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5 Pride-Related Art Exhibitions You Shouldn’t Miss

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As we head towards Pink Dot 2022, happening this weekend on 18 June, here’s a list of art exhibitions taking place this month to inspire you to continue the fight for LGBTQIA+ equality in Singapore.

As Harris Zaidi, Festival Director of Pink Fest 2022 tells us, “Art has always been a powerful medium that transcends social divisions with a rich history of LGBTQIA+ artists who have been at the frontline of challenging boundaries and pushing the limits of what is socially acceptable. The issues that affect our community are not often spoken about in the mainstream media, but art and platforms that allow for art expression remain a transformative force for change. Pink Fest is proud to champion Singaporean artists creating works in this spirit.”

To kick things off, art gallery Art Porters plays host to not just one or two, but three art exhibitions as part of Pink Fest 2022. Read on for more.

1. The Pigubao Lands in Spottiswoode Park

After a successful first run at UltraSuperNew Gallery last year, artist Brenda Tan (also known as @hellopigu) continues her adventures in the white-cube world of gallery exhibitions, with a new selection of paintings and prints entitled Into the Wild. Immediately recognisable by her signature character Pigubao, a longevity peach bun of indeterminate gender who has ‘achieved sentience,’ the story goes something like this: the Pigubao awoke from its deep slumber when it was carried to earth from the heavens by a gust of strong wind.

Now, the bun has embarked on a journey to discover more about this world and the meaning of life. The bun navigates its way through different life scenarios, and its witty yet deeply probing questions and observations have amassed a cult-like following amongst its fans — one has even tattooed herself with an image of the character!

Installation views of Into the Wild. The circular painting to the left This Way Please, is mounted on a frame that allows visitors to spin it, Wheel of Fortune- style. It’s a fun statement on how life can be full of different paths and destinations. Image courtesy of Art Porters

In this iteration, though, as part of Pink Fest, the wise little bun feels loaded with meaning and poignancy. Tan explains that “While nothing in this show specifically talks about being queer, the works are all about self-exploration and self-acceptance.”

‘Pigu’ of course translates into ‘buttocks’ in the Mandarin language. As a result, what would typically feel like a cutesy slapstick play on words, takes on a darker tragi-comedic significance in Pink Fest — especially when viewed in the context of the continued existence of s.377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, a law which criminalises “acts of gross indecency” between males.

NFT or bust? Installation view of Into the Wild. Image courtesy of Art Porters.

In a trendy twist, the exhibition features a limited series of ten unique works (see above) that are available either in the form of an NFT, or in physical form. In these works, the bun embarks on new unseen adventures and forges its own paths into unknown portals.

As part of the artist’s investigations into the value of physicality in a digital age, the version of each work that remains unchosen will be destroyed. (In other words, if you pick the NFT, the physical fine art print will be literally destroyed — burnt, as Tan tells us). You might be tempted to dismiss it as a gimmick, but we’ve been told that all the works in this series have already been snapped up — nine in the form of NFTs and only one in physical print form.

On my Way, 2022 (left) and Snip, snip, 2022 (right). With these new works, Tan takes the Pigubao in a new direction where she paints the character into found paintings. On my Way (left) Tan tells us, “is all about the act of continuing to make your own rainbow (path) while exploring new dimensions.”

Brenda Tan’s Into the Wild runs till 3 July 2022 at Art Porters Gallery

2. Johann M. Fauzi and Masuri Mazlan Defy Parental Expectations

In their show Emak Kata Jangan Jadi Seniman (Translation: ‘Mother said don’t be an artist’), Johann M. Fauzi and Masuri Mazlan investigate ideas of otherness, the position of Malay artists in society, and identity politics through the mediums of painting and sculpture.

 

Well-known for his lush HDB flat that is more Baroque than Bedok, Johann continues his explorations into classical painting and how the art form can be adapted to frame Singapore’s own socio-political landscape.

Installation view of Johann’s work. Image courtesy of Art Porters

 

Batu 6 (6th Mile) (2016-2019). This painting depicts a panoramic view of the place Batu 6 (6th mile) where the artist lived in Singapore, based on his childhood memories. A river winds through the landscape and in the foreground, the viewer discovers bucolic life in 19th century Singapore under colonial rule. In the middle of the painting, however, the artist has interposed scenes of present-day Singapore with its high-rise buildings and public housing. The work is mounted on a specially commissioned frame modelled after Canaletto’s The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day from the National Gallery in London.
Look closer towards the bottom of the painting and you’ll find this little surprise — a monkey in the colonial landscape, cheekily taking a photo of you with its iPhone.

In contrast, Masuri’s colourful sculptures that allude to drag aesthetics, are made of materials as varied as polyurethane, gypsum and silicone. They are lumpen, misshapen and undecipherable things. And yet, they are also colourful, detailed and stirring, recalling images of long-lost childhood treats. As gallery spokesperson and Artologist Melvin Sim tells us, “They look like cakes, very soft and you want to bite into them until you realise what they’re actually made of.”

Made in 2021, this undulating work by Masuri is entitled Every mountain, you could be water and soft river your way through freedom. It references the complicated terrains and landscapes that queer Malays have to navigate in Singapore. Image courtesy of Art Porters
We don’t look for Heaven coz we put love first (2022) is a luxuriously sticky mish-mash of candy cream and ‘gem biscuits,’ which many Singaporean children will recall as part of their childhood. Image courtesy of Art Porters.

