Saturday, 18 January 2014

Singapore Biennale and 'Art Stage' (art fair)

Working on the Singapore art fair, 'Art Stage' and visiting the Singapore Biennale has been a great opportunity to think upon and reflect upon my own art practice as an Australian and Australia's position in the Asia Pacific region.  

'Art Stage' has also provided me with an excellent introduction to the logistical operations of an international art fair. As expected, the variations between stall holders made the experience richer. It's always a pleasure to meet new artists who also work as art installers.

Bravo also to Helutrans for the fantastic opportunity to work on the art fair and for the opportunity to view the Singapore Biennale.

Art Stage highlight: 
1. Artist: Noritoshi Hirakawa
Title: S Series- Pont du Gotteron (1997)
Materials: Silver gelatin print
Measurement: 30.5x 46cm
The Chi Wen Gallery's presentation of this work was exquisite. The gallery which is based in Taiwan built a discreet small corridor and located the work at the end of the corridor. This viewing mechanism encouraged the work to be viewed by only one person at a time. Inspired lighting took the work to an unexpected and unparallelled viewing experience. This aerial photograph depicts a popular suicide point in Fribourg. 

2. Gallery Guy Pieters (Belgium) presented a selection of works that could best be described as abject, bar the Christo works. Anyone following this blog will know that I have special fascination with historical and contemporary Flemish artists. Pieters' presence at the fair enabled me to view Jan Fabre's mixed media paintings- tributes to Belgian Congo. One sculptural piece kept reminding me of Breugel's 'Twaalf Spreuken' (1558) which is held in the Museum Mayer van der Bergh, Antwerp. To be specific,  the 11th of the twelve panels.

3. Bernard Ceysson Gallery, Luxembourg.
Subtle works included:
Artist: Jean-Michel Meurice
Title: 'Corniere' (1973), 
Materials: Acrylic and dye
Dimensions: 60x 30cm

Singapore Biennale: The Biennale was a great opportunity to see works by both emerging and mid career artist from the region. It's refreshing to see a Biennale that is responding to region specific dialogues. Highlights:
1. Artist: Nguyen Huy An, Vietnam
Installation title: 'The Great Puddle'(2009). 
Materials: Chinese ink and plywood
Dimensions: 800x 500cm
Collection of the Artist
This minimalist installation depicted the shadow of a writing table. The shadow of the table was sunken approximately ten cm into the floor of the installation space and filled with black ink in its liquid form. On the first viewing the installation space was closed for gallery maintenance. Subsequent visits enabled me to sit quietly with the work. 

2. Artist: Shirley Soh, Singapore
Installation title: 'Seeing (from) the Other' (2013).
Materials: Mixed media installation
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2013 Commission
This community based project saw Soh working with female prisons incarcerated at the Changi Women's Prison. The women participating in this project presented multiple hand embroidered pieces that incorporated text and illustrations. The most moving text piece read:

'12 I went to work at a chicken rice stall. In that same year, I was sent to Toa Payeh Girls Home. 17 I gave birth to my first son. 18 I gave birth to my second son. 19 I gave birth to my third child, a daughter. 22 I worked as a waitress in a night club. 24 I worked as a housing agent. 30 I worked as an electrician. 34 I worked in a seafood restaurant taking and dispatching orders. Then I went to work in a bubble tea shop. 35 I was caught, charged and imprisoned. I am now 47. I will be free when I am 59'
 
These works reminded me of Elizabeth Day's project work at the Women's Prison in Sydney. 

3. Dusadee Huntrakul, Thailand
Title: 'Tracing Aihwa Ong's "Buddha is hiding"' (2013)
Materials: Collage and graphite on paper
Dimensions: 20.3 x 24.1cm (each)
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2013 Commission
Multiple pages from Ong's text were hand drawn in pencil by Dusadee. Any description or interpretation that I could possibly offer would fail the discreet nature of this work.

4. Chi Too, Malaysia
Title: 'Longing #11 a.k.a Instructions For Longing' (2013)
Installation and 14 single- channel video, colour, sound
Duration: Variable
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2013 Commission

A didactic panel outside the work read:
Instructions for Longing
1. Watch video in a clockwise direction
2. If the door on the right is ajar you may enter the room. If it is shut, please wait outside. Only one person is allowed in at any one time.
3. Shut the door behind you.
4. Take the spirit level.
5. Place the spirit level on top of your head. 
6. Stand still, balance the spirit level, and think of a loved one until the spirit level falls off.
7. Replace the spirit level to its original position.
8. Exit room. Leave door open.
Thankyou

When I enacted the instructions noted above, I encountered a small problem. The spirit level refused to fall off my head when I thought about the people that I love. After about ten minutes I exited the room to enable other viewers to engage with this work.

Lastly, an outing to the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at Gillman Barracks enabled me to watch Zarina Bhimji's immersive 35mm film titled, 'Yellow Patch' (2011) which was presented as a single screen installation. This important work critiqued  post-colonial discourses with the same rigour that Okwui Enwezor approached Documenta 11 (2002). I can only hope that Sydney audiences will have the opportunity to see this haunting work in the not too distant future. A section of the film can be viewed on her website, http://www.zarinabhimji.com/video_yellowpatch_part1.htm




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