A photograph, in the modern context, is simply an image recorded by a camera and reproduced in the form of a print, slide, or in digital format.
Korean artist Osang Gwon, in his work ‘BluRay_B’ (pictured above), tries to push the limits of photography by adding a third dimension to something that exists in two dimensions.
Standing in isolation at a corner of a gallery at the Singapore Art Museum is a 2.75m towering effigy of a jogger – a sculpture that is entirely “sculpted” out of photographs.
Ever since French-American artist Marcel Duchamp’s urinal sculpture or German artist Gerhard Richter’s attempts to create photographs through his paintings, contemporary artists such as Gwon have not confined themselves to working within a particular medium.
This blending of genres is the focus of Singapore Art Museum’s latest show, ‘Medium At Large: Shapeshifting Material and Methods in Contemporary Art’.
This year-long exhibition featuring artists from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand, is the museum’s second art exhibition since its corporatisation late last year.
'Lot Sees Salt (Head)' by Ian Woo. Photo: Singapore Art Museum
Gwon’s sculpture is one of 31 works that are produced and presented in innovative and exciting ways.
Dr Susie Lingham, the museum’s director, said: “These artworks ‘shapeshifts’ or ‘trespass’ their categories and medium. For instance, some may appear like paintings but they behave like video and so on.”
Dr Lingham added: “We want to celebrate the quirks and curiosities of contemporary art – from the physical to the ephemeral and the conceptual.”
Museum curator Joyce Toh quipped: “A lot of the works here are ‘recalcitrant’. They are a little bit playful and don’t stay within their confines.”
Singapore artist Ian Woo’s collection of four beautiful graphite on paper drawings – ‘Lot Sees Salt: First Heart, Head, Neck and Wing’ is one such work. Woo has given his pencils drawings, Toh said, “a painter-ly treatment”. Bold brush strokes dominate the centre of each of his drawings while delicate pencil-line work are used around the edges.
Woo himself said: “(Graphite) is a medium that is accessible to everyone. Even a child can use a pencil. I like the simplicity of it.”
Ye Shufang's 'Project: Honey Sticks'. Photo: Zaki Jufri
Another highlight of the show is Ye Shufang’s interactive installation of 6,425 honey sticks in a transparent structure. Ye is known for using ephemeral and perishable materials such as agar-agar (a local gelatinous dessert made of seaweed) in her practice.
‘Project: Honey Sticks’ is a new museum commission and 6,425 represent the number of registered births in Singapore in 1941, the year her parents were born.
Impermanence is a recurring theme for Ye. While her agar-agar installations disintegrated over time, ‘Project: Honey Sticks’ is meant to be taken away and consumed. People can take away the honey sticks via a dispenser at the bottom and empty structure transforms into a memorial of sorts.
A FIRST FOR SINGAPORE
Ho Tzu Nyen’s multisensory and immersive ‘Cloud of Unknowing’, a 30-minute film titled after a 14th-century mystical treatise on faith, is one more work that transcends genre and medium.
This is the first time it is shown in full since it was commissioned by the National Arts Council for the Singapore Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.
Ho Tzu Nyen's 'Cloud of Unknowing'. Photo: Singapore Art Museum
On a screen, a narrative unfolds, set in eight public housing apartments in a block of flats in Jurong, where eight characters in eight apartments individually encounter a cloud. The film is looped, integrating a complex soundtrack and synchronised smoke machines to create an ethereal experience.
Ho said: “One of my intentions is not just to present a video in a space, but to try to make the unfolding of the video an event where you don’t know what is going to happen next.”
Dr Lingham said: “This exhibition asks some of the most fundamental questions, like, ‘What is art?’, ‘What forms can it take?’ and ‘Why does it take the form it takes?’. The works address these questions and perhaps answer them.”
‘Medium at Large: Shapeshifting Material and Methods in Contemporary Art’ | 24 April 2014 – 24 April 2015 | Venue: Singapore Art Museum, 71, Bras Basah Road | Admission is free