When did you first get interested in art, and how did it lead you into the business of being a gallerist?
I have always been interested in art and design. Over the years, I discovered that I had quite an eye for interiors, particularly the placement of objects within a space. In 2007, I had the opportunity to be part of a local gallery. That’s how I got introduced to art, specifically pop art, as the gallery’s focus was bringing heavyweights to Hong Kong like Murakami, Warhols, Indiana etc. It was an exciting time, Hong Kong is very dynamic, and locals appreciate art. I like being part of it, especially learning what connects them to the art (the gallery’s represented artists). There is so much excitement when there is a common interest, and obviously that connection is very fulfilling.
I also had the opportunity to be involved with Asia Contemporary Art Show. Although my primary role changed, I still hold and curate exhibitions. I shifted my interest by supporting and showcasing upcoming and mid-career artists, particularly artists from Japan. Since then, I have tended to focus more on Japanese art. I have also introduced a few artists from around the region and a western artist because I love what they represent and admire their creativity. My followers believe in my platform, and I am grateful to have that support. It’s very uplifting, not just for the gallery but for the artists we represent.
When you know there is a meaningful connection between us — gallerists and their artists and the community, it gives us the reason to exist and helps us to have an identity. So I decided to launch jason /sveinn contemporary art in 2019. The backdrop may not be ideal, but I know this is transient. Hong Kong and the art world will come back to life again. Art fairs are back and I’m excited to be part of it and showcase the artists we love.
When was jason /sveinn founded? What has been the specific DNA of the gallery?
jason /sveinn contemporary art was established in 2019, during the pandemic and strictest flow of movement. It robbed our means to present art in a normal setting, but it didn’t prevent and stop us from doing what we love. Galleries around the world curated exhibitions online and so have we. The gallery remains active through our online Viewing Room and social media. It gives us another meaning to continue even though the backdrop has a lot of uncertainties.
Since its inception, the gallery’s mission has been to connect everyone with artists from Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, China, and Japan who exhibit great artistry and creativity. Our focus is to introduce and provide clients with unique works of art that have investment potential and are a reflection of who they are. Everyone has their own preference and likings. For us, we value and respect their choices. We give our clients a chance to see and appreciate the art we represent. We advise them to find the perfect artwork that reflects who they are.
What would you define as your major focus on the contemporary art market?
What we represent (artists) extends not just to painting, photography, and sculpture, but it extends to new media. As the art world evolves, our followers’ appreciation of art evolves, so we try our best to adapt to these changes and current trends. This year, we’ve introduced digital art and it will be our first drop in our participation in Art Central. This creates an exciting dynamic, introducing a new form of art.
We will continue to work with artists we currently represent like Pang Yongjie and Xu Songbo from China; Kan-Zan-Loc, Toshio Iezumi, Yosuke Miyao, Yoichiro Nishimura, Keita Sagaki, Takahide Komatsu, and Yasuhide Kunimoto from Japan; and Fitz Herrera and Daniel Dela Cruz from the Philippines. This year, we’ve announced new representations — Justin Y from Malaysia and digital artists Hotaru Visual Guerrilla from Spain.
The gallery’s focus remains on these current artists we represent because we believe in their artistic expression, creativity, and what they represent as an artist. Their style may evolve — from introducing new mediums and forms to expressing their new inspiration in their art, but their identity is still recognisable. That is significant as this is what has identified us since our inception. When someone sees the artist we represent, they recognise the gallery. Our identity centres on the artists and their art which we love.
Which artists will you be showcasing at Art Central Hong Kong 2022?
This year, we have new additions to the family. A masterfully curated exhibit of Hong Kong-based artist Justin Y with his new works painted during the pandemic entitled “Color: the Expression of Love and the Determination to Fulfil our Dreams”; and “Flow” featuring new creatives Hotaru Visual Guerrilla from Spain. Of course, we will have new collections of works by Kan-Zan-Loc, Pang Yongjie, Toshio Iezumi, and Yosuke Miyao too.
These two exciting presentations allow us to continue what we believe in, a silver lining for us during the pandemic. Kan-Zan-Loc (b. 1964) introduces new pigments to his zen series using pigments made of ground lapis lazuli, malachite, and azurite, all semi-precious stones based on pigments used in traditional Japanese paintings.
