December 2017: R&G Body Template in A Room

The human body, is the focus of three exhibitions held in the same month, at three independent art spaces. Organized by The F Klub, “Figure in the Room” at HOM Art Trans features a younger line-up of figurative painters, whose tiresome works flaunt individual styles and offer little unique perspectives in depicting/viewing the figure. The collective’s original members, however, do better – Shia Yih Yiing’s literal play on figure-ground relationship draws this viewer to note the size differences in perceived body parts, while one lounging body illustrated by Kow Leong Kiang resembles a copper sculpture in colour tone, yet its figure is soften by the brushy oil paint of the bed sheets. How many of these realistic figures, were depicted based on photographic portraits?

Shia Yih Yiing - Good afternoon! (2017)

At Minut Init Art Social, life drawing is the starting point for the exhibits at “The Enactivist Body Template”. Nudity prevails, but most depictions of the human figure are formal and cold, with an over-reliance on compositional design. Tang Mun Kian’s pink-slathered bodies offer some visual interest, but it was photographic images by Chia Yen which I remembered upon leaving the shoplot gallery. Captures of a performance titled ‘Fragility’ present a naked woman in bubble wrap; ‘I Am Woman’ is a reaction to camera maker Nikon’s under-representation of women in its marketing campaign. The female body is unclothed to stake a representative claim, yet the pictures’ other elements highlight the precarious nature of such positioning. Only then I realized how purposefully strong the image of a yellow penis by Linda Liao is, and the male privilege I embody. 

[l] Chia Yen & Anya Likhita - I AM WOMAN (2017); [r] Chia Yen - Fragility (2016) [photographed by Tan Meng Ching]

‘Genitals are a distraction, it is where our eyes tend to focus on. It is not important.’ So states the catalogue introduction, for an exhibition of works by Jerome Kugan at RAW Art Space. Genderless bodies float on “RED & GOLD” backgrounds, displayed alongside obscene proclamations painted on packaging paper. Centred depictions are more interesting when there are more than two bodies shown, such as the paired drawings ‘The Divided Self/Courage and Fear: “Nak Tapi Tak Nak”’, and the raunchy rapture of ‘The Undivided Self/Trinity: “Well, It’s Essentially A Pig Getting Spit-roasted”. The inspiration behind The Un/Divided Self is taken from Aristophanes’ creation myth in Plato’s Symposium; Other descriptions of each exhibit is stated in Jerome’s online scrapbook.

Installation snapshot at "RED & GOLD", solo exhibition by Jerome Kugan

Among exhibits from these three selling exhibitions that focus on the human body, Jerome’s relatively simple drawings are the most insightful, and priced the lowest too. It seems that the more a creator identifies oneself as an artist, the higher the artist prices one’s creation. The artist’s ego rests upon one’s emphasis on the technical aspects of painting, although embellishing a figurative portrait with a large canvas or painterly effects, appear self-serving in most cases. Why overlay a supine nude with colourful flower designs, when the floral allusion can be embedded into one monochromatic drawing? Why draw a comic banana, when a limp/erect penis looks just fine? While some figurative artists insist that painting the human body is an act of resistance, I fail to see the sincerity behind many completed artworks, that only treat the figure as drawing practice. 

Jerome Kugan - The Undivided Self/Trinity: “Well, It’s Essentially A Pig Getting Spit-roasted" (2017)