S.E.A. Focus Connects Southeast Asia With Hybrid Format
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With 27 participating galleries, agility comes easily to S.E.A. Focus (22–31 January 2021), which embraces a hybrid format this year.
Left to right: Rirkrit Tiravanija, untitled 2016 (nothing) (2016); Tobias Rehberger, Mother without child 3 (2019): Kristoffer Ardeña, Ghost Painting (Cracked Category): National Bookstore (2020). Exhibition view: hyper–horizon, S.E.A. Focus 2021, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Singapore (22–31 January 2021). Courtesy S.E.A Focus. Photo: Toni Cuhadi.
With the aim to 'spark new connections between works of art from Southeast Asia', the presentation is accessible online with S.E.A. Focus Digital and physically at the S.E.A. Focus Curated showcase, titled hyper–horizon, presented at the warehouse complex Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
This year's edition eschews a traditional booth structure for a fluid design by Randy Chan of Zarch Collaboratives to offer a 'borderless experience', reflecting Singapore's position as a crucial hub for the region's art scene.
VIP programmes and public talks include speakers such as collector Wiyu Wahono and artist Eugene Soh discussing 'Digital Horizons'; and Bangkok Art Biennale 2020 Artistic Director Apinan Poshyananda, Sharjah Art Foundation Deputy Director Reem Shadid, and Natasha Ginwala, co-curator of the 2021 Gwangju Biennial and COLOMBOSCOPE 2019, who will consider the end of the biennial format in a talk moderated by frieze Magazine Deputy Editor Amy Sherlock (both talks will be held on 28 January 2021).
Collaborating with Artsy and Frieze, Emi Eu, project director of S.E.A. Focus and executive director of STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery notes the aim to 'cultivate an appreciation of art in Southeast Asia among an international audience profile' who may 'discover new strands of thought and creativity that they perhaps did not expect.'
An editorial component on the S.E.A. Focus website provides further insight, with contributions by art writers and researchers including Vipash Purichanont, Carlos Quijon, Jr, Shubigi Rao, and Dr. Simon Soon.
Out of necessity, the pandemic has resulted in new networks being built into the city's art scene—conversations and connections that are at the core of S.E.A. Focus.
As emphasised by Eu, 'it is important to recognise the regional connections and networks between distinctive heritage, cultures, and histories as a collective, collegial whole.'
The curated presentation hyper–horizon responds to the 'waves of change and the possibility seizing Southeast Asia', with participants including CUC Gallery from Vietnam, Nova Contemporary from Thailand, The Drawing Room from Manila, and Seoul and Los Angeles-based Baik Art.
Tapping into this wave, a number of galleries feature emerging artists from Singapore.
Rebellion and youth culture are explored in mixed-media paintings on aluminium by Ian Tee at Yavuz Gallery—also presenting a solo exhibition of work by the artist at their gallery space, titled KILL YOUR DARLINGS (16–31 January 2021)—while art collective PHUNK investigate urban subcultures through bold silkscreens and acrylic on canvas paintings at Art Seasons.
At Richard Koh Fine Art, Hu Qiren considers restrictions on daily life as a result of the pandemic, while Singaporean painters Jamie Tan and Jamie Teo present a collaborative work fusing their ongoing explorations of colour.
In another duo presentation, STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery features photolithography by renowned fashion and portrait photographer Russel Wong, capturing bold flowers against washes of grey, paired with fluid, abstract structures by Genevieve Chua.
In his intricate juxtapositions of colonial era furniture with items found in domestic village interiors, Jimmy Ong's charcoal on paper 'Raffles Trophies' (2020) at FOST Gallery continue his research into Sir Stamford Raffles' time in Java.
From elsewhere in the region, Manila-based SILVERLENS brings a two-person presentation of Philippine artists Pow Martinez and Gregory Halili, while paintings by Indonesian artist Ibrahim will be on view at Gajah Gallery, and Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi on view at ROH Projects.
Further highlights include Malaysian artist Chen Wei Meng's fluid ink paintings at Wei-Ling Gallery, along with Yogyakarta-based Malaysian artist Nadiah Bamadhaj's charcoal on paper collages responding to human impact on the earth, accompanied by Hà Ninh Pham's paintings of imaginary worlds at A+ Works of Art.
As Emi Eu noted in conversation with Ocula Magazine last year: 'For any art market to thrive, you've got to have everybody working together'—a statement that has rung true during the Covid-19 outbreak, with art spaces in Singapore rallying to overcome difficulties wrought by the pandemic.
Collaborative modes of working include initiatives such as Proposals for Novel Ways of Being (August 2020–February 2021), organised by the National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, who have partnered with 12 venues to present programmes addressing the changes of recent months.
The networked model is paralleled by a dispersal within Singapore's arts ecology, with organisations such as NTU Centre for Contemporary Art discontinuing lease of their main space at Gillman Barracks to diversify exhibition locations.
This format also resonates with Chan + Hori Contemporary, who have transformed from gallery to boutique advisory firm, project managing exhibitions such as UNTAPPED 2021, featuring seven emerging Singaporean artists including Ivan David Ng, Fyon Cheong, Ben Loong, Zestro Leow, Yeo Tze Yang, Leow Wei Li, and Rifqi Amirul Rosli (15–30 January 2021).
Last year, the Singapore Government unlocked a number of measures to aid arts groups, including the Capability Development Scheme for the Arts and the Digital Presentation Grant, to support art spaces' shift online.
Among the recipients were Singapore Art week (22–30 January 2021), presenting exhibitions, video essays, and live events online, allowing international audiences access to the city's art scene.
The offering will accompany a collection of exhibitions on the ground, with New York-based Ziyang Wu's first solo exhibition in Singapore opening at Hatch Art Project (21 January–20 February 2021), along with Ashley Bickerton's second solo show at Gajah Gallery(Heresy or Codswallop, 19 January–14 February 2021).
Out of necessity, the pandemic has resulted in new networks being built into the city's art scene—conversations and connections that are at the core of S.E.A. Focus.—[O]