Lyrical Abstractions: works by Jeremy Sharma and Yeo Shih Yun

well titled and punctuated

Lyrical Abstraction

Lyricism: an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way; the quality of being lyrical (oxford online dictionary)

To accompany the Credit Suisse (Innovation In Art Series) blockbuster Seeker of Hope: Works by Jia Aili (2012), the museum has decided to host this modest parallel exhibition featuring one work from Jeremy Sharma and Yeo Shih Yun respectively. The decision to commission these Singaporean artists, it seems, depended on a brief to create monumental scale paintings, in a style different to Chinese artist Jia Aili. Whether these new works are installations, would be debatable. Before we dismiss these as wall fillers for the blockbuster, I would like to discuss the merit of each work.

From my encounters with Jeremy’s work, his sensitivity for materials and processes of painting, rejection of figuration and philosophical inquiry into being, comes across strongly. While pouring enamel paint has been employed by other artists to varying effect–artists such as Ian Davenport or Damien Hirst–Jeremy’s effort is very different. This piece appears more film-like, suggested by the ‘cuts’ and ‘truncations’, like the transitions and edits we may find in a film. This interpretation is perhaps the result of the title, a homage to Akira Kurosawa, and his legendary black and white master pieces such as Ran or Seven Samurai. Staring at the panels longer, they remind me of wall stains caused by running rain water and the deposit of dust and dirt, only hundred of times more dense and concentrated. They also remind me of dense Indian ink or Chinese ink that served the purpose of making writing (and therefore ‘culture’ in an abstract sense) visible. Without ink, how else could we have recorded characters, words, or pictures? Could water served the same function, though more transient and fleeting? Thus, Kurosawa (2012) is a refreshing take on a meditative approach to make and view paintings, representing a different development to his other acrylic, chunky doodles on canvases. The only gripe I have is the siting of the piece: the distracting tiled floor mutes the powerful black and white contrast, like watching a cinema screen with the lights on.

Conversations with a Tree (2011-12) by Yeo Shih Yun complements and swings with equal lyricism. No doubt using digital technologies to enlarge, crop, repeat and enhance the marks made by brushes attached to strings that hang from a tree, these are transferred using silkscreen to create a convincing Chinese Ink painting. Like her earlier works, she is interested in mark making (as performance), the ‘flow’ (of ink, water, and the scroll format),  and these are played out in this multi-media trajectory, essentially a tangential and imaginative way to mark-make. The most valuable insight from this artistic exercise is scribbled in pencil on a test piece by the artist, on one of three framed boards.

Three things I learnt from trees:
1. it is important to have roots;
2. be flexible so you won’t break when rough wind blows; (and)
3. grow where you are planted.

The other two boards contained a video screen showing the tree in action, a portrait of the tree (as artist) depicted in multiple, oval-shape framed photographs.

An important feature of this exhibition is the explanation of the processes in which these works were made. For Jeremy, a small screen shows still images of the work in progress against the backdrop of a studio space; For Shih Yun, a large projection shows a close up of the brushes, dancing and scribbling the conversation the tree is having with the wind.

7.0 of 10 stars
6 July 2012 to 23 September 2012
Singapore Art Museum

Artists’ links:

One response to “Lyrical Abstractions: works by Jeremy Sharma and Yeo Shih Yun

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Boonscafe review of Lyrical Abstractions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s