Finding Beauty in the Banal – The Laboratory: ArtShow 2017

By Adri Faris (18A13A)
Photos courtesy of Sun Jia Ying (18A01D)

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Promotional poster for “The Laboratory: ArtShow 2017”

When the word “artist” is mentioned in a casual conversation, images of a beret-donning, mediocrity-fearing, sketchbook-carrying creative inevitably spring to mind. This creative is believed to be living in a dream world, and he only hangs out with his fellow creatives who lead decadent lifestyles.

But this depiction of the “artist” as an exclusive, pretentious creative is far from accurate. It does not even come close to describing the artists that make up the H2 Art Batch of 2018 in Raffles. When I entered the Art Studio on Friday, 27th October, I was warmly greeted by passionate art students who were eager to take me through their works.

Art is definitely not a discipline for the faint-hearted. It is easy for us to view art as the product of sudden bursts of wild inspiration, of the artist’s sheer talent. But it is equally important for us to acknowledge that art, as a subject, also requires a great deal of passion and commitment. These form the expectations of an Art student in RI. This sentiment is beautifully captured in the opening words of the pamphlet given out during the 2017 ArtShow:

We call art pieces “works”

precisely because it requires work.

Menial, constant, hard, work.

The name of the exhibition, “The Laboratory”, is derived from the root word laborare, Latin for “to work”.

Art is a process of research –

given a single idea or image,

we look for new ways of seeing through

investigation and scrutiny. Much like the scientific pursuit

of rational truth, art is the pursuit of artistic truth.

As scientists have theories, we have ideas;

they publish papers, we make artworks.

But in both situations,

these truths cannot be unsubstantiated.

The Laboratory: ArtShow 2017 therefore became a space where the school population could come together to celebrate the works and passion of these artists.

For this year’s ArtShow, the artists were given the liberty to create an installation anywhere in the school, up to their own artistic discretion. Due to the site-specific nature of an installation, their works therefore needed to respond to the space they had chosen.

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One of the interesting installations featured during the show, made up of assignments and tests.

When asked about the objective of conducting the ArtShow, Alëna Rae Ong (18S06B), one of the persons-in-charge of the event, says “Like it or not, art is all around us. In my opinion, art appreciation is important for everyone. Through The Laboratory, we sought to expose the school population to art and expression. It educates and informs people on the beauty of art. Our installations this year allowed us to integrate art into the school’s mundane environment, making art more accessible for everyone. Even those who are not particularly familiar with art got to immerse themselves in it. You do not need to produce art to enjoy it. To me, it is critical for everyone – whether or not you are an art student – to be able to indulge in art and this ArtShow therefore became the perfect opportunity for us to open that door of art in Raffles.”

Alëna’s installation, IT’S LIT., was definitely different from the others. It included a performance aspect that played a crucial role in presenting her work and intention as an artist more thoroughly. Being given the opportunity to express herself through performance art at this year’s ArtShow became one of her favourite memories from her experience running such an exhibition.

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Alëna’s performance that evening involved the breaking of objects – a symbolic way of “breaking stereotypes”.

Alëna says, “The feeling I got looking at the crowd at the end of my performance was indescribable. It is that feeling where you cannot resist smiling, but it wasn’t just being extremely happy. It was a whole new experience for me, and really allowed me to challenge myself, expressing what I had to say using my body, interacting with my audience, and not just through a static installation. I hope I provided viewers with a new experience too.”

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“It is that feeling where you cannot resist smiling, but it wasn’t just being extremely happy.”
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Gan Chong Jing’s (18A13A) installation captures the many interesting ways light falls.

When asked about the inspiration behind his installation, Gan Chong Jing (18A13A) cited sunsets and walks around the school campus as the primary stimuli which began his thought process. Through his walks, Chong Jing realised that light falls in many interesting ways and patterns and he wanted to capture exactly that through his installation.

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Gan Chong Jing (18A13A)

Chong Jing’s installation hence serves as his comment on how people do not appreciate natural light as much as they should – they tend to take for granted the fact that light in our environment is fixed. Through his installation, Chong Jing also subtly highlights the bitter irony that even though visual reality is what we, as humans, predominantly use to judge the world around us, visual reality is in itself inherently subjective. As an artist, Chong Jing wanted others to realise that indeed, there are beautiful things around us in this “cold and oppressive school environment”, “we just have to stop and look for it.”

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Vanessa Lim’s (18S06B) installation found beauty in the things we use on a daily basis – tables.

Carved up tables in classrooms became the inspiration behind Vanessa Lim’s (18S06B) installation, on which she worked tirelessly for three months. When asked about why she felt the need to create such a piece, Vanessa mentioned that people don’t usually look at tables on a deeper level, choosing to accept things at face value instead. Also in that same vein, Vanessa hopes to encourage others through her installation to look for the hidden beauties in the things we use in our everyday lives.

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Zhang Tianyu’s (18S05A) installation requires 2 people to sit on the beanbags in order for it to light up.

Just as how art can exist in many different forms, the inspiration behind each work can also take different shapes and sizes, unique to the artist’s own experiences and observations. Tianyu’s installation was a testament to the fact that personal experiences, both good and bad, could be translated into an art form. Inspired by the support she received during the onerous days she went through with an injured thumb, Tianyu felt the need to explore the different ways people interact with one another and the relationship between them through her installation.

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Zhang Tianyu’s (18S05A) installation highlighted the power of communication.

Through her art work, Tianyu also sought to highlight how effective communication fosters friendship, which is especially vital if one is not so proficient in expressing oneself. Tianyu wanted her installation to be a representation of her devotion to her friends, especially those who supported her when she felt most fragile during her days with an injured thumb. When asked about her favourite memory while working on such a personal piece, Tianyu cheerfully quipped, “When all the broken circuits were fixed and my installation finally lit up!”

If my experience in their laboratory that evening taught me anything about art, it’s definitely about how even the slightest detail in our ritualistic, banal lives can be transformed into something much more beautiful and meaningful. Through the ArtShow, I also witnessed the passion these artists had not just for their works, but also for one another. And I think that’s what makes an artist truly an artist – the passion. This small community of artists was able to find beauty in the imperfections of their works, even if the exhibition didn’t take place in the Louvre. Chong Jing’s write-up for this year’s ArtShow on their pamphlet eloquently sums up the pulchritude of artmaking:

Artmaking is incredibly bittersweet. But here, in our

Laboratory, surrounded by our flawed and imperfect works,

we hope that you can see that the unglamorous reality of art

is also a deeply beautiful one.

Because it is in the flaws, in the mistakes, that you can see the painful struggle of art; the necessary trial-and-error process of learning, of growing ourselves as artists; and most of all, the relentless, unyielding determination of the students,

to pick themselves up from the mistakes,

and keep arting.

 

Disclaimer: Not all of the pieces in the exhibition were covered in this article.

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