Museum Musings: FOST and SILVERLENS Collaborate for Depth of Surface in the Philippines

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MAKATI CITY, PHILIPPINES – Singapore’s FOST Gallery and the Philippines’ SILVERLENS are collaborating for the first time ever with Depth of Surface, an all new group exhibition that will bring together works from Heman Chong (Singapore), Phi Phi Oanh (Vietnam) and Donna Ong (Singapore). Held at SILVERLENS Gallery in the Philippines, the exhibition seeks to explore how the artists treat the two-dimensional plane, with its paradoxical title playing on each work’s ability to pierce past the superficial, its surface hiding far greater subtext.

Heman CHONG, The Elementary Particles / Michel Houellebecq, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 61 x 46 x 3.5 cm. Image courtesy of The Artist and FOST Gallery

In Heman Chong’s Cover (Versions), Chong continues his ongoing exploration of books and text, imagining book covers as paintings. These book titles are culled from an extensive bibliography of over 400 Chong uses as reference material for his fiction writing, with every painting maintaining same precise dimensions of 46 x 61 centimeters. Each painting is created in its purest form, conceptualised during the act of painting itself without planning, utilising free association to adapt and borrow from art history, while each painting uses the same font for the words set on them, chosen for functionality over aesthetic. Cover (Versions) then interrogates the relationship between functionality and form as we create new narratives each day.

Phi Phi Oanh, Pro Se 7, 2017, Son ta Vietnamese lacquer on wood, H18.5 x W24 x D1.5cm. Photo Credit Matthew Daikin

In Phi Phi Oanh’s Pro Se, the Vietnamese artist pushes Vietnamese lacquer painting to new heights as Oanh explores the process of varnishing to explore the possibilities lacquer offers. Here, the paintings allude to the portable digital tablet as the lacquered surfaces mimic touch sensitive glass of these now ubiquitous devices, offering us a window into another world and our collective imagination. While the paintings themselves are static, Oanh relies on the lacquer’s ability to reflect light alongside gold and silver leaf to create the illusion of a ‘flickering screen’. Pro Se was previously exhibited at the National Gallery Singapore in 2017, and in this iteration, are arranged like a vertical scroll to allude to the way we experience images in social media, reflecting on how the way we consume images has changed from the 30s to now, where she contrasts the sheer amount of labour and time that goes into making these paintings with the fleeting nature we take to view virtual images.

Donna Ong, Tropical Shades (I)-Rainforest Narratives from the National Geographic (2010-2018), detail

Finally, in the debut of Tropical Shades (I): Rainforest Narratives from the National Geographic (1980-2018), Donna Ong covers the largest wall in the room with 12,800 magnets, making it resemble an overwhelming camouflage pattern, a disguise within a disguise so to speak. Each magnet is a printed image of the tropical rainforest, chosen from four decades of National Geographic magazines, and with their eclectic arrangement, produces a pixelated dynamic quality that reminds the viewers of their printed origins and highlights how our first experiences of consuming other cultures and geographies are mediated. Through this piece, Ong uses the medium of magnets as a modern holiday souvenir to tease out man’s continual fascination with tropical forests, and how we remember and reproduce it.

If you’re in the Philippines during this period, come look beyond the surface, and explore what these three artists have to say about depth, perception and our consumption of the image in Depth of Surface. 

Depth of Surface runs at the SILVERLENS Gallery in the Philippines from 15th September to 13th October 2018. Admission is free. For more information, visit their website here

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