The term ‘maker’ embraces notions of the direct involvement of the artist’s hand in creating and giving form to matter. In contrast to the conceptual or dematerialized turn in art, ‘making’ centres the intimate bond between hand, eye, heart, mind and material. Entwined with this approach is the idea of a continuous journey of mastering one’s chosen medium and craft. This slowness, or suspension of time invested in the joy of shaping things with one’s own hands, is an antidote perhaps, to the anonymous, mass-produced items typical of a time-scarce economy. The made object can also be construed as a solid anchor in a time when everything is set adrift: values, culture, relationships, ways of life.
In recent years, approaches and forms more conventionally associated with the sphere of ‘craft’ have entered the contemporary art lexicon. This shift in artmaking and thinking -- with its emphasis on materiality and the sensory, physical attributes of objects -- has broadened the sphere to include works from disciplines previously only tangentially acknowledged by art history, such as design, and the decorative arts. Importantly, this expanded field honours the time-honed skills of the maker, and creates space for considering the practices of creators previously excluded from the ‘canon’, allowing their work to speak equally as culturally signifying objects.
New Makers presents works by five young artists: Shayne Phua, Ong Si Hui, Carmen Ceniga Prado, Fa Wuthigrai Siriphon and Nucharin Wangphongsawasd. In their respective practices, materials or techniques previously abandoned in favour of the machine-made, or the conceptual / dematerialized turn in art, come to the fore, given new relevance by the application of new approaches to making. Blurring the lines between creative disciplines, and the boundaries between art and craft, the works of these new makers challenge the conventions of their respective mediums, and dissolve the borders that divide materials, culture, and history.
Shayne Phua (b. 1997, Singapore)
Working with the age-old medium of ceramics, Shayne Phua often finds herself questioning and oscillating between the positions of ‘artist’ and ‘craftsperson’. Her works turn conventions of ceramic vessels on their head, by playfully removing their functional aspects or exaggerating certain defining features such as ‘lip’, ‘neck’, and ‘feet’. Fascinated with bringing the past in conversation with the present, Shayne often draws inspiration from museum artefacts as well as vernacular culture. One of her recent series explores the use of traditional pastry moulds to create new ceramic forms, bringing into question the interplay between artist and artisan, domestic arts vs ‘fine art’, ‘tradition’ and the contemporary.
Ong Si Hui (b. 1993, Singapore)
Formally trained in sculpture, Ong Si Hui works extensively in stone, in particular offcuts of marble, which she retrieves from construction sites. Through slow and meticulous hand carving, she transforms her found material into geometric shapes that express various psychological states. In contrast to the monumentality traditionally associated with marble sculpture, her works often occupy a far more intimate space: their evocative forms appear to be made to nestle in the warmth of one’s palm, or cocooned in the corner of a room. Her recent series which combines marble sculptures with tools or household implements hinges on explorations of tension and balance, while a separate trajectory of work is developed from a progressive and almost mathematical reduction of form.
Carmen Ceniga Prado (b. 1995, Spain)
Carmen Ceniga Prado hand-carves blocks of wood, seeking to observe and connect the deeper self with the natural world. Working with the material qualities of her chosen medium, such as its grain, texture and mass, the artist creates allusive pieces that address the dualities of embodied as well as cosmic experience: light and darkness, energy and stillness, purity and sensuality. The qualities of the worked wood pieces also inform companion works on paper, where vortex-like forms echo the energy fields of the sculptures, and the shapeshifting internal hollows of the human body.
Fa Wuthigrai Siriphon (b. 1988, Thailand)
A lecturer, designer and weaver, Fa Wuthigrai Siriphon is deeply invested in exploring the relevance of traditional material knowledge and skills in contemporary culture. Fa pushes the boundaries of his practice by taking inspiration from different disciplines, seeking to combine for instance, the flowing linework and free-handed forms of painting with the grid-based structure of weaving. The series of work presented in New Makers takes as its starting point these two forms of Thai cultural heritage -- temple murals and woven textiles -- and deftly explores how their essence may be realized with a contemporary approach. Drawing on age-old techniques and materials such as manuscript wrapping and jewel beetle wings, Fa revitalizes traditions with an innovative approach to making and materials.
Nucharin Wangphongsawasd (b. 1984, Thailand)
Nucharin came to woodworking by chance after a stint in industrial design. Relishing the calmness, concentration and creativity that comes with working by hand, Nucharin seeks to expand the boundaries of woodworking in Thailand, both in terms of how it is perceived as well as the creative forms that can be realized in this medium. Her sculptural works evolve organically and without pre-planning, often inspired by repetitive patterns found both in nature as well as manmade forms. Free flowing in line and often characterized by a delicacy and lightness of form, Nucharin’s artworks range from multifunctional objets d’art, to lyrical and playful pieces that invite audiences to rethink the conventional sturdiness and solidity of wood and its utilitarian applications.