So Beautiful…

Ice that melts

Frosty

Cold

Black ink dribbles down

the cracks of hardened

form.

So beautiful.

Mighty River 1 Mighty River 2 Mighty River 3

I was at the ‘So Beautiful’ Art Exhibition at the National Institute of Education, curated and put together by pgde art teachers, and the above is my attempt at poetry, in expressing that effervescent yet intriguing quality of Deborah Ong’s work ‘Mighty Rivers’. ‘Mighty Rivers’ is a series of three photographs of simply put- ice cubes with black ink running through their crevices but don’t be fooled, it is a work of art that translates your usual objects into aesthetic jewels.

In a state between solid and liquid, it melts and holds that pool of black ink churning on its surface as the ink delicately flows and fills the spaces within the crevices. Each ice cube is different and one can’t help reaching out to touch the super glossy giclee print and the cold icy surface of that refrigerated frost.

My personal favourite is the print of the black ink tree, pushing its roots into the ice and being captured, frozen in time. But it would soon be set free as the heat of the earth reduces it to nothingness.

As a finale to her series of work, she did a performance with two gigantic blocks of pure ice stacked on top of one another. Entitled ‘Transmigration’, it is half of a performance whereby she painted the top surface of the ice block with black ink and then let nature takes its course as the black ink flows vertically straight through the ice; like Hiroshi Senju’s ‘Waterfall’.

Hiroshi Senju_Waterfall_2008

Hiroshi Senju, 2008, Waterfall, natural pigment on Japanese Mulberry paper.

Hiroshi Senju, 2009, Waterfall, natural pigment on Japanese mulberry paper

Hiroshi Senju, 2009, Waterfall, natural pigment on Japanese mulberry paper

Transmigration 2_closeup_scaled

Deborah Ong, Transmigration, Close-up. Ice and Water.

Transmigration_Close up_scaled

Deborah Ong, Transmigration, Close-up. Ice and Water.

The crystal-clear ice is free from any defects, crevices or minerals that cause the jagged flow of ink in ‘Mighty Rivers’. Water here is truly pure and clean, and placed in the gallery, its sanctified state makes almost everything around the gallery look worldly and ‘tainted’. When a work of nature in its purest form is brought into the man made gallery, it does not live long. Within ten hours, it is contaminated, drained into a bucket and disposed.

And another block of ice is brought in again.

The next work that intrigues me is Farhana’s ‘Inadequacy’. ‘Inadequacy’ is a wall of torn yellowed dictionary pages with its dictionary opened to a page on the word ‘Malay’, sitting on a pedestal. Language is expressed in its purest aesthetic form- dictionary pages pasted on the wall. However, here the inadequacy of language is expressed very clearly. Words do not fully express its whole meaning. In the ‘Treachery of Images’, Rene Magritte depicted an image of a pipe but stated beneath that ‘this is not a pipe’, in essence, referring that this is simply a painting of a pipe but not the object! Similarly, words are just words but man creates meanings out of these letters. However, we will know its complete meaning when we have truly experience it.

For example, if you show the word ‘heat’ to a non-English speaker, does he or she understands the dictionary which is ironically the source to unlock meanings?

Moving on to Dexter Tan’s ‘Peepshow’, the 3-channel video on analogue television sets, show him at various camera distance, chewing and eating his breakfast cereal. This work reminds me of Nam June Paik’s many analogue tv works, like ‘Watchdog II’.

Nam June Paik, watchdog II, 1997

Nam June Paik, watchdog II, 1997

Of course the shape is not similarly but there is something appealing and engrossing about watching someone munch on his breakfast cereal without the other party’s knowledge. It is voyeuristic in our captivated stares of him enjoying his breakfast. Eating is a form of enjoyment but at times it slips into states of gluttony as we see the close up of his mouth dripping with milk and crunching on the soggy cereal. At others, it is a digestible and may I say enjoyable peepshow.

Sarah Lee, Animals, Paper Origami

Sarah Lee, Animals, Paper Origami

Following that, Sarah Lee’s endearingly titled ‘Animals’ with its child like use of tracing papers is simple yet captivating. Origami here is not the end product, instead the creases and folds to make parrot, spider and rabbit are emphasized as unfolded origami pasted on the wall. The delicate quality of the tracing papers which gives it a tissue-like appeal is surprisingly lovely and further brings to point the lost art of origami beyond our simple frog and paper planes.

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