To be further updated.
Art Markets in Australia and New Zealand, by Dr Charles Merewether and Joleen Loh, published in Art Stage Singapore 2013.
Bright Young Things, TODAY Newspaper, 14 March 2013. *
It is not surprising when contemporary artists today make radical shifts in their work. Perhaps, such developments are one of the reasons that make works by young artists who are still defining their practices so compelling. Richard Koh Fine Art recently presented one of its first exhibitions of young Singaporean artists of the year.The exhibition, ‘Discovering New Endeavours’, features new works by Melissa Tan, Geraldine Kang and Izziyana Suhaimi.
Melissa Tan’s works often feature meticulously cut crystal formations on paper, pieced together in layers as if they are converging and diverging, shifting within itself. For the exhibition, Tan has created them on a larger scale, a change which she sees as an evolution of her crystal islands into larger landforms. Titled ‘The world is full of distance’, the crystal formations in this series follow the contours of various countries, reassembled to form alternative maps of imagined landscapes. Yet, while these enchanting worlds of Tan’s converge, there is a sense of disorder and restlessness. We notice within them that complexity prevails over simplicity, discordance over composition, chaos over order. Through these qualities, Tan suggests that what divides the world is not merely physical proximity.
Geraldine Kang presented a series of photographs titled This City by Any Other Name (Would smell just as white). Each photograph features a seemingly banal and mundane scene – buoys along a coastal seawall, a bin next to the back of a small building, and a white construction fence dividing unused land. What connects these photographs is the presence of a white element in each of them, a colour used for its local political connotations. In every corner of these urban sites that are easily overlooked and seemingly unmonitored, therein lie traces of control and intervention.
This series sees Kang taking on a different approach to photography. One of her most prominent works, In The Raw (2011), features the artist with her family members and domestic worker in staged scenes that run counter to the tropes of Singaporean familial order. Often personal, her works are set in private spaces and have a sense of narrative and intimacy, qualities of which are abandoned in the mundane public spaces of her latest work.
Izziyana Suhaimi’s ‘Making Working Time’ is a series of embroidery on paper works which visualize time through hair and needlecraft. For Suhaimi, each stitch made is a mark of the passing of time. She also included fifteen postcard-sized stitching samplers, each featuring a new embroidery technique that she was learning with typewritten notes of her thoughts as she was creating them. We are able to see the imperfections as she learns each technique; they are like records of her mistakes and triumphs, both of which she embraces and presents. These enigmatic samplers perhaps best remind us of the importance of process and the desire for transformation that is pivotal to the unfolding of artistic endeavours.
Discovering New Endeavours runs until March 27 at Richard Koh Fine Art, Artspace@Helutrans. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.
(* Note: The above review is the original text before being edited and published for Today Newspaper, with a minor edit made to an artwork description.)
Of Floods and Flowers, TODAY Newspaper, 22 November 2012.
Nine Prayers for Palomar, published in Un Magazine issue 5.1
Download as PDF [4.3MB] un 5.1
Vernon Ah Kee exhibition review, published in Daily Serving and Artitute.
The Palm Island riot and its aftermath are the focus of Indigenous artist Vernon Ah Kee’s latest exhibition Tall Man, held in conjunction with the Melbourne International Arts Festival and Gertrude Contemporary. Comprised of three segments – a video installation, a portrait, and text– the series is an examination of the ongoing cruelty and official indifference toward the Aboriginal Community in Australia.
