January 2021
Singapore Art Week

National Gallery Singapore: OUTBOUND: Tikar-A-Gagah by Yee I-Lann

1 December 201930 June 2020

1 December 2019 - 30 June 2020

National Gallery Singapore


OUTBOUND is new initiative that reimagines transitional spaces and key entrances at the Gallery through a series of unique artwork commissions, developed in collaboration with leading artists from around the world. Each commission will be displayed for at least three years, acting as an artistic landmark that guides visitors through otherwise ordinary passages while highlighting features of the Gallery’s iconic architecture. In 2019, Yee I-Lann is one of two artists whose installations joined the OUTBOUND family of commissions.

Tikar-A-Gagah is a collaboration between Yee I-Lann and indigenous weavers in Sabah, a northern Borneo state in Malaysia. One side of the mat (or tikar in Malay) was made by the Bajau Sama DiLaut communities from Semporna, and the other by the Dusun and Murut communities from Keningau. The woven mat is a utilitarian and ceremonial object found commonly across the Nusantara archipelago. When laid out, the tikar becomes a place for social gatherings; when hung, it becomes an object that triggers the recollection of histories, memories and narratives in the viewer.

Tikar-A-Gagah features both traditional and contemporary motifs, revealing the process of co-invention involved in the 18-month long collaboration between Yee and the weavers. The traditional weave motifs are passed down orally from one generation of weavers to the next, and include the abstract, maritime-inspired patterns of the Bajau sea communities as well as the graphical motifs of landscapes, fauna, and communal gatherings of the Dusun and Murut land communities. Interspersed among these motifs are geometric lines, shapes, and silhouettes of objects such as the table (or bureau), a recurring leitmotif of colonial power, bureaucracy, and control in Yee’s work. Tikar-A-Gagah is an extension of Yee’s practice in photography, where she critically engages with Southeast Asia’s post-colonial history through the frameworks of gender, geopolitics and indigenous aesthetics.

By drawing on traditional weaving techniques and the symbolism of the tikar in indigenous culture, Tikar-A-Gagah generates new conversations about contemporary forms of art in this region.