Three Singaporean print artists: Poh Kwee Choo, Lina Adam and Miguel Chew.
Three Singaporean print artists: Poh Kwee Choo, Lina Adam and Miguel Chew.
SourceAustralian Print Symposium. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1987 - ongoing.
Countries of context
Australia | Singapore
Three Singaporean print artists: Poh Kwee Choo, Lina Adam and Miguel Chew
by Chan Tuck Yew Ernest
I am introducing three Singaporean young print artists namely Poh Kwee Choo, Lina Adam and Miguel Chew. I will focus on their selected works and present them. Kwee Choo is dealing with the concept of nothingness. The series of work focus on doodling drawing with pen as the visual and layering of the works. The works are done by printmaking techniques such as line etching and aquatint. On the other extreme, Lina Adam dealt with issue concerning the local context; her work is merely social commentary. Miguel works derive from the phrase “never judge a book by its cover”. It is about how one judges one another people by their appearance or what they wear (or brands they use).
Poh Kwee Choo
Poh Kwee Choo is a printmaking major from LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts. In the year 2003, was awarded “Georgette Chen Arts Scholarship” by National Arts Council, Kwee Choo had taken part in the annual Singapore Printmaking Society exhibition - “Read The Small Prints”. She was also one of the “Honourable Mentions” of Singapore-Asean Art Awards 2003. Poh was assistant printmaker to Ms Chng Seok Tin for her one-month Artists’ Residency at Vermont Studio Center, USA in 2004 and had taken part in a post-residency talk at the Substation. She is an active member of the Singapore Printmaking Society and has given printmaking demonstrations at art events.
As one knows that there is no such thing as absolute nothingness in reality, existence of nothingness is a paradox between something and nothing. Nothingness can be produced by a mass of something. “Nothingness can either be just emptiness or it can be a tremendous fullness.”
Kwee Choo deals with the sense of spirituality within the concept of Nothingness, both of which stems from and is influenced by Buddhist philosophy of the Void. I interpret spirituality as involves a reflection of one’s inner self; it is about trying to come to terms with one’s ego, desires and Self and renouncing them. This can be read as a form of struggle between Something (Self) and Nothing (Void). The struggles are manifested in the tedious and repetitive process of layering and lines and doodles. The meditative nature of this practice leans towards a transformation of losing the Self through the routine, into Nothingness. The potential of nothingness is explored through the pen drawings and printmaking techniques such as line etching, aquatint and calligraph. The sizes of the works are usually large or it can be in series.
Kwee Choo interest in the concept of Nothingness stems from the history and philosophy behind the number Zero, as illustrated in the book: ‘Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea’. With the influence of the book, a series of prints were produced by manipulating the figure of zero with composition and texture, shown in Fig.1 and 2.
With the influence of Conceptual Art, Kwee Choo decided to push the limit of the concept of Zero and printmaking. This leads to a new work (Fig.3 and 4), which is done by aquatint to capture the process of printing something towards nothing. Due to the high edition prints, the wear and tear of the plate causes the tone of the aquatint to become lighter and lighter when the editions get higher.
By picking some of interesting elements from the prints above and under the influence of a Zen master, OSHO, it leads to a new dimension in terms of my concept and imagery. The new exploration started from a series of doodling with pen on paper. These sketches lead to a resolved piece with layering of colour-pen doodling in composed geometric shapes, followed by a last layer of intense black pen doodling over the coloured figures (Fig.5). This piece was later awarded the “Honourable Mentions” of Singapore-Asean Art Awards 2003.
Concurrently while resolving the above piece, a few plates were done with line etching technique having a different line quality each. These plates were printed layer after layer with black, shown in Fig.6. Due to some technical problems with the plate tone, a test was carried out where each layer was inked with a different colour (detail shown in Fig.7). And this test print turns out to be a unique resolved piece. The exploration now was very much on the colour in both drawing and printmaking (Fig.8 and 9). There are also some materials exploration such as papers and threads.
Title of work: Majulah Singapore, thirty-six pieces of Silkscreen variable scale prints
Lina graduated from LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts Printmaking with Distinction in 2001. She is an active member of The Artists Village organizes events and projects. She was elected Vice President of The Artist Village in 2003. Besides her prints, Lina’s installation work, photography and performances were exhibited and performed in Thailand and Yogyakarta
Lina was selected by American master printer Kenneth Tyler to be one of six talents to be apprenticed in his world-class print workshop in New York in 2000. In the four months in New York, she worked with master printers in screen-print, etching, lithography, papermaking and woodcut. In the short period of time, she worked with and met the following artists Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Donald Sultan, Helen Frankethaler, Steve Sorman, John Walker and Sam Posey. Upon return to Singapore, she continues her profession and work as a profession printer at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.
Lina work deals on the notion of social identity, involving the observation of institutions such as family, work, school, playground, shopping mall, supermarket, etc and its influence on people's behaviour. Her art pieces is usually carried out with the injection of humour, satirical wit and even non 'sense' in different degrees of success. She claimed that ‘I can only express what is close to me and the realities I face in my life and of my reactions to it. I am interested in the idea of deconstruction the existing frame of social reality to a level, which is destructive. I am executing works of a post structuralist and postmodern strategy. I try to provide contradictory perspective on the everyday social ideology.’
