Sullivan + Strumpf (#01-06 5 Lock Road, Singapore), June 10 – July 9, 2016
Although Gillman Barracks opened in 2012 with no small fanfare as Singapore’s equivalent of Beijing’s 798 art district, the past year hasn’t been entirely kind to the gallery enclave. Since the departure of a third of the galleries during 2015, announcements of new tenants seem squarely aimed at a food & beverage crowd who might think “this is boring, there’s nothing but galleries here”. Given all this, the recent arrival of Australian gallery Sullivan + Strumpf is particularly encouraging. That it is billed as the first gallery to establish a permanent presence in both Australia and Asia makes it a doubly welcome development.
As for the inaugural exhibition, the overall vibe of this aptly-titled show is one of open collegiality—like the art gallery equivalent of a housewarming party. It’s not the most groundbreaking show, curatorially speaking, functioning instead as something of a brief introduction to the practices of a number of the artists represented by Sullivan + Strumpf. It feels rather safe—but perhaps a measure of caution is warranted, and may pay off in the long term.
Under the cool, diffuse light inside the gallery, the comparatively colorful works on show seem doubly emphasized, and practically pop off the walls. Particular mention goes to Sydney Ball’s vaguely origami-esque “Infinex #36” (2015), which seems further displaced from the wall’s flatness in both its color and non-rectilinear form. In a similar, albeit more tangled and organic vein, the mixed-media constructions of Hiromi Tango are unrestrained and accretive to the point of being carnivalesque, suggesting ever-growing organic forms.
The three-dimensional, free-standing works on display tend towards a focus on materiality, but without the monochrome coloration that tends to accompany any such description. Tim Silver’s 2016 Oneirophrenia series, for instance, presents a number of chance-influenced iterations on a basic rule: bake some dough inside a cast of his own head and cast the resulting disfigured visage. The seven results, tinged with no small amount of bodyily horror, have some dappled blue pigmentation to their surfaces which yields an oddly calming, dreamlike atmosphere.
Working with one material such that it resembles another can come across as an overdone party trick for the superlatively skilled. Alex Seton’s “Not Going Anywhere” (2016) and “Tarpaulin Rosette 01” (2016), however, in which Bianca Carrara and Chilagoe Pearl marble are composed so as to suggest tarpaulin and brick, don’t seem to succumb to that hackneyed fate. This might be thanks to an underlying reference to the tarpaulins used as shelters by displaced people, but what comes across more strongly are the clear tool-marks which remain on the surface of the marble, and the absence of any attempt to obfuscate its mineral nature—both simulated and real.
The buffet-style offering of artists in this initial showing makes it implausible to full appraise each one here, be it the Shrigley-esque utterances of Richard Lewer, or Sam Jinks’ disquietingly realistic babies. The gallery’s upcoming program seems to acknowledge this on some level, with the next three shows slated as exhibitions for Sam Leach, Joanna Lamb, and Alex Seton, respectively. More exciting still, for the coming year Sullivan + Strumpf are hinting at a more curatorially focused program, involving both their own roster of artists and other local and regional names.