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Of Soil & Scars: The President’s Young Talents Finalists 2018

Of Soil & Scars: The President’s Young Talents Finalists 2018


Of Soil & Scars: The President’s Young Talents Finalists 2018

Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

From investigations into the physicality of soil to emotions portrayed through keloid scars, this year’s finalists for the President’s Young Talents took on experimental artistic routes in establishing their contextual validities. This has been executed through a large variety of mediums - works of the 5 finalists span performance, photography, video, painting, sculpture and installation. These works have been commissioned for this exhibition, of which two winners will emerge out of the 5 finalists, one with the Grand Prize of $20,000 and the other with a People’s Choice Award of $5,000. The Artling takes you through these five finalists and their works in the order of their exhibition:


Zarina Muhammad, Pragmatic Prayers for the Kala at the Threshold

Images courtesy of the author.  

Muhammad is an artist, educator and writer. Her practice invests in multidisciplinary research on the shape-shifting forms and cultural translations in relation to Southeast Asian ritual magic and its mythological roots. Bamboo, sandalwood, clay, stone, turmeric powder, sandalwood powder, saffron, nine grains and spices, rose water, incense, glass jars and paper comprise Muhammad’s work, and exudes a historic and mythic air.

Her work takes the ‘penunggu’ or ‘guardian at the gate’ as its point of departure and charts out a space that extends beyond the physical. This installation is laid out into three sections that emanate the hills, land and sea of Bukit Larangan, Bras Basah and Kallang. Within each distinct division, a selection of material objects and modes of presentation that respond to the history, culture and memories of the zones they are housed in. The objects further act as coordinates that map the histories and paths that the spirits of these realms may have resided and roam in.


Yanyun Chen, The scars that write us

This work takes on a representational form of the keloid scar, and exposes an incredibly relatable narrative on wounds, scars, and the subjects who bear them. Viewers walk into a dark, quiet space that hints at ominous feelings of anticipation, curiosity and uncertainty. The work unfolds in three types of spatial experiences – near, far and wide. Standing in front of the first, viewers are immediately confronted with accounts of trauma. Sentences of a subject’s experiences underline the visual ‘scar’ that faces us in the form of markings on steel sheets. The relationships between the scars and the stories behind each wound successfully allow viewers to empathize with varying degrees of pain, speaking to the personal experiences that encompass every individual.

Yanyun Chen is a visual artist and lecturer at Yale-NUS College. Grounded in stories and philosophical readings, her drawing practice deconstructs our role as witness-of-decay –depicting wilting flowers as a manifestation of time passing; researching nudity embroiled in historical spectacles and censorship; investigating the fictions and operations of etymology, and reading scars on skin.


Debbie Ding, Soil Works

Ding uses the Encyclopedia Brittanica’s definition of soil as the contextual springboard for ‘Soil Works’. It states how soil is a “biologically active, porous medium that has developed in the uppermost layer of the Earth’s crust”. From this, she delves into her immediate thought that questions, “What is soil?” Ding isolates units of the composite excavated from concealed areas under expressways, overhead bridges, road triangles, car parks, and public spaces that are generally overlooked as one travels through Singapore. She proposes “a series of artistic investigations into the soil in Singapore and its visibility and invisibility”, highlighting the perceptible and less perceptible qualities of the physicality of soil in this country.

This investigative installation is executed in five parts: “Red Landscape”, “Home without a Shelter”, “Topsoil”, “Sand Weight and “Soil Column”, each beckoning viewers to observe soil in a range of alternative approaches.

Debbie Ding is a visual artist and technologist who researches and explores technologies of perception though investigations and experimentation. This has led to a series of archives and map-based works under the moniker “Singapore Psychogeographical Society”, as well as computer-aided investigations into archaeological and historical finds.


Weixin Quek Chong, sft crsh ctrl         

Weixin Quek Chong encourages viewers to engage with a range of objects and series of material encounters that seem to evade traditional inquiry. The work “unfolds, unfurls, suspends and drapes in ways that challenge the visitors understanding and expectation of materials.” ‘sft crsh ctrl’ is perceived as an installation of ‘surfaces’, explored through material forms and transformation. It guides the visitor towards “sensations underlined by uncertainty, persuading a disengagement from the instinct to rationalize”. Silk, twill, latex, wood, silicone, vinyl, faux fur, paper, screens, aluminium and stainless steel are all incorporated into this experiential installation.

Weixin Quek Chong is a visual artist whose practice explores materiality, the afterlife of images and the relationships between the digital, organic and aesthetic. Her manners of manipulating images across materials are core to her practice. 


Hilmi Johandi, An Exposition 

‘An Exposition’ seeks to tell the story of defunct ‘World(s)’ – New World, Great World and Gay World (formerly happy world). Fragments of material and memory are derived from bygone-era amusement parks, introducing audiences to the aforementioned elements. Systems of production, consumption, pleasures and entertainment of these sites are established by the artist.

Viewers traverse the exhibition space marked out by components that together appear to resemble a deconstructed theatrical set. This installation is immersive and reminds viewers of the void that exists within the theatricality of set designs and amusement parks. ‘An Exposition’ engages with the local history and collective memory of Singapore.

Hilmi Johandi primarily works with painting and explores interventions with different mediums associated with the domain of framing, fragmentation (deconstruction) and compression (reconstruction). He composes and synthesizes images from film, archival footages, and photographs into a fragmented montage that hints at the social effects of rapid development - all set in the context of Singapore.


For more information on President’s Young Talents 2018, click here.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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