Mang Mang – Artist Review

By Judith Yeh

It isn’t often that one comes across a portrait artist who predominately takes portraits of themselves. So it is quite refreshing when I came across ShenZen, China-based artist – Mang Mang.

Mang Mang crafts sharp studio portraits embodying many facets of her own psyche. For Mang, an image can’t be too stylized for intimacy. She is unafraid to cut, re-arrange, blur, and distort otherwise straight-forward photographs of herself to better represent a concept. Unlike the material excess of Sherman—an undeniable inspiration—Mang’s prop choices are minimal and singular. Innocuous household items morph into emotionally charged fetishes and their relative harmlessness become a point of contention.

Mang’s stark white website reflects her noticeable aesthetic through her body of work, which often conveys themes of identity, travel, and sometimes violence. All through a clean, open, sharp composition and view point. However, there is a strong hidden idea of “love”; even if her work is filled with violence, gore, psychosis, metamorphosis, and beauty, they all connect to “love.”. While often turning the camera on herself, Mang is open to photographing others. As for the male figure she occasionally presents, “He was my fiancé, but we separated in the end.” Born Zhao Bing Bin, “Mang” means “blind,” a choice to “remind myself not only to rely on my eyes, but to use the heart to see the world.”

“The Heat of a Thousand Suns” – Zine review

By Judith Yeh

photo credit: Enjoy Gallery blog

As part of Wellington based artist Kerry Ann Lee’s “I have Always Been Here Before” exhibition at Whitespace gallery in Auckland, the known fanzines self-publisher released her latest edition of zine, The Heat of a Thousand Suns, to her long list of cult readings. Upon receiving my copy of the zine, number 94/200, what spring to mind is an old fashion notepad that seems to have time travelled forward from the nineties. A well manageable size that many zines seem to have forgotten nowadays.

Lee’s art practice has explored issues and understandings around Cantonese Chinese urban settlement in the Asia-Pacific region during the 19th Century, in particular Chinatowns. As an artist of third-generation Chinese decent, Lee’s work meditates on themes of home, difference and hybridity.

The Heat of a Thousand Suns is imaginative by nature and collaborative in spirit. It includes Lee’s documentation of her travels, poetry and correspondence with various friends. The collection of work serves as a reminder to the forgotten moments and experiences one acquires after years of travelling, even if those memories can be somewhat displaced and out of time. As the opening piece, Lee reminiscences a trip with her parents to the cemetery to visit her grandfather’s grave, describing the experience as “A long-term deposit in the memory bank”. Readers of the zine will find traces of nostalgia through old advertisements within the pages – Dejavu cologne promoting “The Elegant Experience”, “Discover the mystery of psychic”, or a nineties teen magazine cover featuring Johnny Deep’s Cry Baby character. There are a few different aspects to nostalgia in Lee’s case, self-reflection, personal revolutions, humor, humility, even regrets – all those things in a blender at any given time – through her encounters with various people in different cities. Some of whom she has written about; some she has written letters to but never sent, and probably won’t ever see again.

Lee’s honest words of her experiences and sensitivity, combined with her expressive, playful yet socially engaging style of graphic art, has truly make this little zine giving you a fuzzy feeling with the burning passion of a thousand suns.

David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing – Exhibition Review

By Judith Yeh

In the summer of 2014, National Gallery of Victoria presents David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing, a comprehensive exhibition – his first major survey in Australia – of new and recent work by the internationally renowned Glasgow-based artist. Shrigley has developed a cult following for his stripped back, darkly humourous and deliberately crude drawings that explore existential dramas, human dysfunction and anxiety.


The exhibition encompasses drawings, paintings, sculpture, animated videos, artist books; and a commission for NGV International’s Waterwall titled General Store, selling objects (or art perhaps?) such as plastic blow up “Useless Swans” to a twenty-five thousand Australian dollar gold tooth made out of brass. The artist’s omnipresent sense of humour lies at the heart of these works, which are manifest in tragicomic narratives that reflect on the banality and absurdity of everyday life and objects.

