Focus: Five Trees Make a Forest by Donna Ong
This exhibition features Singapore artist Donna Ong’s selection of lithographic reproductions, juxtaposed against the watercolor works of Charles Dyce.
Featuring Singapore’s Donna Ong’s selection of lithographic reproductions, juxtaposed against the watercolor works of Charles Dyce from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition ‘Five Trees Make a Forest’ is a collaboration between Ong, NUS Museum as well as Asia Research Institution.
In reviewing impressions of ‘tropics’ through scientific journals, travelogues and illustrations initiated by colonial voyages from the 18th to 20th centuries, Ong discovers that these images are intentionally romanticised, even when the creators have had all relevant information and reference data at their disposal. When the lithographs are viewed together with the watercolor studies of Dyce – in situ paintings the expatriate did during his voyage and residence in Penang in the mid-19th century English settlement – the works express an arguably ecological position that subconsciously attempts to obfuscate the anthropological component in a sort of abstraction from reality.
Ong attempts to further deconstruct the idea of a forest by creating a forest made out of paper. This begets the question: How many elements of flora and how layered and lush should they be to perform the verdure that continually engulfs us in a tropical site? Is it five trees? Is through the palette in the tradition of image-making of nature?
Above all, ‘Five Trees Make A Forest’ points to how artistic agency shape the images that circulate in history and eventually ‘return’ to the people who participate as subjects to that history. What people collect as images project their individual construction of their lived time – ‘Five Trees Make a Forest’ recognizes the imprints from these documents and these lived views.
This story was first published in Art Republik. The exhibition is ongoing until September 4, 2016 at the NUS Museum. More information is available here.