Time Out Singapore: ‘The Sew-Out Show: Kinetic Abstraction’

14 Apr 2015: Kevin Ou paints with light

Photo: art-management.com

Photo: art-management.com

‘I was holding the camera – set on long exposure – with one hand, right in the middle of Orchard Road during Christmas, and I was just jumping around like this,’ laughs Kevin Ou as he stands up and waves his arms around like a madman. ‘I had a few friends with me, and they were like, “This is getting embarrassing.” Passers-by were even trying to look into my viewfinder to try and see what sort of photos I was taking.’

The images, if they had managed to sneak a peek, are as trippy as they might have imagined. The festive lights are captured as long, thin and multi-coloured streaks mid-dance – like a screenshot of the iTunes visualiser. ‘I wanted to return to the roots of photography,’ he explains. ‘The word “photography” comes from the Greek words “phós” (light) and “graphis” (stylus). Together, the terms mean “drawing with light”, and I wanted to interpret that literally. Many people do this by moving the light source, but I thought it might be interesting to move both the lights and the camera.’

Entitled Kinetic Abstraction, the series was shot in Singapore, Hong Kong and Nepal, and takes a very different approach from that of Ou’s existing body of work: he specialises in commercial and portrait photography, often of A-list celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Emma Stone. ‘Most of my shoots are staged and carefully set up, so this is something I’m not used to at all,’ Ou admits.

The prints are shown at the second edition of The Sew-Out Show by tcc – The Gallery, and they’ll also take the form of cushion covers, bowties and other accessories. Visitors decide on an item, then use stencils to trace the outline of the accessories onto a section of the artwork. Local design collective The General Company will handcraft the products, whose prices range from $50 to $180.

‘I love photography and I love fashion, so this is a great way for the two media to combine and be made into something that’s completely yours,’ says Ou.

Time Out Singapore: Guide to Art Week 2014

We’ve rounded up the best events and places to be on each day of this year’s art week, giving you ample opportunity to check out the dozens of gallery openings, tours, talks and artist appearances around town.

Yuki Onodera's '12 Speed No.04'. Image courtesy of the artist and 2902 Gallery.

Yuki Onodera’s ’12 Speed No.04′. Image courtesy of the artist and 2902 Gallery.

10 Jan 2014:

10 January

5ive Foot Way: Days We Met
Until 24 Jan
Artist talk : 18 Jan, 2pm
The local art collective shows photos taken from around the world.

Gillman Barracks: 7pm

Stephan Balkenhol
Until 23 Feb
Opening reception: 10 Jan, 6pm
Artist talk: 10 Jan, 6.30pm
The German artist makes his Singapore debut with his latest series of rough-hewn wooden sculptures.

Mizuma Gallery
Until 26 Jan
Opening reception: 10 Jan, 6pm
Expect to see works by Japanese and Indonesian artists here, including Indieguerillas, Tomiyuki Kaneko, Nasirun, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, O Jun, Angki Purbandono and Keiichi Tanaami, as they explore the theme of globalisation.

Charles Lim: Sea State 3 – Inversion
Future Perfect
Until 16 Feb
The local artist continues his exploration into Singapore’s history and geography with the third part of his on-going Sea State series. .

Kiko Escora
The Drawing Room
Until 16 Feb
Hailing from Indonesia, the artist’s paintings and charcoal drawings often chronicle scenes where urban subculture crosses path with high society in the lives of his subjects.

Song-Ming Ang: Logical Progressions
FOST Gallery
Until 2 Mar
Not only did the local artist teach himself the piano – and, by extension, the harpsichord – but he learnt how to play a Bach classic front- and backwards to further his signature themes of music and art.

Shin il Kim: Ready Know
Space Cottonseed
Until 16 Feb
Born in Seoul, Kim’s practice predominantly revolves around his interest in obscuring and pushing the borders of categories set by human senses. In his current show, he focuses on the sense of sight and its relation to the acts of reading and believing.

Jane Lee: 100 Faces
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Until 2 Mar
Known for her highly-textured acrylics, the local artist introduces three new series of works that challenge the ways that viewers look at paintings.

Titarubi: Reading Shadows
Michael Janssen Gallery
Until 16 Mar
The Indonesian artist shows a series of new works.

