Habitat: Cheng Ran, Hilmi Johandi, Takao Minami, Guo-Liang Tan, Tang Dixin


A habitat is simply a home, and can be thought of as a place where living organisms live, eat, breed in, and survive. Encompassing painting, film and photography, “Habitat” explores the varied and inventive approaches taken by 5 leading Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean artists in navigating the complex relationship between man and nature, and man and urban environments.


Hilmi Johandi (b. 1987, Singapore) works primarily with painting and his explorations are set in the range of the familiar and symbolic motifs perceived in the context of Singapore, where he lives and works. Finding inspiration in archival materials such as postcards and posters from the 80’s to 90’s, he extracts motifs from these images and reconstructs various elements into a scene in his paintings. The work featured in this exhibition, Landscapes & Paradise: Attractions and Sceneries (The Hyatt Regency Hotel at Scotts Road), depicts a moment at a pool side amidst lush greenery. Viewers will notice two small figures sitting under a poolside umbrella and to their left, a zoomed in view of botanical plants acute to the tropical paradise of Singapore. The different planes in the painting hint of a distortion in space and time, questioning the extent of truth and reality in the scene depicted.


Interested in how people perceive the world with their sense of sight and hearing, Takao Minami (b.1976, Japan) creates unique audio-visual experiences with the use of audio-visual technologies, building materials, computer graphics, and animation. Minami’s single-channel work Quiet Hole is an assemblage of bright neon light, vivid hues, fragmented landscapes, miniature bodies and silhouettes of surrounding foliage. Presented in a longitudinal format, it resembles the traditional Japanese and Chinese scroll paintings of mountainous landscapes, waterfalls, and rivers. Despite its digital format, Minami's work is grounded in the real and tangible, where footage is extracted and edited from videologues of his journeys between Bangkok and Singapore, and adapted into powerful poetic and visual meditations.

In early 2020, Tang Dixin (b. 1982, China) and Japanese artist, Nobuaki Takekawa stayed in Singapore for 11 days, culminating in an experimental and playful duo exhibition titled “Straits”. Tang always felt that the jungle is a place where he can move around freely, and a place where all human beings belong in their most natural state. During their stay, the dense and tropical forests of Singapore were of particular interest to them, which led to repeated visits to forested areas over several days. The imagination arising from the explorations inspired Tang greatly and he went on to complete the paintings Forest and Singapore Green.


Guo-Liang Tan’s (b. 1980, Singapore) paints by applying various bodily gestures: shifting, tilting, and turning. Avoiding direct contact, paint is thinned and allowed to flow, diffuse, and spread across a tightly stretched aeronautical fabric. The result is a porous, translucent surface marked by a variety of stains, marks, and mono-printed impressions. By employing the hand-made and the readymade, he manipulates these textures and materials into evocative abstract works that evince balance, chance, and encounters.


Cheng Ran’s (b.1981, China) works combine a theoretical sophistication with visual luxury and sensuality. Obsessed with the concept of adventure and a desire to document his commitment to filmmaking, works from the Scenario Hypothesis (2015) series shows the vivid and artificial shifts of light on various plateaus and terrains. In Scenario Hypothesis 2, a collage of snowcapped mountains is revealed.


In 2013, Cheng wrote a detective novel titled“Circadian Rhythm”. The novel as the title suggests is a metaphor for the passage of physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur continuously between day and night. The plot of the novel follows a detective who gradually questions his identity after he meets various obstacles in his quest to seek the truth behind a vicious crime. Meanwhile dreamscapes, fantasy, theatrical lyrics are woven into the narrative. Cheng’s approach changes slightly in his film shown in the exhibition, The Circadian Rhythm (Diary of a Madman - New York). Traversing through the ruins and wastelands of greater New York, Cheng captures the moments where dark turns to light, where micro-organisms inhale and exhale, where droplets of water emerge to form gushing rivers. Like strange encounters, they evoke a sense of wonder and curiosity.

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