While the show presents bodies of work that differ from each other in medium, a common strand winds through them both — that of the pursuit of individuality and memories of rejection, whether as children or as adults in an urban post-colonial environment. As Sim explains, “The works are about not conforming to societal expectations. Mum might be the most important person in your life who rejects you first, and then the rest of society might follow, but artists too have to reject societal norms and find their own paths to squash the stigmas (that they face).”

Johann M. Fauzi and Masuri Mazlan Emak Kata Jangan Jadi Seniman runs till 3 July 2022 at Art Porters Gallery

3. 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?

Well, more like just one main bottle, and unfortunately there’s no actual beer in it. That being said, it’s one that’s loaded with significance and aligned with an incredibly meaningful cause. Putting her money where her mouth is, artist Sue Gray, together with Art Porters, has launched a limited series of 24 giclee prints featuring a pink-coloured Singha Soda Water Bottle (Bottle #11b). To raise awareness for Action for Aids Singapore (AfA), 10% of sales proceeds will be donated to AfA, with the artist’s proof of the work to be auctioned off fully for AfA’s benefit. The fundraiser event is open to the public and will take place on 1 July, find details here.

As Gray explains, “Many years ago, someone close to me tested positive for HIV. It was a scary and uncertain time, with still many unknowns. I am from South Africa where there are laws in place to protect HIV+ individuals from being discriminated against, unfortunately the stigma of having HIV is still a problem. As we celebrate Pink Fest 2022, it feels fitting to raise awareness and money for Action for Aids Singapore.”

    Bottle #11b, 2022. Image courtesy of Art Porters

    Other editions of her quirky beer bottles are also available at the gallery. They are a joint initiative between Thirty Six Brewlab & Smokehouse and Art Porters.

    Sue Gray, 36×63 runs till 3 July 2022 at Art Porters Gallery

    4. Making a Rainbow Connection at The Projector

    The Rainbow Families Project takes over  The Projector X: Riverside from June 24 with its Love & Acceptance art exhibition. A ground-up initiative set up to “celebrate families that embrace queerness… the project aims to question the definition of family beyond the man-and-woman binary, to one that is defined by unconditional love and acceptance for one another.”

    Through a series of light installations and colourful family portraits designed and curated by art director Adzlynn Fizra, the exhibition seeks to expand our understanding of what the concept of ‘family’ truly is. The project is a joint initiative by Adzlynn, Koh Zhi Kai, Teo Yu Sheng, Toh Xing Jie, Kyle Malinda-White, and filter sponsor Eugene Soh.

    The members of the project’s main executive committee. Photo by Toh Xing Jie

    Koh’s Insta account (@kai.unclassified) will feature photos of ‘rainbow families’ every day across Pride Month 2022, each one celebrating a family that embraces their queer member(s), or a queer person and their chosen family.

    “We believe that a family is made up of people who love and accept each other unconditionally, and that one has the power to choose the family they deserve,” the organisers explain.

    From the exuberant and joyful images that we’ve seen online, this looks set to be a real powerhouse of an exhibition:

    Image from @kai.unclassified, photo by Toh Xing Jie 
    Image from @kai.unclassified, photo by Toh Xing Jie
    Image from @kai.unclassified, photo by Toh Xing Jie

    We especially loved how the portraits on Instagram were unaccompanied by any kind of descriptive text beyond the bare statement about people having the power to choose their own families. Nestled in between notes of support, the message is clear — these families do not need to be justified or explained, they simply are. And their right to exist should not be questioned. It’s a powerful series of works that calls for tolerance and acceptance, sentiments that Koh Zhi Kai from Kai Unclassified, the project lead of Rainbow Families, echoes:

    “We are not making a statement, we are simply showcasing love and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ persons in Singapore. We acknowledge that rejection can happen when a queer person comes out to their family, but we also believe that one has the power to choose the families they deserve.”

    The Rainbow Families Love & Acceptance art exhibition runs from 24 June to 1 July, at the The Projector X : Riverside

    5. The Obligatory Selfie Spot

    What’s a listicle without a trendy selfie spot?

    And nobody does them better and with as much sass and spunk as Sam Lo. The trans-masc street artist brings his vibrant aesthetic sensibilities to Aliwal Arts Centre in a mural entitled STILL HERE. According to the artist, the work “pushes for inclusivity, marriage equality (and for the right) to be recognised as a family.” It also seeks to “protect trans lives, equal rights and the freedom to love.”

    The work is located on the back walls of Aliwal Arts Centre, away from the main thoroughfare.

    Flanked by bins, restaurant aunties preparing mysterious food (?) items and uncles on the phone who will stop to comment on your jump shot technique, the mural sits in a space that’s itself teeming with life.

    When you finally encounter it, the first thing that hits you is its massive size:

    You feel small and insignificant in comparison to the lush profusion of primary colours and gorgeous images of eclectic tropical birds.

    We loved the mural’s placement right by a pair of restrictive double yellow lines. It made us think of the joyful power of kinship, and how marginalised communities continue to thrive in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Scan a QR code at the side of the mural and you’ll be taken to a website with useful resources on LGBTQIA+ issues:

    Say what you will about silly influencers and tragic try-hard selfies, but we loved this mural for its clear mass appeal as well as its ability to spread an important message far and wide.

    Hantu crawling up the wall, or Plural staff attempting to act cool? You be the judge.

    Regardless of where you stand on s.377A issues or gay marriage or anything LGBTQIA+-related, we hope you’ll take the time to enjoy some of the great art on this list.

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    Pinkdot 2022 takes place on 18 June 2022 from 3pm to 6pm at Hong Lim Park. Only fully-vaccinated Singapore citizens and PRs may attend. Pink Fest runs for the entire month of June and you can check its website for the full calendar of events. 

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