When it comes to art in Singapore, it’s hard to overstate the influence of Delia and Milenko Prvacki. Having been here for just over twenty years, they’re more than just mainstays; Milenko, for one, has spent 17 years as LASALLE’s Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, while Delia’s works should be a familiar sight to most, with her long history of commissions and installations in public and outdoor spaces. Despite having been together for 42 years, Passageis only the fifth time they’ve shown together. Asked about the rarity of them showing together, the couple responded, “Our common language and shared aesthetic brought us together in the first place; we influence each other, but ultimately we have our individual careers.”
As one more milestone in a lifelong journey through art that’s taken them from Europe to Asia (and the rest of the world besides), Passage seems like quite the fitting title, suggesting as it does both a sense of motion and the spaces through which one moves. The layout of the show also underscores this notion of a journey, with Milenko’s paintings providing markers, as their titles suggest, of Entrance, Exit, and perhaps what happens in between those two points: Unsent Letter. These evocative notions serve to frame the sparsely lyrical play within each painting, each replete with varied textures and gestures, as well as forms hover on some edge of recognition.
At first glance, Delia’s works present an overall impression of geometric solidity, somewhat like monuments and civic buildings that dot city centres. However, hers is not a geometry of regularity, and closed, perfect forms – there’s variation through each body of work, which suggests organic growth and accumulation. This sense of progression is most evident in the serial arrangement of 18 Hours and 7 Days, while the looped forms of Ring and Silk Road also suggest the cyclical, and the possibilities of return and repetition in movement.
The variety present in the surfaces of her work serves also to distance it from rigidity and finality, featuring everything from gradual progressions of colour, to variations in reflection and lustre, shifting patterns of mosaics. Commenting on the richness of colour in her work, Delia said, “My work is influenced by the colour and light around me – coming from Europe to the tropics, we were influenced by the change in light, colour, and humidity. It’s certainly changed the chromatic values in my work.
In what might be a nod to the silk road of old, Rare Earth, Pieces from the Sea and Silk Roadfeature approaches to texture and form ranging from sand and grit to assemblages of glazed and gilded flotsam. This connection also calls to mind recent scholarship, attested to by potsherds and other ceramic artifacts, which point to Singapore’s status as a trading centre stretching much farther back than 1819. At times, the show seems like an archaeological dig of some unspecified time – past and future both – of some relentlessly intermingled, vibrant and yet somehow alien culture.
“We believe in immersing ourselves in the rich history of the region, as we ourselves come from a place of rich history. Moving to Singapore enabled us to travel through the region, and so our work has been influenced by places like India, Bali, and Borobudur, and things like Peranakan and Vietnamese ceramics.” The wealth of history aside, however, the couple had more to share on Singapore and the silk road: “Living in Singapore today, you cannot escape the oft-recurring terms like ‘globalisation’, and 'East-meets-West.’ But how do you make that East-West distinction in such a mixed society?”
Passage runs till 15 June 2014 at Luxe Art Museum, Tuesdays to Sundays, from 11am to 7pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays. Admission is free.
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