by Adeline Koh

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  Forays into contemporary art is growing in Singapore, the scene is constantly stimulated by the efforts of Plastique Kinetic Worms, probably the epitome of the starving earnest contemporary artist group in Singapore. Housed in a little shophouse at 68 Pagoda Street, the group often showcases the work of lesser-known artists, concentrating predominantly in the realm of contemporary art. A brand new exhibition titled "Recent Works" kicked off on June 19, focusing on sculpture and presenting the separate works of three artists: Vincent Leow, Baet Yeok Kuan and Lim Poh Teck.

Each artist worked independently on elaborating his own themes; thus the huge bannerhead "Recent Works" suggests no mention of needful unity but rather an individual freshness. The works displayed were also imbued with distinctive qualities; each artist easily distinguished from the other in terms of his ideas and expression of them.

Perhaps what is most discernable from the pieces is their stoic reduction of contemporary elements: Lim Poh Teck's use of aeroplane propellers in his pieces are reminiscent of Duchamp and the corresponding spawning of installation art. Similarly Vincent Leow makes use of recognisable societal figures to provoke some sort of a reaction on the part of the viewer. His multiple use of eggs in his pieces "National Iron" and "Counting", for example, rely heavily on the use of textures to evoke connections between the most unlikely objects. The egg pieces have a strangely endearing tonal quality. Leow's eggs really do look like eggs, but placed in the surrealistic circumstances he contains them in, they take on a very fragile, almost tenderly pathetic quality.

"National Iron" has appeared to more than one observer to be a deliberate innuendo; for the record, the artist insists that that was an unintentional effect. The piece concentrates a small plaster egg in the face of an iron (you get to see the iron face up) but the iron's surface is made of woolly material. Instead of being any way crushed by the iron's usually tough exterior, the egg is cushioned - almost protected - by the iron. In light of the piece's moniker, I almost took it to be official propaganda (us being the eggs, thinking we're going to be crushed by them irons but we're nestled in their great hairy warmth really) - or maybe not.

"Counting", which shows an egg in a box resembling a meter somewhat, relies heavily on associations to make the piece work. Here again the egg's delicacy and brittleness is emphasised; allowing the viewer to make grand allusions to God and the Apocalypse, running out of time, and even counting one's chickens before the poor tweets get a chance to hatch.

Baet Yoke Kwan's pieces were placed side by side: a study in bulging shapes which appeared, at first glance to resemble fruits in all their fecundity. Two pieces: 'Anxiety' and 'Cage' depict near-amorphous masses straining against visible external reins. Concealed frustration? Untold angst? Another complaint about our closeted society? All or none of the above perhaps: my favourite personalinterpretation is that it speaks volumes about burgeoning but unrealised ambition.

Most of Lim Poh Teck's propeller-pieces are placed in the centre of the room in a straight line. One spies a tiny little tricycle which has a propeller for handlebars: dreamily evocative of childhood and little aeroplane hats or beanies; or perhaps ferocious energy propelling the child throughout his life. Optimistic art, to me anyway. Every piece of Lim's art in this exhibition has a propeller on it somewhere: a red kettle-like contraption, for example, and a "Power Chair", a chair complete with propeller. Lim's works invoke memories of childhood superimposed with flashes of ambiguous energy; an idyllic feeling juggles feelings of your belly being tickled as opposed to your guts wrenched outside of you.

The overall exhibition was subdued but pleasing: as Nietzche would have it, an exercise in strict Apollinian form with none of those nasty overpowering Dionysian elements. Those who find some merit in Ancient Etruscan work done in the pre-romantic era should find an affinity with the pieces. An exercise in changing new forms, yes, but not wildly insisting on trammeling past new boundaries which is rather pleasant: too much riffraff screams and yells in haunted canvases can look rather ridiculous sometimes.

As mentioned earlier the collection is more of a showcase of each individual artist's individual expressions. One should go in and not look for explorations of a theme but rather discover each artist's distinctive energy and outlook; a convergence and divergence of the Singaporean artist mindset of sorts. Take a look and see what bothers other Singaporeans' minds so much that they translate it into objets d'art.

On till 5th July at 68 Pagoda street,
opening hours are: wed - sat from 12 noon to 7pm,
sun & public holidays from 1pm to 5pm.
Admission is free.

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