In honour of Singapore’s National Day, we continue our tradition of posting a piece that draws attention to and celebrates our very own homegrown talents! So here you go, folks, our PluraList of six exciting young Singapore contemporary artists (in no particular order).
1. Chong Weixin – The Aesthete
Artist Chong Weixin is fascinated with the interplay between nature and artifice, often exploring this relationship through the medium of photography.
In the times we live in, when cosmetic surgery is contemplated with a casual blasé-ness, and the ability to manipulate images is handily at the fingertips of anyone with a smartphone, the line between the real and the fake has become increasingly blurred.
We especially love how Chong questions these notions in her 2017 photographic series, Beige Dreams, Flesh Skin Surface, which we saw in Yogyakarta recently.
In these works, Chong photographs flowers that she has “enhanced” with cosmetic foundations, tinted creams and blushers. That the natural beauty of these blooms should require the intervention of artificial pigments is an unsettling notion, raising the problematic question of ideals of beauty in contemporary society.
A graduate of LASALLE College of the Arts, and the Royal College of Art, London, Chong has already been making waves both locally and internationally. Her exciting body of work makes it easy to see why.
2. Ezzam Rahman – The Serious Clown
P recently got to watch multi-disciplinary artist Ezzam Rahman‘s graduate performance piece, Even though our troubles seem like mountains, at LASALLE’s MA Fine Arts graduation exhibition. A self-described “serious clown”, Ezzam’s early interest in being an entertainer or a theatre actor is evident in his artistic practice.
He is, however, probably most well-known for his work, Here’s who I am, I am what you see, one of two works which earned him joint Grand Prize at the President’s Young Talents 2015 awards.
This installation of bell jars, each containing a single flower, bathed in pools of light in a darkened gallery, was also popular with visitors who voted it the People’s Choice. What is not immediately obvious, however, is the slightly disturbing fact that each petal is actually made from a sliver of skin, shaved from the soles of the artist’s feet.
A thought-provoking work that makes one consider the relationship between pain and beauty as well as the ephemerality of life, destruction and decay, it speaks volumes for the bright future that Ezzam has as an artist. We look forward to seeing what bold new terrain he will chart next.
3. Zen Teh – The Nature Lover
An emerging Singaporean artist whose photographic practice draws attention to environmental issues, Zen Teh is interested in examining the impact of human behavior on our natural environment. Here in tiny land-scarce Singapore, the quest for economic progress has resulted in rapid urbanisation and an increasingly dense built environment. Yet there exists, in all of us, an innate primeval human need to be close to and around nature. How do we balance these competing interests?
The deploys digital imagery to force viewers to confront these pressing questions in innovative ways, ranging from a Song dynasty photographic landscape “painting” to an immersive installation that takes the viewer into A Familiar Forest.
In the artist’s own words, her practice “seeks to engage audiences in an aestheticised imagination of natural elements”, allowing personal experience to help build deeper connections with the artwork. Her hope is that such engagements will remind us of our innate relationship with nature and prompt us to question how we, too, can contribute to the preservation of our natural environment.
4. Yeo Tze Yang – The Realist
We’ve seen rather a lot of Tze Yang these days, with the young artist having presented two shows – almost simultaneously- in Singapore, at a group exhibition at iPRECIATION Gallery and at OUR ArtProjects in Kuala Lumpur. He’s arguably most famous for having won the Silver Award in the Established Artist category of the UOB Painting of the Year contest in 2016. Born in 1994, he’s shockingly young, but has displayed the most amazing technical skill and attention to detail in his depictions of the everyday minutiae of Singapore life. We challenge you to look at a work like Getting Back (below) and not immediately feel the heady, sweaty sense of relief that pervades a typical Singaporean commute home:
5. Loo Zihan – The Agitator
No stranger to controversy, Loo Zihan made the news in 2016 for his controversial work “Queer Objects: An Archive for The Future,” which displayed homosexual – related paraphernalia in an art school exhibition. Should it have been censored? (It eventually was) Or should this have been viewed as an opportunity for discussion and engagement with our youth on a sticky subject?
The jury’s still out, but we salute Zihan for his bravery in attempting to challenge accepted thought on public artistic discourse. Other interesting things he’s done include a studied re-creation of “Brother Cane,” the scandalous 1993 work which saw performance art funding cut for a decade in Singapore, following Josef Ng’s snipping of his own pubic hair in a shopping mall. Zihan’s “Cane” (2012) featured a re-enactment of the event, distilled from different archival accounts and perspectives on how the whole thing unfolded.
Singaporeans may have a reputation nowadays for being straight-laced rule- followers, but we certainly didn’t get to where we are after 52 years, by keeping our heads down and playing nice. Artists like Zihan remind us that boundaries are in place so that they can be pushed, and that there are so many different ways to be “Singaporean.”
6. Sarah Choo – The Observer
You may have seen Sarah’s Choo introspective video work The Hidden Dimension II (2013) at the Singapore Art Museum:
It portrays members of her family going about mundane, daily activities — occupying the same physical space, but in different temporal moments. It’s as though she’s re-imagined their existence in parallel worlds. As described on her website:
“…seven members of her family are depicted engaged in trivial acts of self-occupation. At exactly the same point in the film, in an unexpected cadence, they simultaneously break from their self-imposed Sisyphean distraction and look out into the audience and each other.”
Her musings on solitude display a maturity beyond her years, and remind us perhaps of the price we’ve paid for rapid economic development over the years:
“Solitude has become a significant issue in today’s society. This is ironic when contrasted against a highly populated city, such as that of Singapore. How is it possible, that despite being surrounded by people, we are so much alone?”