Monthly Archives: February 2006

Reviewing “Terrorist art attack By Ong Su Bin The Straits Times, 2006-02-18”

An article about Jeremy Hiah’s exhibition appeared in Life!, the supplement to the Straits Times, much to our eager anticipation. However the article was less than accurate and seem to compartmentalise the artist’s work as a kind of ‘terrorist art attack’, a phrase if taken out of context, will prompt the meekest person to call 999. The writer seemed determine to quote Hiah to bits, and pin his art down to a ‘T’. As I read the article, I can’t help but suspect the writer didn’t see the exhibition, because of the inconsistency with naming works – Hiah’s exhibition was spread over 2 venues, with “a poster-sized oil copy of the Mona Lisa” exhibiting at p-10 and not your mother’s gallery. The article also failed to engage with the physical aspect of the work. Did the fake garden bring laughter because of its Kitsch? Were the inkjet wall prints inspiring spoofs of wedding photography? Was it more a statement on the commitment and complications of marriage?

If the size of the article has any bearing on the significance of the show to the editor, the exhibition was indeed well received. I can’t help but feel that the editor was playing up the theme of ‘terrorism’, and tossing it together with the recent Danish caricature problem. Perhaps the artist did want this media association, and ‘any publicity is good publicity’. But surely Hiah’s work should be contextualised with Naïve Art, or a certain European flavour of bad painting, or even the blurring of boundaries between artist and audience; performance art, installation and photography.

A review of ‘I M Breather’ will be posted soon.

I M Breather part 1 is on show at p-10; part 2 at your mother’s gallery.
http://www.p-10.org/breather/

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Have Logue, will travel

NAFA Gallery1
Feb 8 – 12, 2006

“Travelling is more than seeing of sights…” participant, Chris Ng, BA Multimedia Student

The exhibition is rather transient, occupying only gallery one. It is interesting that that the adjacent exhibition by Ang Ah Tee (Gallery 2) also had the word ‘journey’ in the title, while having an all oil on canvas show. Gallery One seem to be about ‘travelling out of the red dot’ and Gallery Two seemed to be both an introspection and a display of skill and technique. The focus of this exhibition was to share the visual memories of an exchange programme to the United Kingdom, depicted through ‘travelogues’. These seem more graphic, utilizing excessive amounts of digital prints, simple brochure layouts rather than the traditional artist-journal full of scribbled notes and drawings. One gets the sense of sympathy that ‘travels’ are often rushed through, with the occasional snap shot to lodge and record a particular sight on film or in digital bytes. I suppose they had to be somewhat ‘digitally processed’ because they are BA Multimedia students, on exchange to the UK. But it is also the bombardment of visual images that make the exhibition an anaesthetic experience to travel.

The exhibition is dominated by ‘untitled’ by Kel Poon, a photo montage projection of snippets of snap shots – famous sights, posing friends, art galleries, wax figurines, York castle, snow on roof tops. For a person like me who has lived in England for a while, the photos do bring back nostalgia (despite the baffling bad resolution). Nonetheless, it does feel overwhelming, if one bothered to sit through the entire travel digital slide show. It doesn’With the 5 rows of red chairs, the gallery space feels like a transit lounge, with ‘Lush 99.5fm’ like music playing, slide projections and almost more hanging lights than work atmosphere. Coming on a Saturday, with Kavali-bearing men walking down Serangoon Road and concurrent NAFA Open house, did give a out of Singapore experience. The transience of the exhibition seems to fit the issue of travel very well; we never stay long enough to be considered non-travelling or staying.

I think Singaporeans love to travel, for different reasons. Some travel to get away from their hectic work and lives here, others travel for work; some travel to avoid people or events; others travel for the sake of travelling; Travelling can be seen as different phases of one’s life, moving from travelling on foot, to buses, cars and then planes, conquering each tourist destination as a claim to one’s worldliness, or so it seems. Artists are no different, but add ‘searching for inspiration’, and ‘searching for beautiful sight and things’ to the endless list. Travelling touches our hearts and minds on different levels too, depending on how sensitive and aware we are to the fluctuations in emotions on the trip. Travelling is really a state of mind.

The great artists of the Nineteenth Century would not feel complete unless they have done the grand tour of Europe, seeing for themselves the masterpieces of the Renaissance, soaking in the atmosphere of art. The workers in the creative industries of Singapore travel too, for inspiration, as witnessed in the honest reflections in their graphic logs.

The exhibition will be suitable for people keen to join the BA Multimedia Course, and learn that there is a possibility to travel. It is not suitable for anyone who wants to see a serious investigation into the nature or nurture of travelling.

2.5 of 5 stars

Text by Lim Kok Boon

Further Reading recommended by Touring Natives for the non-frivolous traveller, or the seeker of the ‘meaning of travelling’. Or book the next flight on AirAsia with a sketchbook and extra cash.

