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Minimalism at ArtScience Museum

Minimalism at ArtScience Museum | Asian Influences

I’d visited this Minimalism exhibition before seeing the main show at National Gallery Singapore, and the presentation of Minimalism at both places were quite different. Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. at ArtScience Museum focuses on Asian philosophies and its influences on Minimalist art, with references to Zen Buddhism and Chinese Maximalism. Overall, I found it a very quiet and calming exhibition, which I definitely think is a first for me.

Mona Hatoum, + and –, 1994-2004, steel, aluminium, sand and electric motor

I am so, so fascinated by Mona Hatoum’s + and –. Personally, I find it very therapeutic to see the jagged edge of the metal arm marking out regular half-circles in the sand, while simultaneously, the other edge smooths out the sand to form a pristine surface again. I stood watching it move many, many times!

+ and – can be interpreted in many ways, most commonly in reference to ideas of creating and destroying, and displacement and migration, that comes up in Hatoum’s other works too. ArtScience Museum also brings up the idea of its inspiration taken from Japanese Zen gardens, located in zen temples (of Zen Buddhism). Zen gardens usually consist of small rocks and sand, and temple monks rake the sand to resemble ripples in water.

Because I loved the artwork so much, I also made a video that shows it in motion! Click to watch below:

Zhang Yu, Ink Feeding 20150506, 2018, plexiglas, xuan paper, ink and water

Zhang Yu’s Ink Feeding 20150506 seems like an installation and a performance at the same time. The accompanying video to the work shows the artist pouring ink into the bottom of the container, and then shows how the ink slowly seeps upwards through the papers overtime until all of it has turned black. It was still early days in the exhibition, so most of the papers were still white!

Donald Judd, Untitled (Six Boxes), 1974, brass

I really like the simplicity of these six cubes, yet their large size also hold a massive presence.

Tan Ping, +40m, 2012, woodblock print on paper

Very interestingly, this literally 40 metres-long line was carved into the woodblock in “one continuous gesture by the artist over a period of six hours”, as stated in the object label.

Song Dong, A Pot of Boiling Water, 1995, images of performance
Song Dong, A Pot of Boiling Water (detail)

Song Dong’s performance also carries the idea of creating a trail, although he leaves an impermanent one as the boiling water eventually evaporates.

I’d previously seen Song Dong’s other works, Breathing, Houhai, Back Sea and Breathing, Tiananmen Square, at ArtisTree in Hong Kong as part of the Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art exhibition from the M+ collection (click the link to see my blog post!). A Pot of Boiling Water similarly makes me think about the (sometimes) futile attempts to create change in the environments around us.

I took this photograph because I really appreciated the placement of Song Dong’s A Pot of Boiling Water and Tan Ping’s +40m next to each other. I also particularly liked how all of the artworks displayed in this Minimalism exhibition at ArtScience Museum had a lot of breathing space, which gave off a calming aura that I found very fitting for the Minimalism theme.

Donald Judd, Untitled (85-033), 1985, painted aluminium

I like how Donald Judd’s objects appear to come as they are. On Untitled (85-033), I really like the use of colour!

Frederik De Wilde, Horizontal Depth3 — “This In Not the Place We Go to Die. It’s Where We Are Born”, 2018, stainless steel, carbon nanotubes and polymer

Frederik De Wilde is both an artist and a scientist, and he produced this blackest of blacks colour in 2010. I was quite fascinated by this work, as it really did appear “blacker” than the usual.

Olafur Eliasson, Seu corpo da obra (Your Body of Work), 2011, transparent plastic sheets (cyan, magenta, yellow), wood and spotlights

Olafur Eliasson’s Seu corpo da obra (Your Body of Work) became a really fun, spontaneous place to take photos with, as the coloured sheets created more colours when layered over each other. I have to say though that I didn’t like the plastic look of it, though I suppose the coloured effect would be difficult to achieve with other materials…

Morgan Wong, Time Needle Series (No. 1-25), 2016-ongoing, metal powder and glass

Morgan Wong’s Time Needle Series (No. 1-25) is beautifully presented, but I found the story behind it quite amusing. Wong demonstrates the Chinese idiom 磨杵成針, literally meaning to grind a steel rod into a needle. Wong is (still) in the process of filing down a steel bar as part of a performance piece, and these little needles filled with the filed-down metal powder are being collected as remnants of the performances.

The actual story behind the idiom (practically all Chinese idioms have background stories) involves Tang dynasty poet Li Bai (李白), who as a young boy saw a granny filing down a steel bar. The experience taught him the meaning of persevering at challenging tasks, which led to the coinage of the idiom.

I find it funny how the act described in the idiom is being taken literally – as part of a performance art piece, no less – and again, it does make me think about the futility of doing certain acts to bring about change (see Song Dong above). As this is an ongoing project, I am really curious to know how many time needles Wong will end up with when it’s completed!

Tawatchai Puntusawasdi, Haumea, 2016, aluminium plates and rivets

I found Tawatchai Puntusawasdi’s Haumea weirdly cool, it looks like an UFO egg to me! Through the small windows, you can see random numbers written inside, zoom in to the second picture below to see. It’s truly a mysterious unidentifiable kind of object.

I’d hoped to learn more about Minimalism through the two exhibitions at National Gallery Singapore and ArtScience Museum. I do think I have a better idea about what Minimalism was about, but I feel that extending this concept into today’s contemporary art scene is still pushing it a little too far. For what it’s worth though, I thought that ArtScience Museum’s Minimalism exhibition was way more assured of its curatorial focus on Asian influences.

For this exhibition, I’m going to give it 3/1/2 stars because while I quite liked it overall, there weren’t enough stand-out artworks for me, and the topic of Minimalism didn’t really pique my interest. Share your view on this exhibition too by indicating your rating below!

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