Through a Glass Darkly brings back the basics of art from the beginning of the artists’ journeys of creation and their processes of doing so. The exhibition positions art as a form of expression and a viable medium of connection to those around us.
Held from 10th – 26th May at the Art Glass Centre, the exhibition space is tucked away in the lush greenery and foliage of Upper Wilkie Road. Artists, close friends, and Nanyang Academy Fine Arts trio, the show features works by Ben Yap, Nhawfal Juma’at, and Qamarul Asyraf. The name of the exhibition is a derivative of and inspired by a bible quote from 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 12, meaning to look that things from an imperfect human’s eyes or to have an obscure or imperfect vision of reality. With the name as a point of departure, the three artists seek to revise the public’s impression about the creative process behind every work while combating the fear of ambiguity in Singapore’s art scene.
The clear glass room in which the 3 installations are held in greets visitors with the sounds of running water and the rustling of leaves amidst chirping birds. These auditory elements are fragments of Mae Nam’s multisensory installation by Singaporean photographer cum multimedia artist Ben Yap. Mae Nam is an audio and single-channel digital video projection of the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok into a tank of water filled with white Thai Hom Mali rice grains stacked to emulate a riverbed. Yap delves into his own personal history through his installation to honour his mother, as well as to reflect his connection to Thailand as his “M(other)land. Mae, meaning “mother”, and Nam for “water”, alludes to Yap’s Thai mother who gave birth to him in Singapore and was separated from him at an early age, resulting in Yap’s limited memories of his mother and her land. Hom Mali rice, also known as jasmine rice, is the largest Thai import and a staple in every Thai household, local or not. Yap’s chosen subjects of the rice and river are a nod towards the endless giving and providence of a mother. No matter how many times one washes rice, the water in which the rice sinks into will always be murky; one can never erase or wash away his heritage and identity.
For You: To You (Revisit) is a display of a classic ceramic series with a subtle twist by Singapore-based print maker Qamarul Asyraf. Qamarul’s installation comprises of Jawi transcripts on 7 prints and 7 corresponding receptacles. The transcript is a derivative of a “pantun”, a malay poem meant to be sung, which comes from his childhood and memories with his grandmother. Qamarul’s grandmother used to sing him a pantun as a wordplay to his name, Qamar, which means moon. The poem sieves through three tiers of the artist’s linguistic considerations, whereby it was first translated from Malay to English, and then to Jawi. His heritage played a big part in the creation of this installation as he aimed to reach back into his roots to create a grounded piece, so much that his name is a centric symbol within the poem. That being said, the stanza “tumbling moonlight” holds a direct relation to his name. Through this pantun and his tongue-in-cheek translations, Qamarul’s installation transforms into a mind map to his work as an artist. The first and fifth print from the right are white and are pronounced “arm and “in” respectively, which puns into “ameen” when said together. In his religion, ameen marks the closure of a prayer, a personal response to the original pantun.
On a Flight to Post-Postmodernism and into Metamodernism is a compilation installation by artist Nhawfal Juma’at to represent layers of the thoughts and inspirations of a creator. “Metamodernism isn’t the opposition of Postmodernism and Modernism but an oscillation across all previous modes, much like Romanticism.” To Nhawfal, it is the rejection of the rigid and close-minded way of our perspective of the world; a link to Through a Glass Darkly to provide and lay out a new and perennial philosophy of understanding and acceptance. His sculptures and paintings carry an earthy and natural theme that remind others of the empirical quality of his work, his personal life and a documentation of his own art journey. Nhawfal uses his work to show how the art styles of his friends have intertwined into and influenced his own, and how they have grown through their art journey together. His work displayed is a hybrid of a different techniques that explores the two-dimensional and three-dimensional art styles that incorporate fluidity as well as surrealism.
Through a Glass Darkly is a perfect reiteration of reading between the lines in artistic practices. With the laid-back “kampong” vibe of the Art Glass Centre’s location, the exhibition connects people and provides a common-ground to share experiences and opinions. A renewed kampong spirit, PEER’s Through a Glass Darkly maintains the consistent hum of conversations amongst the creators and their audiences.
Images courtesy of Ben Yap.