Peter D. Osborne, Travelling Light: Photography, Travel and Visual Culture, Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000
Chris Rojek and John Urry, Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory, London: Routledge, 1997
David Blamey, Here, There, Elsewhere: Dialogues on Location and Mobility, London: Open Editions, 2002

Ran 染

A visual appetiser of art by Singapore and Chinese Artists at the Esplanade

I think several artworks in the group exhibition titled Stained manage to pull off some coherence to the theme of the work – something that drags the bottomless permutable concept of globalisation and how cultures rub onto one another. Some of the artworks may leave one wondering about the weak links and whether the artworks or artists were invited to fill up the numbers. These artworks probably pale slightly in comparison to those seen in Zooming into Focus: Contemporary Chinese Video & Photography from the Haudenschild Collection at Earl Lu Gallery in August 2005.
 
Without going into grim details of what ‘worked’ and ‘what didn’t’, I would prefer to talk about ONE work in this exhibition (because it was the first I saw from the Esplanade linkway!).
 
This exhibition, with works in the linkway, concourse, and Jendela Gallery, will be worth scouting around if you are in the area.
 
2½ stars of 5
 
 
Ran was held in Jendela Gallery from 20 January – ? February 2006.
 
 
 
 
A river in 3 parts
By Jerome Ming, and sound by Zai Kuning
11 January – 19 February 2006
 

Another glimpse of China, apt after the rainy season

It seems appropriate to feature the fast-vanishing landscape Of China, in the ‘Huayi – Chinese Festival of Art’. If you don’t know the extent of the vast three Gorges Dam that will cover “riverbanks, cities, towns and villages located along the reservoir. The three Gorges Dam will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world”, this passageway of photographs by Jerome Ming and haunting sound by Zai Kuning will take you through the picture snapshots of the extraordinary lives of the Chinese living along the Yangtze River.
 
Much lies between the photograph, the photographer and geographical space of the Yangtze River and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. I am not trying to discredit the photographer here. I am merely stating that it will be ambitious to say that enough can be documented through the pictures on display. I have seen passers-by mock what they see in the photos.
 
These photographs with high contrast levels probably reveal little of the sentiments of the people affected. However the red painted water mark and monotonous droning wind instrument sound seem to add to a sense of frustration and helplessness one may imagine the residents to have. If you were in Singapore during January, the incessant rain would have allowed you to feel the inconveniences of rain in sunny tropical but urban Singapore. Now imagine if that water would rise above the height of Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore’s highest land form (at about 160m above sea level). Perhaps with this bit of imagination, we will feel the helplessness behind the work, by the artist and locals alike.   
 
I suppose this photo exhibition is really a small spiel, as compared with the Earth From Above outdoor photo exhibition by Yann Artus –Bertrand, to highlight the extent mankind alters the environment. The exhibition is a visual representation of ‘inconvenience’ and a wake-up call to ignorant passers-by to world environmental affairs.

Artery: Inaugural Exhibition

Art that flows in the city 

  

I think the most obvious connotation of the title of the exhibition is its reference of the Concourse (underground linkway) that joins the different buildings, as an important anatomy of the University – the artery, with the pun on the word ‘art’. This first exhibition, if it is any statement of the art to be featured there, promises well-placed, well-suited art for popular contemporary art consumption. The works, if I didn’t mis-read the foreword by Howard Hunter, President of the University, spearheads the Visual Arts Initiative, by offering art by artists from around the region. Mounted by curator Joanne Lee, the works are well-spaced, allowing breathing space for the works and the passers-by to stop and look without holding up traffic. This exhibition is split into 3 components to cater to almost everyone’s taste: 

‘MURMUR’, at the Gallery, School of Economics & Social Sciences – 

Featuring works by Anthony Poon, Chua Ek Kay, Pinaree Sanpitak, Jane Lee and Delia Prvacki, the selection explores the eloquence of repetition and rhythmic gestures, visual silence and material minimalism; 

‘Testimonies’, at the Concourse, School of Economics & Social Sciences –   

Featuring recent portraits in ink by Tang Dawu, photographic works by Francis Ng, and Dadang Christanto’s 2005 Testimonies of the Trees series, the section explores personal memory and subjectivity; 

‘Looking In Looking Out’, at the Concourse, Li Ka Shing Library – 

Featuring commissioned works by Heman Chong, Tan Kai Syng and Ana Prvacki, the works are site-specific interventions with architectural histories, pop psychology, and the trafficking of ideas. 

(Above text from curator’s note) 

  

As pointed out by a fellow artist, it is curious that the senior artists’ works are more skilfully crafted than the younger artists’. The former works could be seen as engaged with primal concepts of ‘menhood’, or spirituality. The latter works seem more complicated and deal with a certain commercial attitudes of urbanicity – the city and its “interventions of life and living, of noise, the rich textures of organic confusion and chaos” (extract from curator’s text). For some strange reason, I felt compelled to glance and ‘browse’ these works, like a lifestyle magazine. The older works show evidence of ‘hands-on’ in the final physical objects, while the younger artists seem to have favoured a mechanical means of (re)producing their art –photographs, Inkjet on PVC canvas, 2000 copies of offset print, vinyl stickers. This does give a unique textural juxtaposition and visual pleasure.  

