Zai Kuning, one of Singapore’s most prominent artists, has been working with an array of painting and drawing, sculpture, film, music and performance through multi-disciplinary approaches. In the 1990s, the themes of his works often relate to rituals and the body. He was most well-known for his theatre activity and performances, which garnered much attention at the time. Around 2000, he started deeply observing Malay history and culture, especially that of the Orang Laut (sea gypsies), who are the natives in Riau islands. While their surrounding environment is rapidly modernizing, Zai’s series of work was embodied through the process of his effort in understanding Orang Laut’s resistance to assimilation, their hopeless solitary mind, feelings against inevitable brandished power or human desire, and their earnest hope. This series received high reputation both inside and outside the country and was also introduced in “Who interprets the world?” (21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015) and “Welcome to the Jungle: Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia from the Collection of Singapore Art Museum” (Yokohama Museum of Art, 2013). Zai is also known as a musician in Japan by having collaborations with Yoshihide Otomo and Tetsu Saito.
This exhibition is Zai’s first solo exhibition in Japan entitled “Ombak Hitam”, which means Kuroshio (the Japan Current) in Malay, and it mainly consists of his new drawings expressing various forms of the color black.