Thoughts on exhibition-making in an alternative space
Gabriel Loy is an adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Art and Director of Exhibitions at 1961 Projects, a contemporary art project space based in Singapore. He is interested in the materiality of archived documents, as well as the mechanisms of art practice and the community that surrounds it.
Peninsula Shopping Centre has many traits that would qualify it as something of a cult destination. From obscene graphic t-shirts that come in every shade of black, one of the oldest skateboard shops in the country to guitars and cameras, I do believe I speak for many others when I say that the building holds a special place in my youth.
This time I am heading to meet the artist Vanessa Lim, who has an exhibition at I_S_L_A_N_D_S, a project space located in the corridor linking the mall to Excelsior Shopping Centre on the third floor. This small shopping centre is uncomplicated and easy to navigate, with a central escalator servicing five floors, including the basement. I climb the escalators and walk past an eclectic assortment of shops, a tailors, then a shop that sells spare camera parts, then another that sells guitar gear. Eventually I find the corridor, no longer than 4 metres long and 3 paces wide lined on either side with six double panelled glass display windows.
I am a little late and Vanessa is already there when I arrive. She introduces me to the space and the presentation, “water / 1.” It is uncluttered and feels natural in this unassuming space, transforming what were once display windows for a bridal shop into a small exhibition. In the windows are series of works, each mounted on wooden panels. In one window is Drowning By Numbers (2017). The piece is made up of three acrylic on canvas board paintings mounted on polyurethane foam, plaster blocks, a compass and fishing hooks. The paintings, a bird’s eye view of what seems like holiday makers sitting around bodies of water. Lim utilises scale objects in her paintings, miniature floats, people and shrubs, giving it the feel of an architectural model.
I read the exhibition write up pinned up in a smaller glass window to the side or the larger ones. “One under water,” Vanessa tells me. “I don’t think many people got the pun.” The coloured plaster that resembles artificial rock formations and the bright colours of her paintings share an orange overtone cast by the halogen lights, only serving to remind you that you are not in a white cube space.