Time Out Singapore: Nathan Coley

The Turner Prize nominated artist, Nathan Coley, brings his famous lightbox installations to Singapore.

Nathan Coley

3 Apr 2014: 2007 Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley’s debut solo show in Asia is both intriguing and unexpectedly calming. Perhaps it’s the neutral colours he uses in most of his works – black, white, grey, with a blush of purple and a shimmer of gold here and there – or maybe it’s the seemingly reassuring words beaming from two of the lightbox installations: ‘FAITH’, reads one, and the other, ‘HEAVEN IS A PLACE WHERE NOTHING EVER HAPPENS’. The words are taken from Ed Ruscha’s painting, ‘Faith’, and American new wave band Talking Heads’ ‘Heaven’ respectively, and they are the indoor versions of his famous outdoor works, where the words are spelt out in light bulbs on scaffoldings. ‘I saw Ed Ruscha’s painting and I just fell in love with it, and while “Heaven” sounds like it could be a line taken from a religious text, it actually refers to a gay nightclub in London,’ says the 46-year-old Scot.

Indeed, while the pieces seem quite innocent at first glance, they do in fact tackle some pretty complex issues, such as spirituality and protest. Take for example ‘Choir’, a group of powder-coated steel blank placards that were created in 2012. With words absent from the pure white sculptural piece, Coley shows that he is more interested in the idea of protesting than what people may be marching about. Plus, he expects his audience to ‘work a bit’ to figure out what could be there, though he adds that he likes it when his art is ‘read and misread’.

‘My worst nightmare is when people ask me what the works mean. That’s not for me to decide, that’s for the viewers to decide,’ he says. ‘I don’t make work to be understood – I just want them to be exciting, or to change your day.’

Other works on display are three black-and-white photographic images from his 2012 Honour series, showing a public square in Brasilia and Auguste Rodin’s famed ‘Burghers of Calais’, each with specific details blocked out by gold leaf and leaving the viewer to wonder what it’s all about. Together, they form a great intro to Coley’s works.

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