Museum Musings: National Gallery Singapore Launches OUTBOUND Commission Series

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National Gallery Singapore is set to launch OUTBOUND, a brand new series of artwork commissions to trigger unexpected and meaningful art encounters for visitors beyond the exhibition galleries. These unique commissions are meant to greet visitors as they walk around the Gallery, designed to provoke critical reflection, curiosity and playfulness. Curated as an ongoing series, each season of OUTBOUND will progressively unveil artworks in the Gallery’s public spaces over a period of three years.

Says Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore: “OUTBOUND is our latest endeavour in creating new aesthetic experiences for our visitors. Conceptualised to broaden encounters with art at the Gallery, we mobilise transitional spaces and key entrances of the Gallery to encourage visitors to see art anew and in a less inhibited way. We hope these visually stimulating and enriching experiences beyond the usual exhibition sites can intrigue audiences to embrace the surprises that art brings about at every turn of the Gallery.”

OUTBOUND was developed in collaboration with leading artists from around the world, with each commission acting as an artistic landmark that guides visitors through the Gallery’s iconic architecture. The series begins with Singapore artist Jane Lee, who is best known for her inventive techniques and deft use of materials to expand our awareness of environmental textures and possibilities. Lee will begin OUTBOUND with the brand new commissioned work Nowhere (2018), which reinstates Raw Canvas (2008) – a monumental painting installation for the 2008 Singapore Biennale – to its original location (the City Hall historical staircase on level 4) at the Gallery.

Raw Canvas was first displayed at the 2008 Singapore Biennale, in this same location at the City Hall historical staircase. Ten years later, it has been returned. The work blurs the perceptual boundaries between fabric and paint. It comprises 40 square panels of densely-applied crisscrossing strands of silicone-incorporated acrylic and enamel paint, creating the appearance of a piece of textile draped over the wall. In the surrounding mirror-tiled wall, they can also look upon a shimmering but fragmented reflection of Raw Canvas and themselves. At the same time, the work refracts and re-articulates our relationship with this art historical moment.

Nowhere will be Lee’s first work conceived for physical interaction. Visitors are invited to sit on a raised bench that has been painted over in the same technique as Raw Canvas, and consider Lee’s meticulous paint work, which is reflected and fragmented through a facing wall encrusted with hundreds of mirrored tiles. Nowhere probes the dividing line between solidity and precarity, the real and the illusory, and elicits a mood of solitude and contemplation, even in the interstitial space of a staircase lobby. It is not simple ‘nowhere’, but a case of bringing visitors to the “now” and “here,” as the work explores the illusory nature of what constitutes our reality, and serves as a spiritual reminder that the only real thing in our lives is the fleeting present.

Other artists in the pipeline for the first season of OUTBOUND include Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann, whose work will see the artist working with different communities of indigenous weavers in Sabah to produce contemporary formats of woven mats, while Filipino artist Maria Taniguchi will transform the Gallery’s corridors with abstract silkscreen prints on paper and fabric, and a collaboration between Australian artist Gary Carsley and Singapore artist Jeremy Chu, who will produce a visually rich and immersive installation based on his study of colonial botanical gardens in Southeast Asia.

Beyond its role in encouraging the public to engage with art in new ways, OUTBOUND’s secondary purpose is to add to National Gallery Singapore’s collaborations with artists to bring these experiences alive for the audience, while extending and expanding the artists’ current practices.

Says Dr Adele Tan, curator of OUTBOUND: “Through commissioning art projects, we are seeking to renew our working relationships with artists, deepen our critical knowledge of different artistic practices, as well as to give time and attention to a collaborative, process-oriented methodology that is open to experimentation and sometimes unexpected outcomes. It is also about understanding intimately the characteristics of our iconic buildings and activating the potential inherent in our built environment. It has been serendipitous that several of our artists have proposed projects that explore and exploit the rich variety and history of our buildings’ interior surfaces, including innovative ways to print, tile or weave extensive wall coverings as if transforming the skin of the Gallery.”

For more information about OUTBOUND, visit the National Gallery Singapore website here 

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