The first encounter upon entering the exhibition is a robotic head with blue, red and black ball point pens sticking out of it’s nose, arduously drawing half circles on an enormous piece of paper. Hanging around the walls, are the laborious “artworks” created by this robotic head. And this is just the beginning to the many surprises to come. Shrigley’s starkly surreal, dark humour mostly exist in forms of his cartoon like, often grotesque drawings and clipped text. In one, an emotionless tiger says, “I eat people, I like doing it”.  There are several full walls plastered with arrays of these pictures. Seen as whole, it’s as if Shrigley is trying to convey some terrible message. There is also a piece called “Beginning, Middle and End”, which is essentially a 400m-long coiled sausage made of clay. The idea came to Shrigley after he was left with two tonnes of clay and no specific purpose for it. This sense of Shrigleyness extends to the centrepiece, a piece called Life Model, which is largely produced – or perpetuated – by its audience. Life Model is a sculpture of a man, surrounded by chairs, which are ideally filled with people drawing the sculpture. The drawings are then exhibited as part of the work, so that gradually the walls surrounding the sculpture will fill with contributions by the audience.

There are many reasons this is one of my favourite and one of the most memorable exhibitions I have visited. As the Guardian art critic Adrian Searle said, “Shrigley’s work is very wrong and very bad in all sorts of ways. It is also ubiquitous and compelling.” There are lots of artists, says Searle, “who, furrowing their brows and trying to convince us of their seriousness, aren’t half as profound or compelling.”

a gallery Presents: Blind/Hate – Publication review

By Judith Yeh

‘a gallery’ opened in February 2011 at 393 Princes Street, Dunedin, and closed in September 2012. Strategically placed south of the centre of town nestled between tattoo studios, sex shops and a needle exchange. What was integral in the selection of the gallery space was that it would be able to be viewed from the street through the street level floor to ceiling windows. This would allow the artists showing to be exposed not only to viewers visiting the gallery, but also those walking past, as a gallery was to represent artists that did not fit within the commercial gallery context or the so called experimental project space’s.

Inspired by sealed collectables like Garbage Pail Kids and kid robot, each copy of the publication ‘Hated, The Rise and Fall of a gallery’ comes sealed in a black envelope with an unique, original artwork by one of nine artists that showed at a gallery.

This project is produced to fundraise for the exhibition ‘a gallery Presents: Sure to Rise’ in Wellington 2014, which features artwork by the same artists featured in the publication. The little 50gram black parcel is filled with a mixture of love, hate, and surprises; with a limited number of 100 copies. When I open the seal of this black mysterious package, so full of anticipation, like a kid who opens the little Kinder Surprise capsule – the first surprise I encounter is that it’s a spray-painted Courier Post cardboard envelope. I can hardly imagine the laboriousness of spray-painting a hundred envelopes, yet the look is surely effective. In contrast to the all black packaging, the publication itself has a blank all white cover. Not a chance for one to judge a book by its cover.

The publication reminisces the exhibitions, openings, art, reviews, parties, after-parties, and after-after parties that a gallery had put on over its twenty glorious months; with photographs provided by various friends to a gallery. What I find the most amazing and impressive thing about this project is that: as it serves as a fundraiser, it means that it would be produced under a very strict budget. And possibly relied heavily on donation, sponsors and friends. But the publication was so well put together, which makes one forgets the bills one could of paid with a hundred dollars. For a gallery, well worth it.

Work&Play: Confession Ritual – Exhibition Review

22 March 2014, Dowling Street Project Space

by Judith Yeh

It is significant how the long history of art has developed into this 21st Century movement called “contemporary art”. The spectrum of this significance covers a wide range of various expressions, sometimes the definition of what constitute as an art form becomes obscure. How does one define an exhibition? Does an exhibition only limit to inhabitation of physical objects? I question myself as I stand before a mad and emotional Korean man ritualistically scrawling toothpaste all over a mirror.