The National Anthem is an important symbol of nationalism. It is a propaganda tool. Its meanings are never fully understood to most Singaporeans because it was written in Malay, which is the National language at the time it was composed. (Malay is still the National Language today and English is the Official language.) The Ministry of Information and the Arts had revised a new version of it in the hope that it would become more popular with Singaporeans. The new recording also comes with a revised English translation of the lyrics so that the meaning of the Anthem can be better understood. However, there hadn’t been any response from the public in general. It was a ho-hum affair. This entire issue had become Lina’s new interest; in response to this she has chosen the National Anthem to raise the social awareness.
These images are executed in the silkscreen technique. Lina made and select images through a process of ‘shopping’ first. These images are created one by one in the similar sizes and she did not plan it as a whole. Each image is accompanied by each word of the Anthem. At times, the words are broken up and continued in the next images. The piece of each work can be view and read individually or they can be joined these 36 pieces together as a whole. ‘The images are ‘invented’ from the fragmentation of my visual diary, which I accumulate in everyday existence. These images need not reflect the Singaporean identity. These images are created mostly from memory or from the mind / imagination and sometimes from a reference. These images need not be mundane or vibrant.’ say Lina, ‘In fact, I do not know what these images will be until they are completed. I think that they need not have meanings or relate/ conflict to one another. They are simply ‘happy together’.’
Miguel completed his Diploma in Fine Art Printmaking at LASALLE –SIA College of the Arts 1996 and further pursued a Bachelor Degree Printmaking with Distinction from Royal Melbourne of Technology 1997. Eventually he obtained his master degree of fine Arts from RMIT in 2002. Miguel’s work is widely exhibited locally and in Asia. Miguel is a practicing artist and currently a part time lecturer at LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts teaching Printmaking major, Foundation Drawing and Foundation 2D Workshop,
Miguel Chew aim to explore aspects of his personal contemporary environment through a series of 2 and 3 dimensional art forms. Through sourcing his contemporary environment, which results in pop culture to express the human image. Base on this finding, he using materials that reflect and critique popular culture, such as light boxes, plastic, fluorescent lights, and vinyl. Artists like Dan Flavin, Futura, Gary Hume, James Turrell, Kaws, Peter Halley and Takashi Murakami ha have much influences and leave a strong impact on Miguel development of art works as a master degree student and later his artistic practice.
The conceptual basis for his research stems from observations of a contemporary youth culture. This culture relates directly to fashion, music, media, personal grooming and film based on my own experience.
In the interview, Miguel stated that ‘I will directly use materials from my environment (discos, shopping centers). This is the environment where the youth of today get their influences. In this present society, image has become a primary preoccupation of a person. There is a saying that most people judge a book by its cover. This then results in the question of the treatment of people or persons without any features, the non - existence of brands, designs or even bands. Does image then override a person’s character? This brings me back to the phrase of never judging a book by its cover, which has formed the conceptual reference for the body of my work.’
Through the use of artificially lit vinyl canvases, Miguel depicted silhouettes of the human figure. The lighting in the gallery and the works is varied to physically change the mood, form and color of the works. This acts as a metaphor for the differing perceptions of the images. These can be seen In fig 1 and 2, are the overviews of Miguel recent exhibition also in fig 3 ‘My Hero’ a set of 6 pieces displayed side by side in a complete dark environment. The visual impact is spectacular and one can only experience it physically present there. These are images of toys gun dam of the Japanese robotic warrior’s weapons that Miguel possessed and played with them at young age. His intention of creating the images enables to trickle the childhood memories of Miguel’s generation and at the same time to evoke different responses from other viewers from different age group. In fig 4, Sweet Meat shows his cheekiness and humor. Fig 5 ‘Untitled’ the silver dots were inspired by the Braille. These continual dots were spray onto the bright orange vinyl. ’Do you see what I see’ only when the light up, a flamboyant silhouette appeared from the back of the vinyl it changes one interpretation of the artwork instantly. Fig. 6 ‘Untitled’ the figure was cropped and the shadow was deleted. It is placed at the top of the canvas look as if the figure suspending in the air, an attempt to create an optical illusion can be read as an act of commit suicide, deceiving the audiences. Fig 7 ‘Untitled’, the actual photograph taken showing a female crossing her legs sitting down outside a coffee shop. (Miguel studio located at Choo Jiat Road is known as prostitution road). Miguel took away the chair and reverse and changing the sitting position of the image has create an entire different meaning. The new position of the image seems provocative. Fig.11 ‘Untitled’ show 3 pair of legs. One has the underwear down to the ankle. We assume the three are female because of slender hairless legs with high heels on. There are some mysteries and sexual undercurrent suggest in Miguel’s works that allow viewers to unfold the hidden layers in his works. These series of untitled works also suggest a deeper meaning and is deliberately left open for interpretation by the viewers.
© Chan Tuck Yew Ernest
Paper presented at the Fifth Australian Print Symposium, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2004