Drawing as Form

from motion to emotion, and back

“Drawing as Form” is a re-visit of the “Drawing Show”, one of the early TAV projects that was held at the Jalan Ulu Sembawang space in 1989. Moving away from the physicality of drawing and the drawing as a medium, focusing on the fundamental basis of ‘a dot… a line… a mark to a form’ – drawing does not necessarily sit on a 2-dimensional platform, rather it pushes one to explore beyond the confines that limit creative autonomy in individual artistic practices.

(lifted from exhibition emailer)

Drawing as Form, Images with the kind permission of TAV

The blackboard that greets the viewer is a strange reminder of Koh Nguang How’s Errata (2005). The blackboard suggests the link to the artist group’s history, and the temporal nature of their art practice as critique of society. Marks are made and erased, and new words take shape, like the renewal of membership in this art group. The squiggly handwriting suggest play, more so than a serious annotation on a page of Singapore art history, like Errata. The chalk marks bear the most expressive characteristics, like charcoal a prized drawing medium, rich in tone and range of values. A charcoal drawing is often described as expressive because the broken, half-formed lines carry emotions of the charcoal bearer.

There are more than one charcoal bearers in this exhibition, but they may wield charcoals amongst other drawing implements.

An emotional drawing wants to be ‘felt’ than to be ‘seen’. Drawing as Form invites its viewers to perceive the works within the contexts of the social, the contemplative and the everyday. (extracted from text by Seng Yu Jin & Michelle Ho, that accompanies the exhibition)

There is much to be felt in this current exhibition by members of the Artists Village (TAV). The sense of decoupage, the cutting and pasting of not paper but conceptual aesthetics against it’s historicism/heritage of the Singapore’s most recognised avant garde artists’ group. This aesthetics was last seen at The Artists Village: 20 years on (2008), that highlighted the group’s involvement to promote performance art in Singapore. Here, there is a strong performative element underlying most of the works. Motion is suggested, as we imagine the artists in action to create the works, and what we see are possibly remnants of their performance or live action. Most notably, Lee Wen’s performance “Zen for Head, Clay and Leg” appears to be a parody of Nam June Paik’s 1962 Fluxus performance of a similar name. One can almost imagine and hear the artist dragging his clay-loaded scalp across the paper. It is debatable whether re-enactment of performance art has any value, but perhaps like theatre, each (new) performance carries with it new nuances and expression that is quite lacking in our understanding and appreciation of performance art. Perhaps by ‘scripting’ it, repeating it, re-staging it, we may begin to understand and see value in it. In the context of this exhibition, Lee Wen’s simple action may be an exegesis of how ideas/zen may become form, literally using one’s head (when imagination fails).

The other works are pretty straight forward applications and actions of the chosen materials, evaluating the process and product of drawing as conceptual and abstract. Cheng Guangfeng’s “Draining Energy” features an allegedly 70 metres electrical cable that snakes the corner of the gallery, leading to a bare bulb. Angie Seah’s colourful arrangement of colour pencils suspend on strings, forming a vertical hatching of an ellipse, and it’s curious shadow of pencil silhouettes with the same ellipse. Ezzam Rahman’s “Smudge” is made from cardboards, conical, resembling large-scale altered pencil shavings. Natasha Wei’s canvases are loaded with paper/clay, with crater-like marks and cracks that will continue to crack and make it’s own mark. Bruce Quek’s situationist insertions of mock authorative bookmarks proclaiming almost anything as art with the following text: “This is an artwork. It is made by an artist. He/It is important”.

Works that are less abstract include “TURFF” by Chun Kai Qun, “2”, a work by Juliana Yasin, Ranger Mills and Choo Xinyi, Urich Lau’s “Video Demonstration: Webcam Lucida 1.0” and Joo Choon Lin’s “Drawing Becomes Stills”. These named 4 works however, employ devices – mechanical or electronic – to critique drawing as a mechanical process to divergent ends, rather than it’s strict concept as practice overtones. Surprisingly, Urich Lau’s webcam Lucida 1.0, like David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge, tries to uncover the secrets of tracing an image from a camera lucida. Instead, digital means – a tablet and overlay software – are used. There isn’t any secret nor visual investigation I fear.

The experimental nature of drawing is felt in the exhibition, like a shadow to the form – the conceptual framework of the exhibition. The experiments are present in the individual works, but fail to affect each other. The works are thus rather isolated, or under developed against the title of the exhibition. The experiment evidently doesn’t stop here, as each artist is not limited by drawing as a practice. Against the backdrop of their own practices, the individual works push tiny milestones, towards maturity of their own artistic intention and craftsmanship. Take Kai Lam’s duct tape mural of JB Jeyaratnam, it may be ‘political kitsch’, but the choice of duct tape, and it’s affiliation to our horror imagination of gaffer taping one’s mouth to silent a kidnap victim makes tremendous resonance. If price of duct tape was not a concern, short of distributing duct tape to all viewers, or inviting viewers to draw what they would like to have duct tape covering, the work is actually quite powerful but shadowed by other works.

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There are a lot of emotions attached to the name TAV. Held against time, it pioneered conceptual art, pushing boundaries of how art is perceived and made in Singapore. One may fear however, that this exhibition is a shadow of the 1989 exhibition bearing the same title (37 artists and 3 staff members of NUS Architecture, displayed 400 pieces of works), and Drawing as Form (2009) is a mere motion, than a real investigation into one’s own practice and the essence of drawing that energizes, observes and reweaves the fabric of society and the everyday.

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One response to “Drawing as Form

  1. Pingback: No bits please, we’re American (and a shameless advert) « Biased, actually.

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