The impressive solo exhibition by Singapore veteran artist Matthew Ngui, consists of 9 works from 1989 to present. Russell Storer, curator of POINTS OF VIEW first seen at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Australia, wrote: “This exhibition … traces the development of the artist’s practice over time, from his initial responses to the Western Australian Landscape, through key anamorphic works from the 1990s, to newly produced video works that develop his long-standing investigation of multiple points of view”. Judged by far the most elaborate solo exhibition by a contemporary local artist, this exhibition promises to provoke re-thinking issues of space, and perception. Matthew Ngui is familiar to us as the first Singapore artist to appear in Documenta X (1997), a German exhibition held once every 5 years, before any deliberate government-led cultural export of Singaporean-ess.
We can attempt to analyse the significance of Matthew Ngui’s enquiry into the landscape, and his interest in anamorphic works by considering the works’ disjunction with perspective and concept of the ‘Real’ (as in, we believe what we see). The landscape is an inspiration and subject matter for many artists’ works, because of its vastness and ‘age’. That vastness has created our philosophical response to it, in the form of the Sublime and Beautiful, evident from critical theories and countless artworks. Coming from a country as minute in land mass as Singapore, it is hardly surprising that the open horizons of the Australian landscape could prompt the artist to ‘map’ it using LED in grid formations, attempting to ‘capture the landscape’, seen in the photograph documents of the series of installations titled Bits of the Western Australian Landscape 1990-91.
An interest in ‘mapping the contours of the land, as a form of drawing in space’ could lead to an interest in the studies of creating and distorting mathematical representational perspective, a tool to depict three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. By using anamorphic lines,shapes and letters of vast proportions, it disjoins conventional perspective and the ‘Real’. This is predominant in all of Matthew’ Ngui’s work, including his commissioned piece for Northeast line at MacPherson MRT station. The reality is that they are simply marks, placed in a sophisticated manner to produce a ‘correct’ image from a specific viewpoint. The meaning of this gesture allows us to see ‘fragments’ or stray marks to be coherent again, just like it is possible to see or feel the constructed ‘big picture’ of any situation if we step back far enough and see things from a particular angle.
By a stroke of coincidence, it might be interesting to consider Matthew Ngui’s untitled/Seeing may be believing but not always understanding and Singapore Art Museum’s presentation of Alberto Giacometti’s Seeing. Feeling. Being. in the same breath, because both seem to suggest a presence, a gut feeling, an instinct to something. Matthew Ngui’s gut feel seems to be revealing ironies and truisms with perception evident from his witty titles, while Giacometti’s instinct lies in his ability to empty his mind, and focus on a singular representation, repeated countless times of the core of existence, evident in his frail lone stick bronze-cast figures.
While the illusion of vision may intrigue some, the detailed, visually rewarding and in-depth philosophical inquiries of seeing and vision in Matthew Ngui’s solo show would not be enough to move the audience that prefers art that ‘deal’ with other real issues: inflation, poverty, fear of epidemic outbreaks, natural disasters and food shortage to name a few. Democracy of points of views, perhaps.
8.0 of 10 stars
Matthew Ngui: Points of View (Singapore)
28 May – 29 June, 10 am – 6 pm daily
Exhibition Gallery 2, Basement
National Museum of Singapore
Other early works by the artist, http://www.poloxygen.com/?direct=art&id=137