Indian Atlantic by David Jacobs (New York) and Jordan Gower (Australia)

Indian Atlantic

David Jacobs (New York) and Jordan Gower (Australia)

29 & 30 March 2014, INSTINC SOHO

Text by Lim Jia Ning Michelle

Parched painted leaves, a limp fish in a container used for washing – for an exhibition named after two vast bodies of water, there is perhaps some irony that Indian Atlantic came in the wake of a prolonged drought here in sunny Singapore.

Might it be that the weather triggered such works as Jordan Gower’s “Two Capes Joined by the Distance Between Them” and David Jacobs' "Plenty of Fish in the Sea"? The former references seascape in shades of blue almost forlorn in their thirst for water, while the fish in the latter work appears more stuck than its hopeful title might suggest.

Still elsewhere, brittle leaves appear amidst small stones and cracked earth in Jacobs' painting entitled, "Thailand Land". This phrase approaches tautology in its eagerness to describe. It possesses both a wry humour and an objectivity that encourages its viewer's cultural bearings to meet the work halfway. These qualities seem to be at the forefront of Jacobs' practice.

Above the doorway of the art space, Jacobs has installed a sculptural piece entitled “This American Life”. This fragment, a stand-in for the quintessential suburban American home, takes on uncanny associations to the shophouse motif that is more idiomatic in our local context. The art object is an anchor that holds steady in the seas of meaning that change from perceiver to perceiver.

While Jacobs is interested in having his work inhabit that shifting space so contingent on cultural constructs, it appears that Gower's preoccupation with space is less rooted in semiotics and more so in the very materiality of the object. His training as a printmaker is evident in his scrutiny of the relationship between ink and surface, as well as the relationship between surface and objecthood in an artwork.

“Fifteen Descriptions of Space and Vision” comprises fifteen leaf specimens that have been coated with paint on both sides. On the top surface, layers of white, black and blue mask the natural surface of the leaves. Hints of fluorescent orange peek out from beneath the folds, drawing attention to the gaps in space between the smooth paper and the organic curves of the leaves.

Likewise, in “Two Capes Joined by the Distance Between Them” one gets caught between the tendency to enter the horizon created by the colour fields, and the impulse to observe the work for what it physically is; ink on textured Kozo paper. Up close, especially, the paper grain and watermarks become sentries that restrict access into that illusionistic space which our human minds are so fond of. Instead of the infinite space that the pure whiteness promises, we are called to consider the paradox of perception: the simultaneous possibilities of material and illusion.

Such paradoxes are no mirage. Competing propositions unfold as one enters new vistas forged from the indeterminate cultural and physical spaces presented in Indian Atlantic. Drink it in.

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