Throughout the series of Work&Play, which consist of fifteen performances over two weeks, and across four different locations; Confession Ritual is, without a doubt, the most intense and emotional one out of all. Although the title may have already suggested that this isn’t going to be some self-indulgent, paint splattering musical dance number, it has not prepared one to be so directly confronted with the artist’s immense agony and excruciation. Samin Son’s practice is largely formed by his experience in the two-year compulsory military service in South Korea. He draws upon the endurance and the meticulously directed aggression demanded by the mundane military life, as well as his struggles with identity and race politics. This piece, which sees him enter and circles the room while intoning some unrecognised phrase, is enchanting, displacing and confrontational. One moment he is tying select people together with one of those everlasting public toilet hand towels, forming a defined space to accentuate displacement and uniformity; then he is coming up to each individual, staring into their eyes and commanding them, shrinking the audience in size and individuality. While these actions already put members of the audience on edge, Son takes it to another level by repetitively and laboriously cleaning the mirror with toothpaste, scribbling with it and wiping it off again. The intensity leaves the audience stuck fast, petrified and fascinated.

An art form is the way of expressing one’s emotions. If comparing Son’s display of performance to that of a painting; his movements as the brushes and strokes, and the space as a blank canvas, what really is the difference between Son’s “exhibition” to an “expressionist exhibition” or perhaps an “abstract expressionist exhibition”? It is safe to say, that Son’s style of expressionism has most definitely become one of the most memorable exhibitions I have seen so far.
Video shown is part of Samin Son’s “Toothpaste Action #10”, at DEPOPULATE 01 presented by White Fungus.

Dunedin Artists in Wellington – Exhibition Review

16 March 2015 – 11 April 2015, Bowen Galleries, Wellington.

By Judith Yeh

For me it is hard not to walk into this exhibition without feeling a sense of sentimental familiarity. Something everyone should know about Dunedin before we get into the depth of this review, coming from a very recent Dunedinite – is that it is a small and homely town. Every third person you meet will either be an artist or a musician, or both; and they will be your best of friends almost immediately. From then forward, it is absolutely impossible to wander the streets without seeing them on a daily basis. I hope my close experience with the exhibition can put forward some insight for you.

The works shown are selected from Dunedin’s small yet dynamic Inge Doesburg Gallery. Inge Doesburg, a practice artist herself, supports a range of artists from well established to newly graduated. This eclectic nature is clearly shown the moment upon entering the gallery space. One’s immediate impulse can be described as walking into the lounge of an art fanatic who appreciates art as an ideology or a lifestyle, regardless of its style, form or size. Work of artists: framed or unframed, miniature or large, paintings, drawings, photography, sculptures and paper cutouts disperse all through this less than 6m2 space. It is as if Pandora’s box has been opened, blown up, and then barfed everywhere. But yet, there is a comprehensible cohesion to all of this disorder.

The impression one first encounters is the abstract work of Zuna Wright. Her mixture of warm colours accompanied with irrational yet considered brush strokes; alongside Motoko Kikkawa’s Rice Collar, welcomes the audience into the art shrine of Dunedin. Notably, there is a thoughtful transition within the room. The vibrancy and colourfulness slowly morphs into the infamous Dunedin style – monochromatic, moody and grunge. While in contrast, the more colourful part of the exhibition consisting of Kim Pieter’s dreamlike and philosophical paintings and Motoko Kikkawa’s exquisitely pensive Japanese style paper cutouts, brings tranquility and calm into the chaos. Across the room however the large, cloudy, black and white photographs by Inge Doesburg stand side by side by one another; immediately portraying a sense of isolation.

Interestingly enough, South Island artists in the past, are known for large landscape works. However, very little of so is present in this exhibition. The isolation geographically forces and allows them to evolve and adapt without falling into conformity. Surprises are constantly being discovered all through this beautiful little exhibition.



Images taken from Bowen Galleries website