Golden Opportunities: Gajah Gallery

Apr 19, 2022 | Yosua Ng

“Our work is rooted in a long-standing belief that these artists truly deserve a platform globally – not simply because they are from the region and artists here have historically been overlooked – but because their works are just as critical and powerful as those by artists who have long been given the spotlight on the international stage.”
– Jasdeep Sandhu, Founder and Director of Gajah Gallery.

Golden Opportunities: Gajah Gallery

Owing to region’s rich and evolving art history, Southeast Asia is a labyrinth when it comes to fine art, where one may find true hidden gems in the course of navigating it. Inspired by Southeast Asian art, Jasdeep Sandhu, founder of Gajah Gallery, built the Gallery on the foundation of representing regional artists long term in the sincerest manner so as to give them the respect they deserve.

Situated within a spacious and tastefully refurbished industrial warehouse space in Tanjong Pagar, Gajah Gallery invites visitors to journey through a diverse range of genres within the realm of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art. Each exhibited artwork stood out not only for its quality of work, but in its ability to engage viewers with the significance in the period and setting of the artwork’s production.

Artist Yunizar, for example, is one of the founding members of the Kelompok Seni Rupa (KSR) Jendela – a group of Indonesian artists who emerged in the late 1990s amid the fall of the Suharto regime – produced works which radically avoided overtly political themes of his time. Rather, he provided a breath of fresh air by setting his gaze on the everyday and capturing the essence of mundane objects around him. Crude, childlike, or even chaotic, as it may initially seem, Yunizar’s works embodied deep sophistication in simplicity, whipping out newfound raw energy through every of his works.

Inspired by the psychological and poetic implications of place, Malaysian artist Kayleigh Goh aids the viewers to find solace and serenity through her works, especially amidst our fast-paced life. Through the employment of cement and wood, and accompanied by highly sophisticated methods, Kayleigh is able to softly and quietly usher the viewers into a metaphysical space where one may unpack emotional burdens and temporarily find relief from the complexities of life.

A leading figure in Singapore’s contemporary-art scene, Singapore-born artist Suzann Victor continues to engage the social landscape in Singapore through her works. As the Co-founder and artistic director of Singapore’s first corporate-sponsored art space, 5th Passage, as well as the first female artist to represent Singapore at the Venice Biennale, Suzann seeks to address issues ranging from cultural aftermath of postcolonialism in Southeast Asia to the politics of female disembodiment through her thought-provoking installations and performances pieces. Her innovative re-materialisation of Fresnel lenses and smashed stained glass became her signature elements in much of her works.

It is evident therefore that the artists, though having vastly different agendas and contexts, are able to enrich the audiences’ understanding of the story told, and in some cases, creating unconventional yet extraordinary works that had never been done before. Through initiatives such as the Yogya Art Lab (YAL), a subsidiary of Gajah Gallery set in the beating heart of Indonesia’s vibrant art scene, Yogyakarta, internationally acclaimed artists and local artisans may work hand in hand to co-create new narratives.

It is for this reason that the gallery stood by its mission: to tell the untold, uncover the hidden gold that may have been overlooked, and provide the utmost support to artists in the long run. In the words of Jasdeep Sandhu, “… it took years… for some of these artists to gain that serious recognition. Our role as a Gallery is to stand by these artists throughout those years, constantly nurturing our relationships with them and contribute to their steadily increasing visibility. Staying committed to the long-term trajectory of their legacies allows us to understand that even if it takes some time to build that awareness, it’s always worth it.”