#5 – July 2019
Catriona Whiteford on Sara Chang Yan's Andar subtil sinal
Sara Chang Yan
Andar subtil sinal , 2018
sound installation, earth, gouache and cutter on paper
variable dimensions, unique
Church chimes drift like ferry boat horns on airwaves
Two metallic notes strike, hold time
Sliced simply by sharpness
The breaks of a bike
Gongs sound out against mallet’s thrash
A catching of breath
Static plays on the horizon
You buzz me into the building
Industrial door scraping concrete’s skin
Punctuating airwaves commuters’ feet pound steel steps
Typewriters beat by fingers loop
Enter Landscape. Observe.
Wire creaks with heavy delicacy
Soil scents hit with recognition
Irregular consequences commence
Eyes reach out suspended
White irregularity expanding
Infinite horizons envelop
I look back on the day
Black geometry vibrating
A window, plane
Tangible negotiations darken
Auditory interpretation is regularly superseded by its physical and visual counterparts in contemporary art, nevertheless, it is a successful central act within Sara Chang Yan’s installation, Andar subtil sinal. Conceived as an immersive sculptural drawing wavering between linearity and three-dimensionality, Yan’s installation challenges the traditional language of drawing and sculpture through non-visual, auditory vocabulary.
On approach, the spectator is entered into an audio negotiation constructed by the artist. Short recordings of sounds reverberate from multiple points in the space charting invisible movements and gestures. Void from original interpretation, they expose a new set of signals created by the recipient and impress a fresh socially engaged set of pedagogies into the space.
Yan describes her work as a place where ‘silence is a verb, just like the majority of concepts. The work activates the entire field of the paper. The multitude of gestures explores the potential of emptiness.’ What can the introduction of auditory signals tell us about the correlation between language’s codification processes and the different social forms of seeing and engaging with contemporary art?
To change the relationship between transitional planes in audio, sculpture and drawing each must emphasis; add; compare; contrast; illustrate; cause or effect. Between tangible, rich correspondences and immaterial representational conventions, images and sounds are able to establish with ideas a different set of relations based on parallels that lead into verbalisation, as well as into the aesthetics of inscribed signs.
‘.... a semiotics of the audible field is the conceptual dislocation of the traditional duality between the verbal and the visual fields of expression and its no less traditional description as a pair of complementary opposite (convergent or divergent) poles...an all-encompassing aesthetic paradigm based on the primacy of mimetic material hybridisation's over its subsequent decanting and distillation into poetically codified particular forms of art and expression.’
Provoking viewers to revisit their preconceived definitions of audio, drawing and sculpture, Yan explores interconnections between the media with acute subtly. Since initial theorisation, drawing has been present throughout the history of sculpture. During the Renaissance sculptors used drawing as a preparatory form of practice, predating contemporary art’s adoption of conceptually drawing in space through the work of artists such as Martin Boyce and Alexander Calder.
More recently artists such as Anna Bariball are working across disciplines and mediums to dissolve historic practices and produce works that reach beyond drawing’s familiar territory of linearity, exploring parallels between the two. Yan’s Andar subtil sinal is a beautiful collaboration between her imaginary and mnemonic spaces, anchored in the physicality of the viewer. As the viewer walks around the installation, various components instantaneously coalesce and disappear. She presents a provocation to the viewer, a negotiation of disrupted assumptions about the interior of the gallery space and its relationship with the outdoors. Under foot, dense soil alters bodily movement, traversing in irregular phases. A structure hangs delicately above the landscape interrogating notions of scale and horizon. On its surface the mark-making is neither figurative nor non-referential but an indication of space and sentiment. The first face is white and punctuated with circular rings, the opposite face is black, giving the impression of a circadian journey from day to night. Yan combines ideas of the external and internal in this exhibition to create a conceptually intricate and sensually rich experience for anyone willing to cross the threshold.
Enter landscape. Observe.
 Capeller, I., Sounds, Signs and Hearing: Towards a Semiotics of the Audible Field. Athens Journal of Philology - Volume 5, Issue 1. P. (45)