Monthly Archives: November 2006

PKW: Appetites for Litter, The 8th Emerging Artists Show

alter-aesthetics – Lovely load of rubbish?

I’m still undecided over this exhibition, as I walked from space A to space B, hastening my pace; slowing down to scrutinise details, or the lack thereof; slipping into my conceptual frame of mind and telling myself that it’s an alter-asthetics, a mix cultures and art-forms, cross-breed materials as installations. Alter-aesthetics here, means the love for the abject as seen in Shubigi Rao, Jane Porter and Yeoh Wee Hwee’s works, and beauty the likes of Japanese Otaku crazed art in Alexis Hys works.

The first work that greets me are the works by Shubigi Rao, consisting of an abandoned suitcase of curious, notes and a lovely bound-book, and installation of a shelf full of modern trash, exhibited like archaelogogical finds like artist Mark Dion would have found important. Between these two works, is a table strewn with notes written to someone, by someone. It may have been the artist, but my suspicion is it may jolly have been an alter-ego. The bound-books are a far better illustration of the artist’s thoughts and the installation confuses things; It’s like a painting with a heavily built-up canvas with so much paint that it’s cracking beyond the expectations. Perhaps the work is about conceptually enshrining use-less objects, creating new meanings for them, just as how a painter creates a reality/realism on canvas.

Alexis Hys

Alexis Hys work come across as being about the love for superficiality, a sub-culture in its own right. Using supposedly found objects such as cutting boards, disposed cultured milk containers, and cut-up Japanese toy models of manga nymphs, she assembles mini-panoramas; they seem equally fragile and somewhat disposable, and this raises an interesting resonance to the word ‘decay’ if we read into the choice of kanji, the second Chinese Script of the word ‘tofu’. The works are incredibly sexy and attractive, if you buy into manga and Japanese sub-culture. (An exhibition elsewhere was put together, and readers interested should try searching this on on internet search engines: “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s exploding Subculture”.)


Yeoh Wee Hwee’s art is a bit over-whelming. it features spore like, sporadic growth of man-made transparent-tape ‘organisms’ growing out of the store room. I’m not convinced that the gallery space is ‘prestined’ clean (lifted from wall text), enough to present a contrast for the work. The space is originally tiled in an attractive motif, and doesn’t complement the work and vice-versa. The work at most leads us to think about man-made litter, if I may indulge in reading the work further, mutated super viruses. I have another suspicion the work would have been successful if there was ONE molecule of such a abominal virus, in the style of local artist Chng Nai Wee, and occupying (nearly) the entire space.

Jane Porter

Jane Porter’s work is best left undescribed, and left inaccessible, as I felt when I had entered the upper gallery. It didn’t work because the videos didn’t work, and it was too minute, compared to the ‘monument to trash’ type of works I have seen, by several other artists like Michael Landy (Michael Landy famously destroyed all 7226 of his possessions). The stop-motion animation, in-between static was interesting and somewhat intriguing. It alone would have suffice, projected or on a small intimate monitor, lesser rubbish and actually allowing the viewer room to breath and think would have been nicer.

This exhibition had considerable curatorial support from heavy-weight curator/artist Michael Lee, but the show seemed to rely heavily (except Alexis Hys’) on such concepts and failed to work more thoroughly with the existing gallery space. For emerging artists, the art market system may not be ready to accept the kind of works they make. I am not implying that emerging artists should make pretty paintings, but perhaps a context of how these artists were invited, the kind of works they make, in the form of another wall text would not be too much to ask for from the curator or gallery. Considering the show had a catalogue, it warrants a good read for those interested in such aesthetics. For me, I have lost my appetite in a litter bit.

2.5 of 5 stars.

PKW gallery

Kill nothing but time, Take nothing but photographs, Leave nothing but footprints

Re-discovering disposable things and images

Take nothing but time

The photographic installation by Robert Ern-Yuan Guth fills the humble gallery tiled floor of Your Mother Gallery, in Little India, Singapore. These tiles that now adorn the gallery are liven by printed images, of curious pavements, roads ‘scanned’ by the artist, and presented in a checked formation. Like some homely galleries in Singapore, I was drawn to kick off my shoes, and examine the floor, quite comfortably in the gallery. The artist had not just captured interesting texture, and banal disposables; he had rescued and transformed litter, into immortalised bytes, stored somewhere else. Nonetheless, the medium of digital photography has meant that the image has become more disposable, so these images are too, condemned. Or have images always been disposable, but the mindset of individuals towards imagery and memory have shifted, becoming ever short-lived and dependent on mechanical and electronic means?

The other merit of the photo-installation, was the interesting use of a scanner, attached to a laptop to capture these alluring images. The depth of field is uncanny, with its unnatural ‘un-sharp mask’.  It heightens the objects in these images, rendering them more three-dimensional than a normal photograph would.  I can almost imagine the curious, performative sight of the artist, lugging a laptop and a scanner, ‘marking’ and scanning the pavements during ghastly hours of a day, or during the peak of human traffic.  if Lomo photography sparked a trend  in the ‘snap shot’, I wonder if ‘scan shot’ would start a spate of demands for small, portable USB-driven scanners, and sparking a new means to examine photography as a genre and medium?

3.0 of 5 stars

Your Mother Gallery

till November 19

Jeremy Sharma: A certain slant of light

The certainty is in the choice of the images

A Certain Slant of Light

The blurp writes : “Featuring saturated and unusually atmospheric images of local and regional everyday life. Jeremy Sharma, known for his painterly visual language in both drawing and video work, showcases photographs as a main medium”. The works, large prints previously exhibited at the Esplanade level 3 opposite the Library and smaller ones, are distinctly squarish. The square format, large grain (pushed), contrast and focus suggest the use of Lomo Holga, or a Kodak brownie.

The snap shot has arrived again at Substation Gallery, with certain grain and lyricism of the various places occupying the photographer/artist’s memory. The photographs are snippets, composed and cropped fragments of memory of places visited, forgotten, lost. The photographs, especially the smaller intimate ones, seem to reveal more about the artist as flaneur and his the social walkabouts then about the places they represent. These images are indeed atmospheric, but nothing more. In a ‘slant of light’, it doesn’t yet reveal the rigour of the likes of photographer Martin Parr or the technically proficient photographers that hang about Clubsnap. It is not Wolfgang Tilmans, where snapshots crosses fashion photography and fine art photography. These photographs while thematically coherent (walkabout), lacking in visual stimulus, beaten, retreat safely into the white walls of the gallery.

A Certain Slant of Light

The exhibition is nonetheless a brave attempt to put vision and snapshots into print. It is deliberately divorced from Lomography, a branch of snapshot aesthetics that is known for saturated prints which we should know are lab-processed and computer enhanced as that. There isn’t much miracles with plastic lens. But I will still say it’s the person behind the camera that makes the photograph, and Jeremy should just push on, decide whether composition is important to him, till a more pressing statement or reason to take photographs arrives.

2.0 of 5 stars

The Substation Gallery
2 – 16 Nov, 2006