Pang Yongjie (b. 1968), one of the leading artists of the Chinese “post-contemporary” abstract art movement, draws on the aesthetic of mid-eighth century Tang dynasty ideals of beauty that celebrate the full-figured female physique. Choosing to use a limited palette and a minimalist approach to execution, his new works typically offer strong forms of exaggerated contours and interesting colour combinations. This art style reflects Pang’s Zen Buddhist beliefs: to go with the flow, living life in harmony with the natural order of things.
Toshio Iezumi (b. 1954) is a world-renowned glass sculptor recognised for developing a unique technique for shaping glass by laminating sheets of glass into a bloc, then carving and polishing it with stone carving tools. Influenced by ancient Chinese bronzes and the works of Brâncuşi and Donald Judd, Iezumi’s technique of direct carving and dealing with light reflection and refraction seeks to illustrate volume and depth as it occurs in the glass. Toshio’s works for Art Central include the new Move series with a Mirror layered in the middle of the glass.
Yosuke Miyao (b. 1972) is a Japanese glass artisan who creates hand-made glass sculptures using float glass. These sheets of flat glass are heated at a temperature of over 1,112°F, and with the use of his own hands, he punched holes and curved the glass with the aid of earth’s gravity. His body movements flow in a perfect accord while his hands manoeuvre the heated glass with the highest level of precision until they form natural three-dimensional shapes resembling the artist’s design and vision. New pieces of “Maifusen or Drapery” will be shown at Art Central.
Hotaru Visual Guerrilla is an independent creative studio for digital art and design. Founded by Ander Ugartemendia and Jone Vizcaino, their new work under development for presentation at Art Central explores the natural world. The use of organic imagery seeks to find the intersection between the man-made and nature. This digital medium allows viewers to generate new interpretations of the living world through its free-flowing properties.
Tell us more about Malaysian contemporary artist Justin Y (b. 1972) and how he has grown in the international art scene?
I’ve known Justin Y from years back when he presented his works at the fair that I was involved with. Justin is based here in Hong Kong but is originally from Malaysia. He’s very active not just in Hong Kong but also abroad, and I have watched one of his live finger paintings. I thought it was cool and interesting. Most artists use a tool to paint, but Justin prefers to paint without any interference. He expressed his emotions and memories directly onto the canvas by applying his acrylics onto it with his fingertips, deeming brushes or palette impediments to the outpouring of his creative expression. The process is intuitive and spontaneous. Like Justin Y’s colourful character, colours define his works. Yellow, green, blue, gold and pink are used to describe the colours of nature he experienced during a trip to Nepal. The sweeping motion of hands and fingers, while the paint is applied, creates and conveys movement in the works of art.
Justin Y naturally gravitates to all that is beautiful, bright and cheerful. He is attracted to bold colours, shimmering materials and glittering metals. Furthermore, he also sets his sights on the world’s biggest and brightest, old and new, finding inspiration in the excitement. From ancient cities and palaces to the deep sea, nature reserves, deserts, snow-topped mountains and aboriginal settlements, the struggles of these cultures to create and leave behind a heritage are the inspiration and influences for his work.
Since 2010, Justin Y has become increasingly interested in finding his unique artistic style. In 2013, he began to participate and present his works (Finger painting with acrylics on canvas) in numerous solo and group exhibits in Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and the US. His live painting performances (visual performance art) have been to different cities.
Every artist has their vision of how they want to take their craft and Justin Y, with his unique finger painting, is determined to be at the forefront of the art scene. His works are shown in public and private collections in the US, Canada, UK, Scotland, France, Switzerland, China, HK, Macau, Korea, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Asia has numerous talented artists. Where and how do you find new artists to exhibit and what do you look for when considering a new artist for your gallery?
Every piece of art is art. I like how the Japanese appreciate and accept the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete form of art or the “wabi-sabi”. I sometimes exhaust my subconscious trying to accept a piece of art in front of me. I challenge myself to see the beauty of that particular piece. How you appreciate art is very personal.
