A glimpse into the exhibition space at S.E.A. Focus 2024, featuring works from the region’s artistic talents.

A glimpse into the exhibition space at S.E.A. Focus 2024, featuring works from the region’s artistic talents. (Photo: S.E.A. Focus)

As Singapore Art Week makes its highly-anticipated return, the spotlight shines on the region’s artistic flair with the sixth edition of S.E.A. Focus. Kicking off this weekend and running till Jan 28, the curatorial debut by John Tung features over 40 artistic luminaries from 22 South-east Asian galleries, with Bank of Singapore as its Main Sponsor. The sponsorship supports S.E.A. Focus as a home-grown art platform in celebrating the region’s rich cultural heritage and artistic diversity, while offering artists the opportunity to showcase their talents.

Under the theme, “Serial and Massively Parallel”, the exhibition delves into the uniqueness of human creativity, artistic expression and the experience of art. Expect to see bolder and more large-scale works, ranging from installations to sculptures and paintings revolving around the central theme, including a designated screening room featuring artists’ video works. 

Get your S.E.A. Focus tickets here, and read on for event highlights to look out for.

Conversing with the “Sun”

Living in a digital age means being glued to our devices, particularly our smartphones. We’re constantly taking photos and videos to share on social media, if not storing them as keepsakes.

But Thai artist and acclaimed filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul sees this practice in a different light, saying: “To film is not to keep, not to remember, but to have a dialogue with the present.” 

 “A Conversation with the Sun (Installation)” by acclaimed filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be presented at S.E.A. Focus this year. (Photo: S.E.A. Focus)

His introspective video installation work, “A Conversation with the Sun”, was first presented at BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY in 2022. Inspired by Weerasethakul’s contemplations of the sun on his long walks, the piece is a profound exploration of memory and perception, featuring self-documented video footage of landscapes, people and objects taken over several years. Like a personal memory archive, these clips offer a peek into the artist’s mind.

The footage is ingeniously displayed with a large, mobile curtain backdrop mechanised by Thai visual design studio DuckUnit. This distinctive use of the fabric-curtain-backdrop is a recurring motif in Weerasethakul’s work, seen in his past projects such as “Fever Room” (2015) and “Constellations” (2018). In this latest installation, the curtains are not just static displays but mobile elements that interact with the video, adding a layer of theatricality and mystery.

Insect larvae as art?

Aside from entomologists, not many people would pay much attention to moth larvae. Malaysian artist Tan Zi Hao is an exception.

His fascination with plaster bagworms – tiny, often unnoticed household pests – are the stars of his macro photography series titled “Bags of Stories”. In this series, created using UV printing on fabric and displayed in a lightbox, these larval cases – which appear grey and monochromatic from afar – suddenly become an explosion of colour and pattern.

Malaysian artist Tan Zi Hao’s work focuses on the symbolism of plaster bagworms, also known as “household casebearers”. (Photos: Courtesy of Tan Zi Hao and A+ Works Of Art)

Through this work, Tan, who is represented by A+ Works of Art, draws a poetic parallel between humans and these moths, known scientifically as Phereoeca (meaning “bearer of house”). His work reveals how these larvae’s cases, made from everyday remnants like hair or carpet fibres, symbolise the interconnectedness of human life and nature.

Exquisite glass sculptures

When you think of blown-glass objects, decorative ornaments like vases may come to mind. But Filipino artist Goldie Poblador, represented by MONO8, uses this fascinating art form to draw attention to issues such as environmental health, femininity and her identity as a Filipina living in a postcolonial society.

A selection of Poblador’s “Sea Anomaly” series will be exhibited at S.E.A. Focus. These intricate blown-glass sculptures, such as a colourful sea slug perched on a branching coral, reflect on the fragile marine life affected by the 2023 oil spills in the Verde Island Passage in the Philippines.

Filipino artist Goldie Poblador uses the blown-glass method to turn sea creatures and coral into beautiful works of art. (Photos: Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass Studio; and Anna Frumenti and Goldie Poblador Studio) 

Through the sculptures, Poblador takes visitors on a journey into environmental awareness, cultural identity and the power of art as a vehicle for change.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, check out Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q Le’s stunning, highly sought-after photo-weaving series, “Splendor & Darkness”, which were created with the help of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute’s (STPI’s) technical capabilities. Meanwhile, Indonesian artist Alexander Sebastianus Hartanto’s five-panel work of batik prints on pixelated, archived photographs begs a closer look. 

Selected outstanding artworks showcased during the exhibition will be acquired for the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) collection under the SAM S.E.A. Focus Art Fund. This initiative was established by S.E.A. Focus in 2023, and backed by founding sponsor the Yenn and Alan Lo Foundation, to celebrate the region’s artistic talents.

Get the inside scoop on South-east Asia’s contemporary art market

For a deeper dive into the region’s contemporary art landscape, here are two signature programmes not to be missed:

  • Hear from experts and artists: SEAspotlight Talks is a series of panel discussions led by art industry professionals, thought leaders and artists such as Yee I-Lann and Heri Dono. Taking place over two weekends from Jan 20 to 21 and Jan 27 to 28, each curated session will provide insights into the region’s art ecosystem – how art is being created, critiqued, curated and collected. 
  • Catch rarely-seen short films: Over at OFF Focus, happening on Jan 21, enjoy a screening of nine short films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul at The Projector’s newly-opened space at Cineleisure Orchard. The programme, curated by Objectifs – Centre for Photography & Film, will be bookended by an online Q&A with the artist himself. 

S.E.A. Focus will be held from Jan 20 to 28 at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road, Singapore 089065. Tickets are on sale at $10 via www.seafocus.sg. Each ticket is valid for multiple entries. 

Visit this website for more information on programmes, artists and ticketing.

Brought to you by S.E.A. Focus