In the Deadpan Bed Pan

Singapore Young Artist Award Recipient Tan Wee Lit holds his first solo exhibition at Singapore’s Sculpture Square from January 16 – 29, 2014. With close to 100 pieces of work, the show wittily titled In the Deadpan Bed Pan examines human mortality in a “tone of absurd tragicomedy.”

The press release describes an intriguing roster of works:

  • A Living Legacy (2006) – a bronze bust of that artist as a sexagenarian that inhales and exhales. A work that examines the mortality of a legacy, sometimes posthumously while questioning the role of an artist and art history. A Living Legacy was first presented in Chicago;
  • Rock With You (2008) is a pair of chairs installed on opposite ends on a set of rockers. Playing on the nature of seesaw – the constant rocking and sinking – Tan intends to provoke self-reflection and thoughts on loneliness and weight of a relationship through this work;
  • Pushing Up Daisies (2012) is a massive collection of 80 flowerpots made out of wood. Purposefully sculpted to resemble coffins, Tan uses the idiom in this installation to encourage contemplation on how urban development in land-scarce Singapore has made burial – the act of returning back to earth – a challenging task. In a self-mockery tone, the numeral 80, which represents the average lifespan of Singaporean man, is a reminder to Tan that he is nearing the midpoint of his life;
  • Posthumours (2013), a lectern with 120 microphones resembling a bouquet or tribute to those who have passed on. It celebrates a person’s eventful life instead of the solemnness in eulogies;
  • Forbes Family (2013), a fictitious family portrait comprising offspring from the Forbes list of 100 most powerful people in 2013, adapted from the family portrait of Tan; and
  •  Tan Wee Lit 2013 (2013) is the second installation of his polycarbonate action figure series that documents his life as an artist, with one version released every half a decade. Aiming to question the current role of craftsmen in art as well as art collection, Tan commissioned a craftsman to produce the new version this time.

Alan Oei, the Artistic Director of Sculpture Square, writes about the artist, “Tan Wee Lit is one of the few artists in Singapore who challenges the boundaries of sculpture while working within some of its more traditional media like bronze and marble. If sculpture traditionally implies self-portraiture – the artist is a hero sculpting and carving at mass – then Tan acknowledges and turns back this idea. His eponymous action figures suggest that the artist is bespectacled, uncool even; while his work, A Living Legacy, conjures [up] the fragility and mortality of the sculptor.”

You can see more examples of his work in this Youtube interview that Tan gave after receiving the 2012 Young Artist Award.

SSQ-A Living Legacy (2006)-TanWeeLit

Photo by Tan Wee Lit

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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