Clang. A Self Portrait


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ming76

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Esplanade
When: 10 Jun 2004 (Thu), 11.00 AM - 11 Jul 2004 (Sun), 8.30 PM at the Jendela

New York-based John Clang's conceptual photography installation is a visual diary of his feelings and expressions on issues relevant to his identity as a Singaporean. Through this series of collaborative works featuring a character called Beon, Clang reflects on topics as diverse as reactions to last year's SARS epidemic and loneliness in the HDB heartland. Witty and tongue-in-cheek, there is nevertheless a serious undertone to Clang's work that deftly captures the poignancy of dreams and realities shared in Singapore urbanscape.

Free Admission.
 

StreetShooter

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OK.

Meaning no disrespect to the artist, but don't waste your time. I wasted mine. I'm not a professional art critic, so I don't have to be politically correct, and I'm not a professional photographer, so I can't be accused of professional jealousy.

Basically I left very unimpressed, to say the least. His NYC fashion portfolio is OK (I'm not a good judge of fashion photography, but I do know they thrive on hyperbole over there).

The exhibition consists of about 4 sets of photos.

The first set is made up of three gigantic prints dominating the left side of the gallery. There's an expressionless short Chinese guy with acne scars posing with a statuesque model. Then they get closer. Then he kisses her. That's it. Supposed to show "loneliness in the heartland". Huh?

Then there's "SARS", which has an expressionless short Chinese guy with acne scars wearing a mask and blue shorts only, and sitting around in various poses, staring expressionlessly at the camera. Supposed to show alienation and what-not during the SARS epidemic.

Then there's "Stray Cat", which are snapshots (probably using a P&S) of a short Chinese guy etc (you get the picture) wearing only a pair of blue shorts crawling around on all fours pretending to be a stray cat in the HDB heartlands. Supposed to show the loneliness of cats being culled during the SARS epidemic. More likely a homoerotic attempt, if you ask me.

And finally, (and ironically) "Asleep" (or was it "Sleeping"? I was catatonic by then) provides a glimmer of entertainment. That same guy is found sleeping in all sorts of places (in front of cars, on an escalator, on some steps) with a pillow below his head, and the passersby are giving him strange looks. Worth a couple of chuckles, maybe.

There's an example of it on the promotional blurb here

To be fair to him, I took a look at some of his other exhibits online (www.johnclang.com) and was similarly unimpressed.

"Backs", taken in Tokyo, just shows the backs of various people, superimposed on different backgrounds. Very much like an early (gutless) street photographer's works. We've all taken these pics and deleted them immediately.

"NYC ghost" has got all these snapshots of various places (presumably in NYC) with a stream of water down the middle of the frame. Was there a ghost hovering above him, peeing every time he took a shot or something? I'm non-plussed, to say the least. This is art?

I half suspect he's having everyone on, and laughing all the way to the bank at the pretentiousness of the people who actually think he's artistic. His work is so "La Salle" and sophomoric (or is that sophomoronic?). Oops, did I offend some other people? I can't believe he's actually serious about this.

That said, you must then greatly admire him for his ability to promote and market himself. I suppose that is where his real genius lies. Take a look at the tips he gives on the Kodak website (do a Google for John Clang), and you get a glimpse of how he got where he is.

As for me, sorry, but the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
 

#3
heh heh heh.. I guess different people feels differently about John huh... I think he's alittle hyped up by the Singapore media (nowsadays, you mention John Clang and everyone goes:"ohh.. that photography guy who went US and make tonnes of money right?")

Still, I like his abstracts and fashion concepts. :)
 

sequitur

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#4
SS,

a simple explanation to this would be that we're street photographers.

like i try to port street photography to portraiture photography - fashion photography - whatever,


he's trying to port fashion photography style (a fixed "art" direction, fixed "theme", a series of recurring images /styles) into street photography. (which apparently doesn't really work with some of us)

lol
 

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#5
Well this is what you call ART for sure.....

You really cannot define ART. It's too subjective. JC has it's way of showing his point of view which many of us find it unable to accept the way he shoots.

