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art talk:
Paint for Paint’s Sake

Eight artists are exhibiting at Osage Gallery’s new show, ‘The Burden of Representation: Abstract Art in Asia Today’. To whatever extent representation is a ‘burden’, some of the artists are carrying heavier loads than others. There are works that emphasise their own materiality, more conceptual pieces, and some that deliberately subvert their own abstractness.

In the press materials for the show, Singaporean artist Jane Lee’s richly textural, almost sculptural paintings, are described as having paint itself as their theme.

Lee says, “I agree with the curator's suggestion that my work is a painting of painting materials – what it is made up of and intended to be. I believe  paintings concerning painting materials are important in bringing out the essence of painting.”

Lee’s paintings about paintings are also exploratory expeditions into unmapped areas of paint’s possibilities, and they’re aided by modern materials like a binding agent called ‘super heavy gel’.

“The essence of painting involves the idea of a change of state; namely, a change from liquid to solid,” Lee says. “With the advent of high technology, artists now have both conventional and unconventional mediums in the market to explore. Hence, the possibilities of pushing paint is beyond one's imagination and I find the possibilities of experimenting with paint endlessly fascinating.”

Like Lee, Tokyo’s Masato Kobayashi also messes with materials qua materials in the creation of his minimalist “light paintings”. Kobayashi drapes and shapes his canvases like a dressmaker over frames of unusual geometry.

Instead of manipulating materials, Chen Jie prefers to play with our conceptions of art in the creation of his works. He hires workers to paint canvases according to his design, which he maps out with a grid of one centimetre ‘pixels’.

“When someone views an object using just his or her sensibility and not his or her reason, he or she can’t even distinguish that it is a piece of art,” Chen says. “I think art is an illusion that relates to a series of present sensations and a series of absent sensations, and reason is necessary to relate them together.”

For Chen, the audience makes the art in their minds. Michael Lin and Lee Kit, by contrast, find their art in the house. They see near-finished abstract works in the patterns of domestic textiles.

Lin largely takes his bright, often floral graphics from old fashioned fabrics he turns up in Taiwanese homes, making them abstract by introducing them into an art context.


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