While form and content remain fundamental in understanding art, ‘Size Matters: A Question of Scale’, as the name of the exhibition suggests, forces the audience to consider the issue of scale and how it affects not only the reception of the art, but also the role of the viewer in relation to the work. The curators, Deborah Lim and Lisa Polten, display a diverse array of artworks ranging from a series of miniature paintings to large, life-sized sculptures that enable the viewer to explore size across different mediums.
Si Jae Byun, "Egg Series #1-10", 2018. Oil on silk and canvas, 20 x 20 cm. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
Si Jae Byun’s Egg Series (2018), composed of 10 small square paintings, is the first spectacle upon entry. Immediately, we are made aware of the size of these works, aligned in two rows of five. Byun is an artist that draws upon her own experiences, but focuses on the role of nature that inevitably coexists with human interaction. She exerts influences from Taoism and the idea of origin and identity; a sense of balance and harmony is exuded from the marriage of human functions and elements of nature. The process of these paintings themselves is as delicate and supple as the outcome. The use of silk not only adds to the elegance, but also signifies a certain congruity as the silk layers enfold the canvas as the brushstrokes render tranquil swirls. The compact canvases work to emphasise the intricate process and to draw attention to the grace and precision of such silk paintings. More so, the small size in itself gives the paintings a certain nurturance and highlights the sensitivity of the intimacy that Byun portrays. In the age of chaos and materiality, the series invites the viewer to focus on careful details and find meaning in within the roots.
Loi Cai Xiang, "Immune System: Genocide", 2018. Oil on canvas (work in progress), 200 x 300 cm. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
Contrastingly, Loi Cai Xiang’s Immune System: Genocide (2018) exemplifies a different kind of effect that is received from a large canvas. The painting explores the relationship between our biological mechanisms, referenced by the title ‘Immune System’, and the role of society in the mediation of our very own existence. It seems to be a critical piece, where cityscape denotes the artificiality of society and the dark, grey tones present a pervading monotony and ultimately, an imminent doom that we ourselves are responsible for. Barnett Newman, who himself produced massive paintings, maintained that the large scale offers the viewer “a sense of one’s own scale” and “gives someone the feeling of their own totality, separateness, individuality, and simultaneously connection to others who are also separate”. Newman’s words seem to resonate for cases such as Immune System: Genocide (2018) as it is a piece of work that aims to engulf the viewer and to place them in a scenario that they inhabit in real life. The huge scale creates an emphasis on the immediacy of the viewer’s explicit encounter with the painting, imbuing it with agentic qualities.
Belinda Fox, "Tilt I", 2017. Archival pigment print edition; editions of 3, 240 x 590 cm. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
This resembles Belinda Fox’s Tilt I (2017) - a modern day portrayal of The Deluge. The chaotic waters are on the verge of subsuming the ship we are on, much like the print covering the entire wall, to which the viewer will become buried within. The use of digital images copied and re-scaled perhaps creates a sense of detachment especially as our eyes have now been desensitised to many forms of digital images in the age of social media. By scaling it up so that the print reaches from ceiling to floor, the audience is confronted and forced to look at it just a little longer to face our own realities.
Ivan David Ng, "Come let us build a tower", 2018. Aluminium, fabric, tape, paper, glue, plaster, polymer clay, acrylic, spray paint, nylon strings. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
Not limiting to paintings, sculptures of various sizes also take reign in the exhibition. Ivan David Ng’s large-scale sculpture greets the audience as it stands at the center of the gallery space. Come let us build a tower (2018) is inviting; two sets of steps are placed on the ground, leading towards a hanging ring-like structure on each side. Being a Christian is a significant part of the artist’s identity. The sculpture itself references forms of ascension through the staircases and the ‘tower’ that is present within the title, which is historically used to symbolise the tower of Babel from the Bible.
In the context of size, it is possible for a person to physically step onto the stairs and walk through the hanging structure and come down from the other side. Steps and rings are interactive objects as we know it; are we then, as viewers, meant to see such shapes as prompts to directly handle them as the scale of such works indicate a real-life feasibility of interaction? There is also a question of whether this even is permitted, as it sits in a gallery space. Suddenly, the viewer is aware - of their own size, the size of the sculpture in front of them, the place, and the nature of the objects themselves.
Gerald Leow. Left to right: "STAFF", 2018, Mild steel in automotive paint with gold plated stud, 23 x 27 x 10 cm. "IMPENETRABLE 4", 2018, Mild steel in automotive paint, 25 x 16 x 14 cm. "BLOOM", 2018, Mild steel in automotive paint, 40 x 40 x 15 cm. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
Gerald Leow on the other hand, creates much smaller sculptures, such as Staff (2018), which was first displayed as part of a solo exhibition that was titled ‘I Am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World’. J. Robert Oppenheimer, commonly known as the “father of the atomic bomb”, said these words. Leow’s steel forms may be small, but they are strong and rigid with sharp angular edges, revealing an inescapable violence. Much like what the atomic bomb was capable of, the small scale of such works places a spotlight on the potential and the power of such tenacious forms.
Ruben Pang, "A Talon Touches the Lake", 2018. Oil, alkyd and synthetic varnish on aluminium composite panels, 192 x 420 cm. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
Shahrul Jamili Miskon, "Placement 1", "Placement 2", "Placement 3", 2018. Etched aluminium, 20 x 20 cm. Image courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary and The Artists.
Overall, the exhibition presents a selection of art from a range of mediums and sizes, all possessing certain agencies both in the process of creation and the reception of the outcome, where size becomes a crucial element to be considered. It ensures that the viewer not only looks at what is depicted on the surface, but also re-evaluates one’s existence in relation to the artwork and its context. Size then becomes an invaluable contributor of instilling a sense of humanity into the artworks themselves, whereby the often dichotomous relationship between the subject and object start to intertwine.
- Shahrul Jamili Miskon
- Ruben Pang
- Si Jae Byun
- Simon Ng
- Loi Cai Xiang
- Esmond Loh
- Ivan David Ng
- Belinda Fox
- Gerald Leow
'Size Matters: A Question of Scale' is on show at:
Chan + Hori Contemporary, 6 Lock Road, #02-09 Singapore 108934
23 June 2018 to 22 July 2018
Tuesday-Friday: 11am-7pm / Saturday & Sunday: 12pm-6pm.
For more information, click here
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