|Ian Woo, 'We Have Crossed the Lake', image used with permission of the artist|
|Ian Woo, 'The Great Interior', image used with permission of the artist|
I loved the work by Abstract painter Ian Woo in his review show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Lasalle College of Fine Arts, SIngapore. I included a review of the show in a piece about contemporary art in Singapore I recently had posted on 'The Art Life' http://theartlife.com.au/?p=5698.
Here are my thoughts about the exhibition:
Lyrical and beautiful, without ever descending into empty gesture, or becoming formulaic, Woo’s body of work reveals a practice of unremitting commitment and a single-minded examination of the possibilities of colour, mark and surface. Owing a debt to Philip Guston and Susan Rothenberg, as well as to canonical abstract painters of the mid-20th century such as Kline or Motherwell, the works represent nevertheless a powerful and idiosyncratic visual language all his own. In works such as ‘We Have Crossed the Lake’, 2009, the figure-ground relationships demonstrate a confident knowledge that what is left out is just as important as what is shown. An energetic calligraphy of white and black lines scrawls with apparent abandon across the surface of the work, yet underlying the gestural mark-making is a sure, spare restraint which derives from his evident knowledge of Chinese ink-painting traditions.
Playing with hard edge shapes versus lyrical, smoky drifts of grey and ochre, an earlier work such as Before I give an answer I see a flower indicates more obviously the artist’s influence from New York painters such as Guston. The ethereal drawn lines of The Clearest Symbol, dating from 1997, tantalise with hints of mysterious half-seen objects or landscapes. The subtlety of the grey washes and stains and the spare restraint of the floating forms evoke a dream-like state. Large ink drawings in this show reinforced this sense of meditation – a surprising calm as many of the individual works are so filled with energy and crammed with disparate shapes, colours and forms. Woo has said he is interested in complication, confusion and connection, and this sense that the artist is working out difficult problems on the surface of each painting is a thread running through this show.
Ian Woo, Before I Give an Answer I See a Flower, image used with permission of the artist
'We have crossed the lake', indeed.
|Lasalle College of Fine Arts Buildings, Singapore|