Daily Archives: April 22, 2009

Reminisce on Paper by Tang Ling Nah


Lightness and Weight

Reminiscing on Paper 18 Apr, Sat, 2-8pm

(Images courtesy of the artist. The panoramic photograph is taken by the artist, as an example of a moment he was ‘overwhelmed’ by a view form a Seven-floor overlooking an industrial park; This sense of by overwhelmed can sometimes be felt in Tang Ling Nah’s larger installations)

The recent exhibition by Tang Ling Nah reaffirms the faithfulness and commitment the artist has to her unusual medium of choice – charcoal. Density weightiness and lightness, seem apt words to describe her work, bearing upon architectural non-spaces, or imaginative spaces; fractures in our daily lives. The three choice pieces, can be seen in the (Picasa web album) link above.

The Glimmering, represents density, the overpowering desire to accumulate vast amounts of charcoal from stick to paper, with unbelievable amounts of fixative. This density, seen in her earlier works as explorations of the medium. 

The second image represents weightiness, giving emphasis to form of the architectural space, imaginary or real. The chunky weight of the stairs, is felt in the uneven blend of tones, the strong geometrical shapes that pierce the two-dimensional surface of the  paper, invading our real space. The dissolving of the density to weightiness perhaps signifies coming to terms with the medium, and shift to the depiction of space, and the desire for space.   

The last image, An Other Space within a House, an amalgamation of 5 drawings suggests impermanence, lightness, a matrix of possibilities shifting like plate tectonics. In a strange manner akin to MC Escher’s work, interior and exterior spaces collapse into one.  Like most of her other works, the title guides the viewer to the underlying concepts of the work. Like other pieces, the other space refers to an imaginary space projected both by the artist, and the viewer. This piece is most iconic, and perhaps a turning point in the development of her works, abandoning illusionism for the lightness of charcoal – a gleeful flutter of lines on the wall of paper to a congregation of faithful strokes.

Psychotaxonomy by Michael Lee

Perseverance in paper


Images with the kind permission of
the artist

The recent works by Michael Lee pulls no punches, flourishing elaborate paper cuts inspired by the Baba House, a new peranakan museum located on Neil Road. Following the methodology of a researcher, and art as an instrument, the artist unpacks and picks at the rich heritage of motifs and symbolism of the Peranakan heritage. As the title suggests, the artist tries to interpret and classify these motifs, making sense of this unique personal collection that became the foundation of the museum. The series of works on show question the domesticity of the interior of a building that houses the exclusive museum, the value of heirlooms and once everyday objects. Paper, an obvious choice to suggest the fragility and threat of erosion facing the Peranakan culture  in Singapore, and indeed of any culture with the persuasive invasion of Globalism. Peranakan culture, faced a minor revival with the popular Mediacorp (Singapore) Mandarin TV series Little Nyonya.

In a manner befitting of a continuation of his earlier book art installation, Documents: The $100,000 gallery of art, the familiar twists with architectural interior spaces, and play with lighting are resurfaced with paper cuts on scores of paper. The first work that greets the viewer in the gallery is a large free standing arch that resembles a paper version of a mirror, casting a motif-decorated shadow. On closer inspection, the rear reveals tiny rooms with overturned chairs, much like the aftermath of an interrogation. The work is successful by making subtle interjections (within the context of the museum) with the overturned chairs both suggesting abandonment or ‘fierce’ interrogation, perhaps of one’s culture.

In The Big Sweep, the sweeping aid in Peranakan households is convincingly created using paper, caught in action with motifs of urns, vessels trapped in between the stems of the broom. The placement of this broom is spot on, near the large ‘mirror’ and challenging the viewer when they enter the space. Culture, represented by iconic silhouettes of Peranakan objects is being swept away, disposed. The confrontation also reveals our perception of the material paper and it’s often relegated status as material in folk craft, and our equanimity of another person’s culture.

The large ‘mindmap’ or taxonomy of symbols and meanings, An Almost Natural History of Social Relations, reminds me of the babelfish in Douglas Adam’s Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Both tries to make sense of the unknown, translation them into something understandable; both are fictional, and both entertaining to ‘see’. It resembles the work by the conceptual artists Art & Language from the 60s, in the important use of ‘words’, signs and signifiers, the mind-mapping, sometimes seen in their work. The scale of this is impressive, telling of the rigor of diagram making and ordering thinking.

Mail Order: Gift from Heaven is exploitative of the space available, but less impressive of the design of individual creatures, lacking the aesthetics and proportion deserving of the mythical creatures. They are literally, quite flat.

Will the Real Phoenix Please stand Up? is conceptually interesting, but less promising in the final details. The piece is lost in it’s translation from idea to title, and again, off course when intricacies were omitted from paper cuts. Though not exactly resembling fowls, they did add a different deceptive subterfuge to the work.

The exhibition describes the artists perseverance and obsession with paper, this time with the tinge of cultural sensitivity and historical intervention. While the hyperbolic and humorous title works for some, it may detract from the visual form, and aesthetics of white on white (white paper in a white gallery). With a great force of personality in the earlier two works, the latter two appeared weaker and contrived to interpret an aspect of Peranakan motifs.

6.0 of 10 stars