A Review of ‘Side Affects’ at Ota Fine Arts

A group show curated by Guo-Liang Tan
By Tanya Singh

Chua Chye Teck, 'Under The Bodhi Tree' (detail), 2019, found objects and images printed on recypal paper, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Chua Chye Teck, 'Under The Bodhi Tree' (detail), 2019, found objects and images printed on recypal paper, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

What is art? Does it exist in the image on the canvas or in the folds of a sculpture? Or is it in the intent with which the artist sets out to visually translate his thoughts? Could it be defined as the opinions the audiences make on being visually confronted with an object? 

‘Side Affects’, a group show curated by Guo-Liang Tan at Ota Fine Arts Singapore, sets out not to answer the above questions but to establish art as a verb, an action rather than a noun or an object burdened by its role within the white cube. The show is a conversation that every viewer has with himself – or as the artist-curator defines it – “an invitation to think more deeply about what we might want from art”.

While the intention of the curator is straightforward and occurs quite naturally in the viewer’s mind, the actual process or the internal conversation is the ultimate aim. Driven by his own artistic practice, which explores the simultaneous existence of absence and presence of meaning within a work of art, Tan has put together the show with works by three artists, Manon de Boer, Tsuyoshi Hisakado and Chua Chye Teck, each one exploring three primary aspects of art: time, space and materiality.

Manon de Boer, 'The Untroubled Mind' (video still), 2013 – 2016, 16 mm film transferred to video, colour, silent, 7’ 39”. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Manon de Boer, 'The Untroubled Mind' (video still), 2013 – 2016, 16 mm film transferred to video, colour, silent, 7’ 39”. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Time
Dutch artist, Manon de Boer’s works begin a conversation about the role of time in art and its effect on viewership. Featuring recordings of the same work of art taken at different times, the 16mm film ‘Maud Capturing the Light On a Clear Day’ establishes an intrinsic relationship between time and the art-making process. At what point does an image repeatedly looked at cease to be a visual stimulus and becomes transformed into a thought? ‘The Untroubled Mind’, a collection of images of objects assembled by the artist’s son, comes together in a thoughtful pattern with each passing second, regardless of how it was compiled by the artist.

Tsuyoshi Hisakado, ‘Tunnel #1 / Case’, 2018, glass, wood, brass, aluminium, 172.8 x 74.2 x 141.2cm. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Tsuyoshi Hisakado, ‘Tunnel #1 / Case’, 2018, glass, wood, brass, aluminium, 172.8 x 74.2 x 141.2cm. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Space
The ‘Crossfades’ series by Japanese artist Tsuyoshi Hisakado uses blotches, splashes and strokes of ink to explore the relationship between the visible use of space and its counterparts which are left unseen. The prints are silkscreened with a spiral of minute numbers derived from the mathematical constant of pi, barely visible to the naked eye. The artist’s other work ‘Tunnel #1 / Case’ appears to be an empty glass case from afar. On closer inspection, a rotating circular glass piece etched into one of the panels is revealed. The steady movement in the tunnel-like opening allows the work to transcend its seemingly strict constraints and provokes a dialogue on the limitations of space as perceived visually.

Chua Chye Teck, 'Under The Bodhi Tree' (detail), 2019, found objects and images printed on recypal paper, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Chua Chye Teck, 'Under The Bodhi Tree' (detail), 2019, found objects and images printed on recypal paper, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.

Material
Scattered across the floor, Singaporean artist Chua Chye Teck’s installation of found objects, ‘Under the Bodhi Tree’ speaks of the function of materiality in art. In the work, discarded materials are placed flatly on the ground and printed images are folded into solid forms. An interaction between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional is thus begun, wherein alternative perceptions of the materials are formed in the minds of the viewers along with a series of yet-to-be-addressed questions on materiality.

Interactions between the works and the gallery space add another layer to the overall experience. The structured images in de Boer’s ‘The Untroubled Mind’ quietly fuel the subtle chaos in Chua’s ‘Under the Bodhi Tree’, and vice versa. The photographs of the Bodhi tree leaves seen through the folds from Chua’s installation challenge the vegetation peeking through the large window in the gallery. The rhythmic movement of Hisakado’s ‘Tunnel #1 / Case’ is complemented by the flashing changes in light reflected in de Boer’s 16 mm film.

The strength of the exhibition lies in the absence of meaning and direction, giving birth to an infinite number of interpretations and connections. Tan successfully inspires conversations and diverts the viewers’ attentions towards forming independent interpretations. Above all, ‘Side Affects’ is a process hidden within the subtle movements and forms in the works of the three artists that give art a function. It becomes the action or the internal conversations experienced by the viewers to establish their own interpretations and connections. As Marcel Duchamp once said, “What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It’s not what you see that is art; art is the gap”.

‘Side Affects’ opened on 2 March 2019 and will be on display at Ota Fine Arts Singapore until 14 April. Guo-Liang Tan and Chua Chye Teck will be giving a talk on 6 April at the gallery.