Backwards \ Forwards

4 Jun 2022 - 28 Aug 2022

Alejandro Campins, Danh Vo, Guan Shi, Ryan Gander, Shooshie Sulaiman, Tomás Saraceno, Tris Vonna-Michell

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It is often said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.* But what of the converse? Are those who only remember the past condemned to eschew the future?

The contemporary works on show in this exhibition, Backwards \ Forwards, are disparate in form and subject. Yet, on closer reflection, almost all of them pose questions about the past. Some hint at the hollowness of past glories, as in Alejandro Campins’ and Ryan Gander’s works. Guan Shi’s work recalls the attendant emotions of anticipation and anxiety in migration. While Danh Vo’s work harks back to a colonial past re-visited by the present. The intertwined history of neighbouring countries Malaysia and Singapore is examined by Shooshie Sulaiman in her work. And they are all punctuated by the trenchant visual and audio track of Tris Vonna-Michell’s work.

Collectively, these works, and the questions they provoke, speak about the past. Yet, Tomás Saraceno’s work, which the viewer encounters both when entering and exiting the gallery, is suggestive of the future and the colourful possibilities it promises.

This inaugural exhibition of Blank Canvas invites the viewer to consider the conundrum of how to look forward to the future while still looking back at the past. This query appears especially opposite given the sitting of the gallery in Georgetown, Penang, a UNESCO World Heritage site rich in its Peranakan and colonial past.

*This aphorism is often attributed to the Spanish philosopher George Santayana.


Tomás Saraceno


Iridescent foil, carbon fiber, metal hardware, dacron, fishing line, adhesives suspended “flying” sculpture

100cm x 100cm x 90cm


Tris Vonna-Michell


Slide projection, 34 colour slides (35mm), audio

8 minutes 03 seconds Artwork

Icarus Falling

Ryan Gander


A spot lit area and dirty markings on the wall to suggest where the missing painting - Mark Tansey ‘Myth of Depth’, would have hung

Declaración Publica (series) – Untitled

Alejandro Campins


Silver-gelatine print on ILFORD multigrade paper

27.9cm x 35.6cm

Train Group Portraits

Guan Shi



30cm x 22cm


Danh Vo


Ink on paper

29.6cm x 21cm

On the Same Land 1& 2 (CCA Series)

Shooshie Sulaiman


2015 Mixed media (soil from Singapore & Malaysia)

33cm x 37cm

Curator Walk Through

11 June 2022, Saturday, 7:00pm

This exhibition, Backwards \ Forwards was the first to be held within the space of Blank Canvas, Penang. The founder of the gallery and curator of the exhibition, KY did a curator walkthrough to share his insights, ponderings, and creative process that led him to his unique art collection and the opening of Blank Canvas.

With an ode to the past, the exhibition also serves to remind visitors of the excitement and anticipation of the future, and what we can do in the present to embrace it wholeheartedly. The walkthrough aims to set the tone of the gallery and give the audience a sense of what they can expect from Blank Canvas in the years to come.