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At This Exhibition, You Can Touch the Artwork—And Sit on It, Too

Lamps sprout like mushrooms from a tall white column. A giant soap bubble sparkles in the sunlight. A wooden bench mysteriously grows spindly legs and feet.  

You haven’t stepped into some enchanted landscape, but rather into LOY Contemporary Art Gallery’s space along Tanglin Road.

Founded in 2023, LOY Gallery is currently presenting its second show, following a Year-of-the-Dragon-themed exhibition at the beginning of the year.

Entitled A Trail to Chase, the exhibition is a partnership with Shanghai’s Objective Gallery and curated by its director Ansha Jin. In keeping with LOY Gallery’s emphasis on spotlighting “intersectional contemporary art and design,” the 20-odd works on show, by a respectable slate of international artists, sit between these two worlds. 

On floor: Vincent Pocsik, “Damned to Love You” (2021), carved black walnut, 163 x 61 x 58.5 cm. On wall: Fernando Mastrangelo, “Drift” Mirror (2021), hand-dyed sand, mirror, 122 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.

Dennis Ouyang, one of LOY Gallery’s founders, explains that a “chance visit” to Objective Gallery while in Shanghai planted the seed for a collaboration between the two. “I admired their conceptual, narrative-driven approach to showcasing exciting artists in the collectible design space, and felt this resonated with the eclecticism and experimental approach imbued in our gallery philosophy.”

A Trail to Chase is indeed eclectic, and yet the works—mostly dual-purpose pieces that function as both art and furniture—do hang together in appealing ways. 

And if you’ve ever yearned to touch the works at a gallery, you can do so here to your heart’s content—fitting, for art ultimately meant to live with you at home.

Drawn from nature

In A Trail to Chase, many of the artists draw inspiration from the natural world. Some, like Clotilde Ancarani, do this more literally than others.

Clotilde Ancarani, “Gunnera” table (2022), bronze, 35 x 130 x 110 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.

In her design work, the artist, who also practises painting and sculpture, transmutes natural forms like leaves and branches into larger-than-life bronze objects. For her “Gunnera” coffee table, propped upon slender twigs, it’s almost as if she’s made a perfect impression of a giant leaf, feathery veins and all. 

Charlotte Kingsnorth, “Barking Up the Wrong Log” stool (2023), blackened wood, 30 x 28 x 40 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.
J McDonald, “Fungus” shelf (2022), bronze, black paper, 89 x 89 x 152 cm. Image by author.

Or, there are British designer Charlotte Kingsnorth’s “Barking Up the Wrong Log” table and stool made from tree trunk cross-sections. Darkened to an inky shade and scored with a stylised bark pattern, these “tree stumps” brim with woodland whimsy, and would look perfectly at home in a children’s picture book. Nearby, the forking branches of J McDonald’s “Fungus” shelf certainly do resemble a mushroom cluster—but, with a little imagination, also a crop of coral or trees.

Eny Lee Parker, coffee table (2024), ceramic base, wooden top. On table, right: Ceramic lamp 1 (2022), glazed ceramic, 33 x 17 x 17 cm. On table, left: Ceramic lamp 2 (2022), glazed ceramic, 62 x 24 x 24 cm. Image by author.

Of the works that directly reference natural forms, Eny Lee Parker’s lamps and coffee table are standouts. She’s made ceramic look like huge white stones plucked straight from some giant riverbed, and used these to support a wooden tabletop and lampshades. The contrast between dainty lampshade and the ponderous “stone” is especially fetching.

Swirling and curling

Another thread that runs through the exhibition is the use of amorphous, blobby shapes, running counter to the rigidity and symmetry that characterises more conventional furniture. 

Viktor Udzenija, “Booblyfook” (2023), brass, glass with iridescent coating, LED lights, dimmer, 190 cm. Image by author.

For the “Booblyfook” lamp—another exhibition highlight—Croatian designer Viktor Udzenija has coaxed borosilicate glass into the wobbly shape of a soap bubble. Freezing this most ephemeral of forms in time, the hand-sculpted glass catches the light in endlessly attractive ways. 

