Man at His Best

Wayne's World: Art Stage 2017

Esquire's Head Writer, Wayne Cheong, reviews things. This time he asks, what is art? Baby, donít hurt me, donít hurt me, no more.

BY Wayne Cheong | Jan 14, 2017 | Arts

Art Stage Singapore 2017.

 

In its seventh edition, Art Stage Singapore returns to its usual spot at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. As the hub of contemporary art around the region, the art fair is more important today given an uncertain art market economy and political uncertainty. It's where, in the words of Lorenzo Rudolf, the Founder and President of Art Stage Singapore, "everyone in the art market—art dealers, galleries, even the artists and especially the art fair—will need to reflect on what that means for them."

A new addition to the fair is the Collector's Stage where you get to gawk at pieces from the collection of six Singapore-based collectors like this piece called the Revolutionary Past (2010, oil on canvas; neon lights) by Leslie De Chavez. In De Chavez's approach to the struggle against oppression and how one could change it, Revolutionary Past depicts the De Chavez's moody paints and the neon-lighted sacred heart, an illumination at the end of the long tunnel of revolution.

But this is just one man's opinion about another man's work. Therein lies the fun. To attend an art fair and stare at artworks while chin-stroking as you come to your own conclusions about what it means before reading the artwork labels to see if your answer aligns with the information. Here are some of the pieces you should keep an eye out for when you're there.

 


Taking the concept of holism or "sum of its parts", Joe Black's pieces are often made up of smaller objects. These "pixelation" are the subtext of the larger work when viewed up-close. Like Black's Blue Lady—Nude Study 2 (2016, handmade badges depicting nudes, set on aluminium), where each badge is "a solarised nude".

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Art can also be made beyond the frame. Svay Sareth's Stake or Skewer (2015, bamboo, rubber sandals) is a commentary on Cambodia's—his birthplace—transition from communism to capitalism: the carrying pole used by street vendors; the rubber tyre sandals were the footwear of the Khmer Rogue and the Viet Cong; the number of sandals refer to the years the artist spent in "war, labour and refugee camps".

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What we see as a follow-up to Stake or Skewer, is a looped video called, I Svay Sareth, eat rubber sandals (2015, single-channel video, HD). Inspired by a scene from Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush, where the loveable Tramp ate his shoes and Jorgen Leth eating a hamburger in Andy Warhol's 66 Scenes from America, Svay tries to eat the sandal but spits them out in the end. Its taste is as unpalatable as his nation's ugly history.

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This is not art. That's just a precaution against a fire.

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Ah, you'll think it's an ordinary vending machine but it's actually an artwork by Ivan Lam. Titled, COMA 38/500 (2013, vending machine, 38 individual art prints in 500 Perspex boxes, aluminium etched plates, vinyl decals), this project is a reproduction of Lam's original work. The premise still holds, with Lam roping in his fellow Malaysian artists to contribute their artwork to be commoditised via a vending machine. Members of the public can purchase said work.

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Cleon Peterson's oeuvre is a stark study into violence. In this piece, Destroying the Future (2015, acrylic on canvas), a viewer might easily choose sides, but there are no heroes or villains, just two sides of a cruel coin. As Peterson puts it, "[this is] a grey world where law breakers and law enforcers are one in the same; a world where ethics have been abandoned in favour of personal entitlement."

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When it comes to hyperrealism, look no further than Ichitaka Kamiji. Using existing classic masterpieces, Ichitaka constructs a hyper-realistic copy like his own take of Michelangelo's Moses. His version (2016, Silicone, resin, brass, animal hair) is meticulously created; each hair strand is punched in one by one. We asked him if there are plans to build full-size sculptures, he wants to, but that requires more money and resources.

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You know that's not art. Those are piles of empty trays.

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This is a little disturbing. But it's art. (Sexy Radish by Takayuki Niwa, 2016, fibre-reinforced plastics).

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The artist Mojoko aka Steve Lawler is a staple in the local contemporary art scene. For this round, Mojoko, once more marries the old and the new in Asian culture like Paradise Lost (2017, silkscreen on ceramic plates set in vintage blackwood frames). Taking scenes of pop culture and infusing them on to traditional antiques, Mojoko creates an entirely new world, one that we're living in.

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Dude. This is a wheelchair. It's not art.

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God damn it, this is not art either. It's just a sign- oh, wait. Sorry. I apologise. This is art by Heman Chong. (THIS PAVILION IS STRICTLY FOR COMMUNITY BONDING ACTIVITIES ONLY by Heman Chong, 2015, vinyl letters, aluminium plate, gloss lamination).

 


And there you have it, a small offering of what Art Stage has to offer. If you're reading this, tomorrow's the last day that you can look and/or purchase a piece of art for yourself.

Art Stage Singapore 2017 will run until January 15 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.


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