In ARTS & MUSIC, REVIEWS

Art Stage Singapore 2014

Another year, another fair. Art Stage Singapore returns to make its yearly rounds as one of the region’s most lauded contemporary art fairs, representing galleries worldwide. This year’s format had a stronger focus on Asian contemporary art with dedicated platforms for Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, India, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. Held in the gargantuan expo space in Marina Bay Sands, the fair commanded high praise, regard, and large amounts of visitors to match.

Although some galleries presented more interesting work than others, art is essentially, a subjective and personal matter. There is certainly something to suit everyone’s differing tastes, whether it veers towards classics or conceptual. We outline some of the standouts from the fair.

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Love Sonnet and Love Affair, Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst at White Cube Gallery:
Dubbed the bad boy of the contemporary art world known for putting sharks and cows in formaldehyde-filled containers presents a restrained approach to creating art from dead fauna. This time, he has found his muse over insects.

The simplicity and impact of solid colours and a lone butterfly found in Love Sonnet and Love Affair is astounding. However, knowing each piece goes for SGD200, 000 is certainly incomparable to buying peanuts in the park. The thought that goes on behind this piece, by melding the butterflies into the paint, is provocative. It stands out further due to the sheer iridescence of the butterfly wings.

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Tityus, Damien Hirst

However, more astoundingly, Tityus is his showstopper. Measuring 152 x 122 cm, it is quite the large piece, considering the mosaic is actually a titillating dance of shining insects. From beetles, to butterflies, to spiders, to scarabs, the farm-raised bugs were carefully preserved to create this magical pinwheel of post-mortem delight.

Boun at Bogéna Galerie:
This Sino-Vietnamese painter who lives in France is known for his dynamically expressive brushstrokes. The vibrant simplicity of his paintings is juxtaposed by the actual depth and plurality of their meaning. Each peak of paint and curve of a line intentionally symbolises something.

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Boun’s expressive artwork

Due to its large and expressive nature, these striking pieces do well on stark walls in airy rooms. Or merely, as a central visual point in anyone’s home – whether classic or modern. The fact that he has exhibited in Art Stage, represented by a gallery that carries pieces from Picasso, Miro, and Matisse, shows the gravitas Boun possesses in today’s contemporary landscape.

Awiki in the Southeast Asia Platform:
You know you are attending a world-class art fair when a renowned regional artist, such as Indonesia’s Awiki, personally attends to do what he does best in front of you: paint. Awiki had a cosy, personal nook where he would draw portraits of you in about 45 minutes for about SGD5, 000. That’s about the length of your lunch break and then you get a portrait in his signature thick palette knife paint slabs.

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Awiki paints the gallery’s director

There are other pieces of his for sale, such as the sunflowers and tulips abstract still life. Each piece takes about seven to eight weeks to dry due to the paint’s thickness: his paintings are roughly five centimetres thick, at the very least. He layers on oil paints with conviction and speed to build an almost sculptural quality to his canvases.

Frodo Mikkelsen at Galleri S.E:
The young Danish artist has certainly hit the ground running and gained prominence in the world of contemporary art. His ArtStage curation mainly revolved around a series of sculptures aptly titled ‘Silver City’. Using real animal, and perhaps human, skulls, he sculpts both urban and rural landscapes before silverplating the entire work. It makes for fascinating and luxurious sculptures that are small enough to decorate tables and shelves. The symbolism of such landscapes perching atop skulls can be interpreted many ways: the fragility of life, the destruction of development, and even the thought process of evolution.

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Silverplated Skulls from “Silver City” collection, Frodo Mikkelsen

Hu Renyi at Leo Gallery:
There are many artists these days who employ the use of acrylic sheets, glass, fiberglass, any manner of transparent sheet surfaces to create artwork. By layering these sheets, these artists are able to create 3D landscapes and dioramas. However, Hu Renyi’s work stands out in a fair meant to showcase Asian artistic prowess and diversity.

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Hu Renyi’s acrylic 3D landscapes

He uses traditional Chinese parchment paper, which has been filled with Chinese calligraphy. This is then pasted on each acrylic layer forming traditional Chinese landscapes to stunning, translucent effect. All the blocks are backlit with LED light showing the lightness and crispness of the parchment paper used. It is an homage to a new type of art form that has become increasingly popular with a nod to Asia’s heritage.

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