Beyond Description by Kim Bum-Su

As Interesting as tiles

The sculpture square played host to it’s fourth artist-in-residence, Kim Bum-Su, emptying its gallery floor and opting for a stained glass-like effect on it’s windows. From a far, they look like stain glass in the pattern of paranakan tiles, reminding the visitor of the provenance of the Baba Methodist Church that is now Sculpture Square gallery.

These myriad coloured patterns on closer look are actually ‘film stills’ captured on 35mm cine film. Without much guess work, they are probably cine-transfers of Korean film, or unwanted film bits from the Korean Movie Industry. I can almost imagine a Korean Film buff looking meticulously at each pattern, trying to recognise the films in which they were cut from. The saturation of colours in the various sequence of frames – pink, blues and green – suggest that some coloration has been done to produce these cuts. Some of these patterns, in its concentric layout, remind one of ripples; others in its strong horizontal and vertical lines remind one of the Cross. Other then these curious familiar looking patterns, much is left unsaid about its connection to the images on the film, or the bare concrete floor. The work leaves too much room for imagination, or none at all – it is simply about patterns, perhaps unconscious pattern making, just as how Paul Klee would have imagined his. The work, despite using the material so closely associated with film, has no narrative inherent in film and rejects narrative completely.

There is a certain relationship to Yayoi Kusama’s work in its obsession in a single material or form. The photographic positive film, like Kusama’s dots are reproduced and stuck on a surface. Each looks the same but are definitely different from each other. The single installation here is possibly intended to be a spectacle, but perhaps fails to impress because the work seems too invisible, fighting for attention against the glaring white walls. The physicality of the work is in question. I am wondering if the effect would have been better if a facsimile of the church was reproduced in acrylic boards, and clad entirely with the pattern he has obviously meticulously stuck together with transparent tape. A projection of the sequences in which these stills were extracted from may put more sight, sound and colour than the limited windows can offer. There is a possibility that the artist was interested in the persistence of vision, of film and memory. There is definitely a relation of sight and the persistence of memory in this site-specific work. I can imagine his fleeting memory of Sculpture Square and Singapore when he returns, a country that barely excites with film. Few will find the smell of photographic chemicals that reek gently in the space alluring. Even fewer can appreciate the mammoth effort required to produce this work. Somehow the absence of a physical nature of a three dimensional work is problematic in a space like sculpture square. The work is simply too flat for a space like Sculpture Square.

As I sat in the gallery typing this, 5 visitors come and go, averaging 20 seconds. I suppose most visitors would agree with me, this exhibition was as interesting as Peranakan tiles. The work barely transforms the space or the experience of visiting an empty gallery.

1 of 5 stars
Sculpture Square, till May 21, 2006

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