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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Setting the art stage in Singapore

Posted: 25 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Art Stage Singapore 2014 saw a bigger push on art from the region through curated country platforms.

IT was mission accomplished for the recently concluded Art Stage Singapore 2014. The art fair is expected to continue focusing on contemporary South-East Asian art in an over-arching Asian outreach to define its direction and identity.

With the stirring "We Are Asia" tag-line, the fourth edition of Art Stage Singapore (held at the Marina Bay Sands from Jan 16-19) centred on newly introduced country/regional platforms which brought new awareness and appreciation towards particular Asian art communities while serving to redress gaps in (regional) representation in art-investment commerce.

The Swiss-born Art Stage director-founder Lorenzo Rudolf said the game plan was to build on its strong Asian focus, while developing the fledgling South-East Asian market.

The platforms comprised eight individually guest-curated satellite showcases, namely Australia, Central Asia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and South-East Asia (Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand).

A man photographs an art installation titled

A man photographs an art installation titled Goldrush by Dolk of Norway.

This model neatly sidestepped the sticky situation last year when 30 artists were wooed for the dedicated Indonesian Pavilion, riling the country's powerful gallery-system lobby.

Not surprisingly, Indonesian veterans spearheaded by FX Harsono (ARNDT) and Made Wianta, both 65, exerted considerable presence again at Art Stage Singapore.

Of course, the hotshot Indonesian line-up (all in their 50s) – Heri Dono (Mizuma Gallery), Agus Suwage (Nadi Gallery), the Swiss-based Eddie Hara (Nadi Gallery, Semarang Gallery) and Yunizar (Ben Brown Fine Arts and Gajah Gallery) – featured strongly too.

Two-time Venice Biennale (2005, 2013) representative Entang Wiharso, Eko Nugroho, Nyoman Masriadi, Joko Avianto (remember his Theatre Of Ships bamboo installation at last year's George Town Festival?), Jumaldi Alfi, Eddy Susanto, Maryanto, Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo (noted for his use of Merapi volcanic ash, since 2008) and the indie guerilla husband-and-wife team of Santi and Miko also sparked healthy marketplace conversation for the Indonesian contingent .

A close-up of Malaysian artist Haslin Ismail's finely-detailed 'Book Land' installation, which was an attraction for the South-East Asian platform at Art Stage Singapore 2014.

A close-up of Malaysian artist Haslin Ismail's finely-detailed Book Land installation, which was an attraction for the South-East Asian platform at Art Stage Singapore 2014.

At Art Stage Singapore 2014, Wiharso's Borderless (measuring 300cm x 1,000cm) was arguably one of the largest (works) displayed.

Chillingly imposing was Harsono's installation The Raining Bed, which shed light on the hidden past of Chinese Indonesians. For this work, a serrated curtain of continuous rain kept falling on a Peranakan bed of ceramic alphabet decals. One of Harsono's poems was also used for this installation.

The South-East Asian platform showcase also highlighted Malaysians J. Anu (Ma-Na-Va-Reh: Love, Loss And Pre-Nuptials In The Age Of The Big Debate, Wei-Ling Gallery), Haslin Ismail (Book Land, G13 Gallery) and Justin Lim (There Is No Other Paradise, Richard Koh Fine Art).

Conceived as a tribute to Anu's "wedding-planner" grandmother, Ma-Na-Va-Reh playfully re-enacted the ceremonial Hindu rituals in a shrine-like ambience of a wedding dais and painted panels with tacky bric a brac while telescoping into the present in the larger racial matrix with kolam featuring political leaders' portraits as "a kind of solemnisation of our shared histories."

Haslin's origami of architectonic book sculpture installations was a masterful babel of reconstructed socio-linguistic histories. Here was a young Malaysian artist with a work that was at once whimsical, clever, ironic and pointed.

Justin Lim explored the slippery engagements of the racial divide and issues of race and religion in his fibre-glass bathtub sprinkled with white resin flowers in a ritual cleansing mandi bunga.

