Art Radar introduces the 10 emerging Singapore-based artists now showing at Shophouse 5.
2016 UNTAPPED DISCOVERY features 10 emerging artists based in Singapore that have been practicing for two years. The exhibition is supported by Visual Arts Development Association (VADA) Singapore.
The UNTAPPED series is presented by the Visual Arts Development Association of Singapore (VADA), and invites visual artists to apply to participate in one of two group shows to be held each year at SHOPHOUSE 5, an art space located in the Geylang area of Singapore. The series aims to establish support networks and offer practical experience for young local artists. UNTAPPED features two annual juried group exhibitions, Emerging and Discovery, and connects artists directly with arts patrons. Local patrons provide the funding for the project and in return, each patron is able to collect one artwork from each exhibition, resulting in over a third of the artworks shown by these young artists being acquired by established art patrons.
UNTAPPED EMERGING exhibits new work by up to ten artists with two-four years of professional practice. The Open Call for 2017 UNTAPPED EMERGING will take place in January 2017. UNTAPPED DISCOVERY features new work by up to 15 artists between the ages of 16-35 within the first two years of professional practice.
The Visual Arts Development Association (VADA) was conceived in response to the growing need for an independent, not-for-profit arts organisation to service the needs of the burgeoning Singapore visual arts industry. VADA programmes are intended as “incubator initiatives” designed to identify and cultivate artistic and curatorial talent by providing developing arts practitioners both the exposure and practical experience required to establish sustainable careers in the arts. The President of VADA, Angeline Chan, is quoted in the press release as saying:
This platform gives early career artists the experience of working in a gallery with a curator at hand, as well as the opportunity to connect with patrons and collectors. And, once again, the judges have stated how impressed they are by the scope and depth of work that was submitted.
“2016 UNTAPPED DISCOVERY” runs until 23 December 2016 and features ten up-and-coming, Singapore-based artists, selected by the UNTAPPED Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee Members who judged and selected the artists were Boo Sze Yang (Artist), Martin Constable (Assistant Professor, The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Vietnam) and Adeline Kueh (Senior Lecturer, at LASALLE College of the Arts).
The artists present work in a diverse range of media including concrete, fabric, black fungus, digital print, film and painting. Art Radar has a look at each artist in the exhibition.
1. Akai Chew (b. 1987, Singapore)
With a background in architecture, Akai Chew considers himself a practicing urban explorer and takes the city as his inspiration. His art practice explores the profound relationship between history, humanity and the urban environment. He is interested in historical research and cartography, as well as the discovery of historical artefacts. His first exhibition was in 2013 at Noise Singapore The Apprenticeship Programme.
Chew’s architectural training and his interest in urbanism and the effects of human development on the natural environment are at the basis of his works in UNTAPPED. His cartographic digital drawings represent a utopian paradise on earth, North Sentinel Island, an island that is still untouched by foreigners. Through cartography and found photography, Chew’s work explores the location’s fictional development after it has been discovered and colonised. The artist follows an all-too-well known narrative of transformation of a utopian paradise into an urbanised vision that challenges the very notion of paradise.
2. Cassandra Koh (b. 1992, Singapore)
A painting graduate of the LASALLE College of the Arts, Cassandra Koh is a recipient of the Winston Oh Travel Award. Her work engages with the multifaceted and complex identity of the youth and youth culture in postmodern Singapore. Koh was selected as an SG50 artist, and for the anniversary of the citystate she was commissioned to create large-scale murals at Taman Jurong and Siglap South CC.
Koh’s series on show, entitled “The End Is the New Beginning (E.N.B.)”, are an expression of the paranoia, detachment and skepticism that drive the contemporary world. The artist is inspired by ancient mythology as well as contemporary gaming culture, and plays with the notion of the artist as a storyteller or creator of myths and fantastical characters. Koh derives her concept from the media-saturated world we live in, with its myriad influences that provoke constant mutation and distortion of identity, expecially in the younger generations. As the artist says, “E.N.B as an alternate world reveals the pursuit of limitless myth making in the construction of one’s identity.”
3. Clare Chong (b. 1996, Singapore)
Video artist Clare Chong is a graduate of the School of The Arts, Singapore and is currently pursuing her degree in filmmaking. She explores the multitude of nuances in human interaction, inviting audiences to question how one perceives and judges people and in turn, questions what they say about themselves. She received 2nd prize for an experimental film made during the 13 Little Pictures Film Lab in Bangkok 2013, 2nd Prize for Hi-story My Story Filmmaking Competition in 2013, as well as nominations for Best Fiction, Best Director, Best Performance and Best Script for the 6th Singapore Short Film awards 2015.
