Not a problem perhaps
The exhibition consists of a gallery filled with filled with 6 modest paintings, digital prints on canvas and smeared with acrylic paint in abstract expressionist gusto, and another lower gallery filled with scaffolding beams purposefully and meticulously installed. There is that suggestion of a technical and mechanical Sublime when it comes to any discussion of seeing industrial objects used in art. A problem perhaps, there should have been more beams, perhaps extending into the upper gallery. Any repeated word, phrase, sentence or object gains an uncanny beauty that is almost synonymous with the Sublime. The title ‘prop*lematic’ is suggestive of ‘problems with something’ and ‘supported by something’; which I will try to explain in this text.
The exhibition at PKW challenged the structure of a gallery, of the art market perhaps, by placing numerous huge squarish scaffolding extendable beams in space 2, and the unassuming paintings in space 1. Strange but beautiful, if you are into geometry of industrial equipment in any symmetry. It was as if the building was bracing itself for an imaginary earthquake heading to shake the foundation of the building. A problem perhaps. There aren’t any earthquakes in Singapore. Metaphorically, if we were to imagine the coming Singapore Biennale as these scaffolds, it does seem to make poetic sensibility that these scaffolds are indoors, ironically protected by the building, and making the viewer unsure whether they will leave the building in better shape, or ruin the flooring. Perhaps the uncertainty of the art market mechanism is problematic. You are never quite sure of its relation to the artist, just as the relation of these scaffold beams to the building. Who’s supporting who? What’s the role of the non-buyer as viewer? This inverted façade reminded me of Mark Wallinger’s installation of a false giant billboard façade of the United Kingdom pavilion. He was perhaps interested in revealing the superficiality and façade of the Venice Biennale as a huge Public Relations Exercise of the art world and all its representatives.
The paintings bear some relation to the installation work. A problem perhaps. Both are about these mysterious scaffolding beams that you don’t get often in Singapore. The paintings are pretty to look at, with the occasional recognizable shape, even with the underlying images of the scaffolding storage yard .These scaffold parts seem foreign. A problem perhaps? The photographic prints on canvas reveals the artists fascination for Form, depicting repeated patterns of the scaffolding form different angles, each marveling the industrial perfection required to produced these, which in turns help produce other industrial matter – buildings. It distracts the viewer from the visible brush strokes. A problem perhaps. These gestural strokes that plague the surface of the canvas seems to review and reveal the structures of painting — the paint, the primed canvas and wooden stretcher. On closer look, these earthy-coloured strokes are more like meditative calligrapher’s strokes, Tapies light compositions than brutal De Kooning or Julian Schnabel. They also seem incredibly flat, given the ‘gesture’ they represent. While the rhetoric of the death of painting hastened by photography, and a push down a ravine by the invention of video and the internet, this artist isn’t too concerned with traditionalist interpretations of what paintings is (in Singapore) and should be. The subject matter, the props of the exhibition is the main focus of the artist. Not a problem perhaps.
2.5 stars of 5
till end Jun 2006, PKW Gallery