Went we look at photos, most of the time our visual concept is a photograph should be beautiful/nice and pleasant to look at. Looking at his work on the net and you realise I can shoot this too.

I am sure JC has his concept on how HIS photos should convey with a different perspective and point of view. How many of us would actually shoot someone from the back? I can let you know that JC is eccentric with his style but wait until you see the other photographers in the states.......it will sure to blow your mind away.

I have seen some weird and you would call it "this is just a normal photograph" but to some artiste this means the whole world to them. And there are bound to have other people not accepting well.

Anyway, this is my point of view as an artiste.

Just my 2 cents thought.

Not offending the thread starter and the rest.......PEACE MAN!
 

#6
Every time the topic of "Art" is discussed, people will come up with so many philosophical answers. Everyone have deferring taste.

After looking at the links, I concur with StreetShooter that it is indeed a complete waste of time.
 

Kiv

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#7
Photography is all about creativity. It is an art. And I'm not trying to be pretentious here when I say I was totally impressed with what I saw on Clang's website. How many out there can be this original? I mean...who can't take pretty pics of flowers and sunrise? A question all photographers should ask themself is...are your photos even unique? or can they be easily reproduceable by any photographer who's just as skilled? In other words, do you have a style or a mark which you can call your own?

John's series has a concept. The merits of works doesn't lie only in the aesthetics of the pics themselves, but in the totality of the idea he's trying to convey.

In conclusion, I just wanna say...he's hot, he's making it...so there's obviously a reason. Luck can only take you so far.
 

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Kiv said:
Photography is all about creativity. It is an art. And I'm not trying to be pretentious here when I say I was totally impressed with what I saw on Clang's website. How many out there can be this original? I mean...who can't take pretty pics of flowers and sunrise? A question all photographers should ask themself is...are your photos even unique? or can they be easily reproduceable by any photographer who's just as skilled? In other words, do you have a style or a mark which you can call your own?

John's series has a concept. The merits of works doesn't lie only in the aesthetics of the pics themselves, but in the totality of the idea he's trying to convey.

In conclusion, I just wanna say...he's hot, he's making it...so there's obviously a reason. Luck can only take you so far.
nothing to do with JC, but yes, how many photograhers here are creative in their works???

how many ppl actually has a style??

taste is very subjective

never been down to see JC works so no comment on that.
 

#11
I just want to add a few personal point of view:

(1) Difference btw a photographer and an artist is that a photographer merely captures an image whereas an artist brings the attention of the viewer to something the viewer has never noticed / seen.

(2) When an artist tries to engage the viewer, the idea must be able to flow smoothly. The pic need not be easy to understand but the viewer must be able to get the idea by himself. (You don't need commentaries or the artist beside you to understand the work). If the reader does not understand, the artist would have failed.

What do I want to say?

I have never seen JC's work...so I shall not comment.

But if many do not understand his work, he would have failed miserably as an artist.

This doesn't matter how creative you are. You can be the most creative person in the world but you are unable to convey your views to others. You would still have failed in art.

Art is about communications.
 

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#12
I guess when your name is big and famous, you can shoot a pile of manure and still call it an artistic piece of work :)

StreetShooter said:
OK.

Meaning no disrespect to the artist, but don't waste your time. I wasted mine. I'm not a professional art critic, so I don't have to be politically correct, and I'm not a professional photographer, so I can't be accused of professional jealousy.

Basically I left very unimpressed, to say the least. His NYC fashion portfolio is OK (I'm not a good judge of fashion photography, but I do know they thrive on hyperbole over there).

The exhibition consists of about 4 sets of photos.

The first set is made up of three gigantic prints dominating the left side of the gallery. There's an expressionless short Chinese guy with acne scars posing with a statuesque model. Then they get closer. Then he kisses her. That's it. Supposed to show "loneliness in the heartland". Huh?

Then there's "SARS", which has an expressionless short Chinese guy with acne scars wearing a mask and blue shorts only, and sitting around in various poses, staring expressionlessly at the camera. Supposed to show alienation and what-not during the SARS epidemic.

