Questioning dogma

Moving into the Islamic context, artist Nhawfal Juma’at looked at how religions have evolved over time. He observed that sometimes rituals survive the specific context in which they were created to become ultimately obsolete. He created a Kaaba to represent this concept. The black cube was off the floor, the light underneath alluding to a sacred, mysterious dimension.

Another work that referenced the Kaaba was created by Fajrina Razak. Her cube of batik cloth was surrounded by a neon circle, thereby representing the artist's spiritual quest: "This was simply me trying to find my inner self, my individuality. The batik alludes to my Javanese ancestry." Dyed on the fabric was a poem by the artist, referencing the idea of scriptural interpretation and misinterpretation over time, and the way patriarchy has interpreted texts for its own convenience.

Poetry and text were present also in the work of Noor Iskandar in his installation called "When It Settles, It Dies". “When I think about spirituality, I think about forgetting, of dying, and also of remembrance,“ said the artist who, on order to create this work, embarked on a journey through the Middle East in the footsteps of his favourite poets.

The memory thread also ran through Ila's work. She showcased photos taken when she was a child on Singaporean beaches that don't exist anymore, because they have since been reclaimed to increase the island's surface. To the artist, the spirituality element is deeply connected to the sea. As a descendant of the Orang Laut ethnicity – the so-called people of the sea – her attachment to the sea may be read as a homecoming.

A personal definition of spirituality

By contrast, the work of artist Huijun Lu was far more abstract. It consisted of a video projection dancing in the corner of the art space, on a window covered by yellow tarp. The work is called "Brain Stroke Portal"„ and explores the transference of energy and flow. "I chose the yellow tarp because in Chinese culture, especially in Singapore, this is used for celebrations and for funerals," explained the artist. "You can interpret the images as a transition between life and death, or moving from one stage of your life to another."

Launched during the eventful Singapore Art Week, the "Pneuma: Of Spirituality in Contemporary Age" exhibition sparked a lot of discussion. "Thanks to the many different cultural backgrounds present in Singapore, the show generated lively and diverse exchange. Lots of visitors insisted on talking to us personally about how our works related to spirituality," the artists confirmed.

This was one exhibition that experimented with the way people interpret spirituality based on their own personal definitions.

Naima Morelli

© 2020

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