A Hundred Days Of Art

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 July, 1999, 12:00am

A Hundred Days Of Art Ulysses Chuang La Cremeria, Fringe Club July 15 Performing arts in this post-modern age has been heading towards a bipolar scenario: artists, aiming to shake off the shackles of conventional art forms, veer towards the extreme ends of the aesthetical spectrum to consolidate their niches, whether brash, wild kitsch or deliberate minimalism.

In this context, Ulysses Chuang is a misfit. He takes to his art in a laid-back, bohemian way: no loud manifesto to proclaim, no eerie silences to impress. The show might be multi-media, but it is not the visual bombast usually associated with that cross-genre invention; it transcends several media in the way Chuang sings, plays piano and paints, while dancer Andy Wong pitches in with fluid movement.

The interplay between the performance's subtlety and its ethereal flavour, however, is what makes this production intriguing. Chuang's disjointed bouts of singing might be executed with nonchalance, hands in pockets, but the hypnotic textures of his voice - a style reminiscent of the folk singing from the Central Asian steppes - is nothing less than stunning.

Wong's brief motions, mostly choreographed with the lightness of drawing paper, are controlled yet intensive. His final movements, where he smudges Chuang's onstage ink sketches into oblivion, is in itself destruction, but reeks of a chilling detachment in facial or physical expression.

This contradictive nature might be the only debt Chuang harbours to the post-modern condition - the juxtaposition of hard-driven emotions with a disjointed, nonchalant facade, a trend also visible in the icy musical accompaniment, where Chuang and cellist Tim Adam restrains from sweeping outbursts that could easily douse the performance with a climax.

This performance is a conclusion of Chuang's hundred-day artistic ritual - hence the title - in which he painted in the morning, composed music in the afternoon and wrote stories in the evening.

This routine is perhaps the prime reason behind the performance's sterilised charm. One could sense the urge to deliver a subtle ode about human alienation - however, this tiny existential hymn might not be effective in putting across its hearty message.