  

If the University is like a heart, what flows out could be the un-selfish public education that is desperately needed to complement the Singapore Art Museum. Perhaps if presented cautiously, and avoiding connotations of high art, these public art exhibitions will ease the sore memories of a public who remembers fondly of their green patch of grass and the Raffles Girls’ School gate; perhaps art will heal the ‘vericose vein’ perception of the fledging University beside the ERP gantry. 

  

3 stars of 5 

  

  

Artery was held in the Singapore Management University from 12 January – 31 March 2006. 

(Oasis by) 1 Singapore Artist: Han Sai Por

The Rain has stopped and every 1 has come to see art.
 
Han Sai Por’s work is no stranger to sculpture buffs in Singapore. Her name is such a pull that the title of the exhibition, incidentally ‘1 Singapore Artist: Han Sai Por’, seems to circumvent the need of a sticky title common to other sculpture exhibitions! Seeing her timeless sculptures and charcoal drawings, as opposed to temporary installations, or ‘transient sculptures occupying space’, seems like breathing fresh air after rain. There is that raw energy unleashed by carved granite, a certain need of a connection with our earth that draws us to Sai Por’s work. I suppose that need is even stronger in a society that presses for speed and efficiency while Sai Por’s work seems to require a certain meditative state of mind to be truly appreciated.
 
The main focus of the exhibition seems like the square granite-pebble perimeter, decorated by 20 cog-like granite pieces titled ‘Seed with Void’ arranged systematically within. Each cog-like piece has a tea-light, surrounding the centre piece, a cuboid granite block, which also has a tea-light. There are a few suspended ones, which seem to mirror the circular window at the top of the chapel building. The shimmering tea-light renders these pieces as mere tea-light holders, something which I am not prepared to accept. Something else isn’t quite here; it feels as if the space swallowed the work. The granite path seems like a perimeter path, and a boundary at the same time, playing hide and seek on the grey cement flooring of Sculpture Square. The granite cuboid, ‘Square of Light’, like Sai Por’s other works, seems to yearn for the nourishment of rain, sun and air, not air-conditioning and cement – man-made stone.
 
There are three intriguing works in the exhibition: ‘The Impression of Mount Kinabalu’ drawings, the urn-like sculpture ‘Light Bowl with Cover’, and ‘Sundial’ the stackable piece. 
 
The drawings are extremely attractive to look at. They all have a white glaring streak, a pathway through the denseness of charcoal on paper. These seem to possess something the granite sculptures lack – an immensely imaginative space, captured by the contrast of the blackness of charcoal and whiteness of white paint on paper. Our eyes may play tricks on us, altering the perspective, scale and depth of that white streak as our eye shifts focus between a background and a foreground. Any further exploration by the reader will have to deal with the psychology of vision. The sculptures on the other hand seem always middle ground, limited by its greyness and physical presence. The piece nearest the entrance ‘Sunlight penetrates the woods’ may give us an insight into Sai Por’s work. It is perhaps exactly that feeling that she wants, that abstract contradiction of wanting to see light, but being blinded by it.
 
The urn like sculpture ‘Light Bowl with Cover’ seems to tackle the issue of form and function. Should sculptures have any functions, for example, to decorate the house, to create a memorial for the dead? It is curious how it resembles a stove, and it can probably be used as one, or a garden lamp or a trophy for a champion of sorts.
 
The stackable ‘Sundial’ seemed configurable to suit the space, and reminded me of Brancusi’s ‘endless column’ similar in its unity in form, lines, and suggestion of infinity. These pineapple-slice-like cogs, with knowledge of its strength, repetitive and technical birth process, is the other source of energy in this exhibition. They sit silently, waiting for the brave soul to shift them. The stacking reminds me of stones I saw in Scotland, stacked at mountain paths to mark the path of climbers that passed by. They are like silent prayers, rock-piles in Tibet made by passing pilgrims, rebuilding collapsed ones in one endless cycle.
 
I think it is inescapable to consider Sai Por’s work with meditation, concepts of the ‘void’ or seeking it, and the sense of a material ‘sublime’. This exhibition feels like another rock-pile on Sai Por’s accolades of achievements, working in a vanishing and difficult art form. Most of her raw materials are not native, and require expensive sourcing. The tenacity and stubbornness not to succumb to the allure of new media, and sticking to art that lasts makes her stand out from other Singapore artists. Perhaps this makes her the 1 Singapore artist to catch.
 
3 of 5 stars
 
 
1 Singapore Artist: Han Sai Por is held in Sculpture Square till March 3, 2006