The heart of art is actually very accessible

The heart of art is actually very accessible

Ariel Conant shares some insider knowledge on appreciating Asian artists, and why their work rocks

A lot of people say they don't "get" art. Some people think that understanding art is too difficult, so they don't even try. But contemporary art can be far more accessible than you might think.

This weekend is a big one for art in Hong Kong. Several major auction houses, including global giant Christie's, are holding their autumn sales over the next few days, which means they are holding open previews for some of the best art on the market. Auction previews are the best places to view high-quality works - and they're free to the public.

Looking at art is easier if you have some background knowledge before you go. If you fancy hitting the previews at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and Grand Hyatt hotel, we can help. Here's our guide to four of the top Asian artists you should know, guys who are currently painting some of the most in-demand works.

They are just a few of the many artists you can see this weekend, and we'd love to hear what you think about them.

Or maybe you'll find another artist, style, or work that you love. If you go to the previews, snap a pic, and Instagram or Tweet it to us at @youngposthk using the hashtag #YPGetsArt

Wang Guangyi (China, age 57)

Wang's style is called "Political Pop". This uses easily recognisable cultural references to convey a political message, or to criticise society.

Wang grew up during the Cultural Revolution. His paintings feature revolutionary imagery that was popular in propaganda posters during that time, but he also mixes in brands and slogans that are currently popular. He often uses logos from global or luxury brands, like Coca-Cola and Louis Vuitton to criticise society's obsession with consumerism.

Cai Guoqiang (China, age 57)

Cai's artwork is unique because of the materials he uses: gunpowder and fire. He "draws" his images using gunpowder, then he ignites the gunpowder to char the paper and make his designs.

He's also famous for his performance art, where he sets off explosions at museums, or explodes daytime fireworks that give off coloured smoke. His obsession with explosions and fire is his way of criticising the repression that happened during the Cultural Revolution.

Cai also coordinated the famous fireworks for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Takashi Murakami (Japan, age 52)

Murakami is one of several Japanese artists inspired by anime. A lot of his work focuses on otaku - fans of anime and manga. It tends to look "cute", but is actually highly critical and satirical.

Murakami created his own style - "superflat" - that blends ideas from manga, anime, graphic design and traditional Japanese print art. His work constantly challenges the ideas of what makes "fine art" and what makes popular culture.

By making his art a "brand", he addresses the idea of art as a commercial commodity. In 2003, he collaborated with fashion designer Marc Jacobs to design a new logo and series of Louis Vuitton handbags.

Kang Hyung-koo (Korea, age 60)

Kang's paintings get more and more interesting the more you look at them. He paints in a style called Hyperrealism, where everything is painted so precisely it looks like a photograph. But Hyperrealism goes beyond simply re-creating a photo. In Kang's portraits, every aspect of that person is made more noticeable. Small lines on the face or individual hairs are carefully painted to give a more detailed depiction of a person.

Kang believes that by exaggerating what you would see in a photograph, his paintings show the personality and soul of the people he paints.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Get to the heart of art

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