SINGAPORE, 14 April 2016 – Drawing on the late artist’s comprehensive donation to the National University of Singapore, Ng Eng Teng: 1+1=1 departs from existing readings of the artist’s practice to seek revelations into the artist’s interests in the multiplicities of humanity and our identities.
Ng, who has been widely discussed and studied as a key figure in local art history for his sculptural practice and work on the body, donated over 1,200 works to the NUS Museum between 1997 and 2001. Ranging from sculptures, ceramic forms, maquettes, sketches, paintings, drawings and public art, the donation represents the most comprehensive collection of works by a single artist in Singapore, spanning over four decades of practice.
(More information about Ng Eng Teng in Annex)
The exhibition takes its name and central focus from a geometric sculptural series that has yet to receive critical attention, but arguably presents the artist at his most experimental. The series 1+1=1 features largely geometric frames ranging across the mediums of aluminum, brass, steel, stoneware, and ciment fondu. Each work in the series features a consistent diagonal line running across the frame and a potentially shifting orientation of display, left largely undictated by Ng. Its references to common themes and potentials of reading for Ng’s practice is a key point of departure for the exhibition’s curator Kenneth Tay, who hopes to shed new light on the artist’s practice, while building on current scholarship.
“Given the breadth of the collection and also the diversity of Ng Eng Teng’s practice, I think we can prospect more alternative points of entry and to build on the existing literature that has been produced by art historians such as T.K. Sabapathy and Constance Sheares. Building on the present emphasis placed on the body, the exhibition considers the compelling proposition of ‘1+1=1’ when applied onto a reading of the artist’s practice,” says Tay. “Could we then perhaps read ‘1+1=1’ as a question about oneness, towards a rethinking of identities, human relationships, but also the way we separate things around us into discrete units of meaning?”
The exhibition considers the artist’s interests in how the parameters of the human may be imagined or idealised. Among the works shown is The Last Masterpiece, Ng’s final work that was completed posthumously by his family members, under his instruction. The work comprises swabs of what appear to be the artist’s blood arranged with a syringe and plastic tube in a frame. Through this work, the artist presents the body in its most fragile and porous state, a call to reconsider idealisations of the human body as an enclosed and self-sufficient entity.
Shown for the first time since the artist’s donation is Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, which comprises fabric flowers stretched across a hollow copper frame on a rounded ciment fondu base. Shaped like a downward-facing missile, the work openly reveals a hollow interior, notably absent in the rest of his sculptural practice. Producing the work around 1991, the artist sought to condense the many political events that happened during the climate of the Cold War.
Assisting the exhibition’s curator was Raffles Institution Year 5 art student Austin Chia who interned as part of the NUS Museum’s curatorial team in September 2015 and again from November 2015 to January 2016. Austin worked closely with his mentor Kenneth, contributing important insights based on his extensive research into Ng Eng Teng’s sketches. As part of his internship, Austin also had a hand in the installation of the exhibition.
“The internship was fun and eye-opening, especially when I looked through Ng Eng Teng’s sketchbooks which gave me fresh insights into both his thought process and his works,” shares Austin.
Outreach and education manager Michelle Kuek shares, “The structure of our internships offer opportunities to pursue research and make important contributions to on-going curatorial projects and programmes. They have managed publication projects, contributed curatorial writings, designed publicity collaterals, and seeded ideas for programme series. Significantly, many have also transited from interns to project co-collaborators.”
Ng Eng Teng: 1+1=1 is presently on display in the NUS Museum’s Ng Eng Teng Gallery. The exhibition displays an extensive range of the artist’s works as part of an effort to maintain the collection as a study collection.
For more information about the exhibition, media interviews, gallery tours or high resolution images, please contact:
Flora TOH (Ms)
NUS Centre For the Arts
T: (65) 6516 1257