Her 2016 work Toogie’s Trip to Bukuokuka follows “a soul waiting on a lover”. The protagonist relives her memories with her significant other, and in the process loses her way and enters into distorted dreams and fantasies imbued with feelings of pain and suffering. The artist blurs reality and fiction in Toogie’s story, and the character ends up finding and losing herself in mindless violence. Chong says that “She becomes both the observer and the observed; her own gaze reminding us that like her, we are all voyeurs in our own perverse fantasies.”
4. Cynthia Delaney Suwito (b. 1993, Indonesia)
With a 2016 BFA from LASALLE College of the Arts, Cynthia Delaney Suwito creates videos and conceptual installations made of found everyday objects. Her works, infused with a subtle humour, explore the everyday systems and functioning in the city, focusing on the experience of viewing and participating. Her concepts are expressed through simple, common actions like breathing, and by utilising everyday objetcs such as clocks and instant noodles. She was a finalist at the Harpers Bazaar Art Prize 2015.
Suwito says that people like to call her “the instant noodle girl”, because of her obsession with them. The artist maintains that in fact the world is obsessed with instant noodles, as they are ubiquitous, available anywhere anytime, familiar to all:
I have always had an interest in common daily objects. I see a language embedded in mundane objects that many would be able to connect with as they are things that have been used frequently and probably will continue to do so. Instant noodle is one of them. It is an object that has a rich history with many individuals and it has become part of the culture of not just a country, but the world. It exists as comfort food, emergency food supply or a affordable food resource. Its popularity defines situations and a picture of world situations and demand; a fast prepared and cheap dietary option.
In her work, Suwito explores the materiality of the instant noodle, questioning its popularity, its relationship with society and how it defines the society of the time. By working with instant noodles instead of simply cooking them and eating, the artist attempts to bring attention to their nature as “objects of diverse narrative and cultural context”.
5. Germaine Chong Sue Lynn (b. 1991, Singapore)
Holding a BFA from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Partnership with Loughborough University, UK, Germaine Chong Sue Lynn creates works with an array of mushroom, chemical compounds and bacterial cultures. With this unlikely and unusual set of materials, she embarks in an ongoing exploration into the “elusive bond between fungi and feminine purity”, as she explains. Chong’s practice is based on a search to understand the ambiguous border between the clean and the unclean, borrowing the concept of “abject” from feminist art.
In her work, she draws attention to the contrasting elements of fungi (representing the “violent, luscious, raw and sensual”) and of a clean and hygienic environment. In her statement, Chong explains:
I implement symbiotic components of bacteria and yeast through a fermenting tea catalyst to embody the notion of self-reproduction, motherhood and continuity. The water rinsing, a cycle in itself, like the birth and rebirth of new babies to produce newer babies in a continuous repeating act. Fragile yet repulsive, the suspended fungal cultures in yellow brine seem almost preservatory in nature within the clinical setting it attempts to emulate. The work attempts to stimulate the violence and luxuriousness while inviting the pungent stench to permeate the senses.
6. Ivan David Ng (b.1991, Singapore)
An interdisciplinary artist, Ivan David Ng studied Painting in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been recipient of a variety of scholarships and grants such as a Starr Foundation scholarship, a Merit Scholarship by Anderson Ranch Art Center, a Way and Gate Foundation Senior Thesis Grant, the Maryland Institute College of Art Chair’s Award Research Grant and the Singapore Ministry of Education Teaching Scholarship, a full undergraduate sponsorship.
Ng creates sculptures informed by his painter’s sensibilities, and is interested in ideas surrounding landscapes and the image, geology and histories, creation in play and autobiography. He sees his artworks as toys, as he explains: ” I take delight in them. Through them, I begin to understand and conjure stories.” Art making is for him a process of rediscovery, of searching through his memories to find something lost in the past that he cannot quite remember but for a fuzzy vision, like a blurry photograph, a fragment. In the act of creating, Ng frames those memories and visions slipping away, distilling them into something concrete before they are forgotten again.
7. Kiwha Lee Blocman (b.1976, Korea)
Kiwha Lee Blocman is currently based in Singapore but was raised on four continents, namely in the cities of New York, Sydney, Seoul, Boston and London. She holds a BA in Visual Communication from UNSW Art & Design and the University of Technology, Sydney and has worked on multimedia and online work for Apple Japan as a member of the L.A. based Media Arts Lab. Lee Blocman completed the Advanced Painting Intensive at Columbia University in 2015.
