Sandstorm in an Hourglass (2020) at the Substation Gallery. Photo: Shian Bang

Curator and writer for

Sandstorm in an Hourglass (2020)

Artists: Joo Choon Lin, Jaxton Su, Sebastian Mary Tay

A two-part exhibition at Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and the Substation Gallery, Singapore.

The sand in an hourglass is meant to represent time, a time that is measured with a past, present, and future. Each reset and inverted when the hourglass flips over. The symbol of an hourglass in relation to time is so entrenched; it is hard to consider it anew while we play our roles in this game of time. If some kind of force enters the hourglass and lifts the sand, will the circling and winds re-present time, will its breath and heat flow through our minds?

In the exhibition Sandstorm in an Hourglass, works by Joo Choon Lin, Jaxton Su, and Sebastian Mary Tay take on this kind of force. Just like a sandstorm in an hourglass might persuade us to shift our perception of time, the artworks invite viewers into their ‘hourglasses’—the metaphorically charged language and landscapes this world has forged and displayed to us. We slip into these hourglasses and enter landscapes that speak of the variable states of consciousness, offer a view into the inner psyche, and reflect an inquiry into its essence.

Many of the artworks, which include installation, film, sculpture, and painting, were produced specifically for the exhibition and present recent questions and new directions in the artists’ practices. Alongside their own investigations, the artworks also respond to the changing set of conditions that accompany Covid-19, reflecting on issues of isolation, communication, and constraints in which work is produced.

Held across two sites, Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre (21-30 August) and The Substation (4-13 September), their works ripple from one site to another, as an extension, a pairing, or a loop of existing concerns. With a shared interest in the appearance and essence of nature, whether observed in their own surroundings or encountered in philosophical discourse, the artists ground their inquiry in materials, shapes, sounds, and forms that are familiar to us. We see landscapes, flowers, seeds, and trees; we hear the crackle of flame, the buzzing of bees. These are re-imagined to present strange, paradoxical, or perhaps bewildering sights, overtures from which questions on the nature of the realities moving within and around us emerge.

The exhibition is supported by the National Arts Council, the Arts Fund, and The Glasgow School of Art Creative Network.


Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre

21-30 August 2020: Exhibition

(10am-10pm, daily)

29 August 2020: Workshops

Volcano-making by Jaxton Su (11.30am)

Cyanotype printing by Sebastian Mary Tay (2pm)

Video animation by Joo Choon Lin (4pm)

The Substation

4-13 September 2020: Exhibition

(12-8pm, Tuesday-Sunday)

12 September 2020: Artist Talk online