A part of Malaysian artist Justin Lim's 'There Is No Other Paradise,' which borrows from mandi bunga (¿flower bath¿), a traditional ritual form of cleansing. Featuring new works, Lim¿s multimedia installation is centred on a video projection over a fibreglass bathtub filled with white flowers made of resin. The work reflects on social issues in contemporary Malaysian society.

A part of Malaysian artist Justin Lim's There Is No Other Paradise, which borrows from mandi bunga (flower bath), a traditional ritual of cleansing. Featuring new works, Lim's multimedia installation is centred on a video projection over a fibreglass bathtub filled with white flowers made of resin. The work reflects on social issues in contemporary Malaysian society.

Shoosie (Susylawati) Sulaiman's work, Negara 2012-2013, was taken from her major solo show, Sulaiman Itu Melayu, at the Tamio Koyama Gallery, Gillman Barracks in Singapore last month. It took pride of place at the gallery's Art Stage booth with its take on notions of identity, especially on the Malay-Chinese dilemma – Shoosie's mother is Chinese. In it, glum faces of bald people save one, were set against a backdrop of haphazard fragments of the Malaysian flag, probably referencing the fractious general elections last May. Shoosie, like Haslin (2010) was a winner of the Major Award of the Malaysian Young Contemporary Artists competition in 1997.

Penang-raised artist Ch'ng Huck Theng also showed his latest sculptural creations, while two Australians with Malaysian roots – Malaysian-born Kevin Chin (Dianne Tanzer Gallery) and Singapore-born/Malaysian-raised Simryn Gill (Michael Janssen Gallery), the sole Australian star at the 2013 Venice Biennale, were also featured.

The other South-East Asian platform eyebrow-raisers included Thai artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert's golden skull and Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew's veiled layered time-space featuring gossamer images of his "seated" ageing father; Myanmar artist Soe Naing's diaristic on-site reverse paintings; Laotian artist Phasao Lao's shamanistic patchworks; and Filipino artist Bea Camacho performance art of knitting herself "back" into a womb-like spool.

Where Singaporean art was concerned, the banal dramas of alienation of Sarah Choo Jing and Jolene Lai were independent entities within an enclosed space, with Choo's entire stock at the fair sold out.

Elsewhere, Jane Lee's paint smorgasbord 50 Faces dubbed the "Melting-Cheese" painting sold for an estimated conversion rate of RM219,823.

Malaysian-born Singapore-based Kumari Nahappan also did well with her chilli concoctions (the highest price paid for her work was RM34,305).

A Gerhard Richter went for RM2.61mil although the highest-priced Richter in the Michael Schulz Gallery was one with a RM38.2mil tag. The gallery didn't even bother to label his works, blithely taking it for granted.

Other noteworthy sales included Zao Wou-ki (Lin &Lin, RM4mil); Donald Sultan (Sundaram Tagore, RM1.33mil); Jean-Michel Othoniel (Galeri Perrotin, RM675,228); Anthony Gormley and Qiu Zhijie (Galleria Continua, RM737,222 and RM208,026 respectively), and four pieces of Yoshitomo Nara for a total of RM114,414.

Sculptures by Singapore-based artist Kumari Nahappan displayed at Art Stage Singapore.

Sculptures by Singapore-based artist Kumari Nahappan displayed at Art Stage Singapore.

News resource site Art Market Monitor reported robust sales at Art Stage Singapore 2014 on the first day itself from, among others, Yunizar (RM384,628), China's new superstar Zhu Yi-yong (RM756,057), photographer S. Salgado (RM129,010), Egyptian Ives Hayat (RM721,828), Filipino Rodel Tapaya (RM73,272), Frenchman Philippe Pasqua (RM311,860), and a video by Yang Yong-liang (RM333,064). A Malaysian reportedly snapped up one of the works of Indonesian artist Yarno for RM62,372.

Four rare works of Nam June Paik, the Grandfather of Electronic Art, done between 1990 and 1995, were also sold by the new Space Cottonseed.

In the game of name-dropping, you also had Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Botero, Picasso, Chagall, Yue Min-jun, Zhang Xiao-gang, Wu Guan-zhong, Yayoi Kusama, Gilbert & George, Bernar Venet, Ai Wei Wei, Marina Abramovich, Chu Teh-chun, Zhang Da-qian, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Wim Delvoye, Takashi Murakami and his former protégé Mr, a self-confessed otaku.