But not all the works on show have such literal real-world referents. While also favouring sinuous lines and organic shapes, they leave viewers to draw any connections to specific natural forms on their own. 

J McDonald, “Innersection” vanity (2021), steel, foam, bronze, gypsum cement, mirror, 112 x 91 x 30 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.
J McDonald, “Cube Variations 5” (2022), bronze, gypsum cement, 41 x 41 x 61 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.
Jialun Cao, “Be Water” chair (2024), plastic, metal, lacquer, cotton, vegetable leather, 103 x 91 x 73 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.

Consider, for instance, the soft pale curves of McDonald’s “Innersection Vanity,” or his side table from the “Cube Variations” series, whose artful emphasis on negative space makes what is not table seem almost as important as what is. Or look at the dining chair by Chinese artist Jialun Cao, which—like a Salvador Dalí watch, or one of us at the end of a long day—seems to be melting butterily into the floor. 

Charlotte Kingsnorth, “Bird’s Eye” dressing table set (2023), wood, stainless steel, faux leather. Image by author.

And then there’s Kingsnorth’s elephantine dressing table set, consisting of a vanity table with a built-in mirror and a matching chair. Dark grey colouring and variegated textures give the impression that both table and chair have been hewn straight from stone. With a hulking, neolithic appeal perhaps best described as Flintstones-core, they’d probably look most at home in a cave lit by firelight, but we suppose a well-appointed bedroom will do too.

Against the grain

While furniture may be functional, that doesn’t mean it can’t, like art, serve as a medium to express feelings and ideas.

The best examples of this on show are by American artist Vincent Pocsik, whose furniture carved from black walnut wood metamorphises into eerie human forms. In “CHARLIE,” for instance, a lamp base curls and melts into a scrawny human waist and pair of trudging legs. Somehow, you can’t help but feel bad for this inanimate object, bent double under the crushing weight of existence.

Vincent Pocsik, “CHARLIE” (2020), carved black walnut, lighting elements, 85 x 45 x 200 cm. Image by author.

Simultaneously, the pieces are styled such that you can picture them being useful in your own home. Books and a chess set, for instance, perch atop the branches of McDonald’s “Fungus” shelf, while some carefully placed decor pieces enliven the surface of Kingsworth’s dressing table. 

Even if this showroom-style approach occasionally highlights the sacrifice of function for form (most of the works are heartbreakingly bereft of storage space), it also emblematises LOY Gallery’s ambitions to bring something new to Singapore’s art scene. Where else, after all, would you get to touch all the artworks, much less pull open drawers or test out chairs?

While not all the shows to come will have the same selling point, Ouyang expresses the gallery’s hopes to carve out a unique niche for itself going forward. “As a new, young gallery, we hope that LOY Gallery can first and foremost be a platform to inspire multi-disciplinary ideas across art and design.”

Drawing inspiration from the diverse realms of “contemporary art, design, fashion, photography, music, and lifestyle,” the gallery will introduce new international artists to Singapore, while also aiming to increase Southeast Asia’s profile in the global art scene. It’s already set its sights on presenting at international art fairs, as well as collaborating with institutions, foundations, and biennales.

With six more shows planned for this year alone, including presentations of photography, luxury, and fashion, LOY Gallery is certainly hitting the ground running. And while the realisation of its loftier ambitions remains to be seen, A Trail to Chase indicates that the gallery, with its all-embracing ethos and the resources to show quality works, is one to watch.


A Trail to Chase at LOY Contemporary Art Gallery has been extended until 15 June 2024.

Header image: Foreground: Charlotte Kingsnorth, “G Plan Fan Club” chairs and table (2022), ash timber chair frames, foam, velvet, 100 x 58 x 50 cm (chairs), timber veneer with ash buttons, 72 x 150 (diameter) cm (table). Background: Eny Lee Parker, “Twist” Column Light (2021), ceramic, brass, linen/silk, 218 x 86 x 71 cm. Image courtesy of LOY Contemporary Art Gallery.

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