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V. Atas

Telok Ayer Arts Club

12 Sep - 9 Nov 2019

— It is the heart of the Central Business District with offices ranging from
tech firms to banks, and all its corresponding uniforms—with your tech bros usually in jeans and t-shirts, and others in
pressed shirts and dress pants. It is the latter, and all it signified, that caught the eye of young Singaporean artist
Zhang Fuming, whose earlier works had focussed on the labour and livelihood of blue-collar workers. From 12
September to 9 November, Telok Ayer Arts Club is pleased to present his third solo exhibition v. atas—that is, very
atas. The word "atas" is a Malay preposition similar to "above", and has been adopted by our status-conscious society
into colloquial usage to describe something or someone that is high-class.

In the era of social media, we are constantly bombarded by photos of conspicuous consumption and flashy
success together with the fetishising of hustling (#hustle). This exhibition probes at that carefully cultivated image.
Fuming has created a series of woodcut prints featuring tightly-cropped tableaux of faceless men in suits going
about their daily activities—lounging at the desk, taking a call in the office, and shaking hands after signing a new
deal. But why wear a suit in this tropical heat and humidity? Aphorisms like “dress for the job you want, not the job
you have” and “dress how you want to be addressed” imply that the image and appearance of material success is
key to actual success. Especially so in a status-conscious and image-driven society. In short, fake it till you make it—it
is all part of the hustle. The artist has also created an installation of a photo studio backdrop showing a luxurious
domestic interior that viewers can insert themselves into—a cheeky jab at the desire to project the image of a
covetable life.

Working closely and alongside the variable characteristics of the woodblock, Fuming’s prints often reveal
rather than obscure its grains and imperfections. The coarseness of the timber is further highlighted through the
almost exclusive use of black and white in his prints, which draws the viewer’s eyes to focus on the rich uneven

textures of its surface and of the image itself. Just as labour is a recurring theme in many of his works, it is also
mirrored in the crudely hewed marks made from strips of islands left to stand in the recessed areas of the block,
hinting at the hidden labour of chiselling and gouging away un-inked surfaces. These visual asperities make more
expressively brutal his narratives of the everyday Singaporean, of their struggle and survival, of the obsession over
material wealth and social status, of societal pressure to achieve a narrowly defined idea of success and the
concomitant competitiveness it breeds—like scratches into the sleek veneer of prosperity and progress that make the
image of Singapore society.

V. Atas by Zhang Fuming
V Atas.jpg
Telok Ayer Arts Club exhibition by Singaporean artist and printmaker Zhang Fuming
Woodcut print by Zhang Fuming. Singaporean artist and printmaker
Installation of Woodcut prints by Singaporean artist and printmaker Zhang Fuming
Art Installation and woodcut prints by Zhang Fuming

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