May 17-20, 2012


Presented by Yavuz Fine Art 


Curated by Steven Pettifor



After the overwhelming success of Navin Rawanchaikul's representation with Yavuz Fine Art at Art Stage Singapore 2012, the Singapore-based gallery is proud to reunite with artist Navin for the unique exhibition booth presentation, A Tale of Two Cities, at ART HK 12


Exploring aspects of community from a geo-cultural perspective, A Tale of Two Cities incorporates deliberately nostalgic photographic studio-style paintings, alongside documentary video, textual work, and sculptural installation. Developed from Navin's penetrations into Hong Kong's historic market areas that centred upon candid interviews with resident vendors, this new chronographic series traces the dramatic changes within urban Asian mercantile traditions. Within such a context, the artist draws Dickensian parallels to his own familial experience being raised within the once bustling central market in his hometown of Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.  


The son of Hindu-Punjabi immigrants to Thailand, Navin spreads his time between Chiang Mai and his adoptive home of Fukuoka in Japan. Since the early 1990s, the 41-year-old artist has become renowned for creating an animated and accessible brand of situational art, which incorporates an entertaining theatre of media, methods, and collaborative characters. Creating elaborate egocentric narratives that blur fact and fantasy, his artistic approach involves direct interventions, social commentary, and an innovative style of integrating community or individual experiences.


Imbuing the spirit of 17th century Dutch Golden Age civic portraits, A Tale of Two Cities centres upon two grand panoramic group portraits of Chiang Mai's and Hong Kong's commercial fraternity. In Thailand, the cast gathers in the focal point of the town's historic Kad Luang market, the site where Navin's family established the O.K. fabric store upon their arrival in Thailand. Adapting the fading genre of photographic studio portraiture, Navin extends the series through sepia paintings of the Rawanchaikul ancestry in a sentimental fanciful projection of epochal and cross-cultural possibility.


A sense of periodic commemoration straddles time and place in a blurred cross-generational framing that references past and present, with implications to the future. The intimate autobiographical associations allude to the consequences of migration upon familial obligation. Sincere video interviews from Hong Kong merchants also invoke the rapid pace of progress being witnessed across Asia, state interventions towards such end, the surge of global commerce, and the uncertain future for existing communities.


Empowering individuals and entire communities by reigniting a sense of mutual pride that is fast diminishing, A Tale of Two Cities is optimistic towards tolerance and respect in contrast to modern society's effacement to the bonds of generational legacy. A recurrent theme in Navin's oeuvre, this is evident in the recognition of abandoned seniors in a fresh reinterpretation of the artist's seminal 1994 tiered bottle installation There is No Voice. In the pertinent 2012 re-visitation, the message-in-a-bottle photographic archive reaffirms the educational, historic, and cultural significance our seniors can imbue, if we take time to preserve.  


Click here to watch a video documentary about the project.

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