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Glisten by Lisa Reihana @ National Gallery Singapore

GLISTEN by Lisa Reihana bedazzles with art activated by nature at National Gallery Singapore’s Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden

Leading Aotearoa New Zealander contemporary artist Lisa Reihana makes her Southeast Asia solo debut with GLISTEN, a large-scale kinetic sculpture that playfully responds to the surrounding environment, with shapes, sounds, colour and form to define the overall scape of this beautiful installation.

One will certainly get bedazzled by the shimmers and soundscape of Aotearoa New Zealander contemporary artist Lisa Reihana’s GLISTEN, a striking kinetic large-scale outdoor installation, adorned with isosceles and triangular and hexa-patterns inspired by the rich traditions of Southeast Asian Songket and Māori Tāniko weaving. National Gallery Singapore presents Reihana’s first solo presentation in Southeast Asia for the seventh edition of the Gallery’s annual Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission Series.

GLISTEN presents a vibrant tapestry with intricate patterns that pay homage to the traditions and craft of Indigenous women weavers from Māori and Southeast Asian cultures, with the intertwining of art and nature. The three-sided sculpture reacts and responds playfully to its surrounding natural environment. With over 114,000 shimmer discs beautifully reflecting light, and with the accompanying soundscape of a wind chime and the fluttering pieces of these shimmer discs (when it gets windy), GLISTEN orchestrates a multi-sensory encounter with the artwork.

Visitors of all ages are welcome to experience the celebratory and joyful nature of the artwork, inspiring a deeper appreciation of the respective cultures, while prompting them to explore the connections between Southeast Asia and Aotearoa New Zealand which have existed since pre-colonial times.

Lisa Reihana (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tūteauru, Ngāi Tūpoto; b. 1964, Aotearoa New Zealand) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose diverse practice spans film, sculpture, costume, and body adornment, text and photography. Being a woman of Māori and Welsh-English descent, Reihana has endeavoured to expand representations of Pacific and Māori identities, knowledge, and culture, significantly influencing the development of contemporary art and Māori art in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Drawing from her longstanding research into Māori ancestral knowledge, materials, and costumes, Reihana also extended her research into Songket weaving for this unique commission. Reihana dives into the pre-colonial connections between the regions through the incorporation of Tāniko weaving from Aotearoa New Zealand, and Malaysian Songket motifs which are found mostly in Kelantan and Terengganu.

The artwork honours the traditions, labour, and pivotal roles of Songket and Tāniko’s women weavers as makers, communicators, knowledge bearers, and mediators prior to Asia and Pacific regions’ first contact with Western culture. GLISTEN points toward the plurality of feminisms that existed in pre-colonial societies and continue to persist in Asia and Pacific regions where women provided sustenance not just for their immediate family, but for their community.

GLISTEN beckons visitors with a uniquely mesmerising experience that celebrates cultures as it responds to the surrounding natural environment. The interpretation and innovative creation of the Tāniko and Malaysian Songket woven motifs by Reihana were plotted digitally in a precise manner where 114,000 shimmer discs were meticulously placed by hand to bring the patterns to life. The wind chime was handmade by collaborator Gary Hunt and the artist from repurposed materials. The shimmer discs allude to LED technology, pixels in digital images and screens, which points to Reihana’s video works and her New Media practice.

Tāniko is a traditional Māori style of finger weaving. Tāniko patterns are often woven around the borders of korowai (cloaks) and relay Māori stories, histories, and values. Māori weavers’ designs consisted of triangles, diamonds, diagonal bars and stepped patterns. These designs were usually worked in black, red, and white.

The featured patterns include the pâtikitiki and kaokao patterns. The pâtikitiki pattern is usually represented as a repetitive diamond or geometric pattern. Pâtikitiki is the word for flounder, symbolising abundance, hospitality and providing for your people. The kaokao pattern refers to protection and resembles a repetitive 'M' shape and is said to represent the rib cage and arms of warriors (haka stance).

Songket is a textile handwoven in silk or cotton and patterned with gold or silver threads, and Lisa Reihana looked into Malaysian Songket weave patterns for GLISTEN, referencing materials such as Malaysian artist Grace Selvanayagam’s book, Songket: Malaysia’s Woven Treasure. Songket is traditionally worn during ceremonial occasions including weddings and religious ceremonies where the colour and grandeur of Songket adds to the occasion, and in the early centuries, Songket was only worn by Malay royalty. The motifs featured in the patterns include the Pucuk Rebung Gigi Yu which fuses the Rebung (bamboo shoot) and shark motifs, the Teratai (lotus) which is associated with Malay culture and religions, and the mangosteen which symbolises the reflection of one’s feelings or one’s inner self as related to human spiritual state (Dawa, 1997).

Lisa Reihana says, “It’s a privilege to work with National Gallery Singapore, a leading institution for Southeast Asian art and art history. Our shared focus is on deepening the understanding and expanding the representation of extraordinary textiles from both our regions. The patterns adorning GLISTEN are inspired by women weavers, I honour their stories and intricate skills. I hope visitors will be dazzled by its beauty, and to join me in celebrating the enduring legacy of Songket and Tāniko weaving.

Qinyi Lim, Curator at National Gallery Singapore, says, “It has been a pleasure working with Lisa Reihana and her collaborator, James Pinker, to present GLISTEN for this year’s Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission. At the Gallery, we strive to connect Southeast Asian art with broader global narratives, fostering a deeper understanding of Southeast Asia’s heritage amidst current and prescient concerns. GLISTEN beautifully embodies this mission by providing an avenue for visitors to explore the old and new exchanges on gendered labour and traditions between Southeast Asia, Aotearoa New Zealand and further.”

The Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission series invites one leading artist each year to present site-specific works at the Gallery. Previous commissioned artists include Cao Fei, Sir Antony Gormley, Shilpa Gupta, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Danh Võ. The Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission is made possible through a generous gift by Far East Organization.

GLISTEN by Lisa Reihana will be on display at the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery, Level 5, City Hall Wing at National Gallery Singapore from 14 June 2024 to 30 March 2025. Admission is free.

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