The Substation holds first physical exhibition since leaving Armenian Street

'Into the Shadows', Oil on canvas, by Valerie Ng. PHOTO: THE SUBSTATION

SINGAPORE - Arts company The Substation returns with its first physical exhibition since leaving its Armenian Street home of more than three decades last year.

The exhibition, Redaction, opens on June 28 at the Visual Arts Centre in Dhoby Ghaut and brings together works by 17 artists that explore abstraction within painting.

They range from established painters such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts lecturer Raymond Yap to newcomers like Lasalle College of the Arts graduate Aryan Arora, as well as exhibition curator Bridget Tay.

Tay, 33, says it is important to have physical shows to "experience the world - and art - in its physicality".

The Substation's artistic director Ezzam Rahman, 41, gives the example of seeing American painter Jackson Pollock's Number One, 1950 (Lavender Mist).

"Your eyes just run from one stroke to another. Seeing the work physically, guessing the material that the artist has used - these are processes that cannot be done through a lens or device. You have to be there in person," says the artist and art educator.

Asked if the theme of "redaction" alludes to the current status of The Substation, Tay emphasises that it is not related. Rather, she says, the exhibition focuses on how artists take the idea of abstraction to create works with their unique visual vocabulary.

The Substation was founded by late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun in 1990. In July last year, its 45 Armenian Street space was returned to the National Arts Council for a two-year renovation period, after which the building will reopen as a multi-tenanted space.

After an outcry from the arts community, a small group of artists and former and current staff rallied to keep The Substation alive in a new form.

Ezzam became artistic director in September last year, after his predecessor Raka Maitra stepped down to focus on her dance company Chowk Productions, while company manager Yvonne Lee joined this year. Maitra will continue as an adviser.

Since its unhousing, The Substation has organised digital programmes such as SeptFest 2021: Alternative Voice(s) and Female Gaze.

It also held an online fund-raising event - Objects of Affections - in March this year. Twenty artists donated works including sculptures, ceramics, paintings, tapestry and photography, each of which was available for $500.

The Substation sold 23 of the 28 works, raising $11,500 - exceeding its target of $10,000.

"There was a positive response from both avid collectors and first-time art collectors," says Ezzam.

Flame', acrylic and colour pencil on canvas by Raymond Yap (left) and ‘Double Cancellation’, wood, steel, brass, leather, canvas, oil, and speaker coil by Vincent Twardzik Ching. PHOTOS: THE SUBSTATION

Though they are grateful for the generosity of both artists and collectors, Ms Lee says a larger amount of money will always be needed for any company to operate professionally.

"The Substation is a non-profit company - we are reliant on funding from sponsorships and donations, in cash or in kind," adds the 49-year-old, who joined the company this year. "But we do the best we can to continue with our programmes."

Ezzam says The Substation will always strive to be a bridge between audiences, venue partners and international partners.Ms Lee adds: "There is really not much difference to The Substation except we now operate without a physical space. There is a smaller group and a new board of directors, but everything is quite the same. It is a new change, and we are excited."

Book it / Redaction

Where: Visual Arts Centre, 01-02 Dhoby Ghaut Green, 10 Penang Road
When: June 28 to July 6, 11am to 7pm daily. There will be an opening reception on June 28 at 7pm and a curator tour on July 2 at 2pm, with some of the artists present. Register for the tour at
Admission: Free
Info: The Substation's website

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