‘Becoming’ | Residency @ Bag Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa
At first glance it would be easy for some to overlook the layered complexities which multi-disciplinary Singaporean artist, A’shua Imran brings to his body of paintings, titled Le Rouge. This deceptively simple collection of red painted canvases bound with rope do not only appear to ask similar questions of the medium of painting as Modern Masters the likes of Rothko did, but also provide the viewer with snapshots into Imran's chance encounter with a community of ‘shibari’ performers - rope bondage practitioners.
As alluded to earlier, these works do draw correlations to many of the Modernist "restrictions" the medium of painting provides. The flatly painted red canvases wrapped with rope certainly open themselves to readings which could point in these directions. The initial usage of the dominant colour red commonly attributed to love are expanded upon to include emotions such as passion and human desire. This expansion comes about from the artist’s keen observations of the intuitive relationship between ‘shibari’ partners. These works now take on a richer, more dynamic conceptual framework.
It’s at this point where Imran's penchant towards disruption reveals itself. It's an element he often uses in his performances, where he instructs his collaborating performers to disrupt the nature of a space. In his La Rouge paintings, the expectations and nature of the painted canvas are disrupted once again; this time with the addition of rope which encases each canvas in a web-like weaving.
However, beyond serving as a purely aesthetic devise, Imran's treatment of each rope mimics that of the treatment of ropes used in some ‘shibari’ performances. A long and tedious process involving the boiling of ropes in hot water, drying, stretching, oiling & burning off excess hairs. By doing this, A’shua Imran imparts the elements of sensuality, passion and desire usually reserved for and shared by some ‘shibari’ practitioners and transfers them onto the inanimate canvas. By so doing, he subverts our initial readings of both canvas and rope, reintroducing both, not as red canvas bound by rope, but instead as red canvas freed of the expectation of the medium via the addition of the rope.
- Nolan Stevens (Curator, Johannesburg , South Africa)