SHOW THAT MATTERS: “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia”

Sopheap Pich's Morning Glory
(Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop)

WHAT: “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia

WHEN: May 10 through July 20.

 

WHERE: Center for Contemporary Art , Gillman Barracks, Singapore

WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: This exhibition of 19 new Asian works acquired by the Guggenheim Museum may have already premiered in New York last year and also travelled to Hong Kong, but it remains a compelling and critical examination of contemporary art in the region and how our past intertwines with the present. Many of the artists will be familiar to viewers here, but the works are fresh and intriguing.

Curator June Yap has struck a good balance between more aesthetically pleasing works that are easily accessible and esoteric works that may leave the viewer puzzled at first glance but nevertheless captivated.

Take for example the elaborate giant rattan sculpture of a morning glory flower and buds by established artist Sopheap Pich, a real crowd pleaser that belies an important underlying political commentary (The fragile flower was a critical source of nourishment for many Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge regime and gave them strength), or the large painting by Arin Dwihartanto Suranyo made of volcanic ash (gathered after the 2010 eruption of Gunun Merapi) mixed with resin, and the mesmerizing photograph Counter Acts by Pokong Anading, where the subjects of the work hold circular mirrors in front of their faces, reflecting back the light of the photographer and his gaze.

Another immediately appealing and dramatic work is Love Bed by Tayeba Begum Lipi, a double bed made of thousands of razor blades that reflects on attitudes towards domestic violence, as well as Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s Enemy’s Enemy: Monument to a Monument that incorporates an American, Louisville Slugger baseball bat whose end has been carved with a sculpture of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist month who self-immolated in 1963 in Saigon to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.

There are also several video installations that seem to straddle historic, and often more politically-engaged documentaries.

Worth the trek to Gillman Barracks.

To see the artworks in another window click here.