Christopher Allen give his take on the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art held in The Australian. The show, surprisingly is much broader than the Pacific Rim. It begins with artists as far West as Turkey and surveys the entirety of the continent and its sub-continents:
The cultural depth and originality of Iranian culture is visible in several other works including a series of animations, one of which is made of sand and pebbles and evokes the trials of a shoot as it grows into a tree. Less convincing, though, is Farhad Moshiri, with his pink paintings covered with cake decorations.
Interestingly, the Indians, not only heirs to a great civilisation, but from a functioning democracy and a tolerant society, do not come off particularly well in this exhibition.
Subodh Gupta is described as among India’s most prominent contemporary artists, but one struggles to think what his enormous mushroom cloud composed of brass pots and pans could possibly mean. The brochure may tell us that it “shifts an image of destruction into one of abundance”, but that’s empty verbiage. There’s nothing abundant about pots and pans treated like rubbish in a tip.
As Peter Nagy observes, he’s “good at selecting icons and symbols”, but arbitrary conjunctions are not good enough. Being big and spectacular is not a substitute for making sense.
Much the same could be said about his brass motorbike. It’s interesting to read the history of this machine and its manufacture in India, but that doesn’t make the work significant. Even when you add the milk pails, what do we have? A vague suggestion that something used for war or police activities has been converted to kindly nourishment? It’s just not cogent enough.
Two other Indian artists who work together, Thukral and Tagra, are also disappointing. They want to comment on the social pressures on young Punjabi men to emigrate in search of success, and if this doesn’t sound a very promising subject, it isn’t. They end up producing a laboured and ungainly interior, meant to represent the home of such a socially ambitious family. But all this indulgence in predictable vulgarity doesn’t succeed in generating much in the way of insight.
Thukral and Tagra’s work reminds us of the principle of economy in all art: to do much with little is admirable; to do little with much is lamentable.
World View (The Australian)