offerings will coincide with the 20th anniversary of his photography studio, Wai Teik Photography and marks his first solo exhibition.
The April 5th opening date will also astronomically mark the coming of spring and falling on Qing Ming Festival, denotes the occasion to remember, honor and tend to the graves of deceased ancestors. In rethinking, reimagining, and reworking the traditional representation of the ritual of offering, Wai Teik has imparted a contemporary sensibility to a mysterious progression in narrative.
“…I’ve always been fascinated by the Chinese practice of venerating the deceased, and how this ritual still lives on in modern Singapore. I want to reimagine this tradition through a 21st century lens that’s informed by pop culture, fashion, science and technology…”
Singapore is a new nation with deep roots in Chinese history, offerings examines how we construct and hold on to tradition in a time and place that is becoming increasing ‘rootless’. Within the series, Wai Teik is experimenting with visual representations and social commentaries in a style seemingly at diametrical opposites. Yet it is exactly this incongruity that allows him to bridge the past with the present, Eastern & Western ideologies, and born a body of work that invites discourse and conversation.
The first of Wai Teik’s exploration in the subjects of death, offerings and the innate human need to remember our dearly departed, the series is comprised of carefully executed photographs of a single, solitary model. The visuals are powerfully stark and arresting, reconciling his award winning photographic style with conceptual sensibility. Portraits are shrouded in gold- foiled bamboo papers traditionally used to create the “material wealth” offered up as offerings to the deceased. Wai Teik deconstructs then magnifies these objects traditionally folded from bamboo papers and transforms them into sculptural body armour. The combination of the spiritual and the carnal creates a balanced mid point between two extremities. The female model whose strong angular form shrouded in darkness and slowly devoured by flames functions as medium for the viewer to explore his or her own mythos.
Having grown up watching his family perform Taoist offerings during the Hungry Ghost Festival, Wai Teik was always intrigued by the ritualistic nature of their actions. Even as an adult, he never questioned the practice, as this is a taboo topic people rarely talked about. Yet this practice of veneration remained in the artist’s psyche. What motivated him and his family to go through the motions year after year when they lived secular lives otherwise?
Was it fear of losing the memory of family no longer around, or of forgetting someone you once loved?
This fear of evanescence became deeply entrenched in the mind of the artist. offerings explores how and why this feeling creeps onto us without any warning, and ignites a sudden, irrational, and oftentimes crippling fright. This series won Bronze at the One Eyeland Photography Awards 2015.
A culmination and manifestation of a lifelong fascination with the ritual of offering, juxtaposed against a backdrop of an ever-changing modernity in cosmopolitan Singapore, these works breathe fresh life into how we perceive an age-old tradition and make it accessible and acceptable. This co-existence of the old and the new is natural and unquestioned.