Nana Funo: The Fish Glitters as its Scales Tremble
Tomio Koyama Gallery
Until 16 Feb
Enter a world of intricate patterns drawn from the natural world as well as written characters through the acrylic works of the Japanese artist.

11 January

Dawn Ng: Windowshop – A Modern Day Cabinet of Curiosities
Chan Hampe Galleries
Until 9 Feb
Opening reception: 10 Jan, 7pm
Having enjoyed immense success in 2013, the creator behind some of the most well-known contemporary artwork in town (including Walter the bunny) is back with a new series of curious objects – all sourced from junk shops around Singapore.

13 January

Singapore Biennale
Various venues around Bras Basah, $4-$9
Until 16 Feb
With Art Week yet to fully kick into action, why not take the day to take a look at the Singapore Biennale before it closes on the 14 Feb?

14 January

Yuki Onodera: The Sanctuary of Topsy Turvy
2902 Gallery
Until 28 Feb
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 6.30pm
Enter the playful world of the acclaimed Paris-based Japanese photographer at her first solo show in Singapore.

Zulkifle Mahmod: Sonically Exposed
The Private Museum
Until 9 Mar
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 7pm
Formerly a local sculptor, Mahmod – aka ZUL – now presents an exhibition that merges sound with visuals.

Randy Chan & Philippa Lawrence: Angles of Incidence
Botanic Gardens
Until 23 Mar
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 6.30pm
The third installation of the cross-country residency AiRx brings together the talents of two artists from Singapore and the UK to create a beautiful installation around an 80-year-old tree.

Tan Wee Lit: In the Deadpan Bed Pan
Sculpture Square
Until 29 Jan
Opening reception: 15 Jan, 7pm
Channelling the emotions and thoughts he felt during his mid-life crisis, the local artist makes his solo debut with a collection of sculptural installations that look at life and death.

Han Sai Por: Moving Forest
STPI Gallery
Until 22 Feb
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 6pm
At the age of 70, the Cultural Medallion recipient is still as active as ever, revealing 50 new works created at STPI at this exhibition, examining the themes of nature in richly-coloured paper works.

Tanjong Pagar Distripark: 6pm

Nadiah Bamadhaj: Poised for Degradation
Richard Koh Fine Art
Until 14 Feb
The Indonesia-based Malaysian artist looks at architecture within her adopted country’s social and historical context.

Irene Namok: Puuya Kuntha – Strong Heart
ReDot Fine Art Gallery
Until 1 Mar
All created within the last 18 months, the show presents works by Irene Namok from the Lockhart River Art Community in Australia in her international solo debut.

Neo Folk 2
Ikkan Art Gallery
Until 1 Mar
The group show organised by three galleries from Singapore, Tokyo and Paris features a host of artists working in a range of media – but all of whom incorporate traditional craft elements in their contemporary works.

Sharmistha Ray: Sweet Surrender – Studies in Abstraction
Galerie Steph
Until 1 Mar
Created between 2006 and 2013, the New York-based Indian artist presents a series of rich, colourful abstract paintings that serve as metaphors for different elements of every day life.

FRATERNIZE – Tan Peiling
Artspace @ Helutrans
Until 1 Mar
Young local artist Tan Peiling was given free rein over a gallery space; her resulting site-specific installation, ‘The Blind Witness’, takes viewers through a carefully-constructed environment.

15 January

Marcel Heijnen: Residue
Until 19 Jan
Locally-based Dutch photographer – also the mastermind behind one of the coolest art cafes in town – presents new images from his Residue series to coincide with his newly-published photobook.

Victor Tan: Thoughts from Above – A Ceiling Sculpture Exhibition
F A T Gallery
Until 8 Feb
The new gallery shows off local artist Tan’s sculptures – except this time they’re all presented against the ceiling, and thus physically presenting a different perspective on how to view art.

Chris Levine
Collectors Contemporary
Until 22 Feb
The renowned light artist makes his Singapore debut with a series of light boxes, holographs, laser light installations and more.

16 January

Art Stage 2014
Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre
Until 19 Jan
Back for the fourth year, the event upon which the whole Art Week centres on finally opens. The fair brings together hundreds of galleries from around the world, with the newly-introduced curated Country and Regional Platforms this year serving as an excellent starting point for those hunting for the next big names in the art world. There will also be free daily talks happening for the duration of Art Stage, with topics ranging from ‘Alternative Ways of Resolving Legal Disputes over Western and Asian Art’ (17 Jan, 1pm) to ‘The Art Markets: Hong Kong vs Singapore’ (18 Jan, 1pm). See their website for a full schedule.

Zaw Win Pe
Art Season
Until 15 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 6pm
The Burmese artist emphasises the emotive quality of his oils and acrylics by layering paint directly onto the canvas using a palette knife to explore his country’s diverse socio-cultural environments.

Abstraction and Refinement – Contemporary Chinese Ink Paintings
Gajah Gallery
Until 9 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 7pm
Taking the traditional art form of Chinese ink paintings and giving it a more Westernised treatment, four avant-garde artists from China each give their own interpretations of how landscapes can be represented.

Danny Santos II: Don’t Smile!
tcc – The Gallery
Until 10 Mar
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 6.30pm
The locally-based Filipino photographer picked up the art form as a hobby six years ago and explores who people are underneath their photo-perfect smiles in this show.

17 January

Art Apart Fair
PARKROYAL on Pickering
Until 19 Jan
Had a browse through Art Stage but still haven’t found the perfect piece for your home? Well you’re in luck, as Singapore’s first – and so far only – hotel art fair returns, transforming 33 rooms to mini gallery spaces temporarily. More than 1,500 works from emerging and mid-career artists are expected to be displayed.

Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition
Suntec City
Until 5 Feb
The inaugural award celebrates emerging artistic talents from the greater Asia region, with artists from over 30 countries being nominated by a panel of experts. The shortlisted works are displayed here, and the final winner will be announced on 18 Jan.

Pinaree Sanpitak: Cold Cuts
Yavuz Fine Art
Until 23 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 7pm
Eight stainless steel sculptures that embody both the female body and the sacred Buddhist form by the renowned Thai artist are displayed alongside five new acrylic paintings.

Art Plural
Until 28 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 6.30pm
The group show features most of the artists represented by the gallery, including Fabienne Verdier, Ian Davenport and Pablo Reinoso.

Gillman Barracks: 7pm

Tomoko Kashiki
Ota Fine Arts
Until 2 Mar
The first show at Ota Fine Arts’ new space (also at Gillman Barracks) shows new works by the Japanese artist, which show women suspended between dreams and desires.

Maria Taniguchi
Until 23 Feb
The Filipino artist’s exhibition focuses on her interest in organised structures.

Where Does it All Begin? – Contemporary Abstract Art in Asia and the West
Pearl Lam Galleries
Until 28 Feb
The renowned Hong Kong/Shanghai gallery finally opens in Singapore, and makes an ambitious debut with a group show that explores abstract art from around the world, through the decades.

Paradise Lost
Centre for Contemporary Art
Until 30 Mar
Opening reception: 17 Jan, 6.30pm
Presentation: 17 Jan, 4-6pm
Nanyang Technological University’s Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) opens with a three-woman show as the Asian artists, who are all living overseas, reflect on their homeland.

18 January

Art in Motion Bus Tours
Until 19 Jan
Organised by the Art Galleries Association Singapore, the inaugural series of Art in Motion has 13 participating galleries around town. While there are pop-up events happening around town, the highlight is a curated bus tours of all the venues involved. Visitors can choose from three routes that will each be led by volunteer guides from the arts community. And the best part? It’s free!

Aliwal Urban Arts Festival
Aliwal Arts Centre
The one-day festival removes the formalities of high-brow art and engages with the younger arts lovers by bringing a night of awesome music and street art. Expect to see everyone from soul sister Masia One to RSCLS (aka the group that Samantha Lo, the ‘Sticker Lady’, belongs to).

Roots & The B Team: Makanlah Buah-Buahan Tempatan – Singapura
Gillman Barracks Assembly Hall, Blk 28, #01-07
Until 22 Jan
As part of the on-going arts series, The U Factory, local interdisciplinary studio Roots and Malaysia’s The B Team came together to create an art exhibition about national fruits in the context of Singapore. For their full schedule read here

Christopher Thomas: The Synchronised Power of our Mass
Yeo Workshop
Until 16 Mar
Artist talk: 18 Jan, 4pm
The UK-based Sri Lankan artist makes his Asia debut by exploring art, fashion, mass consumption as well as the way that art is circulated around the world.

Time Out Singapore: Chris Levine

Born in Canada and now based in the UK, Chris Levine, 53, is a renowned artist who has created iconic portraits of Kate Moss and Queen Elizabeth II. Rather than using traditional media like paint or pens, however, Levine is famed for his use of light. As Collectors Contemporary showcases a series of his light sculptures, light boxes, photographic prints, holographic works and laser light installations, he tells Gwen Pew more about his art.

Chris Levine's piece of the Queen. Image courtesy of the artist.

Chris Levine’s piece of the Queen. Image courtesy of the artist.

27 Dec 2013:


While light seems to be a rather unusual medium to work with, Levine has always been fascinated with it: ‘Somehow it resonated with my curiosity – and the more I’ve looked into it, the deeper I’ve gone. I don’t see it as technical, but more that it’s a phenomenon fundamental to life [on Earth].’


Teamwork is key in creating his works: ‘Most of my work involves quite a few people and the bringing together of complementary talents. I have a great team of collaborators. Some key players in my story are Dan Siden, the brilliant engineer who oversees all aspects of development and production, Jeff Robb, my guru of 3D imaging, and the Haberdashery team, who fabricate most of my projects.’


Amidst the wires and light bulbs, the thing that he finds most challenging ‘is to keep [the pieces] soulful. For the work to be evocative, it has to somehow transcend the physical aspects of its production and work on a sensory and experiential level.’


The pieces that are most special to him are his portraits of Kate Moss: ‘I always knew I would work with her; as a cultural icon, she was right at the top of my wish list as a subject for some time. The work went down really well and all kinds of positivity have transpired as a result.’



If he didn’t become a light artist, he’d have been… ‘A drummer in a rock and roll band! I gave up drumming when I went to art school because you can’t practice quietly and I drove everyone crazy at 3am in my hall of residence. [I’m trying to bring] sound back into my work. I’m fascinated by the idea of seeing sound and it’s part of my future plans and themes.’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Motherland’ Preview

In an increasingly mobile and socially complicated world, the idea of ‘home’ is no longer a simple definition for many people. For their latest exhibition, Motherland, Chan Hampe Galleries brings together three artists to give their interpretation of the concept.

A work by Mike HJ Chang. Image courtesy of Chan Hampe Galleries.

A work by Mike HJ Chang. Image courtesy of Chan Hampe Galleries.

28 Nov 2013: In an increasingly mobile and socially complicated world, the idea of ‘home’ is no longer a simple definition for many people. For their latest exhibition,Motherland, Chan Hampe Galleries brings together three artists to give their interpretation of the concept.

The exhibition takes its name from Sherman Ong’s ongoing film series (of which a few are shown in the gallery), depicting actors reciting the stories of real-life migrants in Singapore. Robert Zhao Renhui has also provided three works from his As We Walked on Water series, which depict landscapes from a desert in Japan.

Rounding out the group is locally-based Taiwanese-American artist Mike HJ Chang, who created several new works for the exhibition. ‘I’m not very sure [what “home” means to me],’ he admits. ‘I don’t think I even use the word “home” very much nowadays. If I use the word in conversation, I am probably referring to the place where I’m going to go to take a nap and where I feel comfortable reading in my boxers. I know these are just the superficial things, but to be honest, I don’t think about it much these days.’

The show’s title, he continues, is a bit of ‘a loaded term that could draw unnecessary emphasis on the wrong things sometimes’. Nevertheless, the underlying theme is relevant to his background and his work. ‘Is home a “place”, or a “space”, or both?’ he muses. ‘[One of my pieces] uses some postcards I bought when I was in Bali. They’re very generic beach postcards: palm trees, surfboards in the sand, sunset on the horizon, etc. They could have been from any tropical beach destination, so there is confusion in terms of identifying familiar scenes and how we respond to that.’

Chang’s additional works, including several sculptures and collages, also show his ‘affinity with the generic, low-brow type of image or design’, he says. ‘These kind of clichés do have a special place in our emotive space. I feel comfortable with them.’

Time Out Singapore: Affordable Art Fair 2013

As its name suggests, the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) offers buyers a whole range of art that won’t break the bank. Nearly 100 galleries will be participating in the fourth edition of the event this year, with all works on sale for under $10,000. Here, Gwen Pew speaks to the directors/managers of three local galleries that suit a range of budgets to find out more about who and what you can expect to find at their booths.

'Heritage' by Beng (aka Benny Goerlach). Image courtesy of Culture Square.

‘Heritage’ by Beng (aka Benny Goerlach). Image courtesy of Culture Square.

6 Nov 2013:

Toni Chan, founder/director, Culture Square

Budget Under $1,000

Featured artists ‘A number of local and regional emerging artists, including painters Tilen Ti, Shelby Dillon and Danya Yu, mixed media artists Deusa Blumke and Fyerool Darma and printmaker Beng (aka Benny Goerlach). We’re also excited to bring work by very talented new artists Tay Lai Meng and Simon Ng Yong Heng, who have never been shown at the fair.’

Highlighted pieces ‘Our gallery showcases a lot of local talent in Singapore, including a variety of locally-themed pieces. Some notable pieces we’ll have featured are Shelby Dillon’s oil on canvas “Arab Street” ($589), Fyerool Darma’s “Anatomy of a Merlion” ($589), which whimsically depicts how our country’s mascot would look if documented as part of a historical anatomical study, and Beng’s silkscreen print “Heritage” ($490, pictured), which questions the cultural costs of Singapore’s rapid development.

Paige Tuieng, gallery manager, HaKaren Gallery

Budget $3,000-$5,000

Featured artists ‘We will be showcasing many collectors’ favourites from the last AAF, like Tian Xu Tong’s Zen series as well as works by Dr Kan Tai-Keung, Liu Jiahua and many others.’

Highlighted pieces ‘You may want to take note of Kan’s ink paintings. He is a 71-year-old world-renowned graphic designer and artist and his paintings range from $1,300 to about $9,000.’

Antoine Perrin, gallery manager, Mizuma Gallery (Japan)

Budget Over $7,500

Who to expect ‘We’re showcasing Japanese artists from our collection like Takashi Hinoda, Aki Kuroda, Natsunosuke Mise, Toru Ishii, Juri Hamada, Ai Yamaguchi.’

Highlighted pieces ‘“Untitled” by painter Aki Kuroda ($10,000). The artist has been living in Paris since the 1970s and is represented there by Galerie Maeght [which worked with major 20th century artists such as Joan Miro, Alberto Giacometti and Alexander Calder]. Another highlight is Indonesia-born Japanese artist Juri Hamada, whose reddish floral compositions – including “The Flower of Joy” ($8,000) – are made using the traditional Japanese painting techniques.’

Time Out Singapore: Qiu Jie

Now aged 52 and based in Switzerland, Qiu Jie was born in Shanghai and grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period that had a huge impact on him as an artist. Gwen Pew finds out more.

A rather dashing Qiu Jie. Image courtesy of the artist.

A rather dashing Qiu Jie. Image courtesy of the artist.

8 Oct 2013: Now aged 52 and based in Switzerland, Qiu Jie was born in Shanghai and grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period that had a huge impact on him as an artist. Children were only sent to school for a few hours each day at the time – mainly to learn about the greatness of the Communist Party – and so the young Qiu passed his time by learning how to draw.

‘Chinese people have a tradition of studying a lot and as they had a lot of time at home, they used to practice music, dance or drawing more intensively than before the Cultural Revolution,’ he explains. ‘When I started to learn how to draw [at the age of ten], the only images I could copy were propaganda images. You could say I did not have the choice.’

Qiu went on to graduate from art schools in Shanghai and Geneva, and is now best known for creating works in pencil that merge images from the historic East and contemporary West. Around 30 of those pieces are on display at Art Plural this month, featuring sentimental portraits by a man caught between two worlds.

‘Today, I am inspired by [Chinese propaganda] but also by images in Western adverts. Both represent my identity and my education in China and Switzerland,’ Qiu says. ‘It is not difficult to express this contradiction in my work because I am living it every day. However, this confrontation is hard to live with, and so I always feel the need to show that in my drawings.’

Time Out Singapore: Haegue Yang

Born in South Korea and based in Berlin, Haegue Yang, 42, is the first artist to participate in STPI Gallery’s new initiative Platform Projects, which hopes to raise awareness of contemporary art in Singapore. In this exhibition, Yang tickles our various senses by incorporating local spices and other food items into her works. She tells Gwen Pew what it’s like to play with food.

South Korean artist created works using local food and spices during her residency at STPI. Image courtesy of the artist.

South Korean artist created works using local food and spices during her residency at STPI. Image courtesy of STPI Gallery.

8 Oct 2013: ‘I was fascinated by Singapore’s diverse culture in general, and the variety of exotic foods and spices that are readily available at the market here is simply inspiring. I discovered these items as I went on small field trips to various places in Singapore, so incorporating these materials in my production at STPI just happened more or less spontaneously. I am always in search of new materials as a sculptor and I felt it was especially important to let myself be inspired by the place during my residency at STPI. It is astounding how much these everyday elements are able to convey – they reference a broader history, encompassing their origins from an evolved civilisation to contemporary life. In this instance, they reflect Singapore’s diverse population and colonial history as a commercial port city of South-East Asia. I was humbled by the materials and wanted to create something simple yet significant with them.

‘The process varies in terms of its execution. In the group of works under ‘Embossed Prints and Juice Dyes’ (pictured), slices of various vegetables, untreated spices and herbs were pressed into fresh paper pulp to create small bumps and unevenness on the surface. It was a relatively simple and direct process. It likens to what we know from our childhood days of creating prints using chopped vegetables.

‘However, not every item we tried printed successfully due to their different consistencies, so we had to constantly test various vegetables to produce the desired work. Another challenge for us was realising that natural juice from pressed vegetables easily fades. I learnt that one had to simply accept this ephemeral nature. The natural product and the questions around it positively challenged me. ‘It was very meaningful to work in Singapore, since my production has taken place mainly in Europe in the last two decades. I loved the hot and humid weather, and the evening breeze with night food. I can almost feel that when I look at these works. I hope viewers can feel that Singaporean air and smell, and sense the joy and melancholia that I, as a visitor and outsider, brought to my works.’

Time Out Singapore: Singapore Biennale 2013

Two curators tell Gwen Pew why art newbies should take the time to visit this year’s Singapore Biennale.

A work by local artist Ng Joon Kiat. Image courtesy of Osage Gallery.

A work in local artist Ng Joon Kiat’s ‘Maps’ series. Image courtesy of Osage Gallery.

5 Oct 2013: Founded in 2006 as a platform to stimulate dialogue between works by local and international artists, the Singapore Biennale quickly established its reputation as one of the largest art events on the country’s cultural calendar. Held every two years, this fourth edition returns with a bold theme of ‘If the World Changed’ this month, and while the quality of artworks remains stellar, a lot of changes and improvements have also been made to the structure of the exhibition.

‘This may be Singapore’s fourth biennale, but it’s a first in many ways,’ says Tan Siuli, a curator at the Singapore Art Museum. ‘For one, this is the first time we have done without an Artistic Director for the Biennale [and instead] have a team of 27 curators from around the region.’ Among the curators are a number of notable local faces, such as Charmaine Toh of Objectifs, Tamares Goh, programming officer at the Esplanade, and Seng Yu Jin of Lasalle and The National Art Gallery.

Each curator proposed a few artists to work with for the Biennale, which means there’s plenty for art lovers to feast their eyes on, from paintings to installations and photography to sculptures from over 100 artists around the world. One particular draw, says Tan, is the strong regional focus: ‘This edition has a very strong focus on South-East Asia [and features many] artists who are not on the usual international biennale circuit, so this is going to be a biennale of discoveries.’ Look out for works by President’s Young Talent winners Zhao Renhui and Liao Jiekai, plus largescale commissions by artists such as Suzann Victor, who will create a rainbow circle at the National Museum, and Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi, who will take over SAM’s chapel with a work of Vietnamese lacquer.

And even if you’ve never been to an exhibition before and don’t know anything about contemporary art, the curators promise that it’s still worth taking the time to go check out the Biennale. ‘To quote the Dalai Lama, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”,’ says Tan. ‘It is precisely the experience of exploring the unfamiliar that expands our mind and spirit; there is bound to be something to marvel at and something to fall in love with.’

Aware that contemporary art may be difficult for some to enjoy, curator Seng advises that one should ‘approach contemporary art with an open mind and critical attitude, and be prepared to end up with more questions than answers, as contemporary art engages with the viewer as an active and critical agent rather than a passive one.’

