Turning Tragedy into Positive Art; Terry Grimley Takes a Look at the Re-Imagining Asia Exhibition CULTURE

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Byline: Terry Grimley

For most of the first half of the 20th century, Paris was the centre of Western art until the upheaval of the Second World War shifted the focus to New York for the next few decades.

But as the century drew to a close, art began to take on a much more complex character under the influence of globalisation.

Countries such as China and India began to emerge as players What is more, where artists had once congregated in a few dominant centres, now they began to migrate between countries and continents in unpredictable ways, mixing cultural perspectives and identities while the internet emerged to link them together across the globe.

This is the context for Re-Imagining Asia, an exhibition which has just opened at the New Art Gallery, Walsall.

It brings together a range of artists who live and work in Asia or have some more distant relationship or perspective.

For example, New York-based Michael Joo, born in the United States to Korean parents, creates a magical, shrine-like environment in which the visitor enters a darkened room filled with mirrors and video screens on to which "live" images of a statue of the Buddha are projected.

The Frankfurt-based Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar whose parents, both opposition politicians, were murdered in Tehran in 1998, shows a group of beanbags, with symbolic traditional decoration, on which you can recline while looking at her flicker-books depicting various forms of torture.

Zhang Dali, a Chinese artist based in Beijing, presents A Second History, China History Photography Archive, which highlights 120 examples of photographs modified for political purposes.

The exhibition is a modified version of one curated by Shaheen Merali and Wu Hung for the Hausder Kulturender Welt in Berlin. "In Berlin, the space was very different - a very old congress hall," says Merali. "The people in the city have a very specific sense of what that space means. What I like about Walsall is that we have a museum in an area that maybe has a desire for facilities and that has been met in the last 15 to 20 years.

"The history of art galleries and museums is that people in little cities and towns had to come to the big museums.

I think more people will see the exhibition here than in a competitive space in London."

As Merali points out, the recent history of art in Asia points to the decline of the old idea of geographical schools.

"The art world has changed," he said.

"Artists are spending six weeks to six months in other countries. They make a series of works and show them in another country so there is a flow of ideas and all these artists are on the net. …