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Indepth Arts News:

"TEXT and SUBTEXT: Curated by Binghui Huangfu"
2001-01-12 until 2001-02-03
Woolloomooloo, Sydney, NS, AU

Text & Subtext cuts across the grain of homogenising discourses about Asian and women's art practices - injecting individual, local, and political elements into this broader discourse. The exhibition adds a sub-textual nuance to pre-packaged thinking about these areas of discussion.

In the main, Asian art has been experienced in the West via the narrow-band selection of international Biennales or through the circulation of market-friendly art reproduced in commercial art magazines. The work of Asian women artists has usually been written about and described through the filter of a Western feminism which tends to gloss over particular and local concerns in its assumption that vast social leaps and bounds have been made by women the-world-over - in Asia this isn't always the case. Importantly, curator Binghui Huangfu describes the very different situation of women and art(ists) according to national boundaries rather than 'across Asia', thereby resisting the typical Western reduction of Asia to a single geo-political region or bloc.

We find out that in Korea art itself is valued but women artists are poorly represented (reflecting women's broader social role), meanwhile in China, the Communist party has long valued women but contemporary art has no particular standing. In contrast in the rapidly developing nations of South East Asia more dynamic and inclusive cultures are forming. In fact in Thailand and the Philippines women's art has already developed its own infrastructure. It was within this variegated and complex context that the art for this exhibition had to be selected.

In the exhibition's catalogue Binghui Huangfu describes the artists' 'desire for the re-contextualisation of contemporary art into an Asian context' as well as a desire for the hybridisation of established form, content, and subject matter. If contemporary Asian art can be seen as developing local hybrids of global concerns then for Huangfu it could be said that these women artists are developing a 'hybrid of this hybrid' hence the Subtext. In this way the exhibition 'shows the real possibility of an intelligent alternative to much of the market-dominated art emanating from Asia today.' And 'by virtue of this isolation and separation of women from their mainstream colleagues, women artists in Asia are developing means of expression in many ways more capable of direct and honest expression.' In particular Text & Subtext presents the work of artists who are finding new formal and conceptual ways of tackling personal and local issues.

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