The Spatial, the Ephemeral,
and the Possibility of It All
Boo Sze Yang, Milenko Prvački & Wong Keen
01.07 // 16.07 2023
artcommune gallery is honoured to present The Spatial, the Ephemeral, and the Possibility of It All. This major 3-man group exhibition, will showcase over 30 new works by Singapore’s leading and most senior contemporary painters namely Boo Sze Yang, Milenko Prvački and Wong Keen. The exhibition encompasses a juxtaposition of three individual and distinct presentations: ‘Romance on Hobby Horses’ by Boo Sze Yang, ‘Abstraction for Beginners’ by Milenko Prvački, and ‘Everything Is but Colour’ by Wong Keen. Each artistic presentation will showcase his latest series of paintings, encouraging the audience to delve deeper into the artist’s psyche and preoccupations that shape his techniques, themes and expressions. Visitors can expect to view a range of paintings from abstract to figurative works, with the smallest painting measuring from 40 x 120 cm to the largest paintings at 200 x 600 cm or 300 x 400 cm.
Boo Sze Yang – Romance on Hobby Horses
Boo Sze Yang’s latest series, ‘Romance on Hobby Horses’, is a direct development from his 2021 series, ‘Dancing with the Wolves’. After studying and re-composing images of protest and civic unrest, Boo Sze Yang reframes the scenes through dark humour and an exaggerated theatricality, blowing up uncanny repetitions of figures, synchronised dance moves, and poster-like mise-en-scène. He also introduces the recurring motif of the hobby horse to symbolise privilege, wealth and power. Traditionally, riding a horse was often associated with power and privilege, whereas today, authority is often expressed in the form of a business suit, and in some regions, the army uniform. On the other hand, it is common for heroes in movies to wear masks to conceal their identities. Masks may not necessarily be associated with villains, they can also represent the need for protection in a dangerous world. Gas masks can serve different symbolic meanings depending on the context. They can represent resistance, solidarity, and survival in harsh and dangerous environments, but are also associated with fear, danger, and harm due to their common use in war and chemical attacks.
Boo Sze Yang. Romance on Hobby Horses - The Dreamers, 2023, Oil on jute, 200 x 200 cm
Through these thought-provoking images, Boo Sze Yang invites us to contemplate from an ironic distance the complex battle — physical and moral — between civilians and law enforcement figures, as each group tries to uphold what is right and safe for the society. As viewers processing these upheavals through our digital screens and devices, and rummaging within the simulacrum, to what degree can we trust the narratives that are constantly being framed and fed to us?
Milenko Prvački – Abstraction for Beginners
Milenko Prvački’s ‘Abstraction for Beginners’ reflects the artist’s ongoing exploration of painting as a system of language and culture. Abstraction in Western painting permeated mainstream consciousness around the late 19th century and took shape as a lexicon of its own. As a formal language it encompasses recognisable structures, techniques and expressions, which are constantly adopted and transformed by artists through varying treatments. In these new works, Milenko Prvački interrogates the capacity of abstract painting to invent, bridge and transcend gaps of knowledge.
Milenko Prvački was born in Serbia and Serbian was his Mother Tongue. In his younger years, he studied in Romania and had arrived there without knowing the Romanian language. He subsequently came to Singapore in the early 1990s without knowing English. The artist had relied heavily on dictionaries to learn and function in the different cultural and linguistic spheres that he inhabited over the course of his life. In a dictionary, notions and words are compiled and organised in an alphabetical order. Meanings lie not just in the word itself, but also in other words that relate as similar (synonyms) or opposite (metonyms) to it. Meanings and interpretations shift along with differing syntax and context, and are at times completely
Milenko Prvački. Dictionary of Abstraction, 2018, Oil on linen, 300 x 472 cm
In his work, the artist deliberately combines different brush styles, geometric elements, and other evocative shapes and situations in a way that wittingly mirrors the structure of a dictionary. His painting synchronises geometric, expressionist and associative abstractions by juxtaposing their distinct visual qualities. On one surface bears the eclectic mix of different times and stiles, which according to the artist, is his “explorative way of expanding the boundaries of abstraction.” Perhaps the impossibility of exactitude in language is also its capacity to assimilate different ideas and values.
