As Singapore celebrates its 50th year of independence from Malaysia, Sundaram Tagore Gallery delves into local culture this fall with its presentation of “Dear Painter.” Organized by independent curator June Yap, this exhibition features works by nine Singaporean artists specially commissioned for the occasion.
For the exhibition, the Singapore-based Yap chose to focus on artists who paint—sometimes in ways that push well beyond the boundaries of the canvas. If the exhibition’s title is familiar, it’s because Yap borrowed it from German artist Martin Kippenberger’s 1981 series, “Lieber Maler, male mir” (“Dear painter, paint for me”). Ever the provocateur challenging conventional notions of artmaking and aesthetics, Kippenberger had a billboard painter produce the series, under his direction. In this iteration of “Dear Painter,” we are asked to look at the material itself—“it’s guises of mark, craft, concept, and objectification,” explains Yap in her curatorial statement.
Among the standouts is Chun Kai Feng, who contributed a series of small sculptures of unassuming, everyday objects—a melon, a street sign, some orange construction mesh—made out of plastic and finished with a patina of automotive paint. Slick and perfect, these objects look industrially manufactured, and stand in stark contrast to Shubigi Rao’s delicately rendered ink-on-paper paintings resembling natural history studies. In these works, the artist conjures a fictional world with images of fantastical animals accompanied by text referring to authors like Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges, as well as to The Bible and the theories of René Descartes. Jeremy Sharma, meanwhile, contributed perplexing, gray abstract wall-hung sculptures made from zinc applied to high-density foam. Altogether these widely varied works certainly succeed in showing how wonderfully broad and experimental the category of painting is today.
“Dear Painter” is on view at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore, Sept. 4 – Oct. 25, 2015.