Above: ZERO's 'CMYK Soft Sculptures'
This has been a bumper month for SAM already, with a major survey of local Cultural Medallion winner Lee Wen currently showing in the front galleries, and some high-powered contributions to STPI’s 10th anniversary show – but it’s not stopping there. Filling out the museum’s remaining exhibition spaces is ‘Panorama’, a showcase of recent acquisitions to the SAM collection, all from South- East Asian artists.
If this is an indicator of where South-East Asian art is at right now, it’s exciting and full of ideas. There’s a massive roster of 24 artists, eight of them from Singapore, spread across three floors in the back of SAM’s main building – yet despite the quantity of work, all acquired in the past two years, the quality is consistently high.
There are plenty of highlights. Filipina sculptor Agnes Arellano’s stunning piece on the third floor, ‘Haliya Bathing’ (1983), depicts a life-size scene showing the mythical moon goddess Haliya – modelled here after the artist herself, in a fictionalised pregnant body – who lies partially submerged in a bed of pebbles, representing the sacred spring where she bathes and gives birth. Also on the third floor are two pieces from Malaysian artist Wong Hoy Cheong’s ‘Days of Our Lives’ (2009) photo series, which re-creates various 18th- and 19thcentury classic French paintings with Middle Eastern models dressed in hijabs and Islamic robes.
The centrepiece of the second floor is undoubtedly Chinese artist Zhou Xiaohu’s ‘A Crowd of Bystanders’ (2003-2005), an installation series of ten painstaking claymation animations, each showing a scene from recent history – ranging from a boxing match to Saddam Hussein’s trial and buildings collapsing on 9/11. The finished mini-sculptures of the scenes are displayed in front of each screen. There’s a haunting yet cartoon-like quality to the lo-fi works, and each video is worth watching all the way through – particularly entertaining is a video depicting a brothel raid, in which a customer escapes by melding through a wall.
Other impressive large-scale works dot the exhibition area, such as Thai artist Sakarin Krue-On’s full-room installation, ‘Cloud Nine’ (2004), depicting life-size porcelain dog sculptures with bright red wings prancing around the pink-hued room. The local contingent includes graffiti artist ZERO’s large alien-figure cushion covers, ‘CMYK Soft Sculptures’ (2010), which greet you as you enter the first floor. Other Singaporean artists represented include pop artist Justin Lee, whose new four-minute video performance piece ‘Eat Fast Food Fast’ sees him put a McDonald’s value meal into a blender and gulp it down; design collective :phunk, who flash pop-culture projections onto an 8m-long canvas; and abstract paintings by Jeremy Sharma and Om Mee Ai (similar to their works recently shown at Give Art Space and Chan Hampe Gallery, respectively).
This show depicts a museum at the top of its game and a regional art scene that’s in rude health – don’t miss it. Berwin Song