Milenko Prvački’s work stirs us into questioning the existence and values of differences that surround us, including different civilisations and cultures. The artist maintains that his working method is “to bridge different working methods and historical movements, and engage them in one place to coexist peacefully.” Different ideas across different times communicate, argue and coexist in his painting; what shapes and gives it coherence is his ordering of the visual image and the meanings we choose to draw from it.
Wong Keen – Everything Is but Colour
Wong Keen’s ‘Everything Is but Colour’ invites us to pay close attention to how a painting essentially functions as an object and an ideological space. The canvas or paper, which is essentially a three-dimensional object, exists and relates to the viewer as a two-dimensional space through its interaction with the artist’s paint. Its materiality, function and form, what and how the image communicates, depends entirely on the artist’s success or failure in organising the system of colours that fills its space.
The exposure to Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field Painting during his years at the Art Students League of New York (1961-64) fostered in Wong Keen a lifelong interest in structuring pictorial space and atmosphere through complex colour relations. Whether in figuration or abstraction, his composition is masterfully embedded in the ‘push-and-pull’ interactions between different shades and hues to give rise to evocative forms and details. The selection of new works in this presentation charts the latest development in the artist’s dynamic and synthesised treatment of long-standing themes, including the flesh, the burger, the nude and the lotus.
Wong Keen. Rainbow, 2023, Acrylic on paper laid on canvas, 158 x 223 cm
Wong Keen first embarked on the visual discourse of flesh and meat during an artist residency at Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing in the summer of 2012. He innovated on new paint handling techniques to convey the structural expression of meat — colour, texture, density — and the composition often aims at a liberation of objects and meanings from familiar contexts. The Flesh Series is anchored by three main visual themes: the burger, the butcher shop, and the nude. The recurring motif of human flesh as synonymous with animal flesh is derived from the wary observation of man’s ubiquitous consumption and commodification of flesh. The imagery evokes the narrative of ‘nude as meat’ to express the parallels between different forms of flesh trade and how these conquered bodies are made appealing and lined for a market. Just as the pigs and cows raised and slaughtered for products at industrial animal farms, a similar cycle of violence, oppression and consumption marks the fate of humans sold or trafficked for labour (sex or otherwise). The surreal and often visceral expressions of mingling flesh in his work alludes to the duality of pleasure and violence inherent in the everyday socio economic culture of our human civilisation.
While the artists are known to one another, this marks the first time their works are exhibited together in conversation. Despite their different backgrounds, formal training and visual styles, Boo Sze Yang, Milenko Prvački and Wong Keen have each dedicated their respective practices to the medium of painting, burrowing ever deeper in their explorations and expansions of materials and forms. The Spatial, the Ephemeral, and the Possibility of It All aims to illuminate how the three artists conceive and locate their painting practices in relation to the development of painting as a formal medium and language, and how they renew the significance of painting in these contemporary times.
An electronic catalogue of artworks featured during the exhibition is available upon request. Kindly email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details on the opening day, artist talk, opening hours and guided tours can be found below.
Opening Reception with Artists in Attendance: Saturday, 1 July 2023, 2pm – 4.30pm
Artists Panel Conversation with Guest Moderator Ian Woo: Saturday, 1 July 2023, 4.30pm – 5.30pm
Date: 1 – 16 July 2023
Time: 12–7 pm daily
Venue: Artspace@Helutrans | 39 Keppel Road, #01-05, Singapore 089065
Public Guided Tours
Saturday, 8 July 2023, 3–4 pm
Sunday, 9 July 2023, 3–4 pm
Tours are in English and conducted by Ms. Janfer Chung. Guided tours in Mandarin may be arranged upon request. Kindly RSVP to Ms. Kenix Tan at email@example.com.
76 Bras Basah Road
#01-01 Singapore 189558
Tel: +65 63364240
M: +65 97479046