Then there's "Stray Cat", which are snapshots (probably using a P&S) of a short Chinese guy etc (you get the picture) wearing only a pair of blue shorts crawling around on all fours pretending to be a stray cat in the HDB heartlands. Supposed to show the loneliness of cats being culled during the SARS epidemic. More likely a homoerotic attempt, if you ask me.

And finally, (and ironically) "Asleep" (or was it "Sleeping"? I was catatonic by then) provides a glimmer of entertainment. That same guy is found sleeping in all sorts of places (in front of cars, on an escalator, on some steps) with a pillow below his head, and the passersby are giving him strange looks. Worth a couple of chuckles, maybe.

There's an example of it on the promotional blurb here

To be fair to him, I took a look at some of his other exhibits online (www.johnclang.com) and was similarly unimpressed.

"Backs", taken in Tokyo, just shows the backs of various people, superimposed on different backgrounds. Very much like an early (gutless) street photographer's works. We've all taken these pics and deleted them immediately.

"NYC ghost" has got all these snapshots of various places (presumably in NYC) with a stream of water down the middle of the frame. Was there a ghost hovering above him, peeing every time he took a shot or something? I'm non-plussed, to say the least. This is art?

I half suspect he's having everyone on, and laughing all the way to the bank at the pretentiousness of the people who actually think he's artistic. His work is so "La Salle" and sophomoric (or is that sophomoronic?). Oops, did I offend some other people? I can't believe he's actually serious about this.

That said, you must then greatly admire him for his ability to promote and market himself. I suppose that is where his real genius lies. Take a look at the tips he gives on the Kodak website (do a Google for John Clang), and you get a glimpse of how he got where he is.

As for me, sorry, but the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
 

nightwolf75

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#13
just read his interview with 8 days today. frankly speaking, not very impressed with his attitude, after reading the piece. happen to see some of his pics when i was attending the yo yo ma concert last sun with my wife. not very impressed, as some of you have mentioned. i think the works by the students of objectifs (displayed along the esplande tunnel) looks more interesting! :bsmilie:
 

igpenguin

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#14
My perception as an outsider is that the arts world is highly politicised - it's about connections and reputation, knowing who's who to curate, fund works, sponsor venues. So it's not purely about talent but also about luck and opportunities as well. In the first place, art is terribly subjective too - who and how is going to decide what works will be shown to the public, even in private spaces?

Ultimately I think artists have utmost responsibility to themselves to live fully as an artist, and not compromise their personal vision to working the "circuit" or externally-imposed boundaries.

Fulfilling personal visions could mean alienation - Vincent van Gogh died an unknown, selling only one painting in his lifetime. Few understood his paintings in his time; he received recognition posthumously.

Not to say one cannot straddle the politics/economics of the arts world and uncompromising personal vision - eg Picasso.

van Gogh and Picasso are two rather extreme examples really... while they are generally regarded as great artists, most would probably not want to emulate their lives as human beings.

i think an interesting experiment to do is to exhibit new works by artists without any reference to their names, without currative notes, to see what critics and the public think of the work. in other words, strike the politics/economics/sociology/reputation factors out of the question. without any ass to cover or to kiss, the artist can work anonymously to realise their most uncompromised vision.

Now er.. how does this tie in with the thread topic at hand??? basically i was just rambling ;P ultimately JC has himself to answer to as an artist, and tying to his theme, his own identity as a Singaporean. the exhibition is after all "A Self Portrait".
 

mattlock

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#15
hi, speaking from a new york viewpoint, art is alot about politics of course. anyone who wants to make it big better have connections, that's just a fact.
But don't overlook the most important purpose of art: to reveal new ideas and truths. Before you criticise someone's work, ask yourself whether it's due to the fact the work is weak and is lacking in ideas or that you just don't understand it.
Over here in new york many people actually take art seriously
And sometimes judging art anonymously doesn't say which piece is the best. There have been many pieces of art that require an explanation because the whole purpose of the piece is meant to stimulate avenues of thinking that weren't present in the viewer's mind before, and would require some form of explanation as a guide.
I know that there have been many pieces of art I didn't like in the past which a few years later I realise are sheer genius, and in hindsight telling myself that the piece was nonsense just shut my mind off to the possibility of understanding the piece earlier.

