CityScapesUnbound

Featuring Boo Sze Yang, Chankerk, Tay Bak Chiang

22 October - 10 November 2012 | OCBC Art Space

By Benjamin Hampe

The tradition of landscape painting has long held sway in the annals of art history texts and museum collections and is often regarded as somewhat of an anachronistic endeavour relative to the high-tech contemporary art practices employed by artists today. However there are some artists, such as the three included in this exhibition, who have through an applied technical skill and conceptual rigour, managed to lift the landscape painting genre from its old fashioned origins and into the hustle and bustle of modern metropolitan life, producing artworks bursting with energy and life redolent of the places from which they are created.

Chankerk’s vigourously brushed urban landscapes feature locations familiar to most Singaporeans. However, on closer inspection, one will find that not only is the perspective presented often askew, one’s sense of time is also disrupted as historical and contemporary elements of the same location are often over-lapping. The effect portrayed from these impressionistic works is that of a city in a state of flux and succeeds in capturing the tension that exists between the past and the future in Singapore’s geographic landscape and social climate.

Boo Sze Yang, has continued the grand tradition of monumental oil painting through a dedicated, in-depth study of interior spaces. Drawn to the complex ornamentation and architecture designed to inspire awe and religious connectivity within places of worship, Sze Yang, in his previous works, managed to harness the sublime in the forms and lines of buildings such as churches and temples. Sze Yang soon found these age-old principles prevalent in modern architecture commonly experienced today, the mega malls and shopping complexes dotted throughout Singapore and indeed the rest of the world. During a recent trip to the United States, Sze Yang completed a series of works referencing the splendour and ostentatious spirit of Las Vegas. This then begs the question: is the casino the modern house of worship and money the new God?

Tay Bak Chiang, trained in traditional Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, has developed a unique vision of the natural world drawing inspiration from ancient Chinese literature and the natural environs of Singapore’s green belt. Using single elements such as a stone or a lotus flower as his starting point, Bak Chiang then pushes the element to the point of abstraction, peeling away unnecessary visual triggers. The deep, richly applied ink and pigments then adds other dimensions to the form, the myriad of results are left for us to contemplate and conclude.

Though each artist has employed traditional painting techniques from oil to Chinese ink, their individual practices as they are realised are firmly entrenched in the contemporary. Their works are reflections on life in our cities today, a journey from the vastness of the urban sprawl, to the alluring interiors of our architectural icons, to the infinite serene beauty of the natural environment.

This exhibition is presented by OCBC Bank, supported by Asian Art Options, and organised by Chan Hampe Galleries

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