With the recent spate of celebrity suicides in just the past few months – fashion designer Kate Spade, chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, Swedish DJ and producer Avicii – a renewed spotlight has been shone on the issue of mental health. It is very timely indeed, then, that a new art exhibition has launched at art gallery Chan + Hori Contemporary to tackle and discuss mental health conditions.
Supported by Johnson & Johnson Singapore Pte Ltd (J&J), the exhibition, titled Breaking Waves, consists of a series of carefully selected and curated artworks by Singapore-based artists. The exhibition aims to encourage the open discussion of mental health issues and its impact on society, making this traditionally stigmatised topic more recognised and accessible for everyone.
The exhibition is split into two parts – the first, called The Deepest Blue, is curated by freelance writer, journalist and digital strategist Racy Lim, as well as art historian, researcher and independent curator Joella Kiu. Four artists are each paired up with a significant historical artist to draw inspiration from for their artworks, which all embody a water-based theme.
Amanda Tan (Empyreal)’s mise-en-scène video installations references Virginia Woolf’s fluid writing style, while Renée Ting’s two-part conceptual piece takes from Frida Kahlo’s artistic practice to explore her own connection with water and mentalism. Meanwhile, Chloë Manasseh’s triptych, which alludes to the rippling effect of mental health, is inspired by Helen Frankenthaler’s use of space vis-a-vis colour. Lastly, Zelda Fitzgerald’s works and her penchant for storytelling are told through Tan Yang Er’s immersive mixed-media installation.
The second part of the exhibition, Head spinning, loop creating, is curated by artist and curator Nicolette Teo and similarly features four artists, including Teo herself, who interpreted different experiences with anxiety and explored them in a physical setting.
Mithra Jeevananthan’s silkscreen prints, which are set in a fictional world in the amygdala (the part of our brain that controls fear and emotions), explore the inner workings of the mind. Yoo Seung Ji’s work similarly highlights her innermost thoughts while searching for a ‘safe-space’. Kheyton Lim makes a statement about how anxiety can be a daily occurrence with his assemblages in living spaces, while Teo imbues calm and serenity into space with her videos and drawings on tracing paper.
A 2010 study by the Institute of Mental Health found that locally, almost 10 per cent of the population will suffer from some sort of mood or anxiety disorder at some point of their adulthood. Despite the prevalence and seriousness of mental health, it remains a somewhat taboo topic in our society.
The exhibition aims to change this by improving social awareness, such that mental health can be treated as equally as physical health. Said Eugene Yoo, Hospital Group Director, J&J: “Breaking Waves is an avenue to get people in Singapore thinking about the importance of mental health and speaking up if they suspect they need help.”
Breaking Waves is part of the DISINI Festival. The exhibition runs from Saturday, 23 June 2018 to Sunday, 22 July 2018, at Chan + Hori Contemporary, Gillman Barracks. Admission is free.
Main image: Work-in-progress still of The .Wavs, Amanda Tan (Empyreal), 2018.