Postcards from the Tropics (viii)

Donna Ong

Medium: Diasec print, wooden shelf, and tropical souvenirs (clay orchid on wood, antique ceramic parrot and vintage miniature ceramic birds)

Size of work: 12.2 x 26 x 13.5 cm

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“Ong’s witty series “Postcards from the Tropics” (2016) involves over a dozen small theatrical “sets” mounted on individual shelves. The artist simply props up small diasec prints of old postcards and archival images (pith-helmeted explorers; docile natives) as “backdrops” for various kitschy souvenirs and reboots them all as perky little tropical ironies. If the dismal souvenirs and amorphous narratives in the installation seem evasive, and if Ong’s blatant tropical mementos seem transparent, look to one salient observation made by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009), who write that light, sound and true perspective are lost in the jungle – which is “immersed in a medium denser than air”. Ong defines jungle identities through invention, imagination and memory – mediums which, in her hands, become organic, inscrutable Wunderkammer.”

– Marybeth Stock. Excerpt from “My Forest Has No Name”. ArtAsiaPacific, 2016

About the Artist

Donna Ong (b. 1978, Singapore) is an installation artist best known for her evocative and thought-provoking environments and assemblages made from furniture, found objects, antique prints and original artwork. Her on-going research into the tropical forest seeks to reveal the various lenses through which we build our understanding and opinion of the forest – how that affects the way we think and deal with it, including the decisions we make about it ecologically, politically, socially and economically


The award-winning artist has exhibited at the inaugural Singapore Biennale (2007), Jakarta Biennale (2009), Kwandu Biennale (2008), 2 Moscow Biennale (2007), Moscow Biennale of Young Art (2014), Thailand Biennale (2018) and the Children’s Biennale at the National Gallery Singapore (2019). She exhibited major new work My forest is not your garden (2016-2018), in collaboration with Singaporebased artist Robert Zhao Renhui for the 9 Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia.