Oct 24 2013

Singapore Biennale 2013: Parallel Event Openings

by Sylvia Tsai

Opening of Haegue Yang’s “Honesty Printed on Modesty,” the first of the gallery’s Platform STPI Projects series.

Two days before the official opening of the 4th Singapore Biennale, the art community has already begun its celebrations. Art spaces around town took advantage of the influx of regional and international attention to open exhibitions and inaugurate new spaces. Here is a glimpse of the events on Wednesday evening that kick-started festivities in the lion city.

Nor Jumaiyah of STPI (left), Haegue Yang (center), and Savita Apte, co-founder of Platform (right), officially opening “Honesty Printed on Modesty.” 

Haegue Yang works titled Non-Folding–Scenarios of Non-Geometric Folding #3 (left) and #4 (right) were captivating collages made from folded origami paper and handmade paper that had been spray painted.

Materials used to create Haegue Yang’s works at STPI, which ranged from various local spices, dried Chinese medicine herbs, instant noodles and origami paper. 

Geometric models created from origami paper that were used as stencils. 

Geometric models, cacao and other tools used to create Haegue Yang’s new series at STPI. At the back are silkscreen prints made with coffee, tea and cacao.

Haegue Yang’s “Spice Sheets,” screen prints made with handmade paper and 20 spices and herbs such as ginger powder, dhania jeera powder, garam masala, turmeric powder and mustard powder. 

Haegue Yang’s vegetable prints made with lotus root.

Shanghai green, instant noodles, okra and eggplant were the stars of Haegue Yang’s “Golden Singular” series.

The earthy tones, minimal geometric pattern and sheer size of Haegue Yang’s “Spice Moons,” a series of 160 screen prints made from spices and herbs such as star anise powder, da huan, licorice root powder, mo yao, drew the attention of most visitors.

The grand opening of the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at Gillman Barracks led to some confusion about the evening’s program. Visitors expecting to see artist performances and video screenings were disappointed to find a bare room upon their arrival (though cocktail tables were well furnished).

Luckily, a little later there was a performance by Lee Wen and fellow artists, which involved amped guitars and vocals. Lee Wen re-presented his red dress relic: “I’m a red dress frozen in time” says the artist. 

Lee Wen at the CCA at Gillman Barracks.

The brightly lit world of young artist Maria Jeona Zoleta from Manila, comprises paintings, drawings, lights, projections and objects, strewn across the main gallery at Equator Art Projects.

Perhaps more interesting was Jason Lim’s slowly transforming clay installation of over 100 unfired vessels in the next room. Soaking in shallow water, they had already begun to collapse and transform into new shapes and configurations. At this point, though the clay vessels had only been in contact with the water for a couple of hours, one can already see them dissolving. 

Arin Rungjang, one of the artist representing Thailand at this year’s Venice Biennale, presented another iteration of his project “Golden Teardrop” at Future Perfect. Suspended in a triangular formation, tiny brass teardrops, inspired by a Thai dessert, known as thong yod, which originated in 15th-century Portugal, were used to recall the country’s complex history of trade and war. 

Over at Ota Fine Arts, the Japanese performance, sound and installation artist, Umeda Tetsuya, presented a curious assemblage of objects, utilizing daily tools and found objects to create Hotel New Osorezan (2013), a site-specific work exploring sound, gravity, light and electrical currents. Climbing up into the gallery’s attic space, which was the site of the artist’s performance early that evening, one’s sensorial experience is put into high alert as lights flash from above and below in the otherwise darkened room. In the corner, the artist himself was tucked away, enjoying the hum and flutterings of the environment he created. 

Umeda Tetsuya at Ota Fine Arts.

Continuing down to Space Cottonseed, works by Nam June Paik from the 1990s, were on display, ranging from mixed-media sculptures to drawings. 

Nam June Paik, Tolstoy, 1995, mixed media, 2 TVs, 1 Dvd. 

Social commentary was the idea behind Leslie de Chavez’s “Nameless Presence” at Silverlens which brought together sculpture and painting alluding to fall and redemption. 

A work in Leslie de Chavez’s “Nameless Presence” at Silverlens.

Sundaram Tagore Gallery opened “To Be a Lady,” a group exhibition featuring women in the arts born in the last century. The show had a good blend of local and international artists, both established and emerging. But this expansiveness also makes for a conceptually vague curatorial statement. Nonetheless, it is worth a visit to see works by Helen Frankenthaler, Ruth Asawa, Elaine de Kooning and Niki de Saint Phalle, as well as prominent figures such as Ghada Amer, Shirin Neshat and Jane Lee. 

Installation view of “To Be a Lady” at Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

The lusciously tactile Juju (2013), by Jane Lee . 

Film still from Shirin Neshat’s “Possessed” series (2001), which looks at cultural identity and the role of women in Islamic society. 

Incorporating her family’s background as sword makers, Miya Ando transforms steel and aluminum into abstract compositions in Sui Getsu Ka Gold, 2013. 

In front, Ghada Amer’s Baisers #1, 2012, and at the back, Susan Weil’s acrylic on canvas The Queen’s Tea Party, 2011. 

Sylvia Tsai is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.