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Visual Arts

Tang Ling Nah

Art, architecture and the urban condition


Published: 6 Mar 2020

Such spaces are constantly in a state of flux, reflecting the condition of an ever-changing city. It is a microcosm of the bigger world outside.

Tang Ling Nah speaking about her interest in transitional spaces over an email interview

Title of exhibition: An Other Space《另•外•空間》
Date: 19 Oct 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
Location: Jendela (Visual Arts Space)

Title of exhibition: The World Outside 《外面的世界》
Date: 12 Nov 2010 – 2 Jan 2011
Location: Esplanade Tunnel

Nearly two decades into her career, Tang Ling Nah has achieved a unique artistic signature through her charcoal drawings and distinct architectural sensibility. While reminiscent of trompe l'oeil, Tang’s work does not merely seek to deceive the eye, but also open the mind. Her multidisciplinary practice, which also includes performances and videos, work together to explore the simultaneous vastness and intimacy of urban spaces. She touches on ennui, interpersonal relationships, transit and time through the exploration of cities, buildings, and liminal spaces. By utilising familiar imagery in her work, she encourages viewers to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings, and to question their relationship to the spaces they inhabit as they move around and about the city.

Tang’s keen awareness of architecture is reflected in the work that she has presented at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Her exhibitions are site-specific, inspired by and responding to the spaces where they are held. In 2010, Tang collaborated with design collective atelier | small to present a drawing installation The World Outside《外面的世界》at the Esplanade Tunnel. Tang used charcoal and paint to create illusions of rooms and stairwells along the walls of the Tunnel, forming a labyrinth of hauntingly empty spaces. This expansion operates beyond the aesthetic experience. The Tunnel, being a point of connection between two places, is highly transitional and thus a space where people would pass through without much thought. The installation reflects its nature by acting as a space where they can connect to the world beyond the tunnel walls through their imagination. Her play on light, shadow and perspective create a surrealistic atmosphere where the world of the viewer and the world that she created merge into one.

Her most recent presentation, An Other Space《另•外•空間》, follows in a similar vein by using the peculiarities of a space to act as a conceptual anchor. “Jendela” stems from the Malay word for “window”, and is so named after its distinctive louvred windows that run down the length of its outermost curved wall. The window and its significance in demarcating space (inside versus outside, private versus public) become a focal point, with different permutations appearing throughout the four spaces created within the exhibition. Tang highlights the window by covering all but one in the room titled the “Contemplation Room”, allowing the natural light streaming in to contrast with the spotlights used in the rest of the exhibition. The viewer can also see a small tree and the scenery outside the opened window, switching one’s perspective from a drawn illusionary world to the real external world.Taking the duality on the window as a departure point, Tang prompts the viewers to consider their own interpersonal relationships with space and place, both in a tangible and metaphysical sense. She brings the city beyond the windows into the space of Jendela itself, providing an intimate space for contemplation: How does one understand the space within themselves, in relation to their own environment. When space is regarded as an “other”, how does it change our perception and our relationship with it? An Other Space《另•外•空間》thus bridges our inner worlds with the outside world, blurring the lines between reality and illusion.

Read Euginia Tan's essay about An Other Space《另•外•空間》
Visual Arts at Esplanade

Commissioned, curated and thematically developed by our Visual Arts team, Esplanade's quarterly exhibitions feature established and emerging artists whose contemporary Asian artistic expressions not only chronicle the issues and sentiments of the region, but also offer vital insight into the complexities of our changing cultural landscapes and identities. These shorts essays and interviews act as complementary material to the exhibitions, allowing for a richer and fuller perspective on the artists and their practice.

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