Pang, Ruben b.1990 / Ophelia
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Pang, Ruben b.1990 / Ophelia Pang, Ruben b.1990 / Ophelia
about this work

'Ophelia' is impressive in terms of scale. The work is a study in composition with figures painted within rooms. For Pang, this room detail was a pragmatic method of dealing with the confines of painting at a large scale indoors. In this way, the painting can be seen as windows – an access into an architectural psyche.   

Pang’s Buddhist and Catholic upbringing show greater presence in his move towards figuration which is also, by its representational nature, a move away from the abstract. Of the movement, Pang’s Ophelia is perhaps the most direct reposing of a historically prevalent trope in art – in painting, Sir John Everett Millais’s Ophelia, in literature William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and in film Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia come to mind. 

Pang states, “In terms of composition, green leaves and pink flesh naturally called for yellow. The pink and yellow line symbolises the breaking point of a person, here at an angle coming out from her core. The position of the figure in a circe-de-arc is a stress position experienced during sleep or an episode – almost like a seizure... I have a dark curiosity for a subject matter experiencing stress, it is almost voyeuristic. A common aspect of beauty is a certain fragility.”  

Ophelia while impressive in its size, graphic nature and technicality, is perhaps one of the most polarizing of Pang’s works , not least because Pang sees the painting as a self-portrait.  Pang explains, “In my delusional psychotic states, I fantasize my corpse as thin, frail but delicate, beautiful and sensationalized. Somehow the sheer spectacle of my death would override rational judgement. People would overlook the fact that I was flawed. As if I could be redeemed by a spectacle. I imagined it might be somewhat sexually and perversely pleasurable for some people. There are at least two different type of audiences, generally those who empathize and those that I assume such a spectacle could induce very different feelings. There is a possibility that this exercise for me is emotional displacement.” One feels a sense of weightlessness when standing in front of Ophelia – of not being dragged down by water as in the origin story popularized by Shakespeare but rather of floating upward. The flowers that burst from her cavity are not funereally placed on her body. They grow from within constituting a kind of agency in the subject even in that most final of reposes – Death".

Ruben Pang (b.1990, Singapore)

Ophelia , 2014

Acrylic and retouching varnish on aluminium composite panel
150 x 200 cm
59 1/16 x 78 3/4 in.
Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, Italy  Current Location:
UK - London - G4Si PaintingSouth Asia


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