Eric Chan in Huayi 2007: Once Upon A Springtime

yeasty, dislocated papercuts

Eric Chan

Eric Chan’s recent installation at the Esplanade Concourse can best be described as largely sized papercut-look alikes, hanging hap-hazardly. the sizes are hardly varied, the lighting ill-considered, and a thin link to paper-cut as a traditional decoration, or at best over-sized wrongly coloured snow flake post-christmas decorations.

Of course, I didn’t read in between the lines of the synopsis or write-up, and the work’s conceptual link to ‘desire’.

The individual hanging pieces are hardly as interesting as those by American sculptor Alexander Calder. Calder’s works are interesting because his hanging mobiles move with the slightest breeze, and the sculpture changes form like the clouds on a sunny day. The ‘springtime’ work can barely shiver in the cool controlled air-conditioned concourse, remaining stagnant.

The individual pieces are very well made, probably from alloy, from the way they are hung. The pieces are too few, and a variety of sizes may have benefited the space in its multitude and illusion of depth. Light seem to be key to extend the shadows cast from the pieces onto the floor, and the ‘printed shadows’ on the platform of the staired councourse thus look hideously out of place.

Colour could be symbolic and crucial here. We should know the Chinese love red, and red here links the work to the red used profusely during Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations. It is debatable if the work could look ‘lighter’ by coating them white, and allowing a flux of changing light – from white to red and back – playing with the audience perceptions of Winter’s transformation to Spring. Having it in shades of pink, and red just doesn’t quite cut it.

The long standing tradition of Chinese Paper-cuts prides precisely on it’s delicate medium – paper. Alloy here defuses the image of the individual craftsman, and summons the industrial processes of minimalist art. The work could have been potentially more interesting if more illustrative paper-cut-like storytelling were used, considering satire, some historical fable, anything. The work would then have more intellectual depth, beyond it’s current frivolity matching the decorations in the ‘exhibition cones’ outside the Esplanade shops. I’m comparing this work to Heri Dono’s Angel Garden installation, a piece in collaboration with Lina Adams and Jeremy Hiah in 2004 in the same location. Hiah, Adams and Dono’s Angel Garden was more colourful, engaging, allowing the audience to touch, feel and imagine. This in comparison is sterile, utterly dislocated in the daylight.

Nonetheless, I do givea small virtual pat on the back, for trying something different from the artist’s stable of animal chirpy paintings.

4 of 10 stars

Esplanade Concourse

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