S.E.A. Focus 2022, Southeast Asia’s contemporary art platform, explores exciting new frontiers in its fourth edition from 15th January to 23rd January 2022. As the world continues to deal with the ongoing pandemic, S.E.A. Focus 2022 is one of a handful of art fairs globally that is pushing ahead. Within its distinctive scaffolding-clad space at Tanjong Pagar Distripark that evokes this year’s theme, chance…constellations, is a thoughtfully curated exhibition. Featuring over 150 artworks from 50 artists and 24 galleries from the region, S.E.A. Focus 2022 — the anchor event of Singapore Art Week 2022 — is poised to become a springboard for progressive insights into the future of Southeast Asian contemporary art.
This year’s theme is multifaceted, and firstly, is inspired by the star patterns in the sky, and how humankind learnt to navigate the world even before we had GPS, crossing unmapped seas with the help of the stars. Constellations, in addition, are not objective, but interpreted shapes according to the human imagination, be it Orion the hunter, Leo the lion, or Cancer the crab. Constellations also relate back to how we constellate among ourselves as people, friends, and the relationships we choose to make, examining how we choose to join the dots among ourselves. Finally, constellations also relate back to ideas of astrology, fate and fortune, particularly poignant as we consider the uncertain times we’re living in, and the chances we choose to take based on risk assessment; as such, we can shape ideas and possibility according to human agency.
A prime example of how the theme comes into play includes I am a Constellation of my Own by Vietnamese artist Tulip Duong. Each sculpture comprises gear boxes crowned with quartz crystals, themselves used as intermediaries in machines to accelerate their rate of movement. The sculptures are also laid out in constellation form, simulating the Big Dipper. Bringing together these two unusual materials, and each sculpture forming a greater part of the whole, we are left to think about how each individual component is indeed a ‘constellation of its own’, with their diverse personalities, if only we look at them up close.
Elsewhere, we see Ong Si Hui’s Bend in the river / Bend, which showcases keen craft skills honed over the years. Each piece here appears simple, yet it is precisely years of hard work that allows her to have the ability to make each curve so smooth and minimalist. Not to mention, they’re hefty too, with each one made of hand-carved granite and
Taking art beyond the confines of the gallery, S.E.A. Focus 2022’s programming includes its first showcase of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), engaging and insightful talks by industry leaders, and a dynamic film and video programme at its first popup screening room, Projector X — offering tantalising glimpses into what lies ahead for the region’s creative mindscape.
“This year’s S.E.A. Focus programming takes a bold step into the future while still very much grounded in the ever-changing present,” says Emi Eu, project director of S.E.A. Focus and executive director of STPI. “As Southeast Asia’s premier contemporary art platform, we are eager to see what lies ahead in a world where change is the only constant.”
Making its debut as Official Fringe Partner is Projector X at Riverside Point, a pop-up screening room by The Projector. The space will host the screening of 25 compelling Southeast Asian artist-made short films, animations and video works from 19 January to 21 January. Works from leading and cutting-edge artists such as Robert Zhao Renhui (Singapore/Mizuma Gallery), Tromarama (Indonesia/ROH Projects) and James Clar (The Philippines/Silverlens) offer provocative insights and commentary into the socio-political landscape and history of the region.
A key highlight for S.E.A. Focus every year, SEAspotlight Talks is a specially curated series of panel discussions featuring industry experts. In partnership with Official Media Partner ArtAsiaPacific (AAP) and themed “Pivot to the Future”, six talks from 11 January to 20 January will explore a post-pandemic contemporary art world. The session “Pivot to the Future: Collaboration versus Consolidation” (8pm, 11 January, via Zoom) sees gallerists discussing how the global art market will change in a post-Covid world, while the growing importance of millennial art collectors comes under the spotlight in “Age of Influencers” (8pm, 12 January, via Zoom). And in “Selling Art in a Virtual World” (8pm, 19 January, via Zoom), considerations when purchasing art in digital formats are but a starting point into the progressive realm of virtual art. For more information, visit SEAspotlight online.
S.E.A. Focus 2022 will also feature Tezos, an energy-efficient blockchain widely adopted by NFT artists and collectors worldwide. TZ APAC, the leading adoption entity for the Tezos blockchain in Asia and CAWA (Crypto Art Week Asia), the largest crypto art festival in Asia, will present an Asiacentric NFT showcase titled “Tezos NFTs: The New North Star”.
This will be the first NFT exhibition displayed by a public blockchain entity at S.E.A Focus. “NFTs: The New North Star” will feature 15 digital artists from Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, India, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea who have minted their art on the Tezos blockchain. They include Indonesian Tezos comic artist, Arya Mularama; Brunei-based generative artist, Yazid; and Singapore-based abstract artist, warrragwag. Similar to its NFT showcase at Art Basel Miami Beach last December, TZ APAC will also be hosting a live minting showcase which will allow viewers and visitors to experience first-hand the process of minting an NFT — enabling them to leave S.E.A. Focus 2022 with their own one-of-a-kind generative artwork.
“We are immensely proud to be collaborating with S.E.A. Focus and CAWA to showcase some of Asia’s trailblazers in the world of blockchain art,” says David Tng, Head of Growth, Tezos / APAC. “Inspired by S.E.A. Focus 2022’s theme chance…constellations, this Tezos-powered NFT art exhibition will showcase works by talented artists with distinct signature styles that do not seem, at first glance, to be bound by a common thread. On closer inspection, one will discover that they are united through a common technology and geographical region that is constantly evolving and innovating. This digital exhibition will connect and power artists worldwide, empower them, build communities and express creativity on a global level.”
“We aim to shine a spotlight on just a fraction of the incredible artistic talent we are seeing emerge across Asia and in the blockchain space,” adds George Galanakis, founder, CAWA. “These artists have gained prominence in a notoriously competitive space — a testament not only to their individual abilities, but also the growing recognition of the talent in this region.”
Photos courtesy of S.E.A. Focus 2022
S.E.A. Focus 2022 runs from 15th to 23rd January 2022. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.seafocus.sg. S.E.A. Focus 2022 Official Fringe Programme at Projector X runs from 19 January to 21 January. Tickets ($8) may be purchased from Projector X.
Singapore Art Week 2022 runs from 14th to 23rd January 2022. For more information on SAW 2022 programmes, visit their website here.