Matthew Ngui

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Visual Arts (installation art, performance, video art)
Asia, Southeast
created on:
May 9, 2003
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Matthew Ngui
Matthew Ngui


The construction of intercultural meaning

ARTIST STATEMENT/ POSTCARD PROJECT OF THE HOUSE OF WORLD CULTURES 2007 ´The movement of people encapsulates the desire for a change in perspective. A fixed perspective is locked in space and can be fake and terribly incorrect. Shifting therefore gives new perspectives and points of view that can ultimately yield truths.´ Born in 1962, Matthew Ngui makes interactive installations and video works and is one of Singapore´s leading artists. He is also a musician, and his reputation is due largely to his having taken part in the biennial in São Paulo.
With his interactive installations and video works, Matthew Ngui is one of Singapore´s leading artists. In viewing local situations through his personal perspective he explores the construct of intercultural meaning. When he prepares food - a universal human activity with, however, many cultural differences - his works often become performances.

Ngui first studied law at the National University but then followed his artistic teacher, the sculptor Ng Eng Teng, to Perth in Australia, where they made a bronze sculpture. In Perth Ngui began to study visual art, which he later taught at the Canberra School of Art in the Australian National University and at Edith Cowan University. At the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art he is also leading a performance-program.

In 1996 he exhibited at the biennial in São Paulo with works designed specifically for the site. He experimented with three components of a performance: foodstuffs, PVC tubes as sound-conductors, and the sculptural drawing of a stool. His design of a tube, which changed the room while visitors were wandering to other parts of the installation, thrilled Catherine David, who then invited him to Documenta X in Kassel. Ngui is now the only Singapore national who has ever exhibited at Documenta since it began in the 40s.

In 2001 he exhibited at the Venice Biennale. His tubular structures have also been seen at the Vienna Secession, at the CAPC in Bordeaux and in the Howard Gallery in London. They were there part of the controversial ´Cities on the Move´ exhibition for art and architecture, whose curators were Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hou Hanru. Ngui´s use of anamorphosis has been further explored in exhibitions in the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, in the Art Museum in Singapore and in the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

In his food performances, Ngui has edifyingly examined the cultural specifics of globalisation, as at the Goethe Institute in Singapore and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He has also taken part in artist-in-residence projects, which have enabled him to carry on with his site-specific work, like from 1998 to 2000 in Venezuela, Switzerland and the Australian bush. At present he is working on installations for Spain and Korea.

At the festival ´In Transit´ in the House of World Cultures in Berlin, Ngui explored with the help of video-works and slide-projections the relationship between bodies and images, between reality and virtual reality. His installation, growing from day to day, referred directly to the communication process in the laboratory.

Apart from being active in the field of art, Ngui is presently setting up a non profit-making organisation with the provisional name of SCAB (Singapore Contemporary Art Bureau), to support contemporary Singapore artists and to promote research into important fields of modern art by using new methods and by developing an archive.

In Australia Matthew Ngui has been the president of the committee of ARX (Artists´ Regional Exchange) and is presently an advisor to the John Curtin Gallery of the Curtin University of Technology.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Postcard Project

(01 March 07 - 31 December 08)


Transforming the arts

(30 May 02 - 14 June 02)


Matthew Ngui