Anthologies Unearthed: Still Lifes by Dominic Thian
2 December 2023 – 17 December 2023
AC43 proudly presents Anthologies Unearthed, the debut solo exhibition of young Singapore artist Dominic Thian. Featuring 20 new oil works that explore the motif of flowers within the genre of Still Life, the treatments vary from intimate etudes of local flowers to exercises in aesthetic arrangement. The exhibition officially opens on Saturday, 2 December, 3 – 5pm with the artist in attendance. A special Dialogue session featuring the artist and Eve Hoon, Art Outreach Director (Programmes & Partnerships), will also be held at the gallery on Saturday, 9 December, 3 – 4pm. The dialogue will cover a comprehensive discussion of Dominic’s art and working processes.
Dominic explains that his exhibition title, ‘Anthologies Unearthed’ references two aspects of the word ‘Anthology’: First being the etymological aspect, where the word originally meant ‘a gathering of flowers’ in ancient Greek; second being the modern use of the word, which refers to a significant and eclectic collection of writings and poetry. ‘Unearthed’ refers to the act of representing the oft-unnoticed (and thus buried) motifs in our collective culture and consciousness.
In modern times as it was in ancient days, flowers adorn our ceremonies and rituals. We still use objects — heirlooms, gifts, icons, etc. — to heighten our (physical and symbolic) commitment to each other, whether it be between parent and child, spouses, friends or members of a community. This relationship to the corporeal (as opposed to digital) object is deeply embedded in our humanness and everyday interactions. The flower, as a cultural artefact and artistic motif, potently contains all the complexities of this human-object relationship. In this body of work, Dominic seeks to give tangible expressions to a variety of different emotions and thoughts that characterise one’s inner life. For intimacy and nostalgia, he sought local garden flowers and a loose yet minute rendering of their petals. The choice of flower, the symbolic quality of the objects, and the manner of painting were also carefully considered in other more poignant expositions of the flower motif.
For instance, Roses for Dai Yu was inspired by a specific scene in Cao Xueqin’s (曹雪芹) novel, Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦). In this scene, the mercurial protagonist Lin Daiyu (林黛玉) buries fallen petals in the ground to dispose of them in a dignified way. In the beauty of these fallen petals she finds a metaphor that describes the ineffable longings and trials of her heart. Dai Yu’s elegiac response towards the demise of the once-living flowers is an attempt to converse with the inexpressible while marking the fading of corporeal existence.
For Dominic, Dai Yu’s act of burying the petals is quite analogous to how motifs are sometimes embedded in artistic expressions. A work of art that projects the flower (and/or other selected objects) as a motif becomes an elegy that immortalises both the human-to-object experience as well as the motif itself. However, such laments are easily forgotten; even the simple beauty of a flower can quickly fade from our collective appreciation. Through these paintings, Dominic attempts to ‘unearth’ and rediscover the subtle qualities of the flower within the Still Life genre, encouraging audience to engage beyond the painted objects. According to Dominic, ‘The paintings are executed delicately and tenderly, as I would have been if I were brushing the dirt off some fragile, beautiful treasure buried beneath my feet.’
Arrangement in Red and White I, 2023, Oil on linen, 61 x 56 cm
Roses For Dai Yu, 2023, Oil on linen, 40.6 x 56 cm
Slippers of the Moon Bride, 2023, Oil on linen, 81.3 x 71 cm
Blue Moon Palace, 2023, Oil on linen, 66 x 86.4 cm
Impressions of Home V, 2023, Oil on linen, 35.5 x 20 cm
Arrangement in Red & White III, 2023, Oil on linen, 61 x 56 cm
About the Artist
Born in Singapore in 1996, Dominic Thian was drawn to the arts since young and spent much of his childhood drawing and cultivating his interest in the discipline. In 2018, Dominic took the bold step of quitting his major in Architecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in order to enrol at the renowned Grand Central Atelier (CGA) in New York. This gave him the opportunity to study under internationally-acclaimed figurative painters such as Colleen Barry, and other distinguished contemporary New York artists. He underwent an intensive curriculum of drawing and painting, and spent his time between classes studying the rich and vast collections of New England Museums. Upon completing his fine art training at the CGA in 2020, Dominic returned to Singapore to forge his path as a full-time painter specialising in still life, portrait and landscape. Apart from painting, he is active as an art teacher and organises workshops and community-driven figure and portrait drawing sessions. In 2022, Dominic was a Finalist in the 16th ARC International Salon Competition. In the same year, his self-portrait painting was shortlisted as part of an international selection of works chosen by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibition in honour of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Most recently, his painting was awarded ‘Best in Show’ in the 2023 Small Matter Art Prize.