Curator Andrew Herdon on ‘Ambiguous Portrait of a Cunning Linguist’: Ikkan Art

David Copperfield, (detail), artwork by  Nicola Anthony
David Copperfield, (detail), artwork by Nicola Anthony

Curator Andrew Herdon gives us a little insight into the upcoming exhibition he has carefully put together at Ikkan Art Gallery, showcasing artworks that use language as a medium:

“This is a challenging, playfully serious, group exhibition of international artists.  Highlighting the mysterious gulf between images and words.  At first appearance it is a somewhat ‘dry’ show.  A show about language and the use of text or symbols as the artist’s medium.  Our minds work in a hybrid of visual and verbal modes, and many artists give these categories equal value – the power of a word being as important as an image.  Combining words and images in inventive ways challenges audiences to rethink the interplay between visual and verbal communication.   In Singapore especially, the power of language (particularly English) is very relevant.  Sometimes words can be more powerful than graphic images (bringing censorship into discussion), and combined in art they communicate on many levels of meaning.  How we interpret words versus visual stimuli, the varying methods of communication and understanding and Verbal imagery (the descriptive use of words to create a picture) are central concerns in this exhibition.

The ‘sexy/ambiguous/tongue-in-cheek’ exhibition title has caused much amusing and serious discussion with people I have met recently.  People will either understand one literal meaning of the exhibition title, or something entirely different that will cause a small smile, or they will see multiple meanings, or not understand it at all.  This is very important to me, as often ‘Lost in Translation’ incidents are frequent on my travels around Asia, but through misunderstanding something is learnt.  It is funny and fascinating to see people’s reaction to the title if they understand its play on words from something serious sounding to something that has ‘schoolboy’ amusement, and when it is lost in translation and needs explaining to them.  These thoughts are reflected in the artworks selected for the exhibition.  Language as a medium offers artists the means to directly engage in an open-ended dialogue, compelling the viewer (or rather, the reader) to explore realms beyond the physical presence of an object in a gallery, whilst the complexity of language has the ability to both inform and confound us.  In this exhibition, the letter, the word, a phrase, or a symbol are seen and experienced, and not necessarily read – embracing language’s malleable state: its ambiguity, its penchant for questions, subtexts and double meanings.”


Ikkan Art Gallery_Ambiguous Portrait of a Cunning Linguist (Verbal Imagery in Art)


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