Green City II: A Collective Memory of Moving Images in Contemporary Painting

“…Conceptual as they are painterly, and signaling a clear break with material awareness…” (exhibition text)

The recent paintings by Ng Joon Kiat break new ground, challenging the norm of layering the canvas with progressive layers of oil paint. Instead, he has used can-full of paint to create the ultimate sculptural brush mark. Behind the green impasto paint, lie painted television stills or anonymous stills of ‘destruction’, ‘national identity’, ‘landscapes’. This series is enigmatic and a subtle critique of the pace of atrophy, decay and loss of memory, not unlike alzheimer’s, represented in pictorial form.

Like his earlier works from the exhibition Imagining a Geographical Presence (2007), there is a conceptual and physical play with notions of landscape. The textured, impasto oil paint seem to form macro landscapes, themselves floating on the canvas. His preoccupation with geographical landscapes is understandable, given the limitation of land in Singapore. Those with the privilege of travel to other continents, would recall the sense of being overwhelmed by vast mountain ranges, clear blue unbound sea or majestic untamed forests. Or the 2 minute fly over our island when departing would be sufficient contrast against the time it takes to cross from Perth to Sydney, crossing timezones and unfamiliar land forms. The idea of the ‘moving images’ isn’t as well represented, as one is denied immediate recognition, or intimacy with familiar stills from local television. One questions the anonymity of these images, as well as the realism, attention to detail in which they fail to achieve. The only vaguely familiar ones are those depicting ‘national television icons’ related to national identity such as “Teamy, the Productivity Bee” and Singapore Broadcasting Corporation’s Wu Suo Nan Yang (1980s).

The more successful paintings in the series do not try to be pictorially complicated. The two Untitled large paintings by the entrance,  the diptych titled World is made by TV Programme and the last painting in the curved Jendela space have differences that worked pictorially: the use of a monochrome background image, rhythmic pattern-like background, or  flat, plain background.  This allows the foreground impasto paint to standout, and balance the pictorial depth of the painting. The elegant, curious balance of background and immediate impasto surface is held in harmony. The diptych is perhaps the most iconic of what the artist wanted to achieve. Using a simple image of a cartesian world map, the green land masses start to disintegrate against the black ocean. The deliberate green drips and ‘cracks’ add to the aesthetic appeal, and suggests a more powerful treatment of the kind of abstraction, simplification yet reminisce of a television image not found in the other paintings in the series.

Jendela (Visual Arts Space)

12 MAR 2010, FRI –
4 APR 2010, SUN

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