Tell us a little bit about yourself – your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
My name is Zoe Leung and I am a Hong Kong-Canadian artist and activist of Cantonese descent whose practice lies in sculpture, installation, painting, and ceramics. I have been an artistic and musical person since I can remember, taking art and music lessons, composing my own music, and painting and drawing since the age of four. The London and Venice field school is my second field school to date, with my first being the Paris and Documenta field school two years ago. I took this trip because of the chance to go to London, a place I had heard great things about but never gone before, and the opportunity of a lifetime to join other students like me on a trip to the famed Venice Biennale. These are both places with incredible art, culture and history, and with very substantial roles in both past and present of art. With the little prior knowledge I have about art in London and Venice, I knew that there are very important lessons to be learned in these places, and thus I had to grab this chance to keep learning as much as I possibly can.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about Venice so far?
Venice has absolutely exceeded my expectations regarding contemporary, Renaissance, modern, and so many other kinds of art. Not only in art, but in culture, food, environment, and lifestyle. This being my second time in Venice, the first time being six years ago, this time around I was able to skip the famed tourist sites and focus on the Venice Biennale and all the other art events that gather here at this time. I expected the art to be very conceptual and open-ended, but the amount of political art and hard-hitting questions posed by the artists and the national pavilions surprised me. I did not expect the art to be as unapologetic as it was. Although some art was perhaps purely formal or conceptual, the theme May You Live In Interesting Times was certainly very well met and explored. The culture, food, environment, and lifestyle of course, I am very appreciative of. Although as an Italian local I may not feel the same way, but as a foreigner, I am very happy to be here and feel very privileged to be catered to in such a tourism forward economy and city. The delicious food, wonderful slow-living, relaxed culture, scenic environment, and relaxed, summery lifestyle are all very aligned to my personality.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?
My assigned artwork is Ishi’s Light (2003) by Anish Kapoor. It is described as womb-like cocoon, with a dark blood-red interior and an egg shell-like exterior. Its highly glossy and reflective inside surface produces a column of light at its centre which is regarded as a physical object in itself, a part of the sculpture rather than just on the surface. What struck me the most about this piece of work when seeing it in real life was its utter size. Ishi’s Light is about twice the height of an average person, and requires two to three people to wrap their arms around it. The form and content was definitely more expansive in the way that it took up more space both physically and metaphorically. It had a larger presence that one could imagine, being only in one corner of a nearly empty room with only one other work hanging on the wall by Elsworth Kelly, but Kapoor’s work commanded the space in a domineering way.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything different now that you have seen the work in person?
I tried to respond to my assigned artists in studio through the concepts that they were working with, as well as through the content. In terms of Kapoor, I tried to work with reflective surfaces, and the physicality of the materials that were used in his artwork as well as the tangible quality of its physical presence. For Mark Rothko (I was assigned the Rothko room at the Tate), my global assigned artist, I tried to work in regards to the physicality of his methods and his paintings, and how they aimed to evoke physical and emotional responses from the viewer. A challenge was the scale at which my artists worked, which was quite large and a proper response to their works would be ambitious for the amount of time that we were given during the semester. In order to produce the physical, tangible responses that I wanted from my viewers, there had to be a scale. When trying to make the work on a smaller scale, I came across the obstacle of not producing a work large enough to get my message across. Having seen the sheer size and scale of both Rothko and Kapoor’s works, I can now definitely see how important size is to these works and how they would be affected if they were any less dominating in their space (see Zoe’s art works in juxtaposition to Kapoor and Rothko below).
Today’s activity was a free day in Venice. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Today was meant to be the day where we went to see the Arsenale portion of the Biennale, but unfortunately it was closed due to it being a Monday, so it was deemed a free day. As a group, we travelled instead to the Rialto Bridge and explored the area. Unfortunately, the Rialto market was much too touristy for my taste and didn’t have too many locals. I did, however, find one fresh produce stand which was bustling with the local residents where I bought some delicious strawberries which I ate right then and there. I also picked up some risotto and Parmigiano Reggiano for the trip home. For lunch, I enjoyed a delicious plate of squid ink spaghetti, which had extremely soft pieces of squid in it. After cruising around on the wrong vaporetto boat for thirty minutes trying to find the beach, I returned to Rialto where I bought a gorgeous hand made Venetian mask. I sure did get to see the more touristy, typically Venetian part of the city, with its Murano glass and mask shops, as well as stalls filled with souvenirs of all kinds. Although I didn’t get to go to the beach today, nor did I get to visit the Arsenale, walking around the main island and getting lost in Venice was something I will remember for the rest of my life.