With just over three months to go before the prestigious 9th Shanghai Biennale kicks off, New Zealand artist and filmmaker Vincent Ward is giving guests at tonight's Auckland exhibition opening a taste of his Shanghai one-man show.
Diplomats, celebrities and invited guests will join Ward at the Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, to view his cinematic installation entitled, Inhale, which will include otherworldly, floating images projected onto the gallery ceiling, which has been painted black for the event.
The work builds on the Oscar-winning special effects he created with his team for the film, What dreams may come, in 1999.
Inhale is running currently with an exhibition of Ward's physically imposing print, photographic and painted works, entitled Exhale, which opened at The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre on Monday.
The two Auckland exhibitions, which explore themes of human vulnerability and transformation, are a unique opportunity to view Ward's work and to experience his metamorphosis from award-winning filmmaker to exhibiting artist. To find out more go to: www.vincentwardfilms.com
Ward, the first New Zealander ever to be invited to exhibit at the biennale, will join renowned artists from around the world who will show their work in Shanghai's City Pavilions at the international event from October to February next year.
He says it is a huge honour to be invited to attend and the challenge now is to get himself and his work to Shanghai.
"Friends of the project are raising funds through a Pledge Me site, backed by actors Robin Williams and Taika Waititi. We're also looking for sponsorship from New Zealand and Chinese companies wanting to enhance their presence in Shanghai and New Zealand," says Ward.
This week, Ward also launched his new book, entitled Inhale | Exhale. The 180-page, large-format publication explores Ward's distinctive fusion of film, photography and paint. Released by Montana Book Award-winning publisher Ron Sang Inhale|Exhale will sit alongside Sang's books on the work of Ralph Hotere, Len Castle and Michael Smither.
The Shanghai Biennale is one of the most established contemporary art festivals in China on a par with the Venice Biennale. It attracted more than 300,000 visitors in 2010 and this year visitor numbers are expected to top 800,000.
Ward agrees with arts commentator Hamish Keith who noted recently that the 21st century is "inevitably going to be the Asian century".
"It is about time we found out where we might fit in. We certainly need to. If as many of our artists who have Berlin on their CVs had Beijing there instead, I suspect our response to these things might be a bit more tempered," said Keith in a recent Listener article. Keith notes:
"If we applied the same energy and investment to the pursuit of artistic success at the Shanghai Biennale and the Hong Kong Art Fair as we do at Venice, we might actually have some (success)."
Ward's Shanghai solo exhibition titled, Auckland Station: Destinies Lost and Found, will be exhibited in a deconsecrated, historic cathedral in The Bund, the former area of the English Concession, which is now home to the thriving arts centre of Shanghai.
The show is at the heart of the Shanghai Biennale City Pavilions section, representing different countries, and the venue for the principal opening ceremony on October 2. It will feature a multi-screen cinematic installation and oil paintings on canvass some two storeys high, dropped from the cathedral's rafters to the floor.
"The cathedral is an exciting space creatively. The atmosphere lends itself to the worlds I create through my art. The height of the walls, up to ten metres, will allow me to construct large-scale works of birds flying and of figures falling and floating," says Ward.
"Through these images, I hope to take the viewer on a journey into otherworldly landscapes and transcendent states. At the core, is an exploration of human vulnerability and the intensity and brevity of life."
Curators of the Shanghai Biennale this year are world-renowned multi-media artist Qui Zhiiie and his team from the China Academy of Art, as well as international curators Boris Groys and Jens Hoffman.
Honorary Patrons for Ward's exhibition include: Weta Workshop's Sir Richard Taylor, the New Zealand Ambassador to China, Carl Worker, the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand, His Excellency Xu Jianguo, art patron Sir James Wallace and the Mayor of Auckland, Len Brown.
Exhale: Prints and paintings, now until 2 September.
The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre 72 Hillsborough Road Hillsborough Auckland www.tsbbankwallaceartscentre.org.nz Anna Boyd
The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre Phone (09) 6392010 ext 5 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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