ART.Surfing–[Donna Ong]

September 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm | Posted in Art Reviews, Art.Surf, Writings | 1 Comment

Note to reader: This is not meant to be a critical review. If you’re looking for something professionally written, sorry bub, maybe go look here. I feel that the art critics out there like to write in flamboyant language and use all those bombastic words to illustrate some super abstract point (which maybe under all those façade, is actually very unsophisticated) and it just makes me more confused than the artwork itself. So… enter XY’s very entertaining and casual art response style, 100% guaranteed no dictionaries or art teachers required. It isn’t going to be graded anyway, so it’s purely my personal humble opinion, no offense. (:

I promised irreverently that I would write about some other artists I mentioned from Singapore Biennale ’06, but I never got it done, so now I’m making up for it! Today’s ART.Surfing spotlight will be on Donna Ong!! I’ve only got one photo of her works.. now I’m seriously regretting not taking more during Biennale!! 😦

For Singapore Biennale 2006, Donna Ong did 4 installations in four different rooms of City Hall. Each installation represented a different person, each with their own secrets. (ooooh…) These secrets are translated into installations by turning the room into a space where these inner thoughts and desires acquire form. Actually, there were notebooks with drawings by the imaginary person to vaguely explain his secret thoughts… but I didn’t see any! X(

secret, interiors : chrysalis (19) image credit:

This one was–to put very bluntly–very creepy. Like I explained in [The.Artist], I have a love-hate affair with these kind of Parental Guidance artworks. First look at the artwork and you get a

Eeeee.. crazy person”

response. Dolls seemingly drowning in coffin-ish boxes with tubes leading to a network of other random stuff suspended in solution-filled jars and bottles. One of the ‘stuff’ I remembered was ginseng. I didn’t notice the drawing of foetuses though. I confess, at that time, it was a look-and-go installation for me. I still couldn’t stomach these attractive yet haunting works for too long. After some thought, you would probably realise that this secret laboratory probably belonged to a certain Dr. Frankenstein who wanted to create human life. Motifs from Donna Ong’s Sing O Barren Woman (2002) are very evident here. Could Dr. Frankenstein actually be a childless woman trying conceive through artificial means of bringing plastic dolls to live? Easily the more “shocking” installation of the four.

secret, interiors : chrysalis (20)

Haha that’s Leny, trying to show you the beautiful hidden crystalware within the table. Too bad her hand is in the way. (Tsk.) The lights went on and off periodically, and it really looked beautiful when the lights came on full brightness. Leny fell in love with it.

My guess is this imaginary person is fascinated with pristine beauty and “the fleeting effects of light”!! Apparently he has created what looks like a crystal cave with glass stalactites and staglamites. Perhaps he is like a magpie—-mesmerized by glowing and shiny objects, collecting them and building his own little glass fortress.

I remembered almost trying to touch the glassy pillars of the cave (but now I can’t remember if there was a barrier or I quickly withdrew my hand in case I knocked something over)– the attractive power is so apparent! Another quality I would like to add is it’s fragility. Donna Ong mentioned in an interview that glass is like “shutting yourself out from the world (eg. snow queen)” but “at the same time strangely attractive despite its coolness”. I don’t know if the glass is a symbol/representation of the imaginary person, but if it were, this person would be: Introverted, Quiet, Doesn’t show emotions, Cautious, Rigid and a little…Compulsive?

secret, interiors : chrysalis (21) image credit: Universes in Universe

A table top-turned flying machine! Looks almost like the one from the Icarus Installation! Anyway, Icarus was a character from Greek Myth who tried to escape from exile using wax wings. But he enjoyed flying so much he got too near the Sun and his wings melted so he fell into the sea and drowned.

One look at this plane and you know it can’t take flight. But this is where imagination does its magic. It’s nothing like the real flying, but it reminds me of how I used to clip my pens to a ruler and pretend that it was some sort of treasure finding gadget. It led me to some..things.. I hid around the house. I actually kinda believed that it was a gadget, and hey, you really do get the feeling like you’re realling hunting treasure!

In private, (Or if you’re a kid who doesn’t care about what people think of you) this kind of magic does happen when you’re alone and no one’s watching. But hardly anyone shows them explicitly because they’re worried of what others might think of them. So what if you can’t really fly? You just need to be alone or be a kid. Now you’re flying!

Using that protractor thingy as the cockpit shield is really clever. What? I could sit on the machine seat? No one told me that! Aww… :/

secret, interiors : chrysalis (22) image credit:

This one’s pretty easy–a musical instrument! Those are stainless steel spoons and teppanyaki flipper/crepe spreading thingies! You can really make some (rather awful) music on this. This is probably the more interactive installation, since it allows you to play kitchen music. Does it remind you of how you liked to use spoons to hit the plates and cups then your mother told you not to play with kitchen utensils? Woah.. it’s like deja vu.

