PETALING JAYA, March 4 — To the layman, there exists an impenetrable aura surrounding contemporary art, a dense fog that grows with every false exclamation that it can only be enjoyed by the rich, the educated, or the pretentious.
Ru Yi Tan blows that fog away, leaving behind something that can be appreciated by all.
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Tan moved to Japan to further her studies at the Nagoya Zokei University and Graduate School, and now lives and works in Shizuoka. From December last year to January, she returned to the country of her birth temporarily and carried out a residency at the Shalini Ganendra Fine Art (SGFA) gallery in Petaling Jaya, resulting in her exhibition, Returned — The Stars Seem So Different.
The exhibition features a series of installation art pieces, as well as collages on grey board and wood. It began with an audience workshop, where participants both young and old worked under her guidance to create installations out of bright, multi-coloured clothespins — a common household object in Japan.
Informed by their observations and reactions to the process, she then dismantled the pieces to incorporate them into her own work.
The result is stunning. Titled Grow in the Stool, Grow in the Corner, Grow on the Wall and Grow on the Balcony, the various pieces resemble alien vegetation, akin to a plastic fungus that worms its way into the gallery’s structure and furniture.
Especially beautiful is Balcony; requiring special scaffolding to build, it includes plastic baskets along with the clothespins. It catches the light at different times of the day, shifting the mood from jovial in the morning to resplendent in the evening.
Another project that makes good use of natural light is a video that she filmed, available below. In it, Tan captures the morning sunlight peeking through the blinds of the SGFA’s master bedroom, in a lazy, hypnotising rhythm.
The collages are prepared with a mix of magazine cut-outs (mostly of food products), pencils, thread and miscellaneous items like shopping bags and plastic twine that she terms “found objects.” Often, they are arranged in unorthodox ways.
In Meteor, cut-outs of rib roasts and smoked ham are stuck together to look like a rock flying through space. In The Beautiful Person, a longhaired figure rests on a cushion made from sliced deli meats.
Each one of these pieces encourages the viewer to re-examine everyday objects. Tan has imbued in them a personality, a spirit. The suburban setting of the SGFA lends itself well to the themes that Ru Yi Tan expresses.
Precariously balanced on that thin line separating “boy” and “young man”, I am not old, by any means. Even so, Returned — The Stars Seem So Different makes me intensely nostalgic with its creative use of everyday items and magazine cut-outs.
It evokes a childlike sense of wonder, the kind one feels as a seven-year-old, alone in the house with nothing but time, a bunch of household objects, and a very active imagination.
*Returned — The Stars Seem So Different is on exhibit at the Shalini Ganendra Fine Art gallery (8, Lorong 16/7b, Seksyen 16, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia) through March 29, 2016. Tues-Sat 11am-7pm
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