Gajah Gallery presents Shaping Geographies: Art | Woman | Southeast Asia, a major group exhibition featuring works by 11 leading contemporary female artists from the region. Turning the spotlight on the growing number of active women artists in Southeast Asia, the show brings together these diverse artistic practices through three key intersections and tensions of the terms ‘Art’, ‘Woman’ and ‘Southeast Asia’.
How can we acknowledge the unique contributions of women artists to Southeast Asian contemporary art history, whilst at the same time not be beholden to or overdetermined by the categorization ‘woman artists’? Shaping Geographies: Art | Woman | Southeast Asia poses an answer to this question by illuminating the unique and individual experiences of women made different by intersectional communal axes; multiple generations of artists are represented, highlighting the expanding and constantly evolving course of women’s art practice in Southeast Asia, and recognising each individual artist’s distinct cultural basis and connections which propels their contribution to art history.
Here, ‘geography’ does not only refer to a fixed location or delineated border, but an ever-shifting political, cultural, and social arena, with the idea and sense of place being relentlessly contested. We have invited each artist to respond, explore, and challenge these notions of space and place – natural and socially-constructed – as shaped and framed by their position as women of artistic significance.
Navigating each artist’s practice on their own terms, the exhibition considers how each has played a part in crafting the landscape of contemporary art, Southeast Asian art, and women’s art practices: women shaping geographies of space, place, and environment.
Geraldine Javier (Philippines) is a Filipino visual and installation artist who is best known for her work blending painting with various other media. This technique creates stunning works that marry static pieces with kinesis and 3-dimensionality to invoke a powerfully emotional response. Film and photography are her immediate sources of reference; the sensibilities of her practice are known to reflect the moodiness of old European films. Her works have been shown in Berlin, Korea, Singapore, and most recently in Art Fair Philippines 2014.
Kayleigh Goh (Malaysia) is a visual artist born in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and based in Singapore. One of the most innovative young artists in the region, her work is deeply inspired by the psychological and poetic implications of the concept of “place”. The pieces she creates are subdued and still, pushing the viewer to reflect on their own perceptions of home and rest. Kayleigh predominantly uses industrial mediums such as wood and cement to create urban scenes of quiet serenity in peaceful juxtaposition with the typically Brutalist mediums.
Yee I-Lann (Malaysia) is a Malaysian photomedia artist. She uses her art to speculate on issues of culture, power, and the role of historical memory in individual social experiences. These layers of perception necessitate the extensive and multi-layered visual vocabulary that Yee draws from research, historical references, popular culture, archives, and everyday objects to create visually stimulating works showcasing the differing perspectives of intersectional axes of cultural identity.
Savanhdary Vongpoothorn (Laos) is a painter and visual artist born in Laos and based in Sydney, Australia. Her delicate paintings, created by layering coats of paint on both sides of the canvas, are reminiscent of a myriad of different cultural symbols including but not limited to- tartan, Laotian textiles, Buddhists mandalas, Minimal abstraction, and Aboriginal art. These influences are fused with the canvas to form a multicultural flag of sorts. These cultural and spiritual references stem from Vongpoothorn’s experiences of growing up and living in both Laos and Australia. Her art, rather than constituting a fixed tradition or objectified sense of “culture”, is a personal representation of her diasporic identity.
Suzann Victor (Singapore) is a multi-media installation artist born in Singapore and based in Sydney, Australia. She creates kinetic works which move in space, whilst being themselves, moving experiences. The installation sites, in turn, are transformed by the addition of the art into its own closed ecological system, with its social, historical and urban profile evolving over time, constantly engaging with the art installation. The transformed spaces are seen as ‘sanctuaries’ to host conceptual-aesthetic encounters that also give in embodied ways. Suzann was one of 4 Singaporean artists selected to participate in the 49th Venice Biennale and in 2009, was also awarded the prestigious New York-based Civitella Ranieri Foundation fellowship. Her works have been shown in Singapore, Korea, Germany, New Zealand and many more.
Fika Ria Santika (Indonesia) is an installation artist born in West Sumatra, and based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Heavily influenced by the nature and ideology of her Minangkabau culture, Fika draws inspiration from the unexplained changes in the natural world, the cycles of life, and the inevitable growth of organic matter. Working with LED lights and other technological materials, Fika gracefully combines the natural and unnatural, the organic and inorganic, creating colourful and luminous installations.
I Gak Murniasih (Indonesia) is a visual artist who was based in Bali. Murni developed and created her work in the image of the traditional Balinese style of Pengosekan painting, which she studied under the tutelage of Dewa Putu Mokoh. She is best known for her graphic and uninhibited painting of nude body parts, posed sexually to the audience. Murni conveys strong ideas of feminism, identity, sex, violence and death through her explicit art, in lieu of therapy and diaristic discretion.
Tintin Wulia (Indonesia) is an Indonesian visual and installation artist who is renowned for her careful dissection of sociopolitical structures of an imbalanced and globalising world. Her work toes the flux of geopolitical border, made and unmade by the presence of people. Tintin’s works are process-based, taking place across mediums to engage people in relationship models that are devised to foster critical dialogues; she uses her work to interact with her audience and encourage participation with art across preconceptions of communal axes.
Anida Yoeu Ali (Cambodia) is a multi-media artist based in Phnom Penh, whose work is centred with the exploration of her personal diasporic identity, as well as evocations of Cambodia’s fast-changing urban and rural landscape. Anida makes use of inter-disciplinary approaches to art-making, converging installation and performance to investigate the artistic, spiritual, and political axes of a divergent transnational identity.
Muslimah Collective (Thailand) is a Thai art collective which comprises of Keeta Isran (b. 1986), Kusofiyah Nibuesa (b. 1992), Nureeya Waji (b. 1993), Heedayah Mahavi (b. 1993) and Arichama Pakapet (b. 1994). The fundamental premise of the art that they create together is to distill the individual ideology of each artist and amalgamate them into works of art that reflect the female beauty that derives wholly from them.
Nguyen Trinh Thi (Vietnam) is an independent filmmaker and video/media artist born and based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen’s work documents her investigation into the role of memory when unveiling hidden, displaced or misinterpreted histories. She uses her art to examine and embody the varying positions that artists hold in Vietnamese society. Nguyen uses the medium of video and film to render multilayered and formally complex portrayals of Vietnam’s complicated past and the continued effects of these historical events in the present time.
Shaping Geographies: Art | Woman | Southeast Asia opens on November 23 at Gajah Gallery, 39 Keppel Rd, #03-04, Singapore 089065.