The increasingly well-defined contemporary art programme at Esplanade has already been receiving strong positive feedback from many art lovers. Despite the physically separated spaces for art, namely the Tunnel, Concourse, Jendela (Visual Art Space) and the Community Wall, the curatorial team has been successfully putting up conceptually coherent exhibitions that are noteworthy both in its parts and as a whole. Last week, the Esplanade team has successfully invited Artsembly, an artist-led business venture, to take up a space in the Esplanade mall. This venture, borne out of passion, optimism and the supportive Esplanade management, will be taking up the retail unit on a short term basis, with the possibility of extension in the future.
CLAY / PRINT, which opened on 1 December 2017, is Artsembly’s inaugural exhibition at the Esplanade. As implied by the exhibition title, this is an exhibition of works made of clay (ceramics, specifically) and printmaking techniques. Boo Sze Yang, who serves the role of Managing Partner for Artsembly, believes that “there is a lack human touch and craft in many contemporary arts today.” This observation drives Artsembly’s focus on “traditional art forms,” which is a valuation of both technical skill and conceptual ideas. Both are important, and it is Artsembly’s hope that they can be seen as partner strengths rather than mutually exclusive aspects of contemporary art.
Artsembly is probably distinct in the artistic landscape of Singapore because of its unabashed mission to make artistic practices sustainable and its artist leadership. While we have a growing number of exhibition spaces, whether commercial, institutional or experimental, the promotion and placement of works in collector homes have always out of the artist’s hands. The management of the space mediates between the collector and the artist to a greater or lesser extent. Artsembly does away with the middleman, giving artists a stronger voice in the presentation and trade of their work.
The artists behind Artsembly are familiar names: Boo Sze Yang, Chor Mui Ling, Chua Chon Hee, Chua Hee Lai, Loh Choi Ying, Ng Kiow Ngor April, Ng Siok Hoon, Oh Mei Lee, Oh Chai Hoo, Tan Seow Wei and Alvin Tan Yuan Kiat. These are artists with years of experience under their belt coming together to make the scene a better place. In coming outside of their comfortable studio zones and doing more than just further their own practices, they are taking responsibility for the scene that they work in. Artsembly is more than just a collective of eleven artists but also a sign of our artistic practitioners trying to change the climate of where they work differently.
I believed that for any community to move forward, the abled ones must try to help others to move along together.
Boo Sze Yang
New initiatives, collectives and spaces are constantly being formed in Singapore. New local-born galleries include 1961 and Supernormal. Exhibitions have been held both within artist studios, like Peninsular, and in civic spaces, like I_s_l_a_n_d_s. We have exhibitions that activate non-art spaces, like the current show at Upper Serangoon Road Shopping Centre and an upcoming exhibition at Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter. Artists are also actively promote social causes, like Guerrilla Art Hunt in Sungei Road Market. Unlike most of the above projects, however, Artsembly is providing support for mid-career artists. They are, indirectly, exploring the kind of attention and support that these artists need, an aspect that is still underdeveloped in Singapore’s art scene. For that alone, Artsembly and the efforts of the artists behind it should be something to watch.
Chng Seok Tin, Chor Mui Ling, Chua Chon Hee, Chua Hee Lai, Loh Choi Ying, Ng Kiow Ngor April, Ng Siok Hoon, Oh Chai Hoo, Oh Mei Lee, Tan Seow Wei, Tan Yuan Kiat Alvin
1 – 24 December 2017
8 Raffles Avenue
Esplanade Mall, #02-01 & 03
+65 6250 6792
Tuesdays to Sundays, noon-9pm
Closed on Mondays