BMW Young Asian Artists Series: Eric Chan, Heman Chong, Lieko Shiga, Natee Utarit and Yim Ja-Hyuk

The BMW Young Asian Artist Series 2007 represents the successful partnership between corporate sponsor BMW Asia and Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), with the aim of providing young and emerging artists to explore the artistic potential of print.

Under this series, 5 artists from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, each proficient in different disciplines, were invited to create 4 new works at STPI within a challenging 2-week time frame. Working in close collaboration with chief printer Eitaro Ogawa and his team of printers, the artists made use of all the printmaking techniques at their disposal, resulting in 21 works diverse in content and technique.


Eric Chan was one of the five artists involved in the first installation of the BMW Young Asian Artist Series. In October 2005, Eric brought in personal photographs from a recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey, as the basis for his prints when he initiated this project. Chan skillfully fused his painting and photographic techniques into a series of etchings exploring light and shadow. The pictures of streets and interiors in Istanbul, while resembling conventional negatives of black and white photographs, are enhanced with flocking to add visual depth and a three-dimensional quality. Chan’s manipulation of the surface of his prints creates an ambiguity in perception – and effect that his paintings are known for.


Heman Chong challenged the STPI team with a series of complex and dynamic silkscreen prints. Primarily a conceptual artist, Chong transposed a series of film noir titles onto paper, creating works that are reminiscent of Hard-Edge, Minimal and Op Art. Each print bears the title and director of the film, prompting viewers to visualise and connect memorable scenes from the movies to the prints by the suggestive power of the words and geometric images. All four films deal with the central concept of Totalitarianism, whereby bureaucracy imposed on individual lives leads to untenable situations.


Perhaps owing to her ballet background, Lieko Shiga’s works created a stage for both humans and locations. Setting the scene, she then recaptures it through photography, turning the ordinary into extraordinary. At STPI, the subjects of her prints are people whom she met in Singapore during her residency: Keng, Isabel’s Family, Baby Tamaki and Lily. In each image, she has created a mise-en-scène for her subjects, accentuating their dramatic qualities through further manipulation with print. For instance, she employed screenprinting techniques to create sprawling tattoos on Keng’s upper body, and additional pools of colour in Tamaki and Lily’s uncanny fantastical spaces. The juxtaposition of real people and their illusionary surroundings, such as Isabel’s Family, provokes unease and evoke a surreal, mysterious quality to her works.


An accomplished painter from Thailand, Natee Utarit was one of the five participating artists in the first installation of the BMW Young Asian Artists Series in 2007. Utarit’s paintings have evoked various genres, from abstraction and figurative art to romanticism, as in The Fragment and the Sublime series. For this residency, Utarit wanted to approach his favorite motif of flowers from a different perspective – thus their deliberately enhanced graphic quality. The flowers created by Utarit are perfectly shaped, yet the touches of colour given to each print both distort and emphasize the artificiality of his subjects.
Taking motifs from her then-recent major wall installation at Korea’s Leeum-Samsung Museum of Art, Korean artist Yim Ja Hyuk proceeded to transform her wall drawings into prints. An accomplished watercolorist and draughtsman, her artistic process at STPI reversed her usual order of working from prints as studies for larger wall drawings, to using the latter as inspiration for the final product of print. Taking on this challenge of reducing larger scale ideas to works of a more intimate size, she found the task of cutting out all the plates and inking them in different colours an exciting prospect. This resulted in pieces such as The Extracted Islets, which contains various trademark images of her wall drawings. The choice and treatment of her subject matter, such as owls, birds, and the blood circulatory system, reflects the artist’s interest in the quirkiness of nature.