FOST Gallery is pleased to present In Random Order, featuring works by Kray CHEN, Heman CHONG, Grace TAN and Syagini Ratna WULAN.
Each body of work function functions within a structure, physical or conceptual, which is determined by a set of rules and a unified composite of interrelated and independent (possibly infinite) modular parts. And yet the individual artist has found ways to re-delineate the spatial and temporal boundaries, circumventing or subverting the set order. This is either in response to the immediate environment or by simple prerogative as its creator. This sense of unpredictability and chance elevates what might have been a static, passive system to an energetic, dynamic one.
Order is only evident when there is an obvious pattern or sequence. Both Grace Tan and Syagini Ratna Wulan respond to the spatial constraints of the gallery architecture with their respective works n. 358 – variable equilibrium, a row of I-Beams, shrouded with long strands of black thread; and Aether Array, a multi-panelled work, with a pre-determined gradation of colour. The works consists of component parts which could possibly continue infinitely. Each artist had to make a decision as to when to cease the multiplicity while showing enough components to evidence the order.
The fragility and temporality of orders, in art as in politics, no matter how well established, are exemplified in several artworks. The conical sandpile in Tan’s n. 357 - critical point in its positive and negative forms reveals a precarious state where the slip faces of both the pigment pile and pit are on the verge of collapse. Both models demonstrate the concept of self-organised criticality, where physical systems spontaneously bring themselves towards these acute points. Similarly in n. 358 – variable equilibrium, the positions of the loose strands of thread are altered by external factors in the immediate environment. Wulan’s chimera, a sculpture, which constituents are bespoke interlocking polystyrene components was built to a point where another component added might have undermined its physical stability and visual balance. In Chong’s Foreign Affairs #69, repeated banal images of an unnamed embassy back entrance hint of the shifting-sands of power systems in politics and diplomacy, upending old world orders.
In certain instances, the subversion of a system in the artwork may not be due to external factors, but by the artist himself or herself. The book titles in Chong’s on-going Cover (Versions) series of paintings are taken from a reading list of fictional books. However he has since added selected plays and poetry, as part of his on-going research for his own novel. The Tempest / William Shakespeare and One Fierce Hour / Alfian Sa’at are two such examples. Likewise, the layers of paint built up over his large scale painting The toothache that passes through this narrative* both reveal and obscure the underlying grid-like structure.
The inclusion of Kray Chen’s series Waiting for the Bird provides a counterpoint to the randomness of order. It reference the four-player Chinese tile game of mahjong, which involves a skill, strategy and chance. The four highest-scoring hands have resulted in a deadlock, with the unseen players waiting for the same winning card, and seemingly having abandoned the game. At times, randomness within a complex set of rules does produce finite outcomes.