Bird Island by Guan Wei

No bird is an island

Bird Island

Not all birds migrate. If they do, it is because of the scarcity of food, habit, climate change or a combination of the above. Some birds stay, in flocks, hunting or foraging together to beat scarcity of food. The title of the exhibition, Bird Island suggests such a haven, where birds rule.

There are two painted series in this exhibition: The Bird Island Series, and the Buddha Hand Series. Both series seems loaded with icons, and obscured metaphors that are difficult to decipher immediately. The larger Bird Island Series acrylic on linen paintings hold these motifs: large puffy clouds, and an ominous white hand, large bird;  silhouettes of figures in 18th century garments, European sail ships, sea creatures. The background resembles a map, with icons of mountains and the sea. Painted with bold black outlines, the painting also resembles a Japanese wood block print. Deliberately ambiguous, you are never sure if the uncanny figures were arriving or escaping the foreign land. But my best guess is the birds are the habitants of the native island, and they watch the immigrants arrive by boat. On the other hand, the Buddha Hand Series seemed more frivolous and frolic, the figure appears to be playing with the  godlike hand.

The series of works by Guan Wei resembles the works of Keith Haring, partially. They both feature recognisable, iconic figures. In Keith Haring’s work, these are multi-coloured, cartoon-like. In Guan Wei’s work, they are chubby, nude, possess male genitals, and a mouth or ‘hole’ for a face. Both artists seem interested in mythology: urban or invented.

Humourous, and serious if you read into the symbolism, Guan Wei’s works delve into the artist’s own cultural background (and migration) as well as hint at global issues/dilemmas regarding immigration.

6.0 of 10 stars.

Chan and Hampe Galleries, Raffles Hotel
June 6 – Aug 6, 2011

Click here, for the exhibition’s curatorial text and gallery information.

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