We know of the Renaissance era that led to glorifying the arts in 14th century, yet have we ever been educated about the women artist during that age? No surprises that they were not welcomed in the male-dominated profession. Devoting themselves to the church, convents were a liberating alternative to marriage where women could learn how to read and paint, the only available option as a female artist.
Thankfully that’s no longer the case, nevertheless there’s no denying that it is still a male-dominated industry. So when FACETS was announced, a group exhibition by five female artists who call their collective Cerebral V, was surely something to pay attention too. Consisting of Christine Das, Jasmine Kok, Lisa Foo, Poojitha Menon, and Yante Ismail, Cerebral V considers itself a collective of “thinking artists”.
Being familiar with some of the artists in the group, I believe that they all have their own their individual voices so I was looking forward to see them in one platform, together.
Lisa Foo’s Wind Dancers installation, constructed from mostly leaves and twigs drew much attention in Art in the Park and the idea of temporariness and environmental sustainability through material reuse was strongly showcased.
Yante Ismail’s work on the other hand is unapologetically bold, strong and beautiful. She lives up to Banksy’s quote where “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” and it’s very evident when you follow her progress in her work on social media.
Christine Das - Allure No. 4 (2015), Acrylic on Canvas, 61 x 91.5 cm
Then we have Christine Das who explores her identity of self, spirituality and relationship with the creator, paying tribute to the Catholic faith in her works. With a recognizable lines and vibrant colours that bring her paintings alive, Christine’s work brings a sense of tranquillity, a reflection perhaps of the artist itself.
So as a collective, naturally I was expecting more powerful work.
According to the curator Jamal Al-Idrus, the ideas and issues presented by Cerebral V is universal and addresses issues applicable to both female and male alike. Fair argument, but safe. With that being said, it takes away the only element that glues these group of women together – gender identity.
The curator repeatedly establishes this point during the interview with Lim Sun Heng on BFM that this exhibition is not centred on addressing women-specific issues. However when probed further to understand the underlying theme of the exhibition and even further on their goals as a group, they fail to give something concrete to grasp on.
That leads me to think, is Feminism a bad word? Is the curator afraid of being labelled feminist? If not, perhaps there wasn’t enough time to develop a strong enough theme before putting the show together?
I believe the role of a curator with a group exhibitions to establish an underlying theme to develop a cohesive collection of work. While the interpretation and style of each artists’ work could be completely different from each other, I couldn't find the glue that ties it all together.
With a collective of strong opinionated female artist represented in Cerebral V, it is disappointing that they somehow failed to come across more powerful as a group. Sadly it was a case where the artists seemed stronger on their own, rather than a collective.
Read more in Artemis Gallery Website.