‘Swell Times’ presents the work of two artists – Rania Ho based in Beijing, China and Roslisham Ismail aka ‘Ise’ based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This exhibition is an exploration of the ideas behind ‘perfection’. In our highly globalized world, visual information is ubiquitous, but context for the images (where taken, who by, and what it means) is not always fully communicated nor understood. Without these original contexts, new interpretations are projected upon these images, creating a fresh lexicon of ‘mashed up’ symbols made relevant for local conditions.
‘Swell Times’ interrogates these mixed signals and the underlying conflicts created by these new interpretations. For Rania and Ise, this piecemeal sensibility is particularly true in Asia, where adopted signs and symbols are often absorbed and (mis)understood. These unfamiliar visual symbols are re-framed into our own surroundings, twisting space and history into a multi-layered kaleidoscope. It compels those of us who live here to piece together our own connections, meanings and identities out of the swirling shards of information.
Working with found imagery, such as cosmetic surgery advertising, Ise presents a series of new collage works that explore social interactions and status through the machines people use and own. His work also examines the way character is increasingly determined by looks as opposed to ideas and aspirations. These comical, near sci-fi creatures are an amalgamation of objects, signs and symbols that ask questions of the nature of beauty, social relations and cultural stereotypes.
Rania Ho presents video documentation of a handmade inflatable garden, fabricated out of nylon fabric, and pumped up with air. This work in progress entitled ‘El Jiardino Aristocratica’ (The Aristocratic Garden) is a collection of temporary sculptures inspired by the connotations of status that accompanies highly groomed gardens of Europe. The video depicts ‘El Jiardino Aristocratica’ being inflated on a conspicuously manicured green patch in Beijing, which is next to a highway on-ramp. Along with the video is a small sculptural piece called ‘Fountain,’ a fountain created from mundane household items; and a series of photos entitled ‘Nature Photography’, depicting the flora and fauna found in Beijing’s public spaces just before the opening of the 2008 Olympic games. By poking fun at our admiration and judiciousness towards disciplining nature, Rania Ho questions how ideas of ‘perfection’ are formed.
‘El Jiardino Aristocratica’ is part of Rania Ho’s ongoing practice of handcrafting familiar objects out of low-cost, commonly found materials. Coupling new and old, with high and low technology, this garden pays tribute to the perhaps ‘inappropriate’ re-use of materials, creating new platforms for re-thinking what is ‘natural’ and ‘perfect’.