Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

The following is inspired by a piece by Gerald Leow on display as part of his solo exhibition at Chan+Hampe Contemporary until June 25.

On a material level, Manifold is simple: a dynamic, radiating metal sculpture made of copies of the same jagged line. These lines are like flattened appendages of a predatory insect, or sentences written in a spiky font. The pieces are colored asymmetrically; seven tones shifting between purple and orange. Manifold is bold, yet delicate-- an opening and a threat. Leow has been quoted as saying that he wanted to create works which are poetically violent. He has succeeded. Manifold is a beautiful but deadly tropical flower, 76 x 76 x 17cm.

The “edginess” of the sculpture is literal; the aggressive shapes on the edges of the lines form negative spaces which complete the piece. These edges are appropriated from the font and logo used by Judas Priest, a heavy metal band. Leow, who studied sociology, has a body of work based on the logo and the conceptual possibilities of heavy metal subculture. With Manifold, however, the link to heavy metal is not obvious, thankfully. Appropriation can be a one-trick pony; what is insightful and magical initially can later become an unrewarding burden for both artist and audience.

The exhibition’s title adds another dimension. I am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World refers to a comment Robert Oppenheimer made in 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of his brainchild, the first atomic bomb. The phrase is from the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. A passage of 700 verses, the Gita documents the exchange between Prince Arujuna and Lord Krishna as they discuss war, duty and moral confusion.

contemporary sculpture in Singapore

Manifold from Leow's exhibition at Chan+Hori Contemporary Gallery in Singapore

Southeast Asian artwork made of mild steel, automotive paint and western pop culture. It is real.  It has universal significance. Manifold is an artwork worthy of its most serious sources of inspiration: the Mahabharata and the atomic bomb.

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I am elaborating upon this essay, including other projects of Gerald's as well as some of our collaborations and personal experiences. The result will be included in red dot SAD which is updated periodically.

One Response to Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

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