On art and urban spaces
In recent times, I have noticed that there has been a proliferation of artists concerned with urbanization and built environments. When I was an undergraduate at art school, I often questioned my own explorations as I looked around me and began making work about the world. Caught in a place of non-permanence as an international student in Australia, and realizing that construction sites spanned the entirety of my lived environment, attention was naturally drawn to the transitional aspects of my existence, and that of the place in which I resided in. Returning home to Singapore after my five years of trying to build myself up as an artist in Sydney, I found that everyone had already lay claim to this interest in the negotiation of urbanized spaces. It seemed that everyone had something to say about this state of being.
Little wonder how this came about. My choice of subject matter had been a natural one proceeding from my observations of what it meant for me to exist in these uncertain times. I felt perpetually uprooted from scenes of familiarity as spaces changed far quicker than I can bring myself to know them. In Singapore, where property developments are hailed as a wonderful sign of economic growth, locals had begun begrudging our gradual lost of heritage and history. Local artists were already responding to this sentiment in many ways. But often, so much of it sits passively as a silent visual in a gallery space or perhaps get successfully programmed as a theatrical play, spurring the nods of so many, but ultimately basks in its own ironic ephemerality.
While attempting to get back on track with creating work, I knew that if I were to continue down this path of exploring how is it we experience spaces, I had to point myself toward a clearer goal. I started asking myself the question: Of what forms might a work take to effectively comment and generate questions regarding the state of this land on which we reside?
For myself starting out as a painter, I had begun by identifying infrastructural aesthetics in urban spaces as the only constant, no matter how quickly they switched as cards in a poker game. In the end, they were still cards we played. Either way, we are still players in the game. My early works were important for me as they provided me with avenues to remember places. Putting ‘me’ aside, it was not always interesting for the viewer as my engagement as artist with the work was paramount, to say the least, to the process, and it required more than average interest on the viewer’s part, to connect substantially with the work. My later performance works were often slow, and some say tedious, or even boring, and I completely agree. I felt then that it had to be, because anything too quickly conveyed seemed like a mere display of words or aesthetics. I wanted viewers to be aware of the time they were given to ask themselves, “What is happening, why am I here, what am I supposed to do?” The problem with the character of these works is that they were not always immediately engaging, and unfortunately for me, that can sometimes be more than half the battle lost, in terms of having any real effect on an audience. I know that I have to find that mid-point of sustaining interest but also in those few moments, open up a world of perspectives. I want my audience to be thinking audience, not just viewers, or people at the gallery for a fun day out.
I thought it might be wise while beginning this research, to undertake some sort of study surrounding these cultural patterns. Perhaps, it might do me good to put together some research situated around Singaporean artists on urbanization. Since it was an area in itself, taking my observations to a wider lens might enable me to make more insightful remarks about how environments affect us, and perhaps use that information to create a new body of work. I am looking forward to the start of the residency with Chan Hampe Galleries (Singapore) and MetroArts (Brisbane) at the later part of 2012, and meeting with my Australian collaborators. I hope that by then, I might have a clearer idea of what forms this new work should best take on.
Thoughts about things.