Trying art: Disturbing Narratives exhibition features works that distress, baffle

Society of Enemies and Friends
Society of Enemies and FriendsST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN

The Parkview Museum's Disturbing Narratives exhibition features thought-provoking contemporary works that distress and baffle

These are disturbing times.

A new contemporary art exhibition at The Parkview Museum in North Bridge Road explores just that - featuring works by more than 30 international artists who have dug their nails into the unsettling and irritating aspects of life.

Disturbing Narratives, now showing on the third floor of the Art Deco-inspired Parkview Square, is an eclectic range of intriguing, provoking works that elude interpretation.

Life-sized skeletons by German artist Gloria Friedmann engage in a danse macabre against a "blood"- splattered backdrop.

Golem-like sculptures by Austrian artist Lois Weinberger suggest pagan rituals of fertility, death and resurrection.

South Korean painter Yoo Geun-taek's works depict library scenes ridden with enigmatic clouds, little fires and banal objects.

The artworks in the 1,500 sq m space explore a diverse range of media, from paintings to sculptures to video installations.

  • VIEW IT / DISTURBING NARRATIVES

  • WHERE: The Parkview Museum, Level 3 Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road

    WHEN: Till Feb 8 next year, Mondays to Saturdays, noon to 7pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: www.parkviewmuseum.com

Curator Lorand Hegyi, the museum's art director, says: "Don't look for any formal, stylistic (or) linguistic coherence. There are very different (artistic) positions, not only from the point of view of different generations, nations and cultures, but also very different formal languages.

"Our title, Disturbing Narratives, also reflects today's situation - we don't have any more clear lines, be it ideological, philosophical, political or economic."

The artworks are on loan from the collections of galleries, private collectors and the artists.

Particularly memorable is an installation by Spanish artist Bernardi Roig, who has presented white, statuesque figures - made from the casts of real people - that seem muzzled and blinded by tubes of white neon lights.

"The sensation is (that) of a claustrophobic labyrinth. The material work is the light and the space... the figures are only an 'excuse'," says Roig.

His work obliquely responds to that of early Baroque painter Caravaggio, who was known for his dramatic play of light and shadow.

The Parkview Museum was established by the late Hong Kong real-estate mogul and art collector George Wong, whose father founded the Parkview Group.

Disturbing Narratives is the third in a series of thematic exhibitions at the museum - beginning two years ago with The Artist's Voice, which featured work by prominent artists such as Marina Abramovic, followed by Intriguing Uncertainties, a showcase of contemporary drawings.

Hegyi, a noted Hungarian art historian and critic, adds that a fourth exhibition in the series, slated for early next year, will shine the spotlight on "fragile, empathetic, emotional micro-situations".


Six works to look out for

1 SOCIETY OF ENEMIES AND FRIENDS (2019)

This danse macabre of seven life-sized skeletons is the work of German artist Gloria Friedmann. Each of the figures in the installation has a dangerously sharp, long "nose" which calls to mind fairy-tale character Pinocchio. Every skeleton is paired with a cow skull. A wall image showing a man walking around a clock alludes to the merciless passage of time.

2 RIOT (THE TWO TOWERS) (2016/2019)

Two seemingly disorderly towers of chairs and sculptures of dogs - devoid of eyes and ears - stand in opposition to each other in the gallery, inviting viewers to contemplate, among other things, the relationship between humans and nature. The installation by Italian artist Paolo Grassino (above) is made of synthetic sponge on polystyrene, resins and wooden chairs.

3 SCULPTURE IN 2 PIECES (2018)

Two flabby, bespectacled men stand facing each other in this mixed media, a provoking work by Swiss conceptual artist Urs Luthi, who explores ideas of the ego and alter ego. There is something uncanny here - the men, who are otherwise identical, have extra arms and legs.

4 A PRISONER IN THE CAUCASUS (2009)

Russian artist Olga Tobreluts (above), a pioneer of the digital art movement in her country, presents a series of photographs and a video piece drawing on the historical relationship between Russia and the Caucasus.

5 PAINTING ACTIONS

These paint-splattered canvases, shrine and a shirt, evoking the image of a cross, are the creation of Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch, who is known to feature elements of paganism and sacrifice in his art. The display includes his 39th Painting Action and 40th Painting Action, which both date back to 1997.

6 THE GHOST OF HISTORY, 59 GRAINS OF CLAY (2016)

These disembodied heads in Italian artist Andrea Fogli's work are sculpted from terracotta and feature a range of faces that invite feelings of empathy. Who are these people - are they migrants, war victims or the forgotten?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2019, with the headline 'Trying art'. Print Edition | Subscribe