Singapore's Participation in the 2nd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale
Featured Artist - Noni Kaur will be participating under the central theme, 'Imagined Workshop' at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, 21 March 2002 - 23 June 2002

(31 January 2002) 'Rangoli' artist Noni Kaur will participate in the 2nd Fukuoka Triennale in March this year in Japan. Singapore's participation is coordinated by the Singapore Art Museum, National Heritage Board.

Under a central theme of the 'Imagined workshop', the Triennale presents concepts of ideal collaborations between artists across Asia. Three years ago, the first Fukuoka Triennale explored the idea of communications across borders, eliciting responses from artists who used photography, graphics and technology representative of the modern age. This year's Triennale however, goes back to Asian roots, seeking out the handmade, weighted artisanship that becomes interwoven with Asian identity and Asian voices.

Noni Kaur was chosen by a panel of curators put together by the Japanese organisers, from a pre-selection of several artists recommended by the Singapore Art Museum and an appointed Singaporean curator, Ms Lindy Poh. Born in 1969, artist Noni Kaur is presently a lecturer at the LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts. In March 2001, she was selected to participate in the President's Young Talents Exhibition organised by the Singapore Art Museum. Noni was also included as one of the participating artists in the recent Nokia Singapore Art 2001, and together with three other artists, was involved in the Singapore contingent for the Asian Art Biennale, Bangladesh. Since her participation in Feast! Food in Art, an exhibition organised by the Singapore Art Museum in 2000, the artist became well-known for her seductive works that incorporates the use of coloured spices. The artist says of her own work, "One of the key approaches of my work is my use of materials, which is not only referential to notions of enthnicity, but also the manner in which such materials intercede or intervene into the experience of the viewer." Noni's work also manifests a strong element of angst and anxiety about women's oppression and the inequalities she has experienced and seen. "The realities of women's condition are very complex and I attempt to reflect some of those complexities in my work," adds the artist. Examining issues pertaining to female sexuality, sensuality, cultural attitudes and ideas, Noni explores the potentialities of expression through the sphere of sexuality and the celebration of the body. She says, "I am excavating the oppressed and repressed female consciousness of my own bodily self and channeling female desire into flights of the sorceress. It is a celebration of the body, my body. The kama (sensuality), leading to moksha (liberation), are Eastern philosophical concepts, strategies and personal vision of sexuality in my work. I now strive to generate a sense of empowerment through the celebration of female sexuality and sensuality of the anatomy through my sculptures".

The selection of Noni comes as no surprise considering how well her art work corresponds to the theme of the Triennale. Noni Kaur's "Sniff and Swallow" uses traditional Indian folk floor art known as Rangoli. Rangoli is usually made from rice paste and food colouring, organising patterns and presentations for festive occasions such as Divali (Deepavali, Hindu festival of lights). "Motifs and designs of such floor patterns are shared amongst women of the family," says independent director/curator Lindy Poh. "They are passed down from generation to generation. As such, these qualities make Rangoli a kind of 'shared' art in the community. For Noni, each work is given a new twist, in the personalised forms of her work resembling the female human body and its anatomy." Noni Kaur's participation will also extend to the Fukuoka Asian Art Fest, a one day event that inaugurates 23 March, and by invitation, she will remain in Fukuoka for the Fukuoka Art Exchange, that will take place between 20 March and 9 April. Here, in the 'Imagined Workshop' Ms Kaur and her contemporaries will conduct and execute artworks in collaborative contexts. The Exchange will involve the public, to whom the studio spaces will be open, allowing them to simultaneously participate and effect commentary in the form of their involvement.

"The mission of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is to contribute to the art and cultural creation in Asia. It also aims at breaking and reconstructing the existing framework of 'art', made up by Euro-America centralism. In order for this, the FAAM emphasizes on not only collection and exhibition of the works, but the residential programme for artists and curators. It makes great effort in connecting art and community in this way," says Chief Curator at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Mr Ushiroshoji. The Fukuoka Triennales, including the former Asian Art Shows, he maintains, have introduced contemporary art in 'Asian' region on a comprehensive and continuous basis for the first time in the world. "This point is what makes the exhibition significant," adds Mr Ushiroshoji. For the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, (the) 'contemporary art of Asia' has not gained much exposure or display in art museums, which traditionally exhibit the contemporary art of Europe or America and in contrast, the antiquities of Asia. "If "art" is what is exhibited in "art museums", "contemporary art in Asia" is not 'art' ", contends Mr Ushiroshoji, who believes the FAAM is in a good position to elucidate such contradiction, and contribute to a necessary dialogue between the contemporary cultures of Asia and the world. Here, Fukuoka's second Triennale will register a peculiarly Asian trait of the communal, describing lineage and historicity contributing to the creative psyche inasmuch as Western notions regard the artist/creator as singularly individual. The 'Imagined Workshop' thus fundamentally investigates Asian aesthetics in two ways, through encouraged actual collaboration of artists today and the historical place of collaborative creativity in Asian art. Sub-themes that underline Fukuoka's central idea include mutual respect and regard between artists, traditions and effective merging of art practices and methodologies through those.

Says Director of Singapore Art Museum, Kwok Kian Chow, "Our continued support for the programmes of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is beneficial to regional and Singapore art. Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is an important museum which specialises in Asian modern and contemporary art. Since the late 1970s, it has established itself as a major Museum through its contributions in the international exhibition and research programme in 20th Century Asian Art. The Museum's research programme on Asia, often in collaboration with Asian curators, is an effort that is sustained and developmental, always mindful of the local context for art practice. Singaporean artists including Lee Wen, Amanda Heng and Tang Da Wu have participated in various programmes of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum which, I am sure, have been important to their artistic growth. I am confident that Noni Kaur will find her involvement in the Fukuoka Triennale significant to her artistic development, following the paths of these artists."

About the Fukuoka Triennale and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

The Fukuoka Triennale succeed the Asian Art Shows which were held every 5 years since 1979. The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum now hosts the Triennale as a follow up to detail movements of Asian contemporary art. It also sets of the Art Exchange programme as part of the pillar project, in which Asian artists are invited for their live and dynamic activities. The Triennale as organised by Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is significant for it keen focus on Asian art only, researching and introducing fresh artists usually unseen abroad and less internationally exposed. Its peculiar Asian mandate also moves beyond narrow notions of 'contemporary', taking into account the strong rootedness of Asian art history in the context of folk and popular art.

About the Singapore Art Museum and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

The Singapore Art Museum supports Singapore's participation in the Fukuoka Triennale as a coordinating institution. For the 1st Fukuoka Triennale in 1999, artists Amanda Heng and Tang Da Wu were selected by the Triennale organisers