Singaporean artist Jeremy Sharma has recently opened a solo exhibition, Spectrum Version 2.2, at the Singapore branch of Sullvan+Strumpf in Gillman Barracks. We caught up with him on his show, his current practice and his upcoming plans.
You’ve recently been represented by Sullivan+Strumpf. Since then you have been involved in a group show and have now opened a solo exhibition in the Singapore space. How is it like working with a gallery team that has pledged to support your practice completely and regularly? Has the Australian facet been a factor?
I am delighted to be working with Sullivan+Strumpf. They feel more like an international gallery rather than an Australian one. I think they are looking very much to Asia and SEA in the context of the global. I am looking forward to having connections and shows with them. They are very supportive and open to my experimentations even though my works are not the easiest and most commercial works around. They are really challenging. But the gallery sees the potential and relevance of my practice. This is forward thinking on their part and I am looking forward to a fruitful partnership.
In 2015 we sat down with you to ask about your foam sculptures. How does that series relate to the one currently at Sullivan+Strumpf?
They are vastly different but what they have in common is that they involve the use of data and technology and question the unstable status of what an art object is.
The light boxes that you use in Spectrum Version 2.2 have a certain depth, comes in a variety of colours and are unevenly lit across the surface. The light also shifts across time. Would you be able to speak more about them as well as the motif of the square?
Yes, the light boxes are based on a grid and the modular system. It is my homage to modern art but also my response to the death knell of the modern, if you read between the narratives and presentation. It marks the shift in my own practice and I’m happy to start with Sullivan+Strumpf.
When we think about Malevich’s square, the declaration of the death of painting (and in your case the modern), it is very seductive to fall into the cliché of looking at your work through the history of painting. What do you think of the opinion that Spectrum Version 2.2 can be seen a show about painting?
I think it should not be thought of as a painting show. I think it is because people know me as a painter, and my work years ago were more of the painterly variety. But I think it is the wrong methodology to look at my practice. You will know it as I progress along.
However, there are many things I have learnt from painting. It is like if a painter decided to make films, they will not be the same as someone who merely went for a script-writing course.
Why “Version 2.2”?
I see it as an operating system. Life has become an operating system where we are constantly told to upgrade ourselves. It also links to the idea of interfaces.
Data and big data has been a growing concern to the contemporary person. We wonder how much our lives are controlled by and revealed to institutions, companies and government bodies when we use our phones, the Internet and sync our data to the cloud. What do you think about data and how do you use it in your work? Would you consider yourself a new media artist?
Data is both value and information now that can be monetised. It is both private and public. It is the most abstract form of representation in life. It is a translation of reality and it really is limitless. But data needs power and electricity to flow. They are also connectors between beings and machines. I understand data differently from how my father or son understands data. It is this invisible force that is shaping everything from politics to memory to architecture to medicine and to social relations. We cannot escape it. If you unplug yourself you will be like a fish in water (to quote Theodor Adorno), or like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.
Data is a two-edged sword. My friend says when they invented the car, people laughed and said your car cannot go where my horse can and where do you stop to refuel? Now a supercar can run at 1000 horsepower. That is a thousand of your laughing horses but that’s how technology has and continues to accelerate. You cannot stop the wheel from turning. Technology transforms nature and societies. There are objects made for data.
Look, my point is I am no new media or data artist, I hate that academic term. I’m just using what is already out there. It is out there, so use it. Data is material and content for me. I usually start with questions and ideas, not data.
What is coming up for you after this show?
Some extensions of what I am currently doing; I am working towards an installation, a site-specific work in a tunnel and video works for separate shows next year. I would like to work a little more with objects, sound and the human voice.
Spectrum Version 2.2 runs from 29 July to 20 August.
5 Lock Road #01-06
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Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am – 7pm
Sundays, 11am – 6pm
Or by appointment