With the monumental installation of Onishi Yasuaki “Vertical Emptiness” in working progress at the Fortebank Kulanshi ArtSpace, the art-going public of Kazakh’s emerging art capital Astana prepare to rediscover the vast art space through the Japanese artist’s exploration into space within sculptural practice.

Onishi Yasuaki, Work in Progress on Vertical Emptiness at the Fortebank Kulanshi ArtSpace, 2017, courtesy of Onishi Yasuaki

Fortebank Kulanshi ArtSpace, unveiled in late 2016, is a space founded jointly by Fortebank and the Kulanshi Center of Contemporary Art. Following in the footsteps of emerging art scene countries such as Ukraine, home to the oligarch-owned Pinchuk Art Centre and the Future Generation Art Prize, founded by the Victor Pinchuk Foudation in 2009, the Kazak space provides architectural volumes that lend themselves to ambitious contemporary installation projects. The Fortebank-Kulanshi initiative aims to support young talent, provide an educational platform with specific workshops, as well as promoting cultural exchange in the Kazakstan capital.

Fortebank Kulanshi ArtSpace, Astana, Kazakstan

Kazakh insiders observe that the Kazakstan art scene has advanced exponentially in recent years, with Astana hosting numerous exhibitions of foreign and Kazakh artists. The city of Almaty hosts Artbat Fest, a celebration of urban art and contemporary culture through a series of public installations and curated exhibitions in different venues.

Artistic production in Kazakhstan itself has shifted from tendency towards a purely Social Realism style to a wider exploration of contemporary or modern artistic language. In recent years, the Kazakh National University of Arts is becoming an increasingly popular choice for young students in Kazakstan planning a career in artistic fields.

In 2013, Sotheby’s hosted “At the Crossroads” in London, featuring a range of socialist realist, non conformist and contemporary artworks from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, including works by renowned Kazakh painter Salikhitdin Aitbaev, who had been forced to alter his modernist style in the 1970s to avoid criticism by Soviet art critics.

In 2012, Kazakstan-born Ugyur artist Lekim Abragimov made an impact internationally with his ambitious project "One thousand Angels and One" mega painting (66 meters long), consisting of a thousand individual canvases, then carefully brought together to create one unified entity, hence the 1001 implied by the title of his masterpiece. This vast canvas employs motifs and technique from traditional Central Eastern art, in a contemporary language that urges the viewer to reflect on the process of turning a collection of independent paintings into a singular viewing experience.

Lekim Abragimov's mega painting One thousand Angels and One

The work of Onishi Yasuaki is likewise an exploration of Japanese philosophy, expressed through simple contemporary materials, such as glue, plastic and tree branches, to impressive effect. In inviting the Onishi Yasuaki to install his monumental piece, the Fortebank Kulanshi ArtSpace proposes to the art-going public of Astana a discovery of contemporary Japanese artistic expression.

Onishi Yasuaki's Vertical Emptiness

The installation artwork “Vertical Emptiness” by Onishi Yasuaki (opening event on Thursday April 13th, at 6.30pm) is open from April 14th-June 20th, every day including weekends 10am-8pm, at Fortebank Kulanshi ArtSpace, Dostyk Street 8/1, entrance is free to all.