In particular, there were visceral "oddities" like a wire ying-yang spliced bicycle (Shi Jin-dian), delicate painted paper-plastic bumblebees (Mylyn Nguyen), wings of shuttlecocks (Zhou Wen-dou), painted stacked soft-drinks crates (Pakpoom Silaphan), a random spool of coloured threads (Lee Myungil) and safety-pin art (Jim Lambie).

Art Stage Singapore 2014, with 158 exhibitors, attracted some 45,700 visitors to its Marina Bay Sands venue in a giddying roustabout of 70 events celebrating Singapore Art Week, including the spillover parade from the Singapore Biennale 2013.

Three artists' idea of what tomorrow brings

Posted: 25 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Three artists visualise what the future holds for us.

YOU are looking inside an elephant, one that has been stripped of its outer layer. And in it are mechanical cogs bolted firmly in place. Just as the wheels go round and round in this work (at least, one easily imagines so), the entire show seems to be testament to a journey – of what has been, what is now, and what could be.

This group exhibition might be called Tomorrow's Land, but tomorrow is very much influenced by yesterday.

"It is a route back to where it all started, getting back to basics, finding 'real' interaction and just being the person you are inside," says Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail – rather simply – of her works. "It is a search for the beauty within."

Working with white stoneware and high quality porcelain, the artist shares that what she enjoys most about working with clay is its malleable properties and the resulting unpredictability.

Pace Gallery, Tomorrow's Land. Ahmad Shukri Mohamed transports us into a materialistic and carefree world through his works.

Ahmad Shukri Mohamed transports us into a materialistic and carefree world through his works. 'How does time change us? And how do we deal with this change?' he questions. 

Out from the fire, her ceramic figurines freeze in mid-motion, dressed in brightly coloured clothes and sporting smooth, blank faces. Flowers and leaves scatter beneath a blue sky – all part of Umibaizurah's allusion to an inner yearning to return to the familiarity of a childhood past, where things were simple and change was slow.

Ultimately, her work is about hope – the hope that our decadent ways can "fall back to a time where things were slower paced, a time where we were more in tune with the land."

Describing her works as a sort of homage to nature, a reminder of how beautiful our flora and fauna is, Umibaizurah recollects that she grew up spending a lot of time entertaining herself outdoors and immersing herself in nature.

"So these things tend to be reflected within the source imagery of my current work," she says, adding that she likes to incorporate elements that remind her of childhood and play.

Tomorrow's Land at Pace Gallery features the works of Umibaizurah Mahir @ Ismail (left), Ahmad Shukri Mohamed and Mohd Al-Khuzairie Ali from Patisatu Studio.  IZZRAFIQ ALIAS / The Star. January 22, 2014.

Umibaizurah Mahir Ismail explains her work The Dreamer to some curious visitors at the Tomorrow's Land exhibition.

Umibaizurah, 38, is part of the trio behind Patisatu Studio, based in Puncak Alam, Kuala Selangor. When the studio was launched in 2007, it was with the vision to promote ceramic art in Malaysia through workshops, exhibitions and residency programmes for international sculptors.

The studio got off to a grand start with its inaugural exhibition entitled Warning! Tapir Crossing, featuring the paintings and ceramic sculptures of founding members Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, 44, and Umibaizurah, respectively. The third member of the group, Mohd Al-Khuzairie Ali, 29, joined the husband and wife team a year later, and along the way, the works emerging from this studio evolved to incorporate other forms of art as well.

Now, six years later, they are having their first group exhibition featuring the works of all three artists.

"This is a group that has played a big part in establishing ceramic art in the country. It is the first time the studio members are showing their works together and a lot of people have been looking forward to this," says Pace Gallery owner Yusof Majid.

Tomorrow's Land is a two-part exhibition with the second part scheduled for July, with works created in Amsterdam during an exchange programme there last year.

The artists share that they felt the works needed to be shown separately, particularly as it took on a new direction while they working overseas. Some time for self-reflection here was deemed necessary.

