The two exhibitions showcased a wide variety of works, in many different forms, sculptural, digital and audio-based etc. In general I felt that the works themselves are answering directly or indirectly to the themes surrounding these trying times. Yet, I feel also that the broader themes of pressing social issues and the ever-increasing pace of city life with its associating impacts are also central to most of what the works speak of.
The pandemic has necessitated reflection, both at the individual and the societal levels. The lockdown has given society an excuse to pause and re-evaluate life, and the government has also identified the few areas of over-reliance on external forces as the small island state navigates through these trying times. Although most of the works on display centered around similar issues like the demise of over-digitisation, hostile architecture, consumerism, capitalism, I do feel that more suggestions of the direction forward would have been welcomed instead. These do not need to be explicitly defined, but metaphorically or methodologically.
Which brings me to the piece that I was quite enamored with. It is Ashley Yeo’s Drop of Light, where she has painstakingly hand-cut a piece of paper into the piece on display. It works perfectly both visually and metaphorically; the act of taking the time, patience and care to create something. As a piece, for me, it is very tangible, there is no ambiguity in how time-consuming the process is, and the end result speaks for itself; there is nothing to hide, the piece is fully ‘naked’ to the spectator, and there is no need to explain much. This is in stark contrast to the many technologies and conveniences of the modern world; fast-food, slimming pills, one-click wonder softwares, ponzi schemes and an ever-growing list.
I find it intriguing that I am always coming back to honoring craftsmanship for ‘solving’ almost any modern day problem(mentally). Fast-paced lifestyle? Work on a craft of your choosing, spend time to study it well. Too impatient for your own good? Pick an arduous process and work through it. Feeling tired from all the ‘noise’? Disconnect, shut yourself out and work on your craft for hours on end.
To put Ashley’s piece in context, there isn’t anything terribly technical or groundbreaking inherent in the piece. But the extraordinariness of it all lies in the patience and care that went into its creation. And that is what we are here to celebrate; the passing of time, in the time-honored fashion way of doing something well and right, no shortcuts.
A little research on Ashley’s background; she is no stranger to handcrafted work. She has produced many pieces similar to the one above, and won many prizes for them as well. She also works with other materials like ceramics, aluminium and wood. In an article interview she also mentioned that her most time consuming piece took her over half a year to complete; a piece measuring about 45cm.
Looking at her piece made me wonder about everything around us, all the different objects we encounter daily, and how much does each of them take to materialise; the HDB flat unit that I live in for example :p , or the fish fillet burger that I adore.