Hilmi Johandi | Stagecraft: Landscapes and Paradise: Hilmi Johandi


Ota Fine Arts Singapore is delighted to present "Stagecraft: Landscapes and Paradise", a solo exhibition featuring new works by Hilmi Johandi, including 7 paintings and 1 video work. This exhibition marks the artist's first solo exhibition with Ota Fine Arts. Primarily a painter, Hilmi's recent exploration has expanded to include various media. His works are often set in the context of Singapore, where he is based in, and he re-composes images from film, archival footages, and photographs into fragmented montages that hint at the social effects of rapid development.

Hilmi's interest in film and the local history of Singapore has been a constant in his practice. His earlier series of work, Dusk to Dawn (2013-14), explores the relations between painting, still and moving images, referencing films of the past, such as those by P. Ramlee. Subsequently, he started collecting and referencing archival material for his painting series Great World City (2015-16), in particular, documentary photographs of the once-popular amusement park. His most recent presentation, An Exposition (2018), continues to look at bygone era amusement parks and delves further into the concept of stageplay, with an installation that brings to mind a deconstructed theatrical set.

This exhibition features Hilmi's most recent series, Stagecraft: Landscapes and Paradise (2019), where he expands his exploration on stagecraft - the technical aspect of theatrical production. Depictions of familiar settings and symbolic motifs such as natural landscapes, exterior architectural structures, and the interior of a room are framed to visually describe compositions within the limited spatial parameters of the set. In his work, Hilmi exposes part of the staged set: viewers may observe stage lights, red curtains, or the back of a wooden backdrop panel depicted in the paintings. Spaces are altered, partitioned, and collaged, leading one to question if the scene portrayed could be an imaginary one, or part of a staged narrative.

This body of work takes reference from a collection of postcards and posters of Singapore tourism in the 1980s and 90s, which were employed at that time as materials to market attractions, projecting glimpses of pleasure in pursuit of paradise. In Hilmi's work, visuals of these landmarks and structures are reconstructed: cropped and isolated from its original source to perhaps mediate the strategies used to create illusions of paradise, and subsequently re-composited with other elements and visuals to create an unsettling environment.

Beyond the reflection of nostalgia in Hilmi's work is a subtle portrayal of a society that encourages the viewer to critically rethink existing historical narratives, within the context of Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Installation Views