While the model of apprenticeship (and the lineage of influence it implies) isn’t nearly the force it once was, talking about the influence of artists and teachers remains – which makes Departure quite the interesting study, featuring Milenko Prvacki and four of his former students. It’s tempting to envision something like wildly divergent interpretations of the same jazz standard, like April in Paris as imagined by Count Basie on one hand, and Thelonius Monk on the other.
Of course, that’s not to say that it’s just a simple transfer of information from one to another, giving rise to varying interpretations of one original theme. Each of them’s an artist in their own right, at varying stages of their careers, with their own areas of concern, and individual approaches in technique and style – a fact which discourage attempts to read the works on show in terms of simple generational differences. It’s a show of departures, after all, and not of origins.
For instance, while being of the same age and sharing Prvacki as a teacher, the paintings of Hilmi Johandi and Luke Heng couldn’t be any more different. Johandi’s works are easily the most recognisably representational in the show, drawing imagery from P. Ramlee’s Bujang Lapok films and Ozu’s Tokyo Story to form collages of sorts, as if condensing some essence of each film into a single image. They’re both accompanied by short, looping animations based on the films, suggesting an approach that’s equal parts homage and a meditation on the films.
Heng’s paintings, on the other hand, take a far more abstract approach – vivid monochromes that might hint at patterns like wood grain and rainfall, with terse titles like b/28 and p/21. With the surface textures straddling some point of ambiguity between brushstrokes and drips, closer examination suggests delicate layering that yields, at times, lushly saturated colours.
There’s a sense that Heng’s paintings are as much about their process of making as providing sensory and aesthetic stimulation. It’s an impression which it shares with Jeremy Sharma’s works, though Sharma’s use of enamel on dibond suggests a more exhaustive, analytically rigorous approach – one which leaves traces not of the artist’s brush, but some elegantly refined, somehow computational process of crafting subtle textures and variations in colour which seem to encode the works’ enigmatic titles, like Rosetta, or Untitled (Eros).
Conversely, the subjects of Filip Gudovic’s plainly descriptive titles – plain enough to be photo captions in magazines or technical manuals – seem instead to have been decomposed or dissected by the artist into their constituent components, as with the palette-like Design of an Italian Restaurant. Or perhaps they’ve been stripped down to some bare minimum of form, as seen in the rectangular enclosures of A House Inside a Building, and A View of a Garden.
If there is something tangible which unites the works of these former students of Prvacki, it’s a certain quiet efficacy in approaching painting. What might seem like a stray brushstroke, instead, could not have been otherwise – perhaps the lasting legacy of influence of Prvacki’s inimitable style, somehow transformed and embedded in these varied techniques, approaches, and areas of concern.
Departure runs till 21 June 2014 at iPreciation, Mondays to Fridays, from 10am to 7pm, and Saturdays from 11am to 6pm. Sundays and public holidays by appointment only. Admission is free.
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