Superstrings by Joshua Yang

A play with continuous marker lines on fabric
Superstring a series of single continuous line drawings by Joshua Yang in collaboration with students from NUS High School of Math and Science.

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The work is an impressive array of large canvases hanging 3.5 metres down the grand concourse steps. From a distance, they resemble giant looms, bearing freshly produced cloth. The centre pieces, the first on black fabric, consists of a drawing of the ubiquitous foot paddled Singer sewing machine on the left, and a large drawing on white paper, of a brain hiding in the centre arrangement. On closer inspection, portraits, figures, angels and everyday ‘random’ objects drawn in ink, fills these large fabrics. The connection between the objects are physical – each object is made with a single line, and all objects are formed with a single continuous line, like a thread unraveled carefully by divine intervention.

There are at least two issues that the work engages with: firstly, the activity of drawing as a cerebral activity, which some adults will frown upon as ‘no-brainers’; secondly, the alleged specificity to the site (Esplanade concourse) and concept.

Joshua Yang

The large drawing of the brain has a particular significance. According to brain studies, and popular art educationist Betty Edwards, the activity of drawing engages the right hemisphere of the brain, which is visual and processes information in an intuitive manner (). Incidentally the right hemisphere of the brain is usually connected to creativity. The depiction of the brain could be a reminder to the viewer of the processes involved in drawing and creation.

The explanatory text states the work is site specific. This is stretching the term ‘site-specificity’ – the design and display of the work relates to the concourse, flowing with fabric from top to bottom of the steps, though arguably the front looks more ‘complete’ than the rear view, however, the subject matter of the drawings are many stone throws away from the slightest relationship with the Esplanade, theatres on the bay. The concept of the collaboration is clever, teasing responses from students in a specialized education school such as NUS High School of Math and Science. Math and Science people, usually seen logically as more left brain, these students were seen as collaborators, in creating the enormous work. The drawings, if they are indeed self-initiated, are interesting records of responses to the specific meticulous activity:

1. the line must not intersect itself at any point;
2. the line must be continuous and have no breaks.

The notion of draughtsmanship is echoed in the explanatory text. By making doctrine-like instructions, does it make any one-line drawing art? Who decides which drawing links to the next, and how? Do doodles become art if they are big enough? Do these students ask enough questions when they draw?

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The work links to “Superstring theory which suggests that everything in the universe is made up and connected by symmetrical vibrations” (exhibition text). Perhaps seen in this connection, the work is successful and apt for students to see links between science and art, like how the great Italian renaissance men saw themselves, perhaps to re-link contemporary thinking, science advancement and ethics, to age old reasoning and ‘universal’ morals. We are all perhaps desperate to see connections between actions, consequences, objects and events, justifying existence. Or we are like the kitten that enjoys the ball of yarn for no apparent reason other than play.

5 of 10 stars
Esplanade concourse till June?

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