Weight of History – The Collectors Show
Review of exhibition about contemporary art
Venue: Singapore Art Museum, Singapore
The Collectors Show was an exhibition of works from private collections around the globe. The theme ‘Weight of History’ explored how contemporary artists negotiate and reconcile the personal and social history of the Asia-Pacific region and examine how the past continues to shape the present through evaluating tradition and culture in the modern world.
Jumaldi Alfi – Life/Art #101: Never Ending Lesson. Materials: Fibre resin, chalk, life-size fisherman and wooden boat
Jumaldi uses chalk to conceptualize his ideas. The hundreds of pieces of chalk representing sea could be interpreted as discarded remnants of the artist’s journey. The skeleton possibly suggests a life lived, a reminder of the inevitability of our fate as humans.
The use of the boat is in recognition of fisherman who navigate Madura Island off the north-eastern coast of Java, Indonesia, where the boat originates. The infertile land limits economic development and is a major factor in the region’s poverty, but the strength and resilience of the people is symbolised in the boat. It also represents a traditional way of life under threat from globalization.
Yuken Teruya – You-I, You-I. Materials: Bingata dye on linen
The artist has reinterpreted the traditional bingata Kimono by inserting symbolic political images of US jet fighters, V-22 Osprey aircrafts and paratroopers amongst pictures of traditional flora and fauna.
The stencil-dyed bingata Kimono is native to the island of Okinawan once ruled by the independent Ryuku Kingdom prior to becoming part of Japan. The political imagery is symbolic of the presence of US military bases on the island during WWII. After the island was returned to Japan at the end of the war, American military bases increased to more than 20% of the main island. Images of helicopters amongst Okinawa’s manatees reflects the dangers to the habitat of the endangered species.
Shahzia Sikander – The Explosion of the Company Man. Materials: Gouache hand painting, gold leaf and silkscreened pigment on paper
Shahzia explores a style of painting that emerged in 18th and 19th century India known as Company Style or Company Painting. British patrons working in the British East India Company, with patrons from other foreign companies, employed Indian artists to create works which were sympathetic to European tastes. Western artistic techniques of linear perspective and shading were introduced into the Indian aesthetic style.
The subtext examines the effect colonialism had on politics, society and the Indian artists whom re-evaluated and altered their own art to conform to colonial ideals.
Vertical Submarine – Sun Tzu’s Art of War (Armchair Philosophy)
The Singaporean artist collective Vertical Submarine use references from Eastern and Western philosophy and popular culture to encourage dialogue and critical thinking in modern society.
An armchair is used as the landscape from which to examine the concept of the armchair philosopher – an individual claiming knowledge without direct experience. The installation alludes to Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which is an historical Chinese military treatise said to be the most authoritative reference on military strategies. The 64 arrows pay homage to an epic battle scene in the film Hero, by Zhang Yimou. It’s also a reference to the possible combinations in I-Ching, symbolizing various strategies that could be used against opponents or enemies.
The work could be conceived as the artist’s interpretation of the power and capacity of knowledge to both facilitate and sabotage oneself, emphasizing the folly of arrogance in best-laid plans.