Photography is just another medium of art, the same way painting and drawing is just another MEDIUM of art. it's not to say painting = art or photography = art, it's just another medium. You can make really bad cliched boring idea-less pieces of non-art with either painting or photography. just look at the endless boring generic watercolours of shophouses of singapore. or the endless boring closeup photos of flowers.

separating photography from art is a mistake, photography can be another form of art, but more important than how "pretty" it is is whether a photo actually communicates anything, any ideas or emotions perhaps.

There are too many photographers who are into prettiness, which is fine, hell, I like pretty things
But after awhile seeing another landscape of mountains and rivers is like sifting through porn: seen that, seen that, seen that. what's new?

and don't diss the new york fashion photography scene! The fashion photography scene is where the most exciting work is happening, where photographers are actually becoming directors of ideas, are actually pushing the limits of preconceived concepts and testing new grounds! How many landscape photographers can actually say that?
 

khairi

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#17
Kiv said:
Photography is all about creativity. It is an art. And I'm not trying to be pretentious here when I say I was totally impressed with what I saw on Clang's website. How many out there can be this original? I mean...who can't take pretty pics of flowers and sunrise? A question all photographers should ask themself is...are your photos even unique? or can they be easily reproduceable by any photographer who's just as skilled? In other words, do you have a style or a mark which you can call your own?

John's series has a concept. The merits of works doesn't lie only in the aesthetics of the pics themselves, but in the totality of the idea he's trying to convey.

In conclusion, I just wanna say...he's hot, he's making it...so there's obviously a reason. Luck can only take you so far.
JC's strength in fashion photography made him big. Period.
 

clang

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#18
Hi Everyone……This is Clang, writing from NYC. A friend of mine refers me to this interesting page. It seems that a majority of you really dislike my artwork. A few of you actually feel that I’ve wasted your time. And one is not impressed with my attitude in the 8 Days interview. I do apologize for all that.

My main purpose for putting a show in Singapore is to try to have my own fellow mate understand who I am. There is no doubt I’ve become a very successful photographer but that does not make me a lesser artist. I do not want to defend my work as I appreciate your critique.

I do feel a bit discourage by your response. It was my decision to show in Singapore despite many objections from my Singapore friends. They warned me that many Singaporeans are not ready for this form of contemporary photography. I knew then and now I know. And also, by doing this exhibition, I do not ‘laugh all the way to the bank’ as one suggested. I have to finance a big portion of it as Singapore is still really new in the contemporary art scene. This is one area I hope we can push further. I thought I could contribute a bit to this development. But I’m probably wrong.

My work is based on my mental visual diary and they sort of work as a filmstrip. When I look at a photograph, I do not critic its ‘prettiness’ or if ‘I can also shoot this’. I don’t try to challenge the artist motive. I try to feel where he or she is coming from. I do not judge images at a surface level. A seemingly simple image or an image that one quickly dissed as ‘a waste of time’ may surface more voice and nuance if one choose to truly listen with his heart. Good work requires attention and sometimes, we miss out by not paying enough attention to subtleties.

The ‘process’ of creating an art (not technique) is as important as the art itself. When I look at an image, I also see the artist himself. I can also imagine the moments when the image is being taken. These ‘Self-portraits’ have also demonstrated the true friendship and trust I have with the sitter, Beon. He was a very awkward and extremely inferior guy. Through the process of creating this artwork for the last 4 years, I’ve managed to slowly help him to gain that self-confidence. And I don’t think we do this trying to impress anyone.

I can’t change your chosen perception of me, especially I’m no longer an underdog that live in a 3-room HDB flat but a new millionaire that everyone loves to hate. But I hope we can all learn to ‘listen’ to every piece of art we encounter, especially one from your fellow Singaporean. Only then we can grow strong together internationally. At this moment, Singaporeans does not qualify for the art program in Moma PS1 in New York.

