Inventory: New Art from Southeast Asia

Cheo Chai-Hiang, 35 Black Cowries (detail), 2009, 35 stainless steel characters, cowries, bags. Courtesy of Osage Gallery

Inventory: New Art from Southeast Asia at Osage Gallery Singapore presents recent works by eight key artists in Southeast Asia. In 35 Black Cowries, 35 stainless steel Chinese characters are displayed in opened square miniature suitcases and each stainless steel Chinese character includes a black cowry shell to replace the Chinese symbol 贝(bei). The classical Chinese symbol 贝(bei) for money, originated as an ideogram of a cowry shell, being a form of currency exchange in ancient China (and other parts of the world). Since then, many Chinese characters associated with words revolving around money possess this symbol as a radical. The act and visual significance of replacing the symbol 贝(bei) with a physical cowry prompts a consideration of the meaning of the word and the extent to which it has evolved from its roots. The choice of the 35 Chinese characters draws out not only the inter-connections and meanings within and between each pair of characters, but also points to the relationship between the evolution of the Chinese language and contemporary capitalist society. Born in 1946, Cheo was one of the earliest artists in Singapore to boldly call for a rejection of formalism and his experimentation with art driven by concepts and processes started in the 1970s. His international practice includes curating, lecturing and writing, and his recent participation in the Singapore Biennale 2008 and Asian Pacific Triennale 2009, Brisbane, Australia had works which drew also on history and language.

Wit Pimkanchanapong; Pear, Apple, Banana, Mangosteen, Orange, and Starfruit; 2009, Paper models. Courtesy of Osage Gallery.

Wit Pimkanchanapong‘s Pear, Apple, Banana, Mangosteen, Orange, and Starfruit is a work of tropical fruits made from paper models. Wit commenced his series of works based on paper models since 2002, driven by an interest in connecting electronic media and cubism as both call into question the ability to have a fixed representation and perspective. In this work, he draws on the idea of hypertext, or text leading to other related information, and prints words of other fruits on each paper fruit model. The folded fruit with the tiny printed words of other fruits in different languages point to the multiple identities one can assume in the virtual realm, aided by electronic media. Born in 1976 in Thailand and trained in architecture, Wit’s art projects also embody a strong element of using and playing with social space. At the 8th Sharjah Biennale 2007, Wit, together with collaborators of Soi Project, transformed the space in front of the Sharjah Art Museum into a lively fruit market, inviting passersby to construct paper fruit models. His practice encompasses music, and he curates an annual exhibition as part of the Music Festival in Bangkok.

Tintin Wulia, Lure, 2009, Installation Dimensions variable Installation view, Osage Kwun Tong, Hong Kong, 2009. Courtesy of Osage Gallery.

A trail of miniature passports from around the world laid on the ground of the gallery entrance, and across the walls and ceiling, leads visitors to a claw vending machine half-filled with passport reproductions. Visitors are invited to insert a coin and operate the claw for a chance to win a passport. Tintin Wulia‘s installation, Lure, speaks to both the relationship between chance and citizenship, as well as the notion that the sense of belonging to a nation can be constructed and imagined. Her sensitivities to the multiple relationships connected to her Indonesian, Chinese, and Balinese roots together with her dream since young, of being a citizen of the world, have fuelled her investigations in the tensions between personal memories, choices, and realities, pertaining to issues of mobility, migration and identity. Lure is part of an ongoing project, (Re)Collection of Togetherness, an effort since 2007 at collecting and reproducing passports of all the nation-states in the world. Earlier stages involved working with materials from mosquitoes and kite-making, and a recurrent choice of stop-motion animation in her films – all with intimations of borders or a disregard of them. Born in 1972 in Bali, Indonesia, and now based in Melbourne, Australia, Tintin’s academic background in architecture, music and fine art have guided her experimentation across artistic disciplines, with recent presentations at Centraal Museum in Utrecht, the 2009 Jakarta Biennale, and the 28th International Film Festival Rotterdam.

The exhibition runs till 25 April 2010, and also features works by Poklong Anading (Philippines), Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore), Lee Kit (Hong Kong), Vincent Leong (Malaysia) and Pratchaya Phinthong (Thailand).