Monthly Archives: June 2011

Age of Uncertainty

Rhyme or Reason

Age of Uncertainty

A thing which has neither rhyme nor reason makes no sense, from either a poetic or logical standpoint.

The phrase age of uncertainty could be interpreted in two ways: firstly, referring to the reckless coming-of-age of not knowing and not caring; secondly, referring to the larger world, of climate change and unmentionable American national debt that could send the financial world into turmoil. I would like to think the curators meant both.

The Age of Uncertainty certainly caught my eye as a mixed bag of 5 emerging young artists, showing in a small side gallery in Tanjong Pagar Road. Supported by Chan & Hampe Galleries, the exhibition takes a small space that expands into a thriving community of amateur art jammers, and enthusiasts. In the humbled, partition space, the works of 5 artists are hung, in predictable black frames. Collectively, the artists had little in common. This eclectic group show’s only continuity is their relatively new status on the local art scene. The gems of the show, belong to Daniel Yu’s clay figurines, comics-meets-figurine-toys and Sarah Choo’s 3D vignettes, a la Alice in Wonderland.

Yu’s figurines reveal his obsession with mutations and manifestations of bizarre characters in epoxy clay. A glimpse into the artist’s perception of our world today, only miniaturised; the humor and wit is spot on, bringing the fantasy non-sense into a figurine form. For example, ‘wishful thinking’ is a yellow man with a smug face dressed in red suit, pointing his right finger at the viewer tauntingly.

Sarah Choo’s vignettes break the frame. An invisible character, suggested by floating dress, tears through the surface of the print, with the ladder as evidence of her escape. Layered quite beautifully, it suggests an inward discovery, filled with excitement of paramount disproportion. With each picture a metaphor for something personal, there is no real end in sight of this adventure.

What are worth mentioning are the prints by Chester Huang and Jonathan Leong (aka zxerokool). Both draw influence from deviant art-like graphical illustrations, suggesting the frenzy of consumerism. In Huang’s prints, they are less successful individually, but not near enough to be considered a consistent and well thought through series. Pop art-ish, they appeal to supporters or dissidents of popular culture alike. Leong’s series is overtly consistent in size and psychedelic colours, leaving the viewer feeling punked – you see what you get and not more. The medium doesn’t serve any deeper message. If the focal point of each print has a stronger link, say all from the same TV series or all about a certain issue, with a dash of more exciting composition, the prints would have come off more powerful.

Ironically, K C Gan sculpture of great deformity, fits the theme or title of the show the most. It is even uncertain in form, much less function. It sits defiantly near the window and remains transformer inspired or a campaign to make art using recycled materials. If this work is grown disproportionately larger, Gan may be onto something; just as an infinite doodle of lines will resemble a ball of yarn if our imaginations let it. The word cornucopia comes to mind, in the most satirical way, as the object sits perched on the floor, an unlikely horn of plenty.

Artists have strong opinions over the way they view the world, and they express this in the work they do. In some cases, logic departs and emotions set in. Artists do not need rhyme (resemblance or continuation from their earlier works) or reason (purpose) for making art. They can indeed make art with the utmost uncertainty and ambiguity.

5.0 of 10 stars
Chan & Hampe Galleries, 6 – 21 June 2011


Errata: mix-up between Chester Huang and K C Gan’s work now corrected, thanks to Jieyun.

Too Big in the Tank by Joo Choon Lin

animated and delightful fishes, aren’t we?

Too Big in the Tank by Joo Choon Lin

The metaphor of children as fishes, reminds me of the Japanese animation, Ponyo (2008) directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Unlike classically animated Ponyo, Too Big in the Tank is a stop-motion non-narrative short film, with kids from the Jamiyah Children’s Home. The purpose of the two films are dramatically different. The Studio Ghibli rendition, is an unusual and original fairy tale of friendship; on the other hand, Joo’s work seems to be a portrayal of a boy protagonist with dreams for the future. Joo’s work also allows an interpretation about a class struggle at the youngest possible age. The former, the goldfish princess with the magic of the ocean to unleash; the latter his imagination to set him free. While the dialogue isn’t well dubbed and comes across as mumbling, the visuals break the artist’s usual repertoire, and daringly blends layering and composites to heighten the dream-like atmosphere. One who follow’s Joo’s work will appreciate the divergence, making her moving images connect with the viewer emotionally. What is perhaps the next frame, is to examine each and every picture and making them all work. A smoother stop-motion and careful lighting would up a few notch and perhaps High Dynamic Range (HDR) would push the moving images to hyper realism.

Too Big in the Tank can be understood as a symbolic portrayal of wanting to out grow the tank, or confines of a physical space. As children grow up, their understanding of the world naturally widens and a physical space can hold them no longer. If the environment is right, they should grow up being self-confident, a self-directed learner, a concerned and active citizen of the world. What tugged my heart strings is the knowledge that unfortunately, what lies outside is a larger, deeper tank. And adults accept these tanks for one reason or another. Only the bravest (ocean) fish will yearn for the ocean, risking all odds for adventure and life lived.

6.0 of 10 stars

20 May – 3 Jul 2011, Esplanade Tunnel