21 March 2018

How Are You? I Am Well @ A+ Works of Art

In the exhibition statement, Chang Yoong Chia reveals that “…I feel the ideas and beliefs I have held about art are unravelling.” Utilizing his “childhood memory of looking into a well” as a point of departure, the mid-career artist displays sketches, paintings, and poems, which dwell on this evocation. Yoong Chia’s signature painting style and favoured iconography persist – wide-eyed creatures amalgamated into a monochromatic backwood, with the occasional text or object forcefully embedded via plays on visual forms, and a wonderful sensitivity towards countenances. From the arrangement of exhibits, to tiny drawings, one recognizes a face (or a display that looks like one) every time one turns towards his works.

[l] Installation snapshot (2017) of Candy Candy's Left Eye; Candy Candy (Poem); Candy Candy's Right Eye  [r] Detail snapshot of Candy Candy's Left Eye (2017)

Sidestepping the familiar, this show offers a repository of Yoong Chia’s responses, to the act of looking and representing. Beginning with the illustration of the physical distance between viewer and well’s bottom (‘Study Note I’), and a depiction of the perceived well (the exhibition namesake), the artist’s compositions then move away from the real to the figurative – distorted portraits in mirror images (‘Mirage’), loved ones emerging from the shadows (‘Cuticle’), reflection of what’s behind the onlooker (‘Cat In The Sky’), amplified echoes of turbulence (‘Beacon’), and eventually, the horizontal expansion of a circular well to encompass one’s lingering (‘The Crab’s Claw (For Capturing Artists)’). Hair is a continuous line, and leaves and wrinkles are exaggerated representations.

Installation snapshot: [top] The Crab's Claw (For Capturing Artists) (2018)  [bottom, l to r] Portable H.A.Y.I.A.W II (2017); Portable H.A.Y.I.A.W I (2017)

The black & white presentation intensifies the repressed stillness on show; Fortunately, a couple light-hearted depictions offer respite. ‘The Well Is the Nipple Is the Eye’ presents a straightforward visual illusion, while ‘The Apple Well’ hung nearby, recalls a bunch of human sensations – sweetness, musk, pleasure, guilt, touch, bonding… Unfortunately, none of the animal-related allegories (a regular motif in Yoong Chia’s paintings) struck a chord, which I attribute to the regular occurrences one encounters animalistic references at the same gallery space. As quoted in ‘The Giraffe (Poem)’ (noting too the opportunistic use of Xu Bing’s typeface), “The Giraffe knows not the problems of men (…) it drinks from its image, it does not give a toss”. Keeping a distance from the subject matter is an involuntary episode, when one is un-well

Beacon (2017)

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