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Poetics of Materiality: Four artists exhibit at osage Hong Kong
The Wall, 2008. Size variable. Photo: Courtesy of Ringo Bunoan and Osage Gallery.

By: Charles Merewether

HONG KONG.- These four artists Ringo Bunoan (The Philippines), Young Rim Lee (South Korea), Ng Joon Kiat (Singapore), and Yu Ji (China) come from four different countries that together span East and South East Asia. Placed besides one another, the art work of these four artists show a certain unity as much as a distinction. This unity is a commitment to the materiality of artistic practice not simply the basis of much of artistic practice but, as its subject.

Utilizing cloth or cardboard, paint, wood or stone, almost all materials have not been previously used. They are raw or manufactured materials to be used or re-used. The process or, in other words, the very making or construction of their work is integral to the subject itself. The work gains its inspiration not from some external factor, as if imposed from without. The work builds through and out of itself. That is, it comes from within, out of a then unclear logic inscribed in the first lineaments, if not principles, of its construction. The understanding of this logic comes through the process of working and reflection and working again. There is a slow succession of decisive actions, additions or interventions. There is nothing swift about this process nor necessarily certain. It may fail or not succeed to build. Or, hopefully, it will gain momentum and the process continues and then perhaps stops. Finished. The work is done.

The work is, in this moment, an artwork, gaining an autonomy which is neither contingent on an external factor nor, at this point, on the artist. The artwork becomes itself, autonomous. It speaks out of itself and to the viewer whose curiosity lead to an engagement. Commentators have often aligned this kind of practice to that of poets and there is a truth to this observation. The economy of words chosen, of building lines and verses. There is no excess here but, a lean economy and with it, a reflexivity, aware that in its making, its constitution, the poem or artwork will be shown again but, differently. Let me start again. This is wood, paint, cloth, stone, cardboard that each have a certain banal or commonplace character. However, the use of this manifested materiality involves a change of form, of shape and function. We do not see this process, as described above, so much as experience its outcome. Through this process, we become witness to the poetics of materiality. The work of each of the artists and the artwork they create is about this process of transformation of materials from the mundane to the poetic.

Pillows are banal and common objects. They are the sites of countless nights and mid-day naps, we all lay horizontal, dreaming, drooling as our subconscious runs unchecked. Pillows catch what leaks from our minds, via our mouths and eyes as we sleep. They are the sites of physical rest and rejuvenation, as well as cradles of our ideas, memories, nightmares and dreams.

Visibility takes monumental shape with The Wall - literally an entire wall of used pillows. Each individual pillow serves as a personal archive of another person’s accumulation of sleep, or a stranger’s subconscious saliva. Ranging from white to mismatched bright colors to subtle hues of yellow and brown stains, The Wall functions as a group portrait of interior substance. The wall of used pillows also mimics a pile of bodies, where the lines between pleasure, desire, and violence become blurred. As an installation, it is a monument of soft mass – standing with a side of Minimalism that embraces process, the body, collaboration, and common material. (Extracted from Gina Osterloh's essay, “Pillow Talk”, Catalog Essay for Ringo Bunoan, Solo Exhibition at Silverlens Gallery, March 2008.)

“I have been intrigued by the spatial experiences through artworks such as paintings. My main interest is related to space and in looking at the relationship between the pictorial and the physical realms. That includes looking at relationships between painting and the actual objects, between inner space (image) of artwork and outer space (surroundings or actual space), and between the viewer and the artwork in a space.

With this exploration of the nature of painting within real space, my practices are mainly accomplished in the area between painting and sculpture, while questioning what painting could be or what is experienced through the painting in relation to real space.”

“This set of work is part of a map series I am developing for my next solo. It looks at the subtle counter-tensions between earth spaces as fixed territories with defined borders and the natural changing character of earth spaces. I am keen to look at the constant evolving physicality of earth’s spaces, for example, a new land appear from sea as earth’s tectonic plate shifts, an unmaintained city quickly turns into a forest, land turning into oceans etc. I am keen in seeing how the unspoken character of nature takes action as it pleases and disregards man-defined spaces.”

“The “Public Space” series is a deconstruction of the public toilet architecture in China since 1949. I found those spaces composed of squares, rectangles and straight lines having a certain widely accepted formula in its design which is both abstract and apparently directional. I borrowed from it the ratio and structure in constructing my own space. To me this work does not lean on any interior wall. Standing on its own, it is fragile, a useless piece of architecture.”

“The human body has always been an important yet obscure part of my work. During my working process, I deliberately downplayed the physical characteristics or features of the body. I chose not to obsess over details, and removed any dramatic elements or emotions from my artwork. What I tried to explore was if the body does not represent any one person, carry any emotions, showcase any physical details, or carry any anatomical accuracy, how it can move people, or how its look can be trusted upon.”

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