20th anniversary and annual special exhibition at STPI
Second Movement, entrance to STPI
ISABEL & ALFREDO AQUILIZAN
GOH BENG KWAN
TRENTON DOYLE HANCOCK
HAN SAI POR
STPI is an experiential laboratory. To say that each resident artist who walks into its underbelly is merely producing prints with the assistance of its artisans, is to grossly understate its agency. Look deeper. Experimentations in techniques, technicalities, the conceptual and philosophical are the foundations that represent STPI’s genetic code. Each artist who partners its many talented and experienced print and paper specialists leaves altered, in more ways than one may typically imagine. Every challenge in creation is contingent on their ability to connect perceptively. Each sheet of paper is custom-formulated and handmade on-site. Each quirky artists’ imagination is welcomed with open minds and each completed artwork is a specimen worthy of a masterclass in the realisation and partnership of an artistic vision.
The ‘second’ in second movement is never inferior to the first. It is a continuity, a necessary node in the progression of existence. Anni Albers (1899–1994), whose prints this exhibition is titled after, would recognise this. After 40 years of making art in the technique of weaving, the artist was introduced to printmaking and never looked back. Albers’ Second Movement prints suggest everything but a desire to remain dormant.
Second Movement, main gallery view
from left, Grain of Sand (Orange) by Jason Lim, Residential Watchtower Complex for Security Guards by Kim Beom, Soft Elbow by Ian Woo, Edibles Hexaptych – NTUC Finest, Freshmart Singapore, Perilla Leaves, each 44 g; Meidi-Ya, Genting Garden, Red and Green Oak Leaf, 144 g and 167 g; Cold Storage, Genting Garden, Red and Green Coral, 132 g, Décalcomanie by Haegue Yang, and Housing 16, Housing 2 and Housing 9 by Richard Deacon
The second movement is an allegory for decisions and discretions. It may represent a fork in the artistic thoroughfare, and an opportunity to grasp and communicate with a foreign tongue for the artistic polyglot. For an artist, engaging and adopting the expansive language of print, in partnership with professional specialists, is akin to a high-speed journey on a multi-level freeway. By themselves, tools and machines at the workshop are nothing but latent infrastructure – vehicles without journeys.
In music, the second movement refers to a self-contained segment of a long composition. In an orchestral performance, it meanders and leaves room for central ideas and musical motifs introduced in the opening section to expand, breathe and leave an impression. And, not unlike an artist’s manoeuvres, the second movement could also be performed, produced and presented independent of its whole. It does not diminish, nor is it relegated to the main body. Rather, it demonstrates possibilities for depth through an injection of textures, layers, light, temperature and cadence. The second movement is agility in itself, and represents the expansiveness of artistic practice.
Wayang Zaman Edan (detail) by Indonesian artist Heri Dono
To print is second nature. Its most instinctive form is in the creation of a basic yet indelible mark. One may etch, carve, burn, stamp, strike, blot, colour and transfer these marks. Discovered in the Pettakare Cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia, hand stencils dating back to 39,900 years ago are an ancient example of our innate human desire to print. The hand was not only a stencil, but also a device to block pigments. Since then, humanity has gone on to develop various printing methods and equipment from the woodblock to the printing press, intaglio, lithography, offset, photostat, silkscreen, inkjet and now, 3D printing. A common understanding for print is its ability to accurately replicate an image multiple times, through largely mechanical means.
Much unlike printing for industrial and utilitarian purposes, printing contemporary art demands a manifestation of results beyond the faithful reproduction of images. To print art is to print with keen partnership and the sharing of minds between artists and artisans, similar to haute couture in fashion.
Second Movement, our exhibition, begins with an encounter with the work of Japanese artist Teppei Kaneuji. Known for his incorporation of everyday tools and mass-consumed objects to reflect human histories, social phenomena, ideological conflicts and acceptance, Kaneuji’s prints manifest as three-dimensional installations and set the tone for the exhibition. Sculptural print pieces by artists Rirkrit Tiravanija, Ryan Gander, Shirazeh Houshiary, Richard Deacon, Heri Dono, Jason Lim, Han Sai Por, Eko Nugroho, Ian Woo, Zul Mahmod, Genevieve Chua and Isabel & Alfredo Aquilizan sit amongst each other to scratch the lines of contemporaneity. To quibble about their statuses as prints is perhaps to waste oneself on frivolity.
Lines on Black (Höller, Tiravanija, Rehberger) by Anri Sala on the left and Do We Know Ourselves? by Eko Nugroho
The ‘fruit’ sculptures of Han Sai Por resemble seeds and are reminiscent of her chiseled stone sculptures, albeit brightly pigmented. Each wayang or theatrical puppet figurine by Heri Dono stand independently on the floor, reaching the height of a young child. Shirazeh Houshiary’s linen paper pieces are encased as lightboxes, illuminated by LED fixtures. Ryan Gander transformed an artist’s portfolio case with screenprinting, a readymade object now customised and, essentially, a sculpture. Another creation from Gander is a pair of screenprinted, otherwise pristine, exhibition pedestals. These pedestals no longer serve as support apparatuses for artworks but have become artworks in their own right. Constructed as masks, Eko Nugroho challenges the strength and malleability of handmade paper as printed, totem-like wearables.
These sculptures dislodge traditional associations of print as being typically flat, highly reproducible and, therefore, more affordable than one-of-a-kind paintings. In addition, the works presented here are in tandem with the artists’ established oeuvre, and most cannot be replicated. As the roster above suggests, the artists invited to develop works at STPI arrive with stellar portfolios and international and highly respected practices.
If one were to trace the history of STPI’s 20 years’ worth of artist residencies, the artworks produced by its workshop and exhibitions it has presented, an unrelenting picture against the over-simplification of printmaking emerges. Appearing obvious for its artists, to print is no longer a matter of accurately transferring visuals and pigments onto paper or canvas, nor is it to generate currency through repetitive actions. Haegue Yang’s use of supermarket-purchased local vegetables embedded on paper in place of colour pigments is a case in point. Each leaf of the vegetable embedded can never be the same. With the support of its inquisitive and experienced artisans, their innovative and experimental approaches to include the use of untested materials add value to otherwise common knowledge amongst printmakers.
The Impatience of Progress #1 (left) by Trenton Doyle Hancock, The River is Within Us 7/A by Shirazeh Houshiary, and artwork titles designed to resemble music playlist.
An aptitude for creating impact and to consistently evolve is vital in contemporary art practices. While ideas may not always shift paradigms or swing the art industry around, the practices of artists and forward-thinking art institutions collectively nudge the frontiers that may be imperceptible to the eyes of the regular bystander. It is not hard to imagine how a small, albeit radical artistic gesture by one resident artist working in a studio such as STPI’s would inspire another in the same spirit. When each artist pushes the envelope an inch further, a time arrives where the collective ‘inching’ becomes too great and too obvious to ignore. Testament to this is the fact that the prints rolling out of STPI’s workshop are no longer as predictable as traditionally known pigment-laden, signed and framed pieces of paper in editions. More common these days are three-dimensional and odd-shaped works, works on wood, plastics, metals, works incorporating readymade objects, works combining digital and analog elements and works in single, non-reproducible editions. The steady consistency of such output certainly signals a distinct attitude in the engagement of printmaking, almost as if an unspoken manifesto had been scripted and performed.
However subtle, distinct shifts in a similar direction may eventually form a wave. In an art historical context, this wave could also be characterised as a ‘movement’. This movement may be framed by autonomous actions that connect as collective thought. Through art history, we observe that artists have regularly fused contrasting materials, methods and practices together. Sculptures, for example, have included the use of formaldehyde and refrigerators as supports and conservation agents. Terminologies such as multi-media, multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary are commonplace in the art world. In today’s parlance, the artist is a ‘multi-hyphenate’. In pursuit of their vision, the artist is bound to disregard technicalities of tradition to show us the theatrical dynamics of the second movement.
Detail of Second chapter: be sure to pack toothbrush, eat Curry noodles through the wormhole by Rirkrit Tiravanija
Surely, artists no longer want to find themselves trapped within the traditional rulebook of print. Mass production of secondary copies and affordable prints on paper by professional printmaking studios no longer make practical or progressive sense. There are very limited reasons why contemporary artists would want to waste the invaluable talent and knowledge of print masters just to produce a hundred or a thousand copies of the same picture. Instead, to satisfy the unceasing appetite for cultural mass consumption, an artist could conveniently peruse the myriad of highly-accessible digital technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), GIFs and JPEGs which, in recent times, have become conveniently collectible.
As an audience, our own second movement is in probing the printed shapes that have shifted and are continuing to shift. STPI is the locale for us to witness artists consciously and unconsciously deconstructing or destroying the traditional rubrics of printmaking. As an institution, STPI is a precious and rare creative haven where, regardless of social trends or market demands, the realisation of the artistic vision takes precedence. Here, we shall develop a sharper acuity for pieces of humble yet critical gestures in contemporary printmaking. We will become more discerning and develop a profundity for movement and evolution in the genetic code of printmaking. We acknowledge how the institution and its artists have necessitated the abandonment of ‘rules’ to benefit artistic discretion and discourse. STPI’s workshop is a laboratory for reimagining processes of creation, with knowledge and tools held in expert hands. Its gallery is a school, with artworks resembling a grand library of books we should not neglect to study.
First published by STPI, Singapore, June 2022
Making the Feeling Disappear #5 (left) by Jason Lim, Meaning is without nothing (center, plinths) by Ryan Gander and Swivel 12; Edge Control #34, Surfacing (right) by Genevieve Chua