Since my involvement in art in 2007 and my introduction to Japanese art, I became fond of its culture, and my curiosity and admiration have grown. I tend to focus on Japanese art as I admire it and most of the artists that I represent are from Japan. The challenging part is finding an artist who can define their works, influence me, and let me into their primaries. That moment for me is like enlightenment. Their views become mine and as a gallerist, I need that tool to share what their art is all about.
Being a gallerist means that you work actively on positioning your artists. How do you approach that part of your work?
One of the roles or functions of the gallery is to present or curate an exhibition for its artists. Whether it’s in a gallery setting, a collaboration with another institution, or in an art fair setting, our undertaking is not limited to just one exhibition for a particular artist. Our role is to hold a series of exhibitions, talks, and art appreciation throughout the year. The art world is big and so is the community embracing it. As much as we can, we try to hold a series of engagements with the community and take that opportunity to connect with them.
Last year, the gallery participated in four art fairs in three different cities with the artists we currently represent. When the artist creates new works, the gallery introduces their works to its audience by educating them through online and offline exhibition programmes. This year at Art Central, we’re showcasing a new collection of art from the same group of artists in addition to two new artists. There are opportunities in the art fair that is beneficial to the gallery and of course to the artists as well.
Today, a lot of your business as a gallerist is being conducted online. What skills are required there?
Our Viewing Room is the online place to appreciate art and connect with us no matter where you are. You can access the current exhibition of the gallery PLUS some of the latest art collections by our favourite artists at your own pace. We constantly update the Viewing Room monthly, and it has an enquiry button which allows you to send an email to your favourite artists. What I like about the Viewing Room is when we provide highlights of our upcoming exhibits. We synchronise that in our social media, so you’re up to date with our activities.
You stated, “jason /sveinn gallery’s objective is to provide clients with unique works of art that have investment potential and are reflections of who they are”. Tell us more about the investment value you see in contemporary art and what makes an artist highly collectable?
Can art be a good asset or an investment that will increase in value over time? I think the answer lies both in the artist and the gallery that represents them. Both have an important role. For the artist, it’s crucial how they see themselves in the future as an artist and the art they create. One of the roles of the gallery is to provide guidance and support to the artist. We have programmes for our artists. These include but are not limited to curating an exhibition for them, producing publications, and connecting their art with the art world. The latter has the biggest impact on the collectability of the art, and whether it’s public or private individuals who collect the art, they enable us.
It depends on how they appreciate the art but they somehow define the market. With that flow of structure, you have the sense to assess the value of the art you’re buying. Bear in mind as well and this is always my advice to my clients, buy something you like because at the end of the day, you will have that art piece on your wall and what you buy is a reflection of who you are. If the piece appreciates in value over time, that’s a big bonus for you.
Your favourite museum in Asia?
M+. It has become an important landmark in Hong Kong, and we can’t wait to see its future exhibition or event programmes.
Your recommendations to art lovers heading to Hong Kong and wanting to experience the art scene there?
Hong Kong is buzzing again with events happenings across the city. This month, Art Central and Art Basel are going ahead as planned. Both will be at the HKCEC from the 26 to 29 of May. Asia Society is currently holding a retrospective exhibit, “Recovery, Resilience, Resurgence.” The exhibition shows photos of Hong Kong during consecutive periods, as it was seen around the middle of the last century. At PMQ, we have a number of exhibitions to see, including the gallery’s Flow, a group exhibition featuring artists from China, Japan, and Spain. You may check both Hong Kong Gallery Association and AARRTT’s websites for current and upcoming happenings in Hong Kong.
If you were to name one mentor who has inspired you in your life, who would that be?
My artist Kan-Zan-Loc. He shared this beautiful saying, and it’s the same motto of the school where he earned his degree in art, the Art Students League of New York. “Nulla Dies Sine Linea” or “No Day Without a Line” by Pliny the Elder to the ancient Greek painter Apelles, who was distinguished for being so diligent in practising his art every day. It does apply to us as gallerists, if you are dedicated to what you do and believe in your artists. Compound that with the determination and will to take your gallery to the next step, these qualities will be your greatest assets.
Gallery Director: Jason S. Apolinario
Gallery Address: S414 4F, Block A, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Hong Kong
Facebook page: jasonsveinncontemporaryart
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