And for those who seems unimpressed with other work on my website, I apologize too. It is just my diary that I’ve chosen to share. The people with their backs facing the camera are my parents & parents-in-laws. Not just various people. It is a continuation of my earlier series where their facial features are blurred and deleted. In these images, I was trying to convey how much I miss them, especially now that they are in their golden age. I’m frightened I may not remember their faces in my mind one day. Do check up the earlier series at www.bank-art.com/clang/clang/

And as for the ‘NYC Ghost’, the water represents a human on the street without their flesh and bones but only the 70% water we contain. This is a reflection of how I feel after 911. I live two blocks away during the tragic event and have witness the 2nd plane crash and the towers collapsing.

Finally… I think communications should be both sided. I feel that art is not a language that we can instantly use to communicate with one another. It requires patience and willingness, with open mind to see beyond.

I don’t think I will be doing another show in Singapore in the near future. However, I will continue to support the Singapore art scene.

Thank you so much for hearing me out. I appreciate it.
 

#19
clang said:
Hi Everyone……This is Clang, writing from NYC. A friend of mine refers me to this interesting page. It seems that a majority of you really dislike my artwork. A few of you actually feel that I’ve wasted your time. And one is not impressed with my attitude in the 8 Days interview. I do apologize for all that.

My main purpose for putting a show in Singapore is to try to have my own fellow mate understand who I am. There is no doubt I’ve become a very successful photographer but that does not make me a lesser artist. I do not want to defend my work as I appreciate your critique.

I do feel a bit discourage by your response. It was my decision to show in Singapore despite many objections from my Singapore friends. They warned me that many Singaporeans are not ready for this form of contemporary photography. I knew then and now I know. And also, by doing this exhibition, I do not ‘laugh all the way to the bank’ as one suggested. I have to finance a big portion of it as Singapore is still really new in the contemporary art scene. This is one area I hope we can push further. I thought I could contribute a bit to this development. But I’m probably wrong.

My work is based on my mental visual diary and they sort of work as a filmstrip. When I look at a photograph, I do not critic its ‘prettiness’ or if ‘I can also shoot this’. I don’t try to challenge the artist motive. I try to feel where he or she is coming from. I do not judge images at a surface level. A seemingly simple image or an image that one quickly dissed as ‘a waste of time’ may surface more voice and nuance if one choose to truly listen with his heart. Good work requires attention and sometimes, we miss out by not paying enough attention to subtleties.

The ‘process’ of creating an art (not technique) is as important as the art itself. When I look at an image, I also see the artist himself. I can also imagine the moments when the image is being taken. These ‘Self-portraits’ have also demonstrated the true friendship and trust I have with the sitter, Beon. He was a very awkward and extremely inferior guy. Through the process of creating this artwork for the last 4 years, I’ve managed to slowly help him to gain that self-confidence. And I don’t think we do this trying to impress anyone.

I can’t change your chosen perception of me, especially I’m no longer an underdog that live in a 3-room HDB flat but a new millionaire that everyone loves to hate. But I hope we can all learn to ‘listen’ to every piece of art we encounter, especially one from your fellow Singaporean. Only then we can grow strong together internationally. At this moment, Singaporeans does not qualify for the art program in Moma PS1 in New York.

And for those who seems unimpressed with other work on my website, I apologize too. It is just my diary that I’ve chosen to share. The people with their backs facing the camera are my parents & parents-in-laws. Not just various people. It is a continuation of my earlier series where their facial features are blurred and deleted. In these images, I was trying to convey how much I miss them, especially now that they are in their golden age. I’m frightened I may not remember their faces in my mind one day. Do check up the earlier series at www.bank-art.com/clang/clang/

And as for the ‘NYC Ghost’, the water represents a human on the street without their flesh and bones but only the 70% water we contain. This is a reflection of how I feel after 911. I live two blocks away during the tragic event and have witness the 2nd plane crash and the towers collapsing.

Finally… I think communications should be both sided. I feel that art is not a language that we can instantly use to communicate with one another. It requires patience and willingness, with open mind to see beyond.

I don’t think I will be doing another show in Singapore in the near future. However, I will continue to support the Singapore art scene.

Thank you so much for hearing me out. I appreciate it.
:bigeyes: :think:
 

mattlock

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Feb 28, 2004
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#20
don't be discouraged. please do have more shows in singapore, even if people don't like them
we need more people like you to bring new perspectives back home
 

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