In Praise of Shadows - inspiration drawn from the 1933 thesis by Junichiro Tanizaki, a Japanese novelist - explores the aesthetics of shadows and celebrates the ambiguity and sublety of colour, shade, texture and tone. Featuring five talented artists; Lavender Chang, John Clang, James Jack, Ishida Takashi and Warren Khong, this on-going exhibition launched on 27 November 2017 at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), ADM Gallery presents a series of intriguing and stimulating works that adopt themes alike the text as a point of entry to explore greater concerns in the artists' respective practices.
Expect to be acquainted with a diverse range of mediums from animation, to film, to painting, and photography, each piece revealing unexpected shades and traces of phenomena and creation that emerges in the processes of contemporary art-making.
Viewers are first greeted by the shaded squares neatly arranged and adhered to the windows of the ADM gallery, mimicking the appearance of a giant paint palette. As the sunlight hits into the gallery, these coloured blocks respond by introducing itself in exciting hues of ochre and sepia, unveiling interesting traces and stains in the range of etiolated pigments. Natura Naturata: Light of Singapore, a newly commissioned work created by James Jack, is based on over 20 dirt samples documented from different classical sites in Singapore that suggest imprints of further unknown histories and migrations beyond the country's documented history.
Since 2005, the artist has been collecting dirt from various countries as part of his interests in exploring the materiality of landscapes, which are later transformed into natural pigments as painting materials for his works on paper to reveal another dimension of earth that is seldom perceivable in their immediate physical form. These pre-historic geological formations in his drawings become testaments of the ever-changing essence of a place, amidst processes of location and dislocation.
A thought-provoking work: This mixed media installation, A Light and a Shadow, by John Clang can be discernibly recognized hanging off the wall as soon as one is in its vicinity. Attempting to confront the duality of human condition of a particular location, the artist placed more emphasis in this piece the scene of a shared moment between a homeless man and a passer by at Prince Street, New York where the fact that the reality of poverty is less acknowledged in contrast to a concealed image of a more dominant reality of daily New York life where exigencies on the same street would have been barely noticed.
In fact, most of his works revolve around the notions of time, location and displacement in which the gesture and sybolism of erasure in image-making that he began in the early 2000s emerges as his signature style of expression. This is believed to be seen as a reflection on how individual identities and genuine encounters have become increasingly nebulous and this approach is directed in search for humanity's capacity for empathy within this urban contemporary world.
Moving forward, Lavender Chang's enticing works are made of long exposure images that engage with the concept of time to illuminate unseen realities. Movingly Minute Scale of a Restricted Life, a year-long project by the artist comes through as a series of solargraphs created through a pinhole camera with a live bean plant enclosed inside. The camera is then placed in 15 different households to produce a hauntingly surreal documentation of nature's survival against the odds - the inevitable declining lifespan of the bean plants as they are set to grow in unlikely conditions. Surfacing within a singular frame at last are layered past and future presences of life, highlighting a certain hidden violence that had occured within the process of all its perceivable beauty.
Altering our perceptions, Ishida Takashi executes his signature technique of "drawing animation" to transform a site into a work of art. Within a space, the artist engages with the transient nature of light and shadows to produce abstract traces over the walls and floor over a period time. The exhibition showcases Three rooms through a huge and mesmerizing projection, a three-part work featuring three painting sequences in the same space as an ever-evolving image that is created through the repetitive process of painting and recording.
The artist's intention is to challenge traditional conventions of painting as two-dimensional - regularly using windows as a motif in his works as part of his questioning of the boundaries of painting, and these paintings usually spill beyond the frame like a picture within a picture to create a mutual dialogue between light, time and space.
To top it all off with a fascinating conceptual series, three new works #113, #114, #115 are very special installations constructed by Warren Khong. Taking a departure from narrative-driven works, the artist uses empty frames as an ultimate focus on materiality, in addition to light and shadows as a material. These works comprise a shatter and scores made on glass that has been controlled by a directed tool and produced at a factory. Conceived as drawings, the artist explores the effects of light through this gesture of mark-making, which implies that these works concurrently depend on light as an active agent to manifest reflection as final forms and images. In the absence of light, these works cease to exist.
The artist is interested in engaging the intangibility of materiality in art-making, and vice versa - the materialisation of intangibility in itself, thereby challenging the ontological status of art, and art objects. Central to his works is the fact of their temporal presence.
'In Praise of Shadows' is an on-going exhibition held until January 2018 at NTU: Nanyang Technological University's ADM Gallery, Singapore, 81 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637458. Click here to find more information about the show!
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