For the 2024 edition of Art SG, Gajah Gallery presents a stellar lineup of Southeast Asian artists, including our very own BenCab, Leslie de Chavez, and Charlie Co
You might recall the mythical depictions in the Art Fair PH presentation of Indonesian Artist Yunizar. Apart from an exhibition booth at the fair, Yunizar was a project of Gajah Gallery, a Singapore-based space that regularly works with the art community in the Philippines.
Founded in 1995 by Jasdeep Sandhu, the presentations of Gajah Gallery delve into socio-cultural interests, always keeping a strong focus on Indonesian Contemporary Art. They also actively promote art from Southeast Asia, providing a platform for diverse perspectives in the region.
It is the day before the Vernissage of Art SG, now in its second year. The fair is set to run over the weekend, from January 19 to 21, 2024. The fair directors are bringing collectors, curators, and artists from in and out of the region.
On this particular morning, we spoke via an online interview with Gallery Director Jasdeep Sandhu. He shares he is getting ready to host a group in his gallery from the Tate Modern in half an hour.
Recently, the Singapore-based space has been working with Filipino artists like Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab), Charlie Co, Leslie de Chavez, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, and also Mark Justiniani. They have a specialized art lab in Yogyakarta where artists can work, be it to cast bronze or do foundry work in aluminum or glass. The current show at ART SG features sculptures from BenCab, which he worked on at the art lab.
I ask him about his gallery’s particular interest in Philippine art to which Director Sandhu, replies,“I must say, firstly, Philippine artists are very good. Secondly, it is our gallery’s ambition to try and bring the whole region together, to get Philippine artists collected by Singapore, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Southeast Asian collectors—and vice versa.
I believe that we have to start we have to build these bridges. These bridges are crucial for our long-term progress as a Southeast Asian identity.”
In the context of Art SG, he shares,
“Art SG, for me is one of the best, alongside Art Fair Philippines, as far as art presentations are concerned.
Of course, across the board, it’s all exciting. But the added edge that we have this year is our work with the Philippine artists.”
Participating artists from the Philippines included Charlie Co, who shows a dramatic water scene of characters in a hellish light, painted with deep ridges of acrylic paste, in the blue and orange palette common to the artist’s practice.
Meanwhile, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo continues her practice of investigating objects and their materials, with moving parts made from multiple pieces of torn handmade paper.
Philippines National Artist Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab) unveils his months-long collaboration with artists at Yogya Art Lab (fondly referred to as YAL)—a bronze sculpture of the artist’s signature, decades-long muse: Sabel.
BenCab shares with Lifestyle.INQ, “It’s a sculpture of my iconic subject, Sabel… I was happy to have been given the opportunity to present her in 3-dimensional form with the help of the facilities and talented team of Gajah Gallery’s foundry in Yogyakarta.”
Under the guidance of Foundry Director James Page, the team at YAL remained in close communication with the artist for months, constantly refining the sculpture to realize BenCab’s artistic vision.
Director Sandhu describes the process, “It guarantees that the slightest detail the artist leaves on the sculpture is captured… It has a very beautiful patina. Many people just paint the bronze but for us, we specialize in creating a specific natural patina using a heat process that changes the color… Is very beautiful and leaves a very elegant effect that you see on ancient bronzes, but not so much anymore in today’s world.” To our excitement, Director Sandhu also expresses that some of the new editions will be present at the upcoming 2024 edition of Art Fair Philippines.
We also had the opportunity to speak to Leslie de Chavez, an artist known for his deep concern and incisive commentaries on major social issues in expressive paintings and installations. De Chavez’s “The Golden Slumbers (A Gasping Lullaby to the 3D Sisters of the Sun & Sea)” portrays a set of twins, which Chavez identifies as the Lithunian artist collective’s “the 3D sisters” which was presented in a performance at the Lithunian Pavilion during the 2019 Venice Biennale. It pays tribute to the pressing issue of climate change.
De Chavez’s artwork weaves together these grand issues with what he describes as “contemporary daily existence, encompassing activities such as work, recreation, sustenance, rest, and leisure by the beach.” Around the image is a poem generated through AI which poses a lament of “a world ensconced in catastrophe”
Underneath the scorching sun, we trudge along,
A world warped by ethos’ relentless wrong.
Skies, once blue, now bear a toxic sheen,
Gushing wind, a poisoned, stagnant screen.
The sea whispers tales of their lament,
In dreams, the earth’s demise is imminent.
Homes crumble, choked by nature’s disdain,
A future where entropy and gloom remain.
“The Golden Slumbers”
Other participating artists include renowned Singaporean artist Suzann Victor, who unveiled her latest addition to her signature fresnel lenses series, in which she rematerializes colonial-era, ethnographic postcards of Southeast Asia.
One of Singapore’s veteran sculptors, Han Sai Por displayed a one-metre-high bronze work with a unique jade patina, continuing her fascination with natural, organic forms, emphasising their elegance and balance.
There were also two Yunizar sculptures, following the launch of the Indonesian artist’s book. ‘Yunizar: New Perspectives’, a major publication and seminal book encompassing the two-decade oeuvre of the renowned Indonesian artist, and marking 15 years of critical and institutional acclaim.
There are also two pieces by Jane Lee, a favorite of Southeast Asia. The Singaporean artist is known for transforming pieces through meticulous processes of layering, mixing, winding, wrapping, kneading, daubing, and other acts of physical transformation. Her pieces transcend painting to another level, while asserting her own culture on Western painting practices.
Other participating artists include Erizal As, Jemana Murti, Kayleigh Goh, Mangu Putra, Ridho Rizki, Rosit Mulyadi, Rudi Mantofani, Uji “Hahan” Handoko Eko Saputro, Yeo Siew Hua, and Yusra Martunus.