Prodigal Pagan Hymn (Nijyu-hachi)

Zai Kuning

Medium: Batik dye, ink, turmeric and chilli powder on paper
Size of work: 71.8 x 57 cm
Size of frame: Frame: 89 x 72 x 4.5 cm

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Zai Kuning presents his latest drawing series titled Prodigal Pagan Hymn (2020 – present, ongoing). For nearly 2 decades, the artist has been working with indigenous groups of people, namely the Orang Laut and Orang Asli, and has created bodies of works inspired by his research and interactions with them. However, the pandemic made it impossible for him to travel out of Singapore to meet these people, changing the direction of his creation drastically. Zai gained an abundance of time to reflect in solitude in his studio, and slowly developed this new drawing series since 2020. His earlier drawings, especially those from the Ombak Hitam series (2016), were characterized by their monochromatic tones. In contrast, the newly-produced works embrace colors with vibrancy and depth. Using natural pigments like turmeric and chilli powder not only brought a big change to the hues in his work, but also created texture. His new works may appear different from his earlier sculptures and the drawings, but the subject of his creation still revolves around his long-ongoing theme of “Home where we belong”. As Zai explains, this series is about “resonation, voices, and broken memories of ancestral roots towards meanings and symbolic landscape.”

About the Artist

Zai Kuning (b. 1964, Singapore) lives and works in Singapore. His recent solo exhibitions include “SeptFest 2021: Projek Orang Asli”, The Substation, Singapore (2021), “Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge, Singapore Pavilion”, 57th Venice Biennale, Italy (2017), “Ombak Hitam”, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo, Japan (2016), “We are home and everywhere”, Ota Fine Arts, Singapore (2014).

He has also participated in numerous group exhibitions including “Collection Asian Landscapes / Awazu Kiyoshi: Makurihirogeru 5”, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2018), “In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections”, M+, Hong Kong (2018), “Secret Archipelago”, Palais De Tokyo, Paris (2015), and “Welcome to the Jungle: Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia from the Collection of Singapore Art Museum”, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama (2013).