Week 5 Journal: Engaging with the Past

Thanks to team 2, today we learned about contemporary artists using traditional mediums like Mughal miniatures. Who are some other contemporary artists who use traditional materials, genres, or subject matter from the past? Why are they engaging with the premodern?

While preparing for the presentation, I got the chance to witness Artists in this age engage with traditional materials or the traditional art styles to synchronise with modern mediums. For one, I know the Singh sisters used the vivid paintings  to expressing their pride in traditional values and heritage, even though they were living in London. It was a expression of their dual cultural identity, living in London but not of or from London, being different. This also explains the narratives in their art  that try to redefine narrow perceptions of heritage and identity in art and in society.

Colourful painting showing fifteen figures performing various task to prepare for a meal in a garden
All Hands on Deck, 1997, Rabindra KD Kaur Singh

However, another artist that I encountered lately was Phi Phi Oanh. Her work revolves around  lacquer and combined with her studies of the Vietnamese lacquer painting (sơn mài) tradition. Drawing from the hybrid nature of her personal history, Oanh constructs pictorial and evocative installations.

Pro Se, Installation photos courtesy of National Gallery Singapore, Radiant Material, June – September 2017.

Oanh uses her lacquer paintings and display them in modern iPads. She wanted to emphasize the strangeness and the significance of the material and the local in the age of the immaterial, virtual and digital reproduction. The significance lacquer was to use it as a marker for dialectical changes in Vietnamese society. The lacquer is a varnish that tries to preserve and is a metaphor for preserving cultural and religious relics to a painting medium for personal and nationalistic expression. It now is charged with the ability to also reflect and visualise the conditions of thought and sight in which we live.

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Zerline Jade

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