Since its inauguration in March 2017 at Gillman Barracks, Chan + Hori Contemporary, led by Angie Chan and Khairuddin Hori, has been consistently promoting their exhibitions as double solo exhibitions. With the exception of Not a Summer Hang, the curatorial programming, on paper, has taken the gallery space as a divisible into two distinct exhibition spaces. Over time, however, the artworks have begun to intrude into each other’s spaces, working with each other to create interesting conversations. The current shows feature Danielle Tay and Shahrul Jamili Miskon, whose visually distinct practices belie their shared concerns.
Danielle Tay’s dreamscapes express her realistic utopia. Beginning from a sketch in Chinese ink, Tay dreams about dissonant lived spaces that delight, rather than disturb. Unconventional Choices is a real space in Singapore. On a potted plant, which is placed at a thoroughfare in a residential space, a bird makes its nest. This plant is only about as tall as a human being and is constantly being disturbed by throngs of people who activate the space every day. Yet the bird continues to make its nest here, in the middle of a hive of human activity, disregarding the very real human threat of destruction. And in unspoken agreement, the residents have been leaving the bird to be, leaving her to bring up her family in peace each season. The contradiction between what we expect to happen and what is really happening as well as the coincidence of the bird’s choice to find her nest in an unconventional space amuses, delights and inspires. It is an irrationality that does not have a scientific explanation, a thematic that can be traced through her other works in this show.
Shahrul’s works in this show, unilaterally from his Metalanguage series, are challenge our spatial imagination. Shahrul describes them as partial forms that can multiply infinitely off his canvas. In Metalanguage XVIII, a circle of regular diameter is layered and tiled over each other to the edge of the aluminium, pointing at never-ending repetition. A line is etched between the centres of the layered circles, which reveal its length as the radius. This absolute length is found between every two centres, a satisfying regularity. Somewhere in the middle of his canvas, Shahrul has also etched out a square, which is evenly divided into three rectangles lengthwise and further subdivided into right-angled triangles. On the first rectangle, equilateral triangles are added on each side. Before this becomes a laundry list of mathematical terms that lead to nowhere, the laser cut pieces from the aluminium should be seen as the key to this geometric study. Alternatively removed and raised up in an origami-like fashion, the square reveals itself to be the square surface of a twisted prism that is faced by parts of the circular forms. The way shapes are coincidentally, or naturally, found within each other plays on the incidence of mathematical precision and reality.
While both artists are known to venture into other media, a consistent material thematic is established in these shows. Tay has produced work in wood and Shahrul has work in ceramic, for instance. Neither makes an appearance here. While that might reflect where each artist is in their practice at the moment, it is more productive to think about the curatorial choices made by Khairuddin and to question how it is that the works speak to each other. And indeed, as initially raised, there is a concerted effect to bring the works together and create a singular experience. It is difficult to only look at Shahrul or Tay while in the space. That is not to erase their difference, of which there are many. Instead, there is just about enough space to think about the incidences at which they meet.
Just to name a couple: In the papercut technique, precision is paramount. Every hesitation marks the edge permanently, corrupting the later montage. In the same way, the way acid bites aluminium is permanent and irrecoverable. Clarity, dexterity and pre-planning are factors that underpin both Tay’s painted collages and Shahrul’s geometric collages. For the works in these shows, both artists are also working in a scale that is governed by the human body. Whether it was or was not a conscious decision, a single person can easily handle the works by both artists. For Tay, it has to do with the size of commercially available paper as well as her haptic movements around the table where she does her collage. For Shahrul, he is restricted by the standard available size of aluminium, which is 4 feet (almost 122cm) across. These underlying similarities, which layer meaningfully on the curatorial programme’s look on the spiritual becoming and unseen forces of the world, do not detract from the artists’ language but rather tie them together in a tantalising way.
UNCERTAIN DISCOVERIES & METALANGUAGE
Danielle Tay and Shahrul Jamili Miskon
12 October – 5 November
Chan + Hori Contemporary
6 Lock Road #02-09
+65 6338 1962
Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays and public holidays