Present Moment at the October Gallery, London (exhibition review)

The current exhibition at the October Gallery brings together works by six contemporary Asian artists exploring the transience in our everyday life. The artists are: Jukhee Kwon (South Korea), Govinda Sah ‘Azad’ (Nepal), Kenji Yoshida (Japan) and three Chinese painters Tian Wei, Huang Xu and Xu Zhongmin.

Since its launch in 1979 the October Gallery based in London specialises in Transvangarde art (trans-cultural avant-garde from all over the world). Maximizing the available space inside, the artwork displays are not separate from other gallery activities, which gives the viewer (or potential buyer) a general idea of how they might look like in a home interior.

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Present Moment – exhibition view (from the left clockwise works by: Huang Xu, Govinda Sah ‘Azad’ and Tian Wei, photo: Ground Impressions)

Book art created by South Korean artist Jukhee Kwon immediately caught my eye. Discarded books are transformed into striking and evocative sculptures, in a way getting a new lease of life. Words cascade down escaping their book cover or begin to sprout. Dipping into Darkness (2013) practically steals the show but there are plenty of beautiful and thought-provoking works by other artists on display.

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Present Moment – exhibition view (left  and centre Dipping into Darkness and Sprouting by Jukhee Kwon, right To be – or not to be by Tian Wei, photo: Ground Impressions)

A single sculpture by Tian Wei, To be – or not to be (2015) is displayed next to Jukhee Kwon’s book sculpture Sprouting (2019), but the Chinese artist is predominantly known for his paintings. Tian Wei’s recent solo exhibition has just ended at the October Gallery, and some of his works are back for the current group exhibition, fitting very well with the overall theme. His artworks are like puzzles, you need to train your eyes in order to read them. It may come as a surprise to an unsuspecting viewer that the large squiggly characters are actually stylised English words. You can check the individual titles and try to read the paintings, some are almost impossible to decipher. Repeated smaller words or sentences appear as stamped on the surface of the canvases, but are visible only when looked at closely. Take a few steps away from the canvas and the words disappear to become spiralling background patterns.

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Present Moment – exhibition view (left Black by Tian Wei, right Fragment no.3 by Huang Xu, photo: Ground Impressions)

When was the last time you contemplated the beauty of discarded packaging? Huang Xu in his series Fragments (2007) treats pieces of plastic bags as if they were archaeological artefacts. Scanned and digitally retouched ‘artefacts’ arranged in intricate compositions have a strange beauty to them. Huang Xu is interested in transience, his other series Flowers (2011) captures the ethereal beauty found in nature.

Xu Zhongmin works in a variety of media. On display there is a beautiful black-and-white print entitled Net A/P (2004) made by him in a traditional Chinese wood-block technique. Out of a tangle of lines a fantastic cityscape emerges, but the buildings are separated from the viewer by a chain-link fence.

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Xu Zhongmin – Net A/P (Photo: Ground Impressions)

A different type of landscape can be found in works of Govinda Sah ‘Azad’ from Nepal, who paints cloud-scapes and explosions capturing the world of impermanence. Those dramatic and almost abstract landscapes are bursting with energy.

Abstract canvases by the late Kenji Yoshida (1924-2009) combining the influence of traditional Japanese appliqué art with modernist abstraction, all bear the same title Sei-Mei – La Vie – Life. Born in 1924 Yoshida was trained as suicide-pilot. Having survived the WWII, in his mixed media paintings post-dating the war he explored life affirmation and the cycle of renewal. His luminous geometric compositions were built using thin sheets of gold, silver and other precious metals applied over layers of Japanese lacquer.

Each featured artist captures the moment differently, using different techniques and aesthetics. Some of the works on display will catch your attention immediately, while others will require a few moments of contemplation in order to appreciate them. Great selection of works by very talented artists.


Present Moment exhibition is at the October Gallery, London – from 24 January until 23 February 2019.


* I used the information about the artists from the gallery website and press release.


Further reading:

Check out the October Gallery website to see the artists’ profiles and selected images of their works:

Link to the exhibition website:


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