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 "La 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’ artists - 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 elements of sensuality usually reserved for and shared by some ‘shibari’ practitioners and transfers them onto the inanimate canvas. 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.
by: Nolan Stevens
(Curator, Johannesburg, South Africa)
“Reality is More Virtual Than Virtual Reality”
A’shua Imran’s practice is important to us because of its rawness
and focus on touch and tactility. In this performance, the arbitrary
forms and shapes controlled by Imran’s skill indicate a natural,
earth-created mimicry of life’s movements.
Here he continues his practice of using clay from when he was an
assistant artist to a master sculptor for a large-scale ceramic
mural at Marina South Pier MRT. An entirely improvised
collaboration on the rooftop of a ship at Marina South Pier, the
viewer is drawn into a strange journey or procession of the
movement of a body imprinted through clay and open space,
guided or agitated by the sporadic sounds in the background. He
“Clay signifies a tool to build community. The role of an
artist and viewer in a performance is challenged through
the invitation of the audience to reconstruct the process of
the 'artists'.” (email, Apr 11 2017)
Amongst his active involvement in mural projects with public and
private educational systems, corporate and community groups,
he also founded an independent platform Mural Lingo through
which he trains young artists and designers to collaborate on
mural painting projects.
- X (x-online.sg)
Passive Aggressive Bonds,
Freedom Boat: Harbouring New Truths
"Vantage of the artist"
The mind has this oft provoked sense of order that tries to put things into a workable perspective for the observer. When we experience things, our minds and senses go into overdrive to simultaneously take everything in and fit it in boxes, sometimes of our own making or based on concepts we have learned like color, ideology and sensorially oriented descriptions, like pleasant.
We feel squeamish and uncomfortable when this doesn't add up or feels out of place. This is dissonance. We will either choose to ignore these things judging them as unwanted, as with Ockham's razor, or engage them till they fit into our integrated perspective. Naturally our perspective either becomes a little wider or narrower.
You begin to see there is a difference between our sensory input and our perceptual output. What we take in through our senses goes through the conveyor belt of our previous experiences including concepts, relationships, habits, responsibilities, sense of self, etc. while also engaging...Psychological theories like the theory of planned behaviour demonstrates this perspective to show how behavioural outcomes are not simple cause and effect processes, instead the mind factors in environment, personal disposition, etc. as being affective when thought is processed to become behaviour.
It is for this reason why genotypic settings and responses are not in concordance with phenotypic manifestations. The sum of the parts do not quite add up to a whole. Biological scientists have searched this for centuries now but it appears that there are parts of the equation we don't get, which means there is information that we are not processing, unable to process or have set wrong parameters in our processing methodology. Thus, the output we get after centuries of research on biological determinants on our behaviour, appearance and life outcome is inconclusive and widely conjectural.
These are the undiscovered aspects of our self, behaviour, mind and existence that make us feel mentally squeamish and causes us dissonance. It is because while we have searched so much, we end up with more possibilities and even more questions. An example of this is likened to when we see a picture that has many gaps that are purposefully left unfilled. The observers then begin to argue and claim to each other why their interpretation of what the picture is about and what it means is more relevant, important, informed, conclusive and factual. We are the observers observing the tapestry of creation before us.
A'shua Imran has been able to adopt the vantage of the artist and painter of this unfinished painting, symphony, tapestry, miasma, that engages and tantalises our senses with an evocative invitation yet able to avoid the reaches of uniformly understood and conceived perception into his actual intention behind his works. The fact that he emphasises the observers vantage as an engagement to draw closer to experience and immerse themselves into it, is an act he simulates based upon the very position he finds himself engaging in life.
He brings us to the point of confusion and distress even when we honestly engage in the experience. We begin to feel squeamish and dissonant with the experience of this art...or we have the choice to look at it and believe we have understood it for what it is. Our choice is made not when we view the art but how we engage it. Imran entices us with the invitation to see beyond what we already see, if we ourselves are ready to. So he will try to provoke and alienate you if your senses and mind have not already done that. In that process we will at least discover a little more about ourselves and our daily choices. His art brings the vibrancy and jarring nature of life's mystery with our every engagement...or it might seem to resemble a nice or ugly picture.
by: Abraham Mohan