Water Drawing #17, 2021
Ink on paper
32 x 84 cm
A continuous drawing in six parts, each 84cm long and 32cm high, made with brush and indigo-blue ink on the pages of accounting ledger books I bought six or seven years ago from an office supplier clearing this now-useless item from their storeroom. I was with my father at the time, nosing around one of the smaller streets in the southern town of Seremban when we came upon the pile in the covered walkway (what we here call lima-kaki, the five foot way) in front of the shop. The ledgers were printed and bound in these same lanes, likely by an establishment called Sum Wah Press. My grandfather used to have his receipt books and ledgers bearing the logo and details of his business made there. Sometimes I would go with him to collect the bundles, wrapped in brown paper.
If you live on an island there is only so far you can go in a straight line before you can’t go any further. I was asked a question at the breakfast table a few months ago: what is to rotation as line is to translation? A circle, I readily replied. Round and round we go in figuring out. In trying to recount or to find words or phrases to fit that interior landscape I am left with the labour and the weight of language; words chasing something that they will crush. Here is a fragment from a poem by the Tamil Poet Nammalvar writing for the god Visnu more then a thousand years ago, and translated for us in the 1980s by A K Ramanujan, who titled his selection Hymns for the Drowning: What she said Making the earth shiver, crowding and wetting the world with their waters, scratching with their hooves, the dark bulls of heaven fight with each other. And I, doing good and evil, cannot tell what’s before me From Love Poems: Four Returning Voices
Simryn Gill (b.1959, Singapore. Lives and works in Port Dickson and Sydney) makes drawings, photographs, writings, sculptures and installations that consider the effects of memory and history on landscape, culture and objects. Collections of ephemera, discarded items, plants and books are often a starting point for an elaborate deconstruction. Through the reinterpretation or alteration of existing objects, the photographing of specific locations and the forming of collections, Gill contemplates how ideas and meanings are communicated between people, objects and sites. Gill also writes and makes artist books. Her most recent publication is Becoming Palm, with Michael Taussig, published by NTU CCA Singapore and Sternberg Press in Berlin. Simryn Gill’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, most recently at Gropious Bau, Berlin (2020); Drawing Room, London (2019); TarraWarra Museum, Victoria (2019); Met Breuer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2019); National Gallery, Singapore (2018); Kohta, Helsinki (2018); Lunds Konsthall, Lund (2017); Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent (2016); NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2015); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014). Gill represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in a solo presentation in 2013. Public collections that hold Gill’s work include: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Getty Centre, Los Angeles; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent; Tate, London; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; National Gallery Singapore, Singapore; Singapore Art Museum, Singapore; M+, Hong Kong; Petronas Collection, Kuala Lumpur and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Simryn Gill was awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2012).