Reconfiguration

Trendy Chinese Contemporary Art

It might be relevant to make the distinction of Chinese-ness: Hua Qiao (华侨)refer to Overseas Chinese of Chinese birth, within the territories of People’s Republic of China. Huayi (华裔)refers to the descendants of overseas Chinese that have taken root elsewhere, like many Singaporeans of Chinese descent.

The works here, are distinctly produced by artists of Chinese nationale. While the distinction might seem redundant, we could view work thematically like any other work produced by another artist of a different nationale, the context to understand the work shifts ever so slightly. China, it seems, is in everyone’s mind when it comes to Olympics (Beijing Olympics 2008), business opportunities, and ‘go East’ mentality.

The works on show are hardly disparage to China’s careful foreign policies, covering broad themes of globalisation, China’s history, dislocation/displacement and feature some international stars such as Jiang jie, Xu Bing. The title ‘reconfiguration’ takes on two meanings, if we acknowledge that the title 《返思》 could possibly be conceived in Mandarin.

Firstly, it could mean ‘reflection’ (反思), perhaps on the rise of China as a super power beyond the economic sense with millions of overseas Chinese and Chinese Expatriates in different dispositions, each bringing with them a little bit of Chinese Culture.

Secondly, ‘a return (返) to conceptual art(思维艺术/概念艺术)’, just as how modernism in art influenced Asia in more ways similar, albeit a different timeline to its Western European counterpart. While the exhibition is not exhaustive of the most controversial and provocative art from China, it does serve as a good comparison with local contemporary art, more so than the past 2002 Art Singapore at Suntec where other prominent Chinese artists like Ma Liu Ming were represented at the art fair.The Nanyang style, as described by many as the flux of influences from the Eastern traditional ink painting and Western Impressionism, was perhaps the first indication of Singapore’s own Ism, and claim to any art history.

The manner in which Chinese art influenced Singapore’s art scene deserves another look, as it is happening again. Looking at these artworks might evoke feelings of alienation from a country some of our forefathers came from. Looking at these artworks might provoke us to look at our own surroundings more intently, and drawing comparisons with the influences of our local artists – Ng Eng Teng’s nudes, Baet Yoek Kuan’s abstract metal and cement sculptures, idyllic cityscapes rendered in ink by Chua Ek Kay. The Singapore contemporary artworks also on exhibit in the museum, engages with subject matters that are a lot less politicised, territorial, or ‘in your face’. Perhaps this is an indication that art is ultimately a reflection of society, and collected Singapore art that is sanctioned, is hardly politicised.

5.0 stars

reconfiguration (返思)

NUS Museums, admissions free
Dec 22, 2007 till April 8, 2008

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