‘It is worth remembering that contemporary art is “contemporary” – it is very much a product of our time, and more often than not, [it] engages with the issues and ideas of our time,’ adds Tan. ‘Also, don’t expect to like everything. There are bound to be some artists and artworks that appeal to you more than others, so take that as a starting point – find out more about the artist, his or her practice and other works, and from there it is easy to find other artists whose works or styles are similar to what you like. This will gradually broaden your knowledge and appreciation of the contemporary art world.’

Furthermore, there will be a range of activities on the side for visitors to gain a broader understanding of the artists and artworks involved (see sidebar), so there are many ways to help art newbies take their first steps. ‘And don’t worry,’ concludes Tan reassuringly. ‘The Biennale won’t bite!’

Time Out Singapore: Ren Zhe

This month, HaKaren Art Gallery brings the works of Chinese master sculptor Ren Zhe over to Singapore for the second time. In this exhibition, visitors get to see a wonderful collection of 13 bronze and stainless steel sculptures. Gwen Pew finds out more.

A steel sculpture by Ren Zhe. Image courtesy of the artist.

A steel sculpture by Ren Zhe. Image courtesy of the artist.

25 Sep 2013:

What was your inspiration for your latest exhibit, Above Clouds?
The theme for this year’s exhibition is “Above Clouds”. Clouds represent something pure, tranquil and serene, while being an extremely variable element at the same time as it could take on any form at any moment. My perception of clouds symbolizes a realm of life and I’ve translated this inspiration into my sculptures.

You use ancient Chinese warriors in a lot of your work, what is the significance of them for you?
Warriors have a strong yet beautiful physique and spirit. I love the indomitable and determined spirit that warriors portray. The message I would like to convey to people through my work is that everyone can be their own warrior in life.

You’ve said before that the use of metal as your chosen medium enables you to better express yourself in your work. How do you feel metal casting contributes to the story you’re telling in this exhibit?
To an artist, finding a suitable material to work with greatly increases the ability to express themselves in their art pieces. I have selected metal as my preferred medium as I feel that the fluidity of metal allows for each piece of my work to keep the traces of my creativity and using metal as a medium maximizes the shape of each of my creations.

In this collection, I have enhanced the aesthetic of the sculptures with more defined muscle tone and skin texture, intending to give the audience a different feel with each piece of my work. I try to capture moments in my sculptures and each of my sculptures is a recorded event in my life.

The sculptures in this exhibit are quite large in size – how did you decide on these aesthetics?
Creating large sculptures is a great challenge as there are many physical and technical challenges for an artist when it comes to working with large works of art. I personally sculpt all my pieces and the time and effort devoted to each large piece; and the physical demands needed to complete them surpasses what is required to sculpt small pieces. I constantly challenge myself to create big sculptures focusing on every delicate detail and expression. I feel that when working on a big sculpture, a more holistic view has to be taken so as not to lose the vividness of the sculptures.

How will this exhibition differ from your previous one at HaKaren Art Gallery, which was your first in Singapore?
My last show in Singapore was in 2011 and since then, I have created many new pieces of work. For this exhibition, I have selected the most symbolic sculptures that I’ve created between 2011 and 2013. My sculptures have become more prominent in their expressions and emotions. The pieces in this exhibition focus on the delicate gentleness of each character in terms of facial expression and detailing in the sculpting process. This strong contrast to the medium of heavy metal revitalizes each character, giving them a fresh new look.

Time Out Singapore: John Craig Freeman

In Window Zoos & Views – an exhibition of augmented reality public artwork that’s part of Digital Art Weeks in May – John Craig Freeman uses technology to remind us of the horrible past and warn us of the earth’s scary future. Gwen Pew talks to the Boston-based artist.

John Craig Freeman

John Craig Freeman

23 Apr 2013: Window Zoos & Views is an exhibition of augmented reality public artwork that’s part of Digital Art Weeks, an event founded in Zurich, Switzerland, six years ago and debuting in Singapore for the first time. One of the featured artists, Boston-based John Craig Freeman, 54, has participated in three other DAW and is showing two works.