"Especially since we felt that the work we produced in Amsterdam addressed the theme differently," says Khuzairie.

Challenging as it might be to envision what tomorrow might bring, he takes a brave stab at prophesising what the future may hold for us. The elephant with cogs is his, a chilling glimpse into what could be.

"My artwork is inspired by robots," he says. "And it addresses issues like human greed and the behaviour of humans."

On a more literal level, Khuzairie talks about hunting and killing animals for their body parts, for profit. And then he shifts to talk of a future filled with mechanical animals (robots).

"I wonder whether our future generations will be able to see the animals we have around us now, or will they know only 'animals' created by humans," he says in reference to man-made ones.

"Humans are territorial creatures, like animals. It is the meeting points where we cross over into another animal's territory – and vice versa – that interests me. My work deals with our animal instinct to protect, to survive, and to tighten our grip on nature. My assemblages are therefore a reflection of us," he says.

As bleak as his sounds, Shukri goes down the opposite path, painting light, breezy works of happy, smiling people. It feels like consumerism pushed to its limit, an explosion of colours and manufactured happiness. It is a decadent and materialistic existence – and looks really fun ... at least on the surface.

"The concept of this exhibition tells the story of change and transition.

"Through my works, I reference the passage of time and examine how time changes us and the way we see things," Shukri explains.

"It is this uncertainty that is embedded into my paintings."

Yusof expresses that he loves the fact that each artist has approached the theme in a different way.

"These are artists with their own career paths, they are very strong-minded artists in their own right," he says.

And he is anything but uncertain when it comes to his thoughts on this exhibition.

"I find the show to be a well-thought out one because this is one studio that creates art with the gallery space in mind. The result? It looks absolutely incredible."

> Tomorrow's Land is showing at Pace Gallery, 64 Jalan Kemajuan, Section 12/18, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, till Feb 5. Opening hours: 11am to 7pm (Monday to Saturday); Sunday by appointment only. Call 03-7954 6069 or visit www.pacegallery.net for details.

Bunny alert on Mandela's statue

Posted: 25 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

South Africa orders removal of rabbit from Mandela statue's ear.

The South African government has ordered the removal of a rabbit that was secretly sculpted into a recently unveiled statue of Nelson Mandela, an official said on Wednesday.

The artists who built the nine-metre (30-foot), bronze colossus in Pretoria, added a rabbit into the ear of the statue, without clearance from government.

"We want to restore the integrity of the sculpture as soon as possible," Mogomotsi Mogodiri, spokesman for the ministry of arts and culture told AFP.

The sculpture of Nelson Mandela, with a  barely visible sculpted rabbit tucked inside one of the bronze ears. The statue is billed as the biggest statue of the South African leader. Officials want the miniature bunny removed from the statue, which was unveiled outside the government complex in Pretoria, the capital, on Dec. 16, a day after Mandela's funeral.

The sculpture of Nelson Mandela, with a barely visible sculpted rabbit tucked inside one of the bronze ears. The statue was unveiled outside the government complex in Pretoria, the capital, on Dec 16, a day after Mandela's funeral.

The government said it was unaware of the rabbit's existence until a local newspaper brought it to their attention.

The two bronze sculptors – Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren – who added the mammal as their "signature" of the work, have apologised for doing so without permission.

"We accepted their apology," said Mogodiri, adding it was unclear how long it would take to extract the rabbit from the statue's ear.

The boss of the company that was contracted by government to erect the statue, which in turn hired the two artists, said the artists' action was "regrettable" and akin to a "senseless prank".

Dali Tambo, chairman of Koketso Growth said it had from the beginning been decided against engraving the statue.

But the names of the artists were going to be installed at a plaque near the statue.

"It is regrettable that the artists chose this way of expressing their opinion about not signing the sculpture," said Tambo, who is also the son of one of the leading anti-apartheid politicians, Oliver Tambo.

Built at a cost of US$740,000 (RM2.5mil), the 4.5-tonne sculpture is the largest of Mandela statues erected around the world.

It was unveiled just a day after Mandela was buried.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after 27 years in apartheid prisons, died on Dec 5, 2013, at the age of 95. – AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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