In 2004, Perumal Studios started in unit 12A. Visual artists Lim Kok Boon, Lee Sze-Chin, Donna Ong and Tan Guo Liang divvied up the whole apartment for their individual practices, using even the kitchen.
Lim Kok Boon, Baked Beans on Toast, 2001, oil on canvas, 170cm x 200cm.
Room 1: Lim Kok Boon
The best representation of Kok Boon’s recent series of works is this panel entitled Baked Beans on Toast (see photo above) painted in 2001 during his study in London. It was inspired by his British flat mates who almost always have baked beans on toast – an unofficial national dish.
Kok Boon used this painting in his installation piece called Boon’s Cafe, where he converted a school-rented property in London into a little cafe. He painted a series of food items, each floating on a flat background, and hung them up in Boon’s Cafe. Visitors viewing the paintings can then ask for a particular dish to be served.
Kok Boon was playing around not just with the idea of art as representation but also with the concept of icons. The menu he chose was made from economy food items such as baked beans and toast. These are classic simple dishes that one might find in any cafe or home. Kok Boon then uses these dishes as icons that allude to the notion of economy in our lives.
After Kok Boon returned from London, he took the same idea and gave it a local twist. Using the same technique of painting objects floating on a flat background, he presented a series of paintings based on snacks from his childhood. These paintings were used in an exhibit during The Arts House’s Insomnia48, a non-stop 48-hour event of performance, clubbing, music videos, installations, ateliers, and workshops.
Entitled Child-ish, Kok Boon presented a space where visitors can sit and play with toys from the 70s and 80s. Like Boon’s Cafe, visitors viewing the paintings will receive snacks that were popular during that period. Again, Kok Boon uses these snacks as powerful imagery that immediately links the viewer with a personal past.
Nothing gets more iconic than fast food, and Kok Boon’s other works involves using fast food containers to create sculptures for a series of photographs as well as a display at Changi International Airport. Continuing his idea of icons, he has been working on a series of paintings of all the three prime ministers of Singapore.
Lee Sze-Chin, Pink Paint on Canvas #1,2004 , poster paint on oil, 121.7 x 60cm.
Room 2: Lee Sze-Chin
One of the first projects that Sze-chin involved himself with after returning from his study abroad was being part of an exhibition entitled And we took ourselves out of our hands (in Search of the Miraculous) that was shown at independent art space, p-10.
His piece in the exhibition was entitled Touring Natives, and working with Lim Kok Boon, the piece was a questioning of their identity as Singaporeans through exploring places and participating in activities around Singapore and documenting them in photography and video. This challenged them to reconsider what is taken for granted as citizens here. This project has only been partially exhibited.
Seemingly an area of interest for Sze-chin, he presented his degree show as a tour agency, Mr Lee’s New Holland Tours, offering free maps, shuttle services and umbrella loans, presenting this idea of him as a facilitator in others’ experience of a place or situation.
While Kok Boon takes icons as a means to direct our experience, Sze-chin uses cliches, but when one thinks about it, not much separates cliches from icons. Sze-chin’s present work is collecting mundane objects such as gaudy house decorations and cheap paintings that can be found in plenty of households and using them to challenge our perception of the usual. One such work is this commonly available painting on which he re-coloured the white of the panda pink.
Kitchen: Donna Ong
Recently returned from her study in London, Donna’s latest work was a solo exhibition of insect wings drawings and sculpture. Entitled Palace of Dreams, it was a manifestation of Donna’s grappling with herself. Working through her aspirations and coming to terms with herself and the realities she faces, these meticulously hand-drawn wings, some as big as a square meter, offer fresh possibilities of dreaming and hope.