One of them, ‘Orators, Rostrums, and Propaganda Stands’, displays black-and-white footages of historic mass uprisings, in the most unlikely venue:Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park. The other one, ‘Flotsam & Jetsam’, gives us a peek into the future when the sea level rises due to global warming: hover your tablet or phone at precise GPS coordinates along the entire length of Orchard Road or from Hill Street to Outram Park Station, and you will see shipping containers, boat wrecks, driftwood and plastic refuse superimposed over the terrain.

Tell us a bit about your artistic background.
I am a public artist with over 20 years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public work at sites where the forces of globalisation are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. My work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital-networked technology is transforming our sense of place.

Where have your works been shown previously?
I have produced works and exhibited them around the world including in Venice, Istanbul, Xi’an, Belfast, Los Angeles, Beijing, Zurich, New York City, Taipei, São Paulo, Warsaw, Kaliningrad, Miami, Bilbao, Havana, Atlanta, Calgary, Buffalo, Boston, Mexico City, London and San Francisco.

Are you a full-time artist or do you have a day job?
I am currently an associate professor of New Media Art at Emerson College in Boston.

When did you first become interested in augmented reality?
Since 1990 I have been pursuing an interest in emergent technology as art practice and public art as intervention – intervention in both institutions of high culture and intervention in government policy and the institutions of the nation state. My work in augmented reality is the most recent manifestation of this interest since 2010 and represents a contiguous evolution in form from various experiments in place-based virtual reality of the 1990s and 2000s.

What is it about augmented reality that fascinates you the most?
In the past 20 years we have witnessed the migration of the public sphere from the physical realm, the public square, to the virtual realm, the Internet. In effect, the location of public discourse and the site of national identity formation have been extended from the town square into the virtual world. Augmented reality allows us to overlay the virtual public sphere onto our experience of the physical world. Whereas the public square was once the quintessential place to express and share our thoughts, it is no longer the only anchor for interactions in the public realm; geography has been relocated to a novel terrain – one that encourages exploration of mobile location based public art. Moreover, public space is now truly open, as artworks can be placed anywhere in the world, without prior permission from government or private authorities – with profound implications for art in the public sphere and the discourse that surrounds it.

Was it difficult to break into the field?
No, it was a natural evolution.

Would you consider it more of an art or a science?
The work I do is certainly an art form first, albeit experimental and reliant on computer science.

Do you have a favourite work that you’ve done in the past?
‘Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos’ is an augmented reality public art project and memorial, dedicated to the thousands of migrant workers who have died along the U.S./Mexico border in recent years trying to cross the desert southwest in search of work and a better life. Built for smartphone mobile devices, this project allows people to visualize the scope of the loss of life by marking each location where human remains have been recovered with a virtual object or augmentation. Based on a traditional form of wood-carving from Oaxaca, the virtual object consists of a three-dimensional geometric model of a skeleton effigy or calaca. Calacas are used in commemoration of lost loved ones during the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead festivals. In the tradition of Día de los Muertos, the Border Memorial project is designed to honor, celebrate and remember those who have died and to elevate this issue in public consciousness and American political debate. The project is intended to provide a kind of lasting conceptual presence in an otherwise ephemeral physical environment and cultural discourse.

What were some of the challenges?
Politically engaged in art in public space, which is quite common in Western countries, ask the question, who will assert dominion over the virtual space around us? It exposes the need to develop a new ontology, a new understanding of what is real, and a new epistemology, the criteria by which we determine how we know. Recent discoveries in physics are related to the emergence of virtual and augmented reality. We had just assumed that we understood what was real for hundreds of years. New understanding of time and matter; multiple dimensions based on string theory; and quantum mechanics have pulled the rug right out from beneath our understanding of what constitutes what is real.

You also mentored some students at the Singapore Polytechnic for this project – what was the experience like?
Very exciting!

How would you explain the idea of augmented reality to people who may not have properly come across it before?
Augmented reality is virtual reality developed for, and located within the physical world. The public can simply download and launch a mobile application on any late model iPhone, iPad or Android mobile device and view this alternative reality through the devices’ camera. The application uses geolocation software to superimpose virtual objects at the precise GPS coordinates, enabling the public to see the objects integrated into the physical location as if they existed in the real world.

What does it take for someone to get into the field of augmented reality?
There is a relatively low technical threshold for anyone with basic Internet skills to create augmented reality. To make meaningful, site specific work however, takes significant art, art history and theory as well as technical training, including 3D modeling, computer programming and database management.