Donna Ong and Robert Zhao Renhui

Donna Ong and Robert Zhao Renhui

Born 1978 and 1983 Singapore
Live and work in Singapore

Donna Ong is an installation artist based in Singapore whose beautifully rendered environments derive from a critical appraisal of the ordering principles of botany, landscaping, and the representation of nature in European and Chinese art. Growing up in the city, Ong was fascinated with the wild landscapes she finally encountered when travelling as an adult, and how these compared with the impressions of nature she had formed from images and reproductions. Her sculptures and installations use found materials — including finely cut-out images from prints, ready-made objects and furniture, and even artificial plants — arranged according to techniques for reproducing forest and jungle effects in gardening and illustration. Working with dioramas and installations of accumulated objects, she has recently become interested in exploring Singapore’s self-conscious tropicality and issues of deforestation.

Robert Zhao Renhui is a multidisciplinary artist who has been working under the creative framework of the Institute of Critical Zoologists since 2008. ICZ’s mission claims to ‘advance unconventional, even radical, means of understanding human and animal relations’. Under the ICZ umbrella, Zhao has produced a series of self-consciously pseudo-scientific investigations of both real and imaginary interactions between humans and animals, taking the form of extensive photographic series, lavish natural history publications, dense Wunderkammers and museological installations. While Zhao’s projects frequently involve elaborate narratives, they also provide insights into attitudes towards the natural world and the social histories of particular sites, focusing on actual contingencies — such as introduced species control on Christmas Island, or legacies of colonialism in Singapore — but imbuing them with fantastical creations.

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