Are you living in Utopia? Would you believe that it is right before your eyes? Honestly, I find that hard to believe too. But lets start with a scenario. You are reaching for a cup of coffee on your desk. When you drink it, it is not warm. You are unhappy that it has turned cold. What do you think is the cause of your unhappiness? Is it the fault of the coffee or is it because you can feel the temperature of the coffee? Or is it simply just… You.
We are upset because we ‘expect’ the coffee to be warm. Our wants and desires are often the root cause of our unhappiness. We believe that we are intelligent beings, we can satisfy our wants, dictate our life, our environment, and our world. As such we get upset when things do not go our way.
What if we just appreciate everything, as it is – even that lukewarm cup of coffee? If we could do that, wouldn’t we be happy with all that we have. Wouldn’t we be living in a state of Utopia?
In this exhibition, some of the artworks showcase the artist’s sensitive portrayal of a slice of their heaven on earth, while other express their pursuit of the spiritual utopia. At the other spectrum, there are artworks that deliberate on the mindless decimation of humanity and rampant destruction of cultural heritage by extreme ideological groups.
So…This is Utopia. Or is it?
The Spirit of Utopia
Albert Yonathan, Indonesia
Albert is one of the 5 artists who represented Indonesia for the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2013. His work uses aesthetic elements that encompass contemporary forms combined with semi-traditional nature drawings that hint at the hidden spiritual dimensions and connections. His deeply personal and figurative works attempts to explore the complexity of the interrelationship between humanity and nature. He combines flora or fauna with traditional abstract patterns to create the characteristics of ancient totems. The totems reveal the artist’s fascination with the mystical aspects of nature and spiritually influence human beings. He utilizes simple, forms of animals, flowers and plants to illustrate his spiritual interaction with nature and simultaneously, his parallel, meditative process in making art. His aim was to create mysterious and mystically beautiful images that parallel our experience of nature as both beautiful and mysterious.
I Can Utopia
Harry Young, China
Many a times we think about the challenges faced by those who in the minorities as they faced tremendous pressure to fit in, live up to expectation and be accepted by the majority. But how does the presence of minorities impact the majority is usually an overlooked issue. Sometimes all it takes is one minority to upset the compact equilibrium set out by the majority. From the defiant act of jaywalking to a positive act of helping a blind cross a street, all these daily actions could trigger a flood of reaction and ripple effect that could threaten the equilibrium of the society. So who is to say that the majority holds the power in a society? Can a single person change the world?
Evolution of Utopia
Cao Yuanqi, Zhu Rongfen, Liang Xiaohui, Xu Meihao, China
This artwork evolved from a piece of Tang Dynasty Buddha sculpture. It is made of a resin body infused with pieces of China Daily newspaper article. The article was published in February 2015 and reported about the ISIS attack on the museum in Mosul, Iraq. The terrorist group destroyed thousand year-old relics in name of social, historical, cultural and ideological cleansing. It is a deplorable destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage and tremendous lost for mankind. Although this tragic event occurred in a different part of the world, the artists infused the newspaper article with a Chinese historical artwork to serve as a reflection of their own history. As recent as the Cultural Revolution, many cultural heritage and monuments were systematically destroyed. This Tang Dynasty Buddha fragment served as a testament of the own destructive behaviour.
This other piece of artwork is inspired by the classical symbol of a Buddha’s Aura – symbolizing wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. On its surface, it is filled with a maze of lines and passages that leads to nowhere. It serves as a metaphor of the state of religiosity in China. Today, many Chinese are either indifferent or have a distorted understanding of religion. The lack of clear entrance and exit to the maze represents the failure of religions in addressing this current state of faithlessness and confusion, At the centre of the artwork is a motor bearing. Its form is similar with the Six Trigrams graphics of Chinese Theory of ‘Yi’, which is an ancient spiritual and metaphysical expression. The insertion of this bearing represents the awkward confluence and cross-pollination of modern science, ancient wisdom and religious beliefs.
Chen Shi Tong, Singapore
London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai & Singapore – these are the Utopia of millions of migrants seeking a better life. Although some succeed, many of them struggle to make good, while others fall between the cracks. From Shi Tong’s perspective, it is not just the glamourous skyscrapers that define the city, it is the people who moves it and the creatives that shapes it. Without them, any of these city skylines would have been just a lifeless monolithic landscape. Shi Tong reimagine Chinese classical landscape works by creating strong mountainscapes that are a fusion of muitple media such as oil, acrylic and Chinese ink. The different media speaks of the diverse persona of people and ideas. The powerful landscapes are balanced with a fluidity of textures and colours that is reminiscent of dynamicism and but also and the impermanence of these cities. Ulitmately It is these diverse elements and ideas that makes a city ever changing, ever dynamic, ever Utopia.