No. 035 | Singapore
Speak Cryptic (b. 1980, Singapore) is an artist working and living in Singapore. Endless manifestations of the self are a feature of Speak Cryptic's work – identity rippling forth through texts and phrases extracted from punk lyrics, intricate patterns and figures. His constellation of drawings, paintings and installations stem from personal inquiries into ancestral migration, ethnic dislocation, gentrification and alternative subcultures. Arriving at the realm of contemporary art via urban art origins, Speak's distinctive style has taken on a painterly quality as his work has evolved.
His solo exhibitions include Open My Heart, Ease My Task, Loosen the Knot on My Tongue (2019) and Knives in the Water (2017) at Chan + Hori Contemporary in Singapore and Sorry, Not Sorry (2015) at Officina delle Zattere in Venice, Italy. Key group exhibitions include the Koganecho Art Bazaar (Yokohama, Japan, 2018); The 1st Kuala Lumpur Biennale (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2017); Secret Archipelago (Paris, France, 2015) and the Singapore Biennale (Singapore, 2013).
His works are held in private collections in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, the U.K. and U.S.A. International residencies he has embarked on include the Salamanca Arts Centre (Hobart, Australia, 2020); Cite Internationale de Paris (Paris, France, 2015) and Agit (Busan, South Korea, 2013).
Ink as a medium has its roots in the 7th and 8th centuries, applied to paper and silk to form the foundation of civilisations. Carrying forward this hallmark of quality, The Weight of Water by Speak Cryptic is a body of exquisite artworks in archival quality carbon ink, crafted with a writing instrument made of glass. Carbon ink is waterproof and does not fade even when bleached or exposed to constant sunlight.
Grounded in the notion of multiple identities that flow and overlap in the evolving self, The Weight of Water is a philosophical inquiry into the states of mind where one gives up full control. The creative process behind these works is cathartic; an act of letting go. Within each artwork lies a figure, detailed arrangements of strokes that hold the trappings of human beings. If one was immersed in a body of water that held our collective consciousness, these forms would be what is left when we emerge - remnants of who we are and what we pledge allegiance to.
The Weight of Water marks Speak Cryptic’s return to Europe, after his 2015 residency at Cité Internationale des Arts and featuring in the Southeast Asian exhibition Secret Archipelago at Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Here I am, reconstructed.
What home I have now
I made of what floated by.
A fork. A candle that will
never light. Some rotted cork
from a bottled night. I will
never tell of the lips lost
to loosened wanting. Those lips
I still see blowing smoke rings.
Instead, here I am, encrusted
and royal. Look at this
armour of dirt and coral.
The tubular passageways
the most magic of worms
have made to secret me
away into something better.
I have fed the water’s bearers
and they bear me a new weight.
My body, a fresh stage
for a show at god’s gate.
Jennifer Anne Champion
No. 028 | Paris
No. 017 | Singapore
No. 026 | Paris
No. 025 | Singapore
we hear the sounds of the first fires,
and the sobs of a young god,
who heard the dragonfly's anger at being silenced
(without the dragonfly’s flight,
without its flight over the water,
the water below it makes no sense,
no sense of itself)
the young god acknowledges the dragonfly’s anger.
No. 021 | Singapore
There was nothing to tell the sky from sea;
Bird from fish. It was all blue and you were beauty
without alternative. I could not love you
more. And we always knew how to survive a flood
even without an ark or a promise.
When there is no boat, be anchor. Stand,
heavy with all the things not yet past recall
but still useful. Stand, til time is tested. Withstand
time’s shifting wait on your clockwork heart.
There is nothing to tell you from the bottom
of this grave. I cannot see what sprouts
on my back or on the inside of my body’s cage.
Only to say this: the weight of water grows
like an iron feather on scale time forgets.
Before The Water
Jennifer Anne Champion
No. 016 | Paris
No. 018 | Paris
No. 010 | Paris
line / silence
could be the empty space between the words, shadows of things still to come.
don’t know why
am here and the only thing
want is to disappear. without any effort,
would be gone, to make room for others. what if
could pull myself back, into the well of my body. my hands are reaching now,
want to hold myself. to stop myself from being lost, or found.
was someone else,
was someone who has it all figured out.
the more we look, the more we can see,
the more we can see, the more we know,
the more we know, the more we can feel,
the more we can feel, the more we are,
the more we are, the more we are,
the more we are, the more weight water has,
the more weight water has, the deeper it sinks,
the deeper it sinks, the hotter it boils,
the hotter it boils, the greater its thirst,
the greater its thirst, the bigger it gets,
the bigger it gets, the heavier it drags,
the heavier it drags, the greater its weight,
the greater its weight, the bigger it grows,
the bigger it grows, the more we look,
now is the kairos
this moment of reality,
of the spirit that endures
or even like love.
When Speak and I first met to talk about his works, he described them as submerged figures who had accumulated the flotsam and jetsam of lives lived underwater. We agreed that the past can seem like a drowned state from which we, in our present selves, emerge as something of an accident and miracle.
In my response poems, while water is still life-bearing and affirming, it is also the site of difficult – even cumbersome – growth. There is a spooky quality that I read into Speak’s figures with their generative articulation. To me, these are figures that have survived a great wash of emotion. What they hoard on their bodies is a gift from the water. They carry their home with them made of objects that constitute memory and practicality – much in the way a snail carries its habitation on its back. In my mind’s eye, these figures are still wet and will never be completely dry or at rest on land.
As portraits of restlessness, I felt these figures deserved a story of redemption, murky as they may be. One gets lost in the details on each of these figures – their stories so densely drawn, they are almost too tightly woven to unpick. People are very similar – our backstories complicated and cluttered by the sheer weight of their history.
Jennifer Anne Champion
No. 005 | Singapore
Standing in the raw wind, we look
like gods you would have worshipped
if you hadn’t been taught god has
skin like a baby, cheeks apoplectic as
apples on their last day of ripeness.
There is enough humanity in us
to understand your fear. Your mouths;
small Os of awe at our extending limbs
and missing faces. But you have missed us,
no? You have loved and hated us in tandem
in time and thought to write about it
to get the feeling out of your tendons.
Tend to us. We have had a long night
underwater. Under the weight of
all the light we could not see.
Let us see clearly now – us in your home
resting by your walls, a damp
that will never leave again.
Return Of Drowned Things
Jennifer Anne Champion
No. 006 | Paris
No. 008 | Paris
tales of the city
sitting on my chair, reading Maupassant,
feeling like I'm a thousand years old,
when I know I'm only thirty-one or fourty-one.
the world is spinning at its customary rate,
but what I see feels like it's moving in reverse.
I think of the young men I used to be,
the speed with which I could run, the power in my arms.
I think of the young women who used to chase me,
the eagerness of their eyes, the warmth of their hands.
here I am now on my chair, on this cold night,
wondering if they're there yet, wondering if they're okay.
I think about the last time I saw my father,
how he watched me through his window as I climbed down the drainpipe,
how he turned away as I walked away down the street.
(how can someone so large be so small?
how can someone so full of life be so dead?
how can anyone so strong be so weak?
how can anyone who has everything be completely helpless?
the world is spinning at its customary rate.)
the people are walking by at their customary pace.
I put down Maupassant and open the window.
I look for my mother on the street below, but she's nowhere to be found.
a star shot through the sky
before dropping off
and the light it left behind
lit up the city for a moment
and in that moment
you were my whole world