A psychoanalytic investigation of symbolism as visual subterfuge in Jimmy Ong's drawings : negotiating subjectivity in heteronormative Singapore

Lee, Wee Yan (2014) A psychoanalytic investigation of symbolism as visual subterfuge in Jimmy Ong's drawings : negotiating subjectivity in heteronormative Singapore. Masters thesis, LASALLE College of the Arts.

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Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: A psychoanalytic investigation of symbolism as visual subterfuge in Jimmy Ong's drawings : negotiating subjectivity in heteronormative Singapore
Synopsis:

The major hypothesis of this dissertation is to contextualize, theorise and analyse Jimmy Ong’s drawings as actively expressing a strong autobiographical narrative, both implicitly through his psyche as well as explicitly through the form and content of his drawings. This dissertation proposes that the selected figurative images from Ong’s exhibition “Ancestors on the Beach” bespoke Ong’s crisis with his subjectivity and his attempts to resolve it. They also perform as surrogate images reflecting or mirroring the artist’s gender-sexual politics, desires and aspirations in the context of heteronormative Singapore. Figurative images, especially the male nude, have been a hall mark of Ong’s works since the 1980s. A declared homosexual, Ong’s mastery of the subject as a critical visual trope and device is of significance to this study which integrates and synthesizes contributions from psychoanalytic theory, art history and criticism, sociological and semiotic theories. Psychoanalysis facilitates the true-to-nature fluid formation of gender subjectivity and sexuality and this dissertation proposes the breadth of knowledge ensconced in the writings of Sigmund Freud on sublimation and that of the theory of symbolisation by Susan K. Deri as the main theoretical framework for analysing Ong’s drawings.

As such, this dissertation undertakes a more focused and rigorous investigation of Ong’s drawings as both a process as well as the artistic expressions of sublimation. The study will explicate the process of sublimation by analyzing the pictorial symbolism in Ong’s drawings as the visual trope of subterfuge. This dissertation asserts that the visual trope of subterfuge is an unconscious incorporeal psychical drive of sublimation informing the process or act of symbolisation that produces the pictorial configurations in Ong’s figurative narratives.

The theory of sublimation by Freud holds much potential in investigating the creative agency of the artist who has the capacity to harness sublimated instinctual and psychic drives in making sense of the changing social conditions and demands in life. This dissertation therefore conceives of sublimation as an instinctive creative process that is harnessed by the artist to not only subvert repression and neurosis but also to transform the discharged instinctual energy into a personal artistic aim – deemed by the artist as a positive cultural goal – to visualise a restructured and conducive reality for the meaningful experience of subjectivity (gender and sexual identity) through symbolism in art. In addition, Deri’s theory of symbolisation provides a critical framework to examine and decode Ong’s drawings as sublimated symbols of his unconscious intentionality or desire to give form and structure to the expression of his gender-sexual identity in negotiating his subjectivity in heteronormative Singapore.

To that end, this dissertation re-frames symbolism as a creative form of sublimation that not only creates an alternative order to accord meaning and purpose to the artist’s quest for subjectivity but, more importantly, also thwarts the personal-psychical crisis of subjectivity. By doing so, this study also investigates the relational and inter-subjective implication of the art-making process in the larger context of society as well as the artist as a product and a reproducer of established social institutions, practices, and ideologies.

Subjects: Art History
Divisions: Faculty of Fine Arts > Master - Asian Art Histories
Depositing User: Ms Ashalatha Krishnan
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2015 09:30
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2015 09:30
URI: http://drlib.lasalle.edu.sg/id/eprint/346

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