Artist Angela Su contemplates mind and body

by Angela Su

Strolling through Saatchi Gallery this weekend I viewed the ‘Hong Kong Eye 2012’ exhibition by Prudential. I didn’t like it at all – maybe because my expectations were too high; maybe because of Asian artists’ usual obsession for kitsch. But amid plush toys and plastic sculptures, I found these perfectly executed drawings by Angela Su which immediately caught my attention. Called “Deliver me from all my automatic reactions and restore me to my true freedom”, Su’s four drawings were executed in monochromatic black ink and pastel on drafting film.

I was impressed by the way in which Su portrays torture machines carving up human bodies. In her drawings, Su explores the dualistic being of the human subject, assuming that mind and body are autonomous entities. With her sophisticated knowledge of anatomy, Su transmits to the viewer that the human subject is imprisoned in its body. In order to restore freedom for the soul and achieve liberation from automatic bodily functions, she dismembers flesh, organs, brains and skin, piece by piece.

I love the way in which Su challenges our usual understanding of aesthetics. Her drawings transmit the beauty of pain, with the underlying assumption that bodily pain actually leads to emancipation. I found it fascinating that she portrays torture machines and technologic tools as means to dismember the human body. In all her drawings it is thus not self-destruction which liberates the subject, but technology.

Su joins the club of contemporary artists who confront the dark side of existence, e.g. Damien Hirst or Francis Bacon. However, while Hirst does so in a much more trivial way, I was impressed by the positive touch Su attached to her cruel drawings. She transmits that dismembering the human body leads to liberation and emancipation of the human subject; the underlying process of destruction is thus portrayed as positive development. When seeing Hirst in Tate Modern this summer, I felt as if he simply confronted me with death: ‘here it is, deal with it’. But Su made me think. In contrast to Hirst, Su did not draw the state of bodily death, but the process in which the body degenerates and the soul achieves liberation. Wonderful!

Angela Su

Body

Angela Su

Brains

@ Saatchi Gallery; Exhibition ‘Hong Kong Eye 2012’ by Prudential

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