in somnia: Shen Jiaqi

Press release

Cuturi Gallery is delighted to present in somnia by Shen Jiaqi (b. 1989, Singapore). This marks Shen’s second solo show with Cuturi Gallery exhibiting a fresh body of works investigating the collective subconsciousness of yearning experienced by city-dwelling individuals for sanctuaries that suggest comfort and privacy within existing urban landscapes. Shen’s practice works between the mediums of painting, light and object installations to prompt the audiences with materials and hues that are reminiscent of a state of transience between memory and current reality, while evoking interpretations towards familiar spatial presences.

Colours and activity representing conditions of insomnia and restlessness experienced by city-dwelling individuals point towards tensions within a city that is both asleep and awake, while surfaces in the urban landscape bear witness to the stories otherwise lost to the undulating flow of time and development.

Shen’s paintings illuminate like optical fibers, pulsing in a range of blues, oranges, yellows and greys. Evoking motion and change to our cognitive experience as we decipher between matter, shadow and space. Three elements that should not be understood as functioning separately but instead as a phenomenon of air and time passing, affecting our emotional state.
Looking at the painting ‘The Golden Eternity’ Shen renders the appearance of a modern apartment, emblazoned in a purple haze. Here, the sun and moon, the source which energises the day and night of our everyday lives, transit as reflected glow between buildings. They however, emerge as psychic colours within the interior and exterior architecture of the featured apartment. Stemming from an inner life, Shen’s paintings are like enclosures with their own light source, relating to a personal search for sanctuary, reinforcing her relationship to the lighted windows as one in which the inhabitants, like her, are also looking for a private respite.
Shen’s pictorial light flattens the grit of real life, producing a psychological presence rather than subjecting us to its harshness. This presence looms as if an extract has been released in the air, like a kind of ‘noir fume’, acting as a numbing drug, smoothening and merging the pores of urbanity while accentuating ‘choice’ representations of glass, metal, and concrete into a form of ‘kaleidoscopic dust’. Like the inspiration of author Kamila Shamsie’s character from her novel Kartography, who is able to search for beauty in a splitter of glass amidst the ugliness of the city, Shen’s delight is in casting painted light to foreground the minor details lost in nocturnal urbanity. Her painting muse can be imagined as one who roams the city with an atomizer, perfuming silhouette and reflection, romancing the sleepless among our city lights.
Shen Jiaqi obtained her Master’s in Fine Arts at LASALLE College of the Arts in 2022 and her works have been part of several public showcases and shows including Plural Art Mag’s Our Heartlands, National Gallery’s benefit Past.Future.Present, and most recently, “Towards Sojourn”, a unique outer coating for McLaren GT in collaboration with Louis Vuitton’s Art of Living savoir faire event. Ever-Were, her third solo exhibition was held at Cuturi Gallery in 2021. For her work, Shen received a Highly Commended award in the 2021 UOB Painting of the Year, Emerging Artist category. She has also recently received the Winston Oh Travelogue award in 2022.
in somnia will be on view at Cuturi Gallery from 1 to 23 October 2022.
Excerpt of text from “Sleepless Delight” by Ian Woo.