As she explains, her work deals with “evolutionary themes about bonding and breaking interchangeably through space”. Lee Blocman says that her paintings “are in dialogue with the history of painting as well as the science of seeing”. She works driven by a compulsion to find poetry in the everyday and the act of perceiving the world as a space of interconnected things, rich with layered memories. Her compositions are based on her “primary mechanisms of color chords, tonal harmonies and shape rhymes”, influenced by screen culture, film and animatic frames, music, textiles and colour separation processes in print technology. The artist cites a particular influence from Matisse’s colour cutout works.
8. Leow Wei Li (b.1994, Singapore)
A graduate of LASALLE College of the Arts, Leow Wei Li works with paint and pencil, at times expanding into digital software. She is often influenced by subjects in the urban environment, particularly plants in architectural spaces. She has recently exhibited her works at Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts and the Athens Digital Art Festival in 2016. She is also a recipient of Samsung Future Master 1st runner-up Award in 2015 and the LASALLE and Ngee Ann Kongsi Scholarships.
Her series “Parking Plants and the Invisible Gardeners” is inspired by the livelihood of plants in the urban environment, particularly in Singapore, dubbed the Garden City. Li explains in her statement:
I am intrigued by Stefano Mancuso’s theory of Plant Blindness, a condition of the “inability to see or notice plants in the environment”. It had led to me to wonder if plants are active subjects or merely objects in the process of gardening and I am particularly interested in common and popular urban plants, where one can easily chance upon them in leftover corners and curbs, or witness them occupying redundant spaces as ornaments.
The process of drawing and painting, with contrasts of volumes and voids in her work also functions as a “revelation”, as the artist calls it, “of my relentless growth through art making, never quite resolved or developed”.
9. Wang Chenying Rebecca (b. 1991, China)
Wang Chenying Rebecca (b. 1991, China) moved to Singapore at the age of five. She has been trained at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and has just graduated from Slade School of Fine Art at UCL with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art. Wang is interested in exploring familial relationships and everyday activities. She is currently investigating questions such as the reliability of memories, unspoken tensions, grieve and daily failures through paintings on used fabric, soft sculptures and ceramics. The fabrics she uses are repurposed, taken from leftover scraps from the clothes her grandfather made in Shanghai, and from her family and friends.
Wang started her art making journey from a set of photographs taken by her parents when they first moved to Singapore from Shanghai. She started to consider notions of migration, placelessness and the reliability of memories, being herself in a foreign land. She expands in her statement:
In my works, I aim to explore the questions of intimacy, vulnerability, love, pain, mistrusts, inadequacies, daily failures, unspoken tensions and disappointments without being sentimental or narrow in vision. There is often nothing spectacular in terms of the subject matter but I try to make strange what is familiar. Though the works are often ambiguous and ambivalent in nature, I hope the audience would able to experience and connect to them visually without having to know any of the personal stories behind the work.
10. Zulkhairi Zulkiflee (b. 1991, Singapore)
Zulkhairi Zulkiflee is a visual artist and educator whose art practice involves representations of the body based on the inquiry of knowledge production, the social agency, distinctions/taste and the notion of ‘Malayness’. He has participated in exhibitions such as “Eyes To Think” (2014) at Sangkring Art Space, Yogyakarta, the 27th Festival Les Instants Vidéo (2014), NOISE Singapore THE APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMME (TAP) (2015). Zulkhairi has also curated the show “Dancing On The Spot” (2016), an experimental group showcase that subverts the idea of artistic presentation.
His work aku uses Homi Bhabha’s theory of postcoloniality as a starting point, and is “an inquiry into the mechanism of hegemonic knowledges in relation to sustained selectivity”. A monochromatic portrait of a man is put into contrast with a boldly coloured one, to broach into the field of selective perceptions, the signifier and signified, and tensions of freighted categories. Zulkiflee aims to deconstruct cliches, by referencing one’s individual lived experiences.
Boy and Crocodile began as a symbolic transaction of a postcard between the artist and a seller from the United Kingdom. An act of ‘reclaiming’ lies in the exchange, stimulating the reconstruction of personal memory. The artist transforms the postcard by distancing it from its original context, and conducts an inquiry into the act of memory and image-making.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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