Monday, February 2, 2009

Asian Art

The art scene in Asia has been getting a lot of attention in recent years. Artists in China have been getting most of the media focus but other artists are now moving out of the shadows. The subject of their art seems to depict outlandish scenarios. It's this inflated outlook that seem to be a common thread in Asia. Perhaps it's the recent progress where millions have arisen from poverty that these superhuman images seem to depict. The fact that normal Asian perspective no longer apply but a new perspective superimposed with Western dimensions although in a more fantastical scale.

Does the images mean that the new prosperity entitle Asians to superhuman perspectives? Or do they depict more of the inner life of Asians where old boundaries no longer constrain the Asian spirit? Hence, the inflated expectations for the future. Or perhaps more scrutiny is applied to Asians as they grab more global responsibilities. After the Asian crises, a lot of space was devoted to exploring the Asia model, looking for flaws and mistakes. So the Asian psyche is being examined in detail if it's a model that could dethrone the current Western ones. But with the Global Economic crisis, the Asian model now looks more like a viable alternative.

What is clear is that prosperity, growth and expectations are rising in Asia that a revolution is underway. Similar to Mao's cultural revolution, it is a movement where Asians are more sure of themselves faced with the turmoil in the West. Since 2 or 3 of the biggest economies in the world would soon reside in Asia, the future portends of a shift in perspectives. Maybe that explains the common images of artists in South East Asia. These forms depict a new world of outlandish scenes unlike the usual pictures of rice fields and mountains and sea shores. A cultural revolution similar to Mao's version but in a more dynamic (and wealthy) and less destructive form.

But the global economic crises still shows that Asia is not decoupled from the rest of the world. Every one feels that pain but seems that Asia provide significant solutions to the crises, too. From stimulus packages to sovereign wealth funds to currency controls, the world relies on the wealth and expertise of Asians to survive. So this is where the importance is seen. Perhaps this is why Asian artist have a lot of pictures of people with big heads. An increasing role also means more scrutiny, problems, psychosis and identity problems. Look at the Japanese who have been struggling with their identity for so long, unable to exercise a true leadership role in Asia.

Only China and Japan have the power to exercise a leadership role in Asia. Asean is too fragmented with only one country - Indonesia- capable of achieving world power status. Japanese art has not provided much stimulation except for it's anime. But China and South East Asia has seen an explosion of new art due to their rising status. Perhaps after 10 or 20 years, both China and Asean may again experience the same identity crises experienced by Japan. A crises where Japan could not step up into a leadership role except during times of war where it's terrible instincts come to the fore. Once this happens again, maybe a new visual art that is more explosive will again show it's face.

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