“Tall Man”, Four-channel video installation, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane
In 2004, an Indigenous Australian Cameron Doomadgee was brutally murdered at the hands of a white officer while in police custody, sparking riots on Palm Island in North Queensland. Doomadgee was first arrested for public drunkenness and reported dead an hour later, having suffered from four broken ribs which had ruptured his liver and spleen. His death was recorded as “an accidental fall” in the coroner’s report and all charges on the officer were later dropped in 2007. In his four-channel video installation, Tall Man, Ah Kee appropriated footages from mobile phones and camcorders, which is edited together with archival news footages to reconstruct the day of the rioting and the unfolding of events. An overall sense of chaos and urgency pervades the work. Viewers have to negotiate between the four channels which simultaneously offer different perspectives of the same event. Each footage ends abruptly, rhythmically disrupted by television test signals and its accompanying single-frequency tone. The Tall Man in the video title refers to Palm Island’s Aboriginal Shire Councillor Lex Wotton for heroically “standing tall” and speaking out powerfully for the rights of Palm Islanders. In one footage, we witness the anger and distress that overcomes Wotton after it was announced to awaiting Palm Islanders that Doomadgee’s death was an accident. This public announcement was central to the riot, demonstrating the audacious concealment of truth behind Doomadgee’s unlawful murder by a white police officer. The footages bring to light the absence of round-the-clock security for Aboriginal people, and the efforts of the criminal justice system to conceal an overt act of racism. In one recording, Wotton walks up to address the crowd: “Come on, people, we all wanted this! We wanted to know. Will we accept this?” Wotton’s question extends to several levels. Will the Aboriginal Community quietly accept empty promises of “fair go” for every citizen? Will it remain silent about the high frequency of countless deaths of Aboriginal members that occur in police custody? Through jump-cuts, the viewer also switches to the vantage point of the police squad. In moments preceding the anticipated riot, policemen were filmed kitting themselves up to “scare the shit out of these cunts”, as one of the officer says. In a stark contrast, the scene switches to an aerial view of the island, quiet as if nothing is happening. Distanced from the island, Ah Kee makes us aware of how easy it is for a crisis to go unheard. Tall Man successfully instills a sense of urgency toward the injustices perpetrated by the police force, and the hypocrisy of the Australian legal system. Ironically, the raw footages used to compose the video were used in court as evidence to convict Wotton of inciting the Palm Island riot. But in the hands of Ah Kee, they tell a different story of the injustices faced by the Aboriginal community in Australia. Why isn’t Palm Island talked about today? Works like Tall Man expose certain truths about race relations in Australian society and the manner in which discrimination of the Aboriginal Community are still lost within a collective amnesia. If there’s a protest in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?
“Tall Man”, Charcoal, crayon and acrylic on linen, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Another work in the exhibition is a larger-than-life portrait of Lex Wotton. Through the subtle, gentle lines of the up-close portrait, viewers come face to face with the warm and compassionate side of Wotton. Unlike the video installation where Wotton is seen enraged and devastated in public, his private side is conveyed through portraiture as warm and unthreatening. His expression is soft and his gaze is calm. There is a sensitivity and strong sense of empathy in the way Ah Kee handles Wotton’s portrait that could not have come from someone emotionally detached from him and the Palm Island riot. He also succeeds at what is difficult in portraiture – rendering the wisdom and kindness that lies beneath the visage, penetrating public appearance to reveal the private side of Wotton.
The final component of the exhibition is a large text-based work that fills the entire front display windows of Gertrude Contemporary. It’s a verse from Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth (Act 1, Scene 5) reproduced as a run-on sentence that Ah Kee uses to relate to the brutality faced by Aboriginal people on Australian soil. The seventeenth century allegory of man’s endless cruelty to man is re-written for today and alive to the realities of race relations in Australia. As a whole, the exhibition coheres succinctly as an exposure of the superficial attitudes toward multiculturalism and the constructed representations of Australian history. In Tall Man, Ah Kee seems to beg the question: If it is commonly accepted that history has only ever been written by the victors, why have we still stuck to this story? How is the Aboriginal Community to exercise their freewill and voice their distinctiveness when they are ceaselessly prevented from demonstrating such rights? Just when it seems that Australia has been making some progress, the glass of illusion is all but shattered once again with the recent major policy shift by the Baillieu government to dump the compulsory protocol of acknowledging the traditional Aboriginal land owners for being too politically correct. The resurfacing narrative of the Palm Island riot is an important reminder of the continuing lack of respect of indigenous culture.
- Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore, curated by Eugene Tan, Gillman Barracks, 2013 (Curator’s Tour and text)
- HAO Summit 2012, the Substation, conceptualised by Khairuddin Hori and Audrey Wong (Media coordinator)
- Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real, 2012 (Curatorial Assistant, exhibition and publication artwork captions)
- Artist in Residence, Okto Channel (Speaker, installation art)