Frieze London 2019: Angela Su

3 - 6 Oct 2019

Woven | Stand W6
Venue: Regent’s Park, London, UK

Preview
2.10, Wednesday (Invitation only)
3.10, Thursday, 12 — 8pm
Private View
3.10, Thursday, 5 — 8pm
4 — 5.10, Friday — Saturday, 12 — 7pm
6.10, Sunday, 12 — 6pm

Blindspot Gallery is pleased to present a newly made body of works by Angela Su at “Woven”, a new themed section curated by Cosmin Costinas at Frieze London 2019. Created recently during the turbulent protesting months in Hong Kong (since June 2019), this body of works examines the act of sewing in the medium of hair embroidery. The artist intentionally subverts the traditional notion of sewing as a feminine activity inhabiting the domestic sphere, and portrays it as an extreme form of protest in the public domain. Along with drawings that allegorise bodily fragmentation and schizophrenia, the artist critiques the physical and psychological experiences of living in the post-colonial city state.

Spanning drawing, embroidery, performance, video, and book project, Angela Su’s practice is multi-disciplinary and research-focused. Trained as a biochemist before turning to visual arts, Su creates biomorphic forms that blend scientific precision with mythological aesthetics. Su’s practice firmly places the human body in the nucleus of her works, whether these bodies are her own or others’, real or imaginary, historical or speculative. The body is a vehicle to call upon a wide range of concerns, from masochistic pain and the suffering of being, to techniques of medical surgery, bionic cyborgisation and artificial consciousness that edge over to post-humanism.

Standing in the centre wall are three full-body drawings of female cyborgs, Juno, Juliette and Augustina, which reveal the interior of the woman’s body that is always too hairy, too leaky, and too messy. The skin, as an unbending border between the exterior and the interior, attempts to contain and control the leaky body. This constant negotiation of order and chaos, as well as the urge to break free of totalitarian control, characterises these fierce futurist femborgs. Vaguely legible behind the figurative drawings of Juno and Agustina are handwritten excerpts from the preface, written by Brian Leung, to On Hong Kong as a Nation (2014), a polemical essay tracing the nativist identity of Hong Kong from pre-modern history to the post-colonial era. Fully aware of the female body as politicised, decolonised, historicised and gendered, the artist imagines a chimeric vision of how to be a human body in precarious times.

Hair embroidery is traditionally a medium practised by lay Buddhist women in late imperial China. These women are illiterate yet crafty, and created devotional images of the female bodhisattva (Guanyin) to enunciate their faith. Subverting the domesticity of this traditional practice, Sewing together my split mind represents the sewing of body parts as gestures of protest, acts of rebellion and the suppression of freedom of speech. The series alludes to the history of stitching body parts as a performative act of radical protests, for example, the lip sewing of detained asylum seekers in Manus island (2014), and artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz (1989), as well as the vagina sewing of performance artist Kembra Pfhaler (1992).

The artist also traces the psychological breakdown that requires suturing. In Split Stitch and Rorschach Test, the artist diagnoses the post-colonial experience of Hong Kong as the psychotic state of schizophrenia, represented in the recurrent motif of layered and lateral doubling in the works. Rorscharch Test is not only a psychological assessment but an image of that split mind, a Freudian slip that reads Hong Kong but speaks China. Not only do Hong Kongers struggle between Britishness and Chineseness, decolonising from the former while resisting the recolonisation by the latter, they also have to buffer and embrace the two dominant yet antagonistic ideological principles and economic systems under the pretence of “One Country Two System”.