2 December, 2018–27 January, 2019


BEN LOONG, ZULKIFLI LEE duo exhibition



Singapore— Pearl Lam Galleries is pleased to present FrictionaL, a duo exhibition featuring a selection of paintings and sculptures by Ben Loong (b. 1988, Singapore) and Zulkifli Lee (b. 1978, Malaysia). A tour de force display of the unconventional processing of material infrastructure, the exhibition will engage the gallery space in constructing a site of active encounters between the two emerging artists, suggesting different points of resistance between their practices and in the creation of the works themselves.

A development of his Terra Blanca series, Ben Loong continues to explore the textural qualities of wall plaster and resin while expanding the scale and variation of his compositions. In his present body of work, mosaic tiles, produced through a systematized process, are configured into various brick patterns, setting up a resistance between the wall and the work of art. The free-pouring of wall plaster into standardized moulds introduces elements of chance and serendipity into an otherwise ordered process, transforming the canvas into a three-dimensional terrain of craters, concavities, and bulges. Asserting their status as aesthetic objects while seeming to dissolve into their surrounding architecture, Loong’s works reveal the conceptual complications guiding notions of artistic labour and authorship. The tension between the singularity of the work of art and the uniformity of industrial production methods is further compounded by the pairing of modest drywall plaster with dustings of gold leaf. Playing on our faculties of visual categorization and pattern recognition, Loong thus subjects our preconceptions of rarity and banality to an artistic undoing.

In contrast, Zulkifli Lee navigates contemporary art practice with the Islamic aesthetic philosophy of Nazzariyah, emphasizing the empirical materiality of his works above a prescribed narrative. Working with natural mediums such as dirt, soil, sand, limestone, and rust, Lee engages with their physical and phenomenological properties. Informed by principles of abstraction, modular structure, successive combination, repetition, dynamism, and intricacy that are found in traditional Islamic art, Lee produces personalized abstract, geometric patterns tessellated by a dynamic play between order and chance, between human intervention and nature’s hand. These paintings are accentuated by a series of minimalist modular sculptures, harmonizing materials that seem to at first be contradictory opposites. Here, the organicity of wood is fused with metal, interlocked in a direct material exchange. The participatory element in some of Lee’s sculptures further activates a space where the personal and public coalesce. Lee’s practice is inextricably linked to his cultural background and faith, involving the reclamation of abstraction as a long-held Islamic aesthetic tradition, with an emphasis on organicity, community, and man’s interconnectedness with nature.

By exploring the parallels and contrasts between the exhibiting artists, FrictionaL brings into contact the two approaches to abstraction, embracing resistance as a productive force that generates their creative co-influence. The artists share a keen sensitivity to materiality, compelling the viewer to appreciate the corporeal and sensual aspects of their works, while questioning how they are embedded in larger systems of value.

Selected works