KINDLY NOTE THAT THIS EXHIBITION WILL BE CLOSED 1 – 4 MARCH 2021 AND
REOPENS 5 – 7 MARCH 2021 DURING SINGAPORE ART BOOK FAIR.
Campur, Tolak, Kali, Bahagi, Sama Dengan (Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide, Equals) is a solo project by late and cherished artist Roslisham Ismail aka Ise. In 2016 during a short trip in Germany, Ise jotted down in his notebook the title of a much-contemplated solo project: Campur, Tolak, Kali, Bahagi, Sama Dengan (Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide, Equals), to which he returned two years later when eventually, such an exhibition became possible in Kuala Lumpur. Ise saw in basic arithmetic operations and their specific properties, a reflection of his artistic process Actions are performed differently; the results could be the same. “Painters 100 years ago—” explains Ise in an interview “—also went to the market to buy vegetables and put them in a still life painting. For me it was the same. I went to the market and put the food on display. It’s just another way of working.”
An exhibition that takes place a little more than one year since the artist’s passing rightfully carries deeper significance and responsibility. While this exhibition was not conceived as a survey of Ise’s broad practice, it is defined, as the title suggests, by a reflexive scope. Although produced four years apart, the two bodies of work that shape this project intimately interconnect. Seamlessly they capture Ise’s art-making process, his distinctive ways of navigating the world and embedding the serendipity of life and social encounters in artistic practice.
Aimed to foster connections between artists and a new context, to provide much-needed time and space for reflection and encounters, artist-in-residence programmes represented an important catalyst in the development of Ise’s artistic practice. Their nature suit Ise’s method of working, social flair, endless curiosity and conceivably offered a means to take distance from a familiar environment and reflect on it from afar. A ramification of his residency project at Bangkok University Gallery, Operation Bangkok (2014) maps Ise’s encounters with the city and its inhabitants. From the abandoned New World Mall, Thieves’ Market, Crocodile Temple (Wat Chakrawat) to anti-government protests in Lumpini Park, to name a few, Ise guides us to places and events meaningful to those for whom Bangkok is home. We discover through Ise’s eyes and interactions, Bangkok as a living city rather than a tourist destination on the global market.
Fictional characters have been recurrent in Ise’s drawings informed by the visual vernacular of comics. In 2018, he started a collaboration with the comic book artist Ibrahim Hamid (Pak Him), whose work Ise knew since primary school. In the vicissitudes of life, they first met at the hospital in Kota Bharu, where both were undergoing dialysis treatment. Ise commissioned Pak Him to execute, following his instructions and study drawings, a series of graphic novel illustrations. These comics, displayed in mobile lightboxes, employ strategies of self-narration situating Ise inside the story as protagonist. Checked for hours at Christchurch’s customs under the odd suspicion of being a “drug designer”; mugged in Barcelona at knifepoint; stopped by the police in Jakarta after Malaysia won a regional cup in a football match against Indonesia but backed by his peers, and so on, Ise revived his micro-narratives through a fictionalised persona and Pak Him’s craftsmanship. Portraying himself within a world with many others, friends and strangers alike, Ise affirmed his continuous interest in the virtues and intricacies of the social.
The publication of this exhibition takes the format of a special issue of SentAp!, the magazine founded by curator Nur Hanim Khairuddin and Ise in 2005. Dedicated to Ise, this issue is designed by Yan; and it includes a welcome note by Ute Meta Bauer, a series of interviews by writer Tan Zi Hao with the curators Ark Fongsmut, Nur Hanim Khairuddin, and Russell Storer; an essay and a conversation with ruangrupa by curator Anca Rujoiu.
Roslisham Ismail aka Ise’s solo project is realised in collaboration with Ise parkingproject Foundation with the support of A+ Works of Art and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. The exhibition is presented in The Lab at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore between 16 January – 28 February 2021.
Roslisham Ismail aka Ise (Malaysia, 1972–2019) was an artist whose practice spanned across media, from drawings, collages, animations, installations, to social structures. Ise was the founder of parkingproject, an artist-run project established in 2003 in his apartment in Kuala Lumpur, and a co-founder in 2005 of the art publication sentAp!. Ise was selected or invited in numerous residencies such as at the Asian Cultural Council, New York (2016); NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2015); Bangkok University Gallery (2014); 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (2012); Seoul Art Space Hongeun (2011); Britto, Dhaka (2010); The Gunnery Studio, Artspace, Sydney (2006); ruangrupa, Jakarta (2004); KHOJ International Artists’ Association, New Delhi (2003).
His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Laundromat Project, New York (2016); Bangkok University Gallery (2014); Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur (2010); Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur Gallery (2008); Australia High Commission, Gallery 4A, Sydney (2007); Kedai Kebun Forum, Yogyakarta, (2007) and Asia-Australia Art Centre, Sydney (2006). His work has also been presented in group exhibitions at the Sharjah Art Biennial, Asian Art Biennial, Taipei, Jogja Art Biennial (all in 2019); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (all in 2017); Goethe-Institut, Singapore International Festival of Arts (2016); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2015); NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2015); Arter, Istanbul (2014); OPENHAUS, ZK/U, Berlin (2014) and Asian Art Biennale, Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, Taichung (2013), among others. Ise completed his Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam.
Anca Rujoiu (Romania/Singapore) is a curator and editor based in Singapore. As curator for exhibitions and later head of publications (2013–2018), she was part of the founding team of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. In 2019, she was the co-curator of the third edition of the Art Encounters Biennial, Timișoara, approached as a one-year institutional programme. Whether working in a contemporary art centre, an independent space, an art school, or in the context of a biennial, she has been passionate about stretching art’s publicness, working across formats. First-Person Institutions, her PhD research at Monash University in Melbourne is focused on institution building, artists’ archives, and transnational imaginaries.
Image: Campur, Tolak, Kali, Bahagi, Sama Dengan (Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide, Equals), 2021, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, installation view.