In 2007, Luxembourg- and Berlin-based visual artist Su Mei Tse lived at Bostons Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
, drawing inspiration from the museums rich collection, its history, and the Dutch Room, where the empty frames remain as an ever-present reminder of loss and absence.
This summer, the 2003 the Golden Lion award-winner returns to present a solo exhibition and new sound installation in Floating Memories, on view July 16th through October 18th, 2009. Programming during the run of exhibition includes artist and gallery talks, a book signing, and a musical performance featuring Su Mei Tse, contemporary visual artists Lee Mingwei and Cliff Evans, songwriter and performer Niko Hafkenscheid, gallery owner Peter Blum (Peter Blum Gallery, New York), curator Enrico Lunghi, Director of the Mudam Museum in Luxembourg, and Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art, Gardner Museum, will accompany the exhibition.
In art, Su-Mei Tse searches for and achieves complete harmony, says Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Gardner Museum and curator of the exhibition. It is a painstaking relentless process of discovery and balance and an incredible privilege as a curator to follow and learn to understand it. Since Su Meis  residency at the Gardner, I have been following her work, and have delighted in the unique forms she creates to express her ideas, says Anne Hawley, the Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Su Meis artistry is always filled with invention.
Su-Mei Tse first emerged on the international contemporary arts scene in 2003, winning critical acclaim and a Golden Lion award for Best National Participation at the 50th Venice Biennale for her first show, Air Conditioning, where she showed the work Echo for the first time. The daughter of a Chinese violinist and an English pianist, Su-Mei Tses work as a visual artist is also informed by her background as a classically trained cellist. This part of her training has enabled her to take up music and sound, not as themes in her work, but as tools and languages to express her ideas. This is why her work often merges sound, images, and sculpture into a single poetic form. Her work also conveys a deep appreciation for craft and gesture. Tses work has the pared-down aesthetic quality of minimalism with an emotional charge; her videos, sculpture, and sound installations in particular having been compared to haiku poetry for their elegant and spartan imagery. Tse moves frequently between different cultures in her work, occasionally diverting them and testing them against common clichés in order to pose the question: What might be a universal language?
In Floating Memories, Tse presents a new installation merging sound, sculpture, and a video projection while reflecting on the passing of time, distant memory, absence, and longing. The artist has embedded a gold monochrome rug in an empty wooden frame, carved with the partially worn and faded pattern of the 17th century Italian silk damask that originally covered the walls in the Dutch Room (a reproduction of that same fabric now hangs on the walls to preserve the original from irreversible damaging light). Tse has paired this with an image flashback from her childhood of an endlessly revolving vinyl record, floating like a distant shimmering mirage. Rug, frame, and image are suspended in a poetic limbo by the incessantly scratching turntable sound of a revolving LP.
Tses installation resonates within the Gardner collection particularly in the Dutch Room, where time has come to a standstill while a sense of absence, distant memory, and longing fades in and out of every empty frame, adds Cavalchini. On the exhibition title, she explains: Floating Memories are distant memories that suddenly bubble up to the surface before us, only to recede again. But they are never quite forgotten.
Su-Mei Tse has exhibited in New York at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and the Peter Blum Gallery; London at the Albion Gallery; Roskilde, Denmark at the Museet for Samtidskunst; Chicago at The Renaissance Society; Stockholm at the Moderna Museet; Seattle at the Seattle Art Museum; Athens at the Alpha Delta Gallery; Antwerp at the Tim Van Laere Gallery; Taiwan at MOCA Taipei; Amsterdam at the Foundation De Appel; Jerusalem at the Israel Museum; Paris at the Centre Culturel Suisse; and San Francisco at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. A major exhibition of her work was recently presented at Casino Luxembourg Forum d'Art Contemporain. This last spring, Tse presented the first major survey of her work in Asia at Art Tower Mito, Japan. In addition to the Gardner Museum, Tse has been an artist-in-residence at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge; and Acadia Summer Art Program, Bar Harbor, Maine.
Tse was recently awarded the prestigious Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco Prize for Contemporary Art (May 2009). Her numerous honors and awards, in addition to this award and the Golden Lion award, also include the SRMedienkunstpreis given by the Saarlandischer Rudfunk as well as the Prix dart Robert Schumann. In 2005, Tse became the first recipient of the Edward Steichen Award, earning a grant for a six-month artists residency in New York City. Her work has been reviewed in national and international publications including The New York Times, Washington Post, ARTforum, Art in America, Art Asia Pacific, ARTnews, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Independent, ART (Germany), Art Press (France), iD-Magazine (Germany), Art it (Japan), and more. Tse was born in Luxembourg in 1973. She currently lives and works in Luxemburg and Berlin.