place of sport and of art in young people’s environment: according to them, they are bases with which to confront coldness, solitude, to counteract the desert and the despair that silently lurk in the shadows of modern cities.
Thanks to Joanna Chevalier’s tremendous efforts, the designer of the "Talent" label, the exhibition is enriched by video documents, performances, short movies, all of high quality with a theme linked to sporting activities. Devoted to contemporary audio-visual creations, anxious to confront and exhibit images of our times, she defined a line by choosing short films that she has regrouped by themes or by inviting the exhibition curators to establish, according to their own artistic awareness, a selection of short films meant to be seen side by side without being intermingled. In order to combine different approaches "Talents" has gone so far as to commission co-productions with partners anchored in industry, museums, sports, etc. Her well defined approaches have as their vocation the wish to accompany our changing views, to bring contemporary creativity into our homes, on the walls of our living rooms, on our computer screens, like a daily presence that opens up our senses to a new way of thinking. Like etchings or lithographs, rare works are now available to a broad public. Specialists, enlightened amateurs, or neophytes, "Talent" gives us an opening into poetry in the new numerical age. At the precise moment when the stuff of art resembles that of our dreams.
Sometimes even, dream images, very poetical, surprise us by their freshness, their beauty, like those of the young Grégoire Bourdeille, where the heart’s beats join dream’s rhythms. And we also discover some experiments that shake us by their humanity. For instance, Ana Busto with "Olympians 2" showing us a poignant story, worthy of heroes in Greek tragedies, and dealing with athletes in the Paralympic Games, that are left in a dramatic indifference compared to the other "normal" sportsmen, and that do not have the same place in the sporting and Olympic community. The attitude towards a mutilated body is quite other. The intention of the project is to question the separation between the Olympic and Paralympics games. At the moment, there are two different games, which have separate ceremonies, medals, and prizes. Paralympic athletes are as determined as competitive, and outstanding in sports as abled bodied athletes, so we say, let there be only one game.
London based audiovisual artists Addictive TV in "Sportive" dynamically explores movement and sound in a wide range of sports, evolving the action of the fast and furious sporting forms being sampled, into shifting new musical patterns of rhythmic audio and video are known for their cutting-edge audio/video remixes and dynamics live shows, which have been rated twice #1 VJs in the world by the readers of DJ Magazine.
In his "Kunstlauf" the Berlin artist Franz Wanner walks around and shows with humor and derision social phenomena such as sport, sound pollution…With this work he offers a burlesque wink at a spectacle of ice skating with a musical background of elevator music. For the performance "Kunstlauf", Franz Wanner extends the Museum of Modern Art in Munich (Pinakothek der Moderne) by declaring its surrounding area as an art space as well. That way, he is able to slide across the aura of the art-institution, neither being detained within its spatial exclusiveness, nor flatlining of it and being excluded from it.
In "101 Sheep" Grégoire Bourdeille made videos where the images of different textures are combined, filmed then trafficked, repainted, enlarged, deteriorated. Often the initial views are self-referential, become unreal, unrecognizable. With films that "question the notions of instant, passage, of all the motions of sliding", a story unfolds, mysterious, poetical.
In "Swimming Fluo" by Eric Michel there is a work on light, on the frontier between the material and the immaterial. Light still plays a major part in his work, but he has completed the central dialectics with a balancing game on the elements (water and fire – cf. Bachelard), duration (cf. Bergson) and space (the body in a static or dynamic balance inside water). The first idea is an apologia for slowness (the body’s freedom, pleasure) in counter-reaction to competitive sports (speed, competition) – a wink and a nod to a new Olympic spirit. All the Games’ elements are present: the flame, the chronometer … but they are moving slowly. From there on, the viewer finds himself in a floating situation, in space and in time – he loses his usual reference points in time and linearity to find himself "dunked" in a hypnotic dimension.
In "Watchers" Virginie Yassef takes a childish pleasure in uncovering the world’s strange beauty surrounding us. In her videos, simple gestures appear burlesque and ordinary street scenes become poetic. "Watchers" is a film based on footage shot during the 1998 World Soccer Game in Paris. Stolen images of birds hanging by dozen in trees, streetlights, balconies and roof views of the square invaded until the final victory. There are no direct shots of the game but only of the surroundings in search of different points of view.
"Efforts Decathlon" of Antoine Leroux, 2007, has a simple concept: "to reverse what the audience sees and to make us see what the athletes look at, what they feel at the moment of their effort. To express this inner sensory universe, I chose to equip an athlete with a small camera fixed at his eye level - a subjective camera. This technique, with the athlete’s physical limits and the material, gives a mirror effect of the performance itself". A one time shot. In case of a failure, the project could collapse. The athlete and I were bound to the success of the "experience".
"Power Up", 3mn35, 2006, by An Jungju, is like time’s daily reminder: leaves rustling, water running, and a military march. This DJ and video artist assembles these heteroclite elements to compose original scores. This young Korean gives us in his film a real close up on physical training. Repetition and effort are the main themes. No amazing record but meticulous preparations close to perfection. An invitation to meditate and to concentrate. The rhythm of breathing sets the body and the mind.
As a tribute to China, the host country of the Olympic Games and of this exhibition, sponsored by Adidas, a great many artists have created works with references to the Chinese Qi Gong, symbolic of the symbiosis and harmony between universal energy and human energy, but also a symbol of the continuation of energy in the human body. One of these artists, the Japanese Takéo Hatai has made one of the most beautiful, or in any case, one of the most moving projects for the current exhibition. Indeed we could describe her work as a kind of synthesis of the exhibition itself, on the one hand because of her visual sense that is spare, meticulous, diversified, inspired and deeply meditative, and on the other hand because the artist has devoted her work to the question of the permanency of energy in the athlete’s body. In terms of energy, the parallel between the artist and the sportsman is so obvious that many artists in the show were specifically inspired by it. The artist maintains that energy in athletes’ bodies has neither beginning nor end. Energy came into existence at the birth of the universe and returned as a derivation of stardust called "human being". A way of saying that a work of art is only alive if it lives in the minds of those who look at it. In any case, as long as the viewer feels that the artwork is fuelled by the same energies that also work on him and on his physical body, he necessarily feels a strong link between both himself and the work. In such a case, the exhibition and the works of art shown there will last for as long as possible, all the while testifying equally to the diversity and richness, as well as to the genuine complexity, of the world itself.
© ANTE GLIBOTA SEPTEMBER 2007
*Historian of Art and Architecture, Titular Member of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Humanities
Translated in English by Ann Cremin
1 Roger Caillois, Cohérences aventures, Gallimard, Paris, 1976, p.25.
2 René Huyghe, Sens et destin de l’art, Flammarion,Paris, 1985, p.155
3 OLYMPIC CHARTER Fundemental Principles , Article 2,on September 11 2000, including the amendments approved by the 111th Session of the CIO.
4 Henri Bergson L’énergie spirituelle, Essais et conférences (1919),Paris, p.23.
5 Levinas, L’utopie de l’humain, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 1993, p.92.
7 Blaise Pascal, speech for the opening of the Aix Parliament.
8 Roger Caillois, Cohérences aventures, Gallimard, Paris, 1976, p.25.
10 Letter to the author, June 23, 2007.
11 Letter to the author June 11, 2007.