By Qiu HuiQi Charissa
This dragon was a common sight in playgrounds all over Singapore around fifteen years ago. But today, it has ceased to exist, except as an iconic symbol of our lost childhood. All that’s left has gone to sleep – the title of the exhibition resonates with nostalgia and the bittersweet sentiment of letting go of the past while marching forward with the progression of a fast paced cosmopolitan society. “All that is left” essentially means that not much is actually left. “Going to sleep” suggests a state of dormancy and never coming back. When looking through the exhibition, I’m mercilessly choked with emotion.
Dyn is a young Singaporean artist ,the majority of his work revolves around local themes, traditions and history. Here, the theme of playgrounds for this exhibition of paintings, evokes precious memories of his childhood. Fun and memorable times had and the friends made, most of whom have probably come and gone.
Just as with his previous solo exhibition Traces in 2011, all of the paintings are acrylic on canvas Traces spotlighted on Singapore iconic architecture, both old and new, such as the National Museum, shop houses along Ang Siang Hill and the refurbished The Cathay. The juxtaposition of old versus new was a salient theme in that exhibition, which highlighted and celebrated that coexistence. I could see some similarities between Traces and All that’s left has gone to sleep. For one, the concept of nostalgia is still very strong. Dyn is clearly fascinated or even obsessed with capturing the past and retaining it through his paintings, refusing to let it go easily.
Dyn seems to be positioning himself as an artist who takes on sentiments, cultures and traditions of local context. These themes are highly emotionally charged and make people feel something when they experience the artworks, instead of just looking at the craft involved in the paintings. There are almost always deeper symbolic meanings and sentiments. Sometimes, they require prior knowledge or some point of reference to understand what he depicts, just like the dragon slides and watermelon structures in the current exhibition. This may not make any sense to those who have not seen the actual playgrounds when they existed. Subsequently, they would not be able to connect with or feel with Dyn’s sentiments towards these objects of interest. In short, most of Dyn’s work is highly contextual. (I have a point to make about this which I’ll put in the email – BEN).
There is also consistency in the painting style across his two latest solo exhibitions. The choice of colours is dynamic and vibrant, excellent for bringing life and energy to inanimate objects. To similar effect, Dyn uses bending lines and swirls Dyn, instead of harsh and straight lines. There’s a balance between giving the object a clear shape and giving it a mysterious shroud at the same time. The images are dreamy and surreal, setting up the moods and atmosphere for reminiscing and recalling times that we have lost. Most of his paintings consist of huge blobs of a few colours, and there are little details in his pictures which give them a cartoonish feel But this also makes the paintings clean and fun to look at at the same time. The lack of details helps to draw and focus our attention on the main object of interest. For example, the sky in the elephant slide painting is just a shade of plain blue. There were no dots of clouds or spray of birds. When we recall the slide, we do not remember if the sky has clouds or birds. We just remember how the slides looked like. The painting works like a memory.
Nostalgia is the sentimental yearning to return back to a former place and/or time which held fond memories. Holding on the past seems to be a common hobby among Singaporeans. Several recent art exhibitions have revolved around our forgotten history, lost architecture or diminishing culture and traditions. With a mere 47 years of independence, Singapore has gone through enough facelifts to have had several extremely different life experiences. I am not sure if that is worth celebrating, or mourning for. This pace of life in Singapore is fast. We take pride in being highly efficient and productive. However, on the flipside, many of us are also finding that our past if slipping away from us equally quickly. Those who have a thing for sentiment and safekeeping memories, we may find ourselves losing a sense of belonging.
I am only 24 years old. The primary school, secondary school and junior college that I attended, no longer exist in the physical forms as I experienced them. The playgrounds, neighbourhood and shopping centers I spent my juvenile years in, no longer look familiar. The rate of change is overwhelming for me, and sometimes consumes me. It consumed my memories, my point of reference, and evidence of my past existence. I guess I’m sentimental, and hence can empathise with Dyn’s paintings. Artists like Dyn help people like me to cling on to the last few fragments of memories I can hold on to. Some may say memories can never die. But sometimes, without the physical form, we can slowly lose sight of what we once held dear. Translating memories in canvas brings alive these memories, even if only it’s for a short while.
The emotions his paintings evoked in me were intense. Relating to them, for me, means that I share the experience as Dyn and I imagined I could feel what he felt. And these feelings are real.. I did not have to put myself in his shoes; I swear I wore the same shoes he did. Looking through his exhibitions, I thought of my childhood years and felt the bittersweet sentiments about growing up and transiting into adulthood.