Brave New Worlds: AES+F in Hong Kong

AES+F, 'Allegoria Sacra, A Melancholy', 2011
AES+F, ‘Allegoria Sacra, A Melancholy’, 2011
AES+F, 'Allegoria Sacra' (film still), 2011
AES+F, ‘Allegoria Sacra’ (film still), 2011

Of all the emerging market art scenes, Russia’s seems to have taken the longest to catch up and make an impact internationally. But in the last couple of years, a number of contemporary artists have started attracting serious attention. Standing out boldly amongst the current wave of contemporary artists is the four artist-Russian collective known as AES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch and Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes) who have collaborated as AES since 1987 and have worked with photographer Fridkes (the +F in the group) since 1995.

Based in Moscow, where I caught up with them in their studio a couple of months ago, the group has slowly been wooing curators and major international museums with their challenging works. They caused a sensation at the 52nd Venice Biennale Russian Pavilion in 2007 with their video and series of photographs, ‘The Last Riot 2’. Last year a screening of one of their works, ‘Allegoria Sacra’, at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, attracted as many as 82,000 over three months and provoked enthusiastic responses from the audience. This month Art Statements gallery brings AES+F’s futuristic work to Hong Kong for the third time.

The group has carved out a name for itself creating confronting digital works, which engage with everything from geopolitics to art history and popular culture, and navigate the borders of shifting national and cultural identity. Described as ‘twenty first century meets the Renaissance’, their films and photographs depict a dystopian collision of worlds, races, cultures and art movements, and draw on contemporary social and political issues. Their work is overwhelming in the layering of references to both history and the present. Compositions referencing religious works and the Baroque merge with highly stylized and figurative images, to create a seductive virtual landscape where technology and fashion fuse.

For their current Hong Kong exhibition, the group presents the film ‘Allegoria Sacra’ and a number of photographs from a series exhibited at the Venice Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale. The film, a digitally animated collage constructed from thousands of photographs and backed by a dramatic score, is the final part of a trilogy about the modern world, which includes ‘Last Riot’ and ‘The Feast of Trimalchio’ (exhibited last year in Hong Kong). Unfolding in a sequence of slow-motion scenes of synchronised balletic movements, a preliminary glance reveals the perfection of a glossy high fashion ad with a multi-aged multi-ethnic cast. Cleverly merging visual cues of advertising, to which we all too readily submit, with a surrealistic mix of images from new and ancient religions, comics and fantasy, AES+F’s work is a critique of consumerism, and our obsession with surface glamour and cultural stereotyping.

Cross that tunnel and head to Art Statements for an unmissable thought-provoking exhibition.

26 October- 16 November 2013

Art Statements
Gee Chang Hong Centre, Factory D, 8/F
65 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2696 2300

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