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Exhibition

Attachments and Detachments 結与解 : A Chinese Obsession

Exhibiting Artists: Chng Seok Tin

Venue: The Gallery Evason Hotel > venue details

Dates: 31 May 2001 - 10 Jun 2001

One of the few local artists of her generation who offers trenchant comment on Singaporean society in her work, the themes in Chng Seok Tin’s art have dealt primarily with the milieu of Singaporean life: materialism, urbanization, the crowded environment, the people and their restless pursuits. Of late, the Chinese language has made a direct appearance in her works, and it is these works (1999-2001) that are exhibited in Attachments and Detachments.

Her creations for this exhibition are executed in two very different media: paper sculpture and collage, but are united in the liberal use of Chinese script across the surface of the works. For the paper sculptures, Seok Tin has selected newsprint with vibrant colours or interesting text from Chinese newspapers to be displayed on the surface of the human figures she has created, the characters occasionally matching their activities or actions. For the collages, calligraphic fragments of classical poems, sayings and aphorisms from Chinese literature, Lao Tzu or Confucius run across the canvas, and these are derived from writings that have made an impression on Seok Tin, which are related to her thinking and which she feels can speak for her. The extensive use of Chinese script in her art may be considered a fairly recent development, but it represents yet another facet of Seok Tin’s identity which struggles to find a voice.

Human figures have become regular subject matter for Seok Tin’s art. She has tried variously to interprete them using string, rope, leather, wire, paper, clay, tinfoil even thin copper sheets, but has worked nearly exclusively with Chinese newspaper for the past two and a half years. The process of creation was precious to her: her paper people were made while listening to her talking books (Seok Tin is legally blind), and upon completion of each figure, she would experience joy and fulfillment. “God made use of mud to create men; I made use of paper to create little men! They also have a life and soul, their different sizes and postures speak for themselves. I convey my ideas, my feelings, my sorrow, my happiness, my philosophy through these little men… they speak also for me.”

The diminutive rope men tossed around the canvases serve to remind us of our transience, fragility and insubstantiality. The use of knotted rope alludes to the unbreakable ties that bind Seok Tin to Chinese culture which explains her obsession with it; as the knots in rope were once used as a memory aid, they now haunt us with the past. These knotty problems and their unraveling explain the title Attachments and Detachments: the individual decides for himself what his past ties mean for him, and derives new relevance for the present.

For all the acerbity in her work, Seok Tin is a quiet, gentle artist which belies her ability as an acute observer, ready to record her surroundings accurately, and with wit. In Attachments and Detachments, we celebrate with her the condition of being Chinese in a human society, a celebration of all our traits, foibles, urges and passions. One is encouraged to stop and find ourselves in Seok Tin’s tumultuous world.



Artist

  • Chng Seok Tin

    Singapore

    Chng Seok Tin did her studies in art in Singapore, UK, France and USA, from 1971 to 1985; she obtained two master degrees from New Mexico State University and The University of Iowa, in USA, majoring in printmaking. She has held 25 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions in Singapore and abroad. She was awarded the Cultural Medallion by the Government of Singapore in 2005.

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