“Engaging Perspectives: New Art From Singapore,” group exhibition with Ang Song Nian, Black Baroque Committee, Mike Chang, Debbie Ding, Nah Yong En, Bruce Quek, Frayn Yong, Jasper Yu and Zhao Renhui
Gillman Barracks (Blocks 1, 37, 38, and 39, Singapore), Jan 26 – Mar 31, 2013
One of the dangers contemporary art critic face today is we are forgetting to look. Thus, I arrived at “Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore” with just my eyes, without having the slightest idea what I’d find. And the result was the exhibition surprised me pleasantly, not because it was a paragon of creativity and freshness, but rather in comparison with other exhibitions at “An Evening” in Gillman Barracks (GB), and maybe due to my own ignorance of Singaporean art.
The show is organized by the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Singapore as its first public showcase chez Gillman Barracks. CCA is a national research center of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) and is expected to be operational in the second half of 2013, with the ambitious aim of becoming an international center devoted to artist residencies, exhibitions, education and research. CCA organized this show together with a series of talks in conjunction with Art Stage Singapore 2013 (an art fair) and the launch of the Gillman Barracks art precinct.
This inaugural show curated by Eugene Tan consists of nine contemporary artists from Singapore born in the 1980s. These artists could be grouped under the recently fashionable term “emerging artists.” According to the press release, the show
“provides an in-depth look at how these artists engage with concepts of the everyday and the interconnected perspectives about daily living within Singapore as well as the wider world… Their works explore the physical structures as well as the invisible structures and networks that govern daily life, the relationship between increasingly urbanized environments and nature, as well as the systems of meaning making that influence the creation of images and signs that exists in society.”
I confess, I do not quite understand what this means, but I guess what these artists want to reflect in their works is the endlessly repeated binomial local-global. In fact, this approach links with their background, since most of them have studied abroad (mainly in London), but now are working in Singapore.
For instance, last year Jasper Yu completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Nanyang Technological University. In “Flurry scurry. I’ve heard that train stations crowd with people during the rush hour. But there is no hurry” (2012), Jasper creates a kind of tableau vivant in the subway of Tokyo, the artificiality and motionlessness of the scene broken only by the movement of some small elements within the image (signs, lights and traffic lights that turn on and off). Or Ang Song Nian’s “Towards a new interior” (2013), a series of photographs in which frames follow each other as a metaphor for the rigid organization of our everyday lives revolving around consumption and precisely where human presence is evoked by their absence, and their tracks as objects.
These and other works in the exhibition tend to deal with unoriginal issues, such as how evil mainstream power harms our poor individual existences, consumer society or how fierce urbanism and environmental degradation are destroying nature. However, this is not a criticism of the lack of originality of the artists, but rather of the time in which we live.