(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

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