Singaporeans are feeling a little more patriotic in the month of August, with our National Day falling on the 9th. The past two years through a pandemic have been rough, and the arts is not spared as well. With art exhibitions, art fairs, events and many more activities being cancelled, the arts industry has been tested more than ever. But it is also during these trying times when we have stayed resilient and adapted, to be back tougher than ever.
Cuturi Gallery celebrates not only the vibrancy and diversity of the Singapore art scene, but also its tenacity and how far they have come, in its new two-part exhibition Little Red Dot. The Singapore Edition features 14 Singaporean artists - Afiqa A’mran, Aisha Rosli, Casey Tan, Chloe Ong, Claudia Koh, Faris Heizer, Israfil Ridhwan, Jonathan Leong, Khairulddin Wahab, Marla Bendini, Oneal Parbo, Shen Jiaqi, Vanessa Liem and Vanessa Seah. Most of the featured artists have been closely working with the gallery since its relocation to 61 Aliwal Street 2 years ago, with guest artists in the mix as well to spice things up.
Stepping into the gallery, I immediately met eyes with an alien-like yet humanistic figure in Vanessa Liem’s distinctive style. My Favourite Fruit is a Blueberry which was hung beside the gallery’s counter commands the viewer’s attention immediately with the sole figure posing confidently with an intense look, and cheekily placed blueberries on its chest. Some visitors might remember Liem’s otherworldly figures from her recent second solo exhibition For The Time Being which was held in the gallery earlier this year in June.
As someone who loves surrealist art, I was immediately drawn to Casey Tan’s Thinking of a Dream rendered on a long canvas in soft pastel colours. Besides the bizarre scene of a man breathing cigarette smoke as if he was breathing life onto a salmon (which turns out to be a delicious plate of cut-up sashimi), Tan plays with perspective by creating several “frames” and layers in the work. The layers each show a different scene yet they are somehow spilling into each other, much like how we are unable to control our often weird (and at times random) dreams.
Guest artist ZXEROKOOL (aka Jonathan Leong, also the founder of Alien Space Crab) is also showing his work The Last Temptation 3.0 at the exhibition. Following his sold-out show Memes, Myths & Machines during Singapore Art Week at The Culture Story, ZXEROKOOL is back with another meme-packed piece in a bold reimagination of Temptations of Christ by Sandro Botticelli. Presented in the form of an archival print (certified with an NFT), the work juxtaposes icons from today’s digital culture into a well-loved art historical piece.
Marla Bendini introduces neon lights in Second Blessing (Feels Like the First Time), as it forms the phrase “feels like the first time” accompanying a powerful painting on canvas. The blue glow from the lights adds an extra dimension and feeling of magic to the painting, which depicts a figure crawling out of a body of water. The act symbolises a spiritual and emotional baptism, as the figure holds a palm front between their teeth and looks forward.
Shen Jiaqi’s works never fail to bring out the beauty in mundane urban landscapes. In Interlude, we see a masterful play on shadows and highlights to bring a quiet, normal street corner to life. A lighted window hints at activity happening in space inside even when we do not see a human figure in sight and draws the line between the public and the private. The work creates a sense of curiosity as to who is inside and what are they doing in a peaceful Singaporean evening (identified by the familiar sight of the aircon units and pipes outside a HDB flat).
The Little Red Dot: Singapore Edition runs from 20 August to 4 September 2022. The second part of the exhibition will take place in London, a name like Little Red Dot announces the return of Singaporean artists on a global stage and introduces several promising young artists as well. After emerging from a pandemic, we are looking forward to the future of our Singaporean artists, where will they go from here?