Panorama – recent art from contemporary Asia (1/4)

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) has lined up some 50 pieces of contemporary artworks from its collection for the launch of its exhibition entitled Panorama, which will run in staggered series at both SAM and SAM @ 8Q that’s just a stone’s throw away.

The launch showcase, which includes works by artists from Asia and Australia, is presented in various galleries located on all three floors of SAM and it runs through 25th December 2012.

Due to the contemporary nature of the artworks, we will not only see works of traditional methods and media, such as paintings and sculptures, we will also see installation, photographic images, videos as well as new forms and materials of art creation.

Most contemporary artists create art to reflect social structures and cultural background, sometimes also to echo civil movements or to question socio-political climates. Factors that often influence their artworks include urbanisation and globalisation, rise of consumerism, mass media, conflicts, sense of identities and so on and so forth.

Starting from the Panorama gallery on level 2, we will be greeted by some interesting mode of transport as soon as we enter the gallery. They are called Bajaj, written as ‘Bajaj’ and pronounced as ‘Ba-jai’ in Indonesia.

Indonesian artist Nasirun aims to remind people that the Bajajs are a fast disappearing part of street life in Indonesia by presenting three Bajajs intricately decorated and vidvidly coloured. In the early days, Bajajs were imported from India and modified for local use in Indonesia, just like taxis.

a Bajaj

Do you think real Bajajs traveling on the streets of Indonesia look as exquisite as the three shown in the exhibition? Of course not. The artist has added relief carvings that resemble relief sculptures on the walls of temples in Indonesia, based on Javanese culture and artistic forms.

The Javanese culture and ideology has etched itself firmly onto Indonesian values and identity, which was intended by the former Suharto regime to unify the diverse population. However, even such long-standing values seem to be a thing of the past when globalisation and mass media take centre stage.

It is as if the artist is trying to say, traditional values are fading away, just like how the Bajaj is vanishing from the streets. The notion makes the title of these works, Bajaj Pasti Berlalu, so apt, because it means ‘to pass by for sure’, and ‘berlalu’ also means ‘to drive pass’.

Moving on to level 1 via a flight of stairs just opposite one of the Bajajs, we will be looking at another work that also reflects street life, but this time it’s about Thailand.

This installation entitled Cloud Nine is the work of Thai artist Sakarin Krue-On. Stray dogs are commonly seen in the streets of Thailand and the term ‘street dog’ is a demeaning name used on people from the lower end of society.

Cloud Nine

The artist has glorified and mystified these street dogs by adding wings to their white porcelain bodies and setting them up on what looks like a high class fine dining table. It is all but a dream, so real yet unrealistic.

The red and pink background gives a dream-like sensation, acting as a temporary satisfaction of one’s desire. But no matter how flawless the dream is, you may notice a tell-tale sign that, a street dog is ultimately a street dog. Try taking a closer look at the plates and the food scattered on the table and you may realise something.

a street dog is still a street dog

The video and sound effects presented in the space next door are also part of the artwork, you may like to spend some time watching it for an in-depth understanding of what the artist is trying to express.

We will then move on to the other end of the gallery, where we will watch a short video about food, but certainly far from fine dining.

Read on at another post “continue…Panorama – recent art from contemporary Asia“!