Monthly Archives: December 2012

Encounter: The Royal Academy in Asia

Taste of the West and East without a culture shock

Encounter: The Royal Academy in Asia

The Royal Academy (RA) has a reputation that goes back centuries. Founded in 1768 , it is an independent, peer accredited institute that promotes art and design, a guild of some sorts for renowned artists. Encounter is an exhibition, part curated and part open-call, that integrates the showing of Asian artists alongside the masters from the RA. Noticeably, Singapore artists Ng Joon Kiat and Donna Ong are also included in the curated segment.

The result of this meeting is astoundingly successful: not in the shocking visual sense, but the fluent curation that renders some kind of visual dialogue between the pieces.  It would be near impossible not to find favourites. While this encounter might do what the organizers touted—instigate dialogue amongst practitioners in differing hemispheres—it should also stimulate audience’s dialogue on topics quintessential to artists. The personal, the political, the material are inescapable foci the viewer might categorise these artworks. One another level,  Encounter simply means providing an opportunity for viewers to see contemporary masterpieces from the UK.

Contextualising this exhibition within the compounds of LASALLE might suggest the institution’s high aspirations, an ambition to be as established as the RA. There are two implications to the fluency I’d mentioned above. First, the gallery hang might have anestheticised my sensitivity to nuances between the artworks between the 25 Royal Academicians and 25 Asian artists. While this might suggest a universal thread that runs through contemporary art, it does reveal my own ignorance to the artists has decontextualised the artworks, resulting in a flat after taste. Second,  the openness of the hanging is exactly what the title suggests: meeting unexpectedly, and leaving the evaluation of this first impression to each and every viewer. The subsequent impressions, it seems, will be up to the individual viewer to find out more and hopefully, reprised in another International exhibition in Singapore. Art Stage or Biennale, anyone?


Lasalle Galleries, 14 Sep – Sun 21 Oct 2012

Royal Academy of Arts (2012). About the RA. Accessed 9 Dec 2012 from

Resolution of Reality by Joo Choon Lin

where reality bites if you really sink your teeth into it

Resolution of Reality by Joo Choon Lin

The artist describes her recent body of work as “a site-specific installation and exploration of the unlikely relationship between technology and nostalgia” (Joo, 2012). Besides these, her works play on the resolving powers of our eyes. Wood grains, grave yards, amusement parks, water are given pixelated disguises. What is printed by a dot matrix or inkjet printer, glorified by an LCD screen, or projected on plywood are not what they seem. Instead, they are carefully constructed camouflages that reveal more than they conceal. The works challenge the viewers’ perception(s) of  reality or our understanding of optical phenomena. At the same time, there is a strong environmental message regarding our ceaseless obsession with technology and its toll on our natural resources.

To viewers unfamiliar with Joo’s work, the  artist routinely uses and presents tactile materials. Brown enamel paint is used to represent melted chocolate and large sheets of copper could be used to replicate the look of chocolate wrappers. Her signature technique, using various pigments to create ephemeral images on the surface of water using silkscreens, are often filmed in stop motion.

In the recess of this installation, a passage way shows various replicas of equipment and electrical cables suspend from the ceiling. On closer inspection, they are melting and spilling onto the floor. Taking the lead from the various models of mobile phones that are melted, they suggest the artist’s discomfort and warning, of the rate we are consuming and replacing our gadgets. Mixed within this environmental message, is perhaps a certain nostalgia for the equipment we once had or fancied but never owned.

Hanging from the ceiling, a dot matrix printer spews a ream of printed paper that resembles a roll of uncut negative from afar. On closer inspection, each frame differs, relating to the persistence of vision that makes us perceive 1 second of motion from 24 still frames still used in cinemas today. At the same time, it relates to the artist’s persistence with stop motion as a means of exploring different issues and subject matter. This piece of work also cheekily suggests that we use paper like a flowing waterfall resulting in wastage, a detriment to our finite natural resources.

In the video pieces in this installation, most of the experiments on tactile materials are recorded and re-presented as video pieces. In one series, equipment which we associate with technology are melted using acetone to reveal a skeleton. In another, the grain of wood on a piece of ‘lumber’ falls off candidly. On another, the grain of wood stirs and ripples like the surface of water. In an other triptych, videos show a printer churns out a sheet of A4 mirror paper, before reflecting fragments of three unfamiliar environments. In this triptych, the message behind this exhibition comes through the strongest.

There is a pun on the word ‘resolution’ to mean both pixel and determination. In one reading, the artist is attempting to depict what she sees in reality in the best possible way. In another reading, the artist is revealing the futility of capturing reality: the ‘image’ was not printed but simply a blank surface showing the reflection of the surrounding. I could vaguely make out a park bench, a plinth in a cemetery (Necropolis in Glasgow), and a sculpture of Guanyin (Haw Par Villa, Singapore). On one hand, this highlights the contradiction of wanting to capture these environment on print or on video, but never quite. On the other, the artist has successfully shared that what is finally presented to us in the gallery, is a mitigated view of not just the bizarre environment, but how our minds might find inspiration from the most abstract or banal environment if only we look hard enough.

Whether reality, or our definition of it, trumps art, or vice versa, is rewardingly subjective.

Third Floor Hermes, Liat Towers Orchard,
2 Nov – 16 Dec 2012

relevant links:

Joo, Choon Lin. (2012). Exhibition wall text.