Art What! Arts Singapore Visual Art

Art What!: New arts space Haus217 makes debut with queer art show ‘With Pride’

For most countries, June means LGBTQ+ Pride Month, where members of the queer community come together to celebrate queer culture and history in all its diversity, brilliance, its ups and downs. For Singapore, where discrimination based on sexual orientation and criminalisation of gay sex between men is still part of the Penal Code, Pride in any form of is welcome, an act of standing up for one’s own identity, claiming space through visibility, and showing the world that the queer community is alive, well, and will continue to push for equality and the freedom to love who they want, when they want, as they want.

In conjunction with Pride Month, brand new arts space Haus217 has made their debut on the scene with their very first free-for-all public art exhibition With Pride, running from 17th June to 2nd July 2022. Co-created by immersive theatre company ANDSOFORTH founders Stuart Wee and Emily Png, Haus217 took a rundown building and with a couple of months of renovation, transformed it into a non-traditional minimalist space, inspired by Scandinavian architecture, and the Japanese concept of ‘Wabi-Sabi’, or the acceptance of imperfection.

The resulting space is now ready to host events, experiences and art installations. And in the case of With Pride, Haus217 makes clear its position as an all-inclusive space, welcome to exciting concepts and collaborations, and as a platform to showcase creative work. Organised and put together by Ayu Rosli and Fiona Chua, over 10 local creatives from the LGBTQ+ community have been gathered to exhibit their work at With Pride. Interested visitors can even purchase works of their choice, with proceeds going to dedicated charities of the artists’ choice.

Highlights from the exhibition include Jaire Remy and Ivanna Sucalongkok’s
Under the Rainbow, probably the largest work, comprising 8 metres of rainbow parachute fabric hanging from the ceiling. With the rainbow as one of the queer community’s go-to symbols, representing the diversity of the queer community and the spectrum of human sexuality and gender, visitors can literally sit under the rainbow and bask in its glory. After all, at the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold – in this case, you.

Other exhibition highlights include video work by Jessica Goh, whose short, bite-sized films offer dreamy meditations on life. Take for example Underneath (2020), comprising a supercut of test shots for an abandoned film about a little girl lost in the forest of her mind, or stop motion animation piece Murmurs from the petri dish (2019), where we gain a peek into a surreal garden.

Ceramic studio Mud Rock Ceramics showcases a number of works specially created for this exhibition, including Tiger Sculpture Platter, where a tiger perches, perhaps in wait, on the rim of a large display plate, while a selection of pots and vases are also on display, using techniques such as woodfiring, or even the Japanese art of kintsugi, where cracks are overlain with gold to find the beauty even in imperfection.

Burmese artist Pearl Phoo Myet Che encapsulates feelings of discomfort of remaining closeted to her family, and considers ideas of performative ‘straightness’ and the deep desire to live happily and freely at home, with her photography and print work.

Photographer Charmaine Poh, who has previously shot work for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival and exhibited work at the ArtScience Museum, showcases work from her series Pretty Butch and How They Love, offering a glimpse into the tensions that queer people hold as they work out a path for themselves. Pretty Butch, made in Taipei in collaboration with and response to theatre director Tan Liting’s titular play, is a gathering of various individuals grappling with contemporary butch identity, while How They Love looks at how queerness is performed relative to heteronormative norms in Singapore, employing traditional wedding props as tool for play, foil, and imagination.

Anise (Hee Suhui) is an artist and musician whose work deals with the boundaries and relationship between the body and its environment, and creates surreal and intricate illustrations that combine visceral parts of the body to the environment, toeing the line between the grotesque and the beautiful as the organic meets the uncanny. On display are works such as O (2021), depicting the internal physical changes a female body experiences during orgasm, and graphite art piece Commune, where flowers represent the idea of the chosen queer family in a faux historical space, yearning for ancestry and context to root one’s self in. Even oil on canvas painting Other Faces, from STRIP and TWO L(I)PS’ Voyage to the Vulvaverse exhibition, will be featured.

Also on display and for sale are cute illustrations, prints and even zines from artists. Despite their brightness and innocence, there is a strong political undertone to these works, such as Bhavani Bala’s Queer in Plain Sight, which depicts how members of the LGBTQ+ community have to hide in plain sight, giving select clues to signal their presence to other queer people, or Joy Ho’s Moon Song, depicting the comfort and cosiness of building something together with a loved one, a special space just for two.

With Pride is a small but comprehensive display of the diversity of queer art and artists living in Singapore, with a smorgasbord of genres and mediums, each with their own quirks and beauty to kick off Haus217’s promising beginnings in Singapore’s arts scene. Whether straight or queer, artist or visitor, Haus217 is here to welcome you to their quaint and versatile space, to spend a quiet evening or enjoy over a weekend afternoon, feeling at home while admiring art over a cup of coffee.

With Pride runs from 17th June to 2nd July 2022 at HAUS217, 217 Lavender Street, Singapore 338772 (5-9pm on weekdays, 12-9pm on weekends). More information available here

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