Cover Image; Courtesy of The Arts House

Meet the local artists who are taking over the city with their art

From architectural sculptures that reflect the marginalised in Singaporean society to ephemeral illustrations inspired by historical escapades, we highlight the works of five artists you should have on your radar at this year’s edition of the Singapore Art Week.

1. Faris Nakamura

WHO IS HE Growing up, Faris Nakamura had to share a room with his brothers, and till today, he’s never had his own living space. “I feel both attached and detached to the space at the same time, and I found this dynamics intriguing,” the Lasalle College of the Arts graduate shares. This desire for his own space led the artist to explore, through sculptures, installations and site-specific works, the way people navigate and orientate themselves within spaces.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE Nakamura continues his exploration into the notion of public spaces and refuge with his solo show, The Camouflaged Man: Invisibility and Mimicry, which is presented by Richard Koh Fine Art at the inaugural S.E.A. Focus art fair. The artist adopts the persona of The Camouflaged Man, who blends into his environment within an authoritarian society. Audiences are encouraged to adjust their viewing perspectives to discover the spaces within, from hidden stairwells to covert passageways, with the help of strategically-placed mirrors.

ALL THE DETAILS S.E.A. Focus is held from January 24 to 27 at the Gillman Barracks.

(Related: S.E.A. Focus Is A New Platform That Champions Southeast Asian Art)

2. Tan Zi Xi aka MessyMxsi

WHO IS SHE Artist and illustrator Tan Zi Xi’s moniker, MessyMsxi (pronounced as Messy-Miss-Xi), hints at her creative process which, by her own admission, is inherently messy and springs “from moments of spontaneity and inspiration”. Even so, she strives to tell meaningful stories through her art such as Plastic Ocean, featuring more than 20,000 pieces of discarded plastic, which was presented at the Singapore Art Museum in 2016 as part of Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea exhibition. You might have also seen the Central Saint Martins graduate in action on the sidelines of the Hermès Through the Walls exhibition at its Liat Towers boutique in 2017, where she conducted a series of workshops to create playful patterns and collages using the maison’s origami paper.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE Inspired by Italian writer Italo Calvino’s book, Invisible Cities, on Marco Polo’s travels, Tan’s latest illustration, Everything You Wish About the City, in the Past, Present and Future, is hand-painted onto a book-like sculpture crafted by local carpentry studio, The Merry Men Works. The work is part of the Open Books installation on the lawn of The Arts House. You can also find another of Tan’s work, 2200 A.D., at the Bridging Realms exhibition at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, which also features the works of three other artists challenging the notion of identity, cultural diversity and social responsibility. Tan’s witty illustration of a dystopian future, where the Earth’s natural resources are depleted, urges self-reflection among audiences on the ethics of human behavior in relation to our consumerist nature.

ALL THE DETAILS Open Books is on the lawn of The Arts House until February 24, while Bridging Realms takes place at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay until April 7.

3. Shubigi Rao

WHO IS SHE  Shubigi Rao was most recently the recipient of the Jurors’ Choice Award at the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize 2018 for her work, Written in the Margins. This is the first part of a decade-long film, book and art project entitled Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book, which the artist and writer started in 2014 to look at the history of book destruction and various methods of repression. Rao explains, “It’s a futile attempt to psychoanalyse why our species loves violence and why we default so easily to it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive for someone like me who is drawn to beauty and the ephemeral, but because I value things that are not valued very often, I find that I needed to spend a decade of my life doing this.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE In an attempt to draw parallels and extend meaning to disposed objects, Rao engages in an artistic dialogue with Hollywood actress-director and artist Lucy Liu for Unhomed Belongings, an exhibition jointly presented by the National Museum of Singapore and private non-profit arts organisation, The Ryan Foundation. Both artists use books as a medium to explore themes of loss, destruction and rehoming, and the exhibition invites viewers to take a more intimate look at their lives—places they have been to and hold dear.

ALL THE DETAILS Lucy Liu and Shubigi Rao: Unhomed Belongings runs until February 24 at the National Museum of Singapore.

(Related: Singapore Art Week To Transform City With Installations, Residencies And More)

4. Jason Wee

WHO IS HE Founder of independent artists’ space, Grey Projects, Jason Wee is at the forefront of community-based projects. Noticing a trend of fences being put up around public spaces, especially in his neighbourhood, the artist embarked on a series of sculptural works that explores the symbolic meaning of fences in society as structural support, incorporating physical elements of polarising hot topics that dominated the city in recent times. Such examples include the infamous Oxley Road saga and the Pink Dot event at Hong Lim Park.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE Wee’s Labyrinths (Open Fire) from the aforementioned sculptural series is on show at the Impart Collectors’ Show 2019: Fabulous Monsters, as part of Private Collection 2. The 2017 sculpture features actual park barricades and window grills, with a delicate chiffon “pink dot” hinting at the challenges of LGBTQ inclusivity.

ALL THE DETAILS Impart Collectors’ Show 2019: Fabulous Monsters runs until February 2 at the ArtScience Museum.

5. Ong Kian Peng

WHO IS HE With an artistic practice centred at the intersection of art, design and technology, Ong Kian Peng creates immersive sensory environments in new formats. The artist and educator started experimental arts space Supernormal, under his own design studio Modular Unit, to mount exhibitions of works by emerging creatives and disciplines.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE In the first exhibition of its kind, Adaptations, a group show by Supernormal explores the relationship between contemporary art and technology. From artificial intelligence to mechanical devices, the works showcase the use of technology—from video art, computational art as well as hybrid practices combining digital and traditional media—as an artistic medium, while looking at its challenges and potentials in the social, cultural and artistic landscape. Participating artists include Ong, Andreas Schlegel and Murasaki Penguin.

ALL THE DETAILS Adaptations is held until February 9 at Gillman Barracks.

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