The Private Museum is proud to present LINES, a group exhibition which celebrates the museum’s new initiative, the emerging artist platform to support and encourage the development of emerging artistic talents in Singapore.
A manifestation of ongoing conversations between the 8 emerging artists and the curators, LINES features painting, print-making, photography, video art and installation. While exploring the idea of distinctions, the spoken exchanges probe into themes of cultural ideologies, social landscapes, identities and the human psyche. The exhibition encapsulates the nuances of the artists’ thoughts and processes through their works.
Featuring new works by Ben Yap, Brenn Tan, Izzy Tan, Jackson Kang, Odelia Tang, Quinn Lum, Rafi Abdullah and Tristan Lim.
Ben Yap (b.1985, Singapore)
Graduated with a Diploma in Fine Art from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2011, and received his Bachelor’s (Hons) Fine Art from NAFA in partnership with Loughborough University, U.K in 2017. He works predominantly in the photography medium, but utilises appropriation methods and a mixed media approach in his installations. He has participated in several group exhibitions in Singapore at Art Apart Fair (2013), 8Q SAM (2013), and Lim Hak Tai Gallery (2016). Ben was a finalist for the Cliftons Art Prize 2016, and recently exhibited in the Chiang Mai Photo Festival 2017, Young Eyes Edition.
Brenn Tan (b. 1990, Singapore)
A visual artist currently pursuing a (BA) Hons in Design Communication at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore. They have always questioned the line between Illustration and Design being primarily an illustrator. Heavily inspired by dreams and the subconscious, their works interweaves the surreal with narratives and aims to question or critique the real with the use of symbolism, metaphors and fiction. Brenn primary works in digital mediums and aims to explore all its iterations of image making. They have exhibited at 8Q SAM (2013) and PHUNK (2014).
Izzy Tan (b. 1992, Singapore)
A graphic designer and artist. His practice is informed by the pursuit of clarity, purity and simplicity. Izzy works with familiar forms and imagery with intent to create a universal understanding of the subject matter. His approach is expressed through an exercise of restraint, working across a medium of design, typography and illustration. He has exhibited at Goodman Art Centre (2012), National Museum of Singapore (2013), PHUNK (2014), Art Seasons (2015), Foothills Gallery (2015).
Jackson Kang (b.1991, Malaysia)
A Singapore-based visual artist from Johor, Malaysia—graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts with a Diploma in Illustration Design in 2012. He works in mixed media and installations to fabricate religious iconography in an artificial site. Creating the term “Post-relic”, his area of interest aims to re-evaluate our ritualistic relationship with these artefacts, stripped of its monumental and contextual values. He engaged the medium of drawing and painting for many years before making a shift towards his current self-taught practice. He has exhibited at 8Q SAM (2013) and Kult Gallery (2013, 2016).
Odelia Tang (b.1993, Singapore)
A visual artist currently pursuing a (BA) Hons in Fine Art at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore. Her art practice circulates around emotionally visceral concepts influenced by her interests in psychotherapy. Working primarily in traditional medium such as oil painting, printmaking and graphite, she believes in the unity of art and the frameworks of the brain in pursuit of a better living, and seeks to define and pursue ideas of the subconscious as a form of observation and question. Her works have been exhibited at PHUNK (2014), Art Seasons (2015) and Mulan Gallery (2016) which were featured on intersections.sg, The Straits’ Times, Channel News Asia, Telegraph UK and buro247.
Quinn Lum Fu Loong (b.1993, Singapore)
Constantly explores the idea of control and imposed expectations as a way of understanding his personal identity and social environment. Raised in a result oriented childhood, he aims to express his deep desire for freedom while being the voice for those in silence. His recent works have been exhibited in various exhibitions including China International Photo Festival (2015), Auckland International Photo Festival (2016), IN RELATION: ND81 Photographic Exhibition (2016) and Noise Singapore (2016). Quinn’s works have been awarded with the Most Promising Young Artist Award in UOB Painting 2010 and Gold with Honours in the Singapore Youth Festival Arts and Crafts Exhibition 2012.
Rafi Abdullah (b.1991, Singapore)
A former visual communication graduate from Nanyang Polytechnic’s, School of Design and is currently pursuing a (BA) Hons in Arts Management at Lasalle College of the Arts. He works predominantly in the digital media and print medium, and his current interests are in the intersections of art and design, text-based art and navigating the contemporary society. His recent works were exhibited in a group exhibition entitled, Cernunnos presented by fine-art graphic print gallery, Ludo Gallery (2015).
Tristan Lim (b.1993, Singapore)
A visual artist currently pursuing a (BA) Hons in Fine Arts at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore. His art practice examines the interactions among digital, physical and pictorial spaces, resulting in imagery that reflect the dialogues and tensions during these interactions, along with their allure. Influenced by contemporary visual culture, he has explored this notion through drawing, video, animation, and is currently focused on exploring painting and the artist’s physical engagement with the medium. He has participated in exhibitions at 8Q SAM (2013), The Arts House (2013) and Kult Gallery (2016).
By Shawn Lim
From wherever it is I urge these words
To find their subtle vents, the northern dazzle
Of silence cranes to watch. Footprint on foot
Print, word on word and each on a fool’s errand.
The perennial struggle of artistic creation finds its consummate expression in lines from W. S. Graham’s ‘Malcolm Mooney’s Land’, where writing becomes a difficult hike through the treacherous arctic “white-out” of the blank page. Such lines carved out in the thick snow reminds us that the creative act is foremost a physical act, where the strokes of pen or brush always recall the materiality of the artistic medium. They ground the electric exuberance of artistic creation to the gritty earth, and forces one to negotiate the thick growth of lines that spring forth from the written page. Writing and reading is truly treading on thin ice, an endeavor that prompts the speaker to ask: “Have I not been trying to use the obstacle / Of language well? It freezes around us all”.
The sense of compromise here suggests a few things. Generalised as an axiomatic claim for artistic creation, the act of making, or poesis, is admittedly always a “fool’s errand”. The artist is the archetypal fool, overreaching in the attempt to play god by separating a firmament from the undistinguished waters of creation with lines of ink and paint. Yet, the artist’s venture into this terra incognita of art is invariably accompanied by romantic fantasies, utopic imaginings that also explain the artist’s bravado. Graham displays this ambivalence in the plaintive cry for “these words / To find their subtle vents”. Snaking in the cool air, his words tremble with trepidation and excitement.
Additionally, as mentioned above, this ambivalence is coupled also with the recognition of the final fallibility of the artist’s medium; in this case, language is an “obstacle” that “freezes round us all”. At once both necessity and adversity, communication as conveyed through the written word is never straightforward. It is always made with the wager that, as Graham writes in ‘The Constructed Space’, “somehow something may move across / The caught habits of language to you and me”. The poet is thus haunted by the spectre of failure, the possibility that words may always mean otherwise. Here medium mediates, and its mediation tempers the impulse to create. Nevertheless, to create, the artist must remain seduced by the potentiality of art, whereby lines communicate a desire for connectivity between two, the joining of word with word, flesh on flesh.
Lines hence primarily articulate an attempt to bridge all that were assumed isolated, in the same manner in which the contours of the human body are delineated in fleshly union. Two points connected through Euclid’s first postulate, the line of human thought extends through history and into the age of the Internet, where the utopia of a freely interconnected world flourishes now in webs of infinitely branching lines: train lines, electric lines, lines of emojis. Here infinite complexity is simplified, a bewildering concept tamed in the clarity of two-dimensionality, mastered in strokes that even the coddled infant is capable of tracing out, crayon in hand. And so lines represent an abiding dream to transcend and apprehend, to traverse all space and time, and so transform and generate ever-newer systems and structures, banishing all frontiers and hearts of darkness in the light of new knowledge.
Yet, the image of Marlow sailing down his Congo River recalls the argument that lines always function as ambivalent things. Indeed, the waters divide the adventurer cruising downstream from the land ashore. His gaze condescends from on deck, his vision becoming an echo of solipsistic indifference. Lines then divide as much as they join. To ‘draw the line’ is to identify limit, to make other that which is different: a line of refusal, abjected as refuse.
Certainly, borders and thresholds erected in the name of identity and solidarity destabilize ‘us’ and ‘them’ in the very identification of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Identifying ‘us’ espouses an etymological fantasy of identicality, so eliding the oft-violent processes of integration in its painful erasure of difference to guarantee homogeneity. If ‘us’ is necessarily contingent on ‘them’, it follows then that identifying ‘them’ is also fraught with antagonism, wherefore the line drawn between the two conjoins and separates, establishing a mutually constitutive, yet destructively oppositional, Manichean relation of irreconcilable binaries.
Consequently, art can no longer afford naïve lines. Reflecting on art as medium, the artist can no longer treat lines as uncompromising paths reaching out towards an unfathomable transcendence or truth. These are lost forever. What remains for the artist then are other, more discomforting, because more sobering, lines. Lines that bridge and break. Lines that enfold and unfold. Lines that distort and contort. Lines that blur lines among lines. Lines that precipitate lines of questioning with no end. Lines that spiral forever in the semblance of a persistent question mark.
Here, in this space, some lines emerge as nebulous clouds or harsh distortions. They generate an opacity that obfuscates, yet also profess a profound honesty, a transparent reflection of human nature: that memory is helplessly fallible, that the lines of interpretation we choose to take regiment identity. With no guidelines, lines wind sinuously, or else intersect and diverge abruptly, moving in a series of starts and stops, stuttering and stumbling along. Even so, this disquiet is potentially an end in itself, eliciting tranquility through endless movements and repetitions.
Other lines celebrate the everyday through the purity of their simplicity, presenting the quotidian in all its stark necessity. But if they veer dangerously towards an abstract, formal order, it is only to question head-on the ritualistic propensity for us to seek personal transcendence. In this vein, they guide us to yet other lines that vacillate between the sacred and profane. They question individual autonomy in the face of ubiquitous social control, discerning the mysterious hand that motivates and influences behavior — the lines that shackle us as confused creatures.
Ultimately, these lines function as mere suggestions, lines you may choose to reject, authoritative as lines may be. For, if anything, these works exhibited here strike a deft balance on the tightrope of public commentary. Falling on neither side of the line, they instead invite you to participate and tussle with your own lines: storylines, lines of reasoning and lines of thought… and
Lines that ———— interrupt /
Lines that strike through
 W. S. Graham, W. S. Graham: New Collected Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 2005), p. 153.
 Graham, ‘New’, p. 155.
 Graham, ‘New’, p. 155
 Graham, ‘New’, p. 162
Shawn Lim is currently a final-year undergraduate pursuing B.A. (Honours) in English Literature and minor in Philosophy at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
To be updated shortly!