Deep down inside us, we all have secret beliefs and desires. Maybe we can’t clearly make out what they are at the moment, or haven’t felt so strongly about them yet. But Donna Ong’s installations makes us relook into our own desires and rethink that of others. What others’ desires may seem crazy to you may actually also be hidden in your own desires. But we don’t show it unless we’re alone, and we suppress them inside our minds, simply because we’re afraid others might find it crazy. (And they may actually do)

Donna Ong is a Singaporean artist known for her sculpture installations. Website:



September 19, 2008 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Art Reviews, Blog Misc., Others | 4 Comments

Here’s the BIG REASON why you should comment on my ARTBlog…


As a reward to my friends and fellow AEPians for commenting on my ARTBlog, you name will be honoured in my exclusive HALL OF FAME!! (*APPLAUSE*) (:

AEPians Category:

Top Commenter–NILYAVE with 4 Comments!
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And we have great comments from anonymous viewers: Irreverently and CGS!!

*Click to see their take on the Damien Hirst controversy!

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Mr Lim KB, Hungrybear, SherXr, Emma, Mrs T Wong, Mrs Johnston, Minnie, tw.Ah.C

Hahaha… hope you all now know why constructive comments are a GOOD thing!! (:

ART-Surfing: Damien Hirst

July 18, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Art Reviews, Writings | 9 Comments
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I’ve been going on a major art-surfing frenzy these few days, checking up on my old favourites from Singapore Biennale 2006: (Singaporean) Donna Ong, Brian Gothong Tan, Amanda Heng and (Worldwide) Takashi Kuribayashi, Jane Alexander and Nuha Asad amongst others. I realised I had dismissed many artworks which, after some art-surfing and reading of background informations, made me rethink their artworks. They include Yayoi Kusama (a very controversial artist), Ho Tzu Nyen’s The Bohemian Rhapsody Project which I now regretfully admit I did not watch especially since I have never heard of the Bohemian Rhapsody until now.

The particularly haunting artworks made me confused on how to interpret them at first, and I realised how little I was exposed to contemporary art all this time. Walk-The-Talk and printed/online notes really gave me a good starting point for me to interpret each artwork.

The newly “discovered” artist I’m featuring today is Damien Hirst, a very controversial and extremely rich artist whose artworks focus primarily on death and mortality. He is very famous for artworks consisting of animals or organs, whole or precisely cut up, preserved in formaldehyde. This artwork, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) struck a very queer response from me.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)

It was a Tiger Shark, preserved and suspended in a glass/steel box containing formaldehyde. Damien Hirst was very particular about the appearance of the shark. When the poor preservation of the shark caused it to decay, the gallery gutted the shark and stretched its skin over a fiberglass mould, but he commented, “It didn’t look as frightening … You could tell it wasn’t real. It had no weight.” It was replaced by another shark.

Surely enough, one can interpret that the artwork embodies the frightening and powerful elements of death that even surpasses and consumes the shark itself. The suspension of the shark, especially with its preserved life-like features still intact, gives an impression of sub-reality. It seems alive, yet is dead. The title would at first give one the impression of a surrealistic or abstract piece, but this is purely realistic, to the extent of using a real carcass as a “ready-made”. It may look like a biological study found in a museum, but seen as an artwork, it suddenly means an entirely different thing.

This, and many other artworks sparked off many criticisms and controversial arguments. Because The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was sold for nearly £7 million in January 2005, people are starting to question whether it was a money statement or whether it was really art. Another criticism is about the authenticity of the artworks, such as his spot paintings. The paintings were mostly painted by his assistants, but his philosophy was that the progenitor of the idea was the artist since the conception, rather than execution, is what matters to an art.

Away from the Flock (1994)

Many people opposed his series of preserved dead animals. Norman Tebbit commenting on the Sensation exhibition, wrote “Have they gone stark raving mad? The works of the ‘artist’ are lumps of dead animals. There are thousands of young artists who didn’t get a look in, presumably because their work was too attractive to sane people. Modern art experts never learn.”

The works appear gruesome, crazy and sick even, but it could be because of this very radical factor that drew the attentions of art critics and collectors alike. Personally, I feel very mixed about his artworks, especially the more controversial ones. As much as I appreciate the radical concept, I do not really see the reason behind the outrageous price tag. Also, I am slightly biased towards artworks with gothic, dead or morbid subject matters and concepts. I do not feel very comfortable when I start thinking of myself in the animals’ shoes, but do you think this is what Damien Hirst wanted his viewers to respond like?

So, do you think this